Have you ever noticed that certain fruits and vegetables taste better at certain times of the year? Berries in summer give off the sweetest scents, tempting your nose and thus your tastebuds to devour their goodness. Root vegetables in winter provide that hearty and wholesome dose of nutrients your body craves to keep it warm and keep your metabolism humming. In reverse, tomatoes, when not in season, are bland, floury and dull in colour. The brilliance of science and biology means that vegetables and fruits ripen when in season, sending out signals to the human senses that the produce is ready to be eaten for maximum nutritional benefit. It is for this reason that eating seasonally is so important.
When we look back at our eating history, prior to the advent of large-scale agriculture, humans only ate that which was available at the time. Back in these times, asparagus wasn’t available all year round. Oranges, for example, weren’t eaten in winter because they simply weren’t available. Go to any grocery store now and you can pick up oranges, apples and a range of other fruits and vegetables all year round. These items are now shipped from industrial crops all around the world, increasing their carbon footprint and robbing the foods of their taste and nutrients in the process. Eating seasonally is a sure fire way to strip your eating habits back to basics, and allow you to reconnect your eating habits with the organic cycle that nature originally intended.
So, you may ask, how do you do this when the supermarket shelves are stocked high with all sorts of fruits and vegetables all year round? How are you to know what is in season and what is not? Aside from doing your homework online, Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a fabulous way to indulge in all the seasonal treats on offer in your local area. Not only are you eating seasonally but in the process, you support local farmers and local business, making your dollars count to those businesses that strive to do the right thing by nature.
CSA allows residents of applicable schemes to have direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers. Joining a CSA involves becoming a paid member, through which you will receive a share of vegetables from a regional farmer, delivered to a convenient drop-off location in your area. Purchasing your vegetables this way means you are delivered a range of around 7 – 10 vegetables, and for a little extra, you can elect to also receive additions such as eggs, fruits, meat and flowers. For those readers living in New York, more information about local CSAs can be found here.
By joining a CSA, you will be reaping the following benefits:
Better nutritional content and overall health
Seasonal foods are picked at the peak of their freshness, offering higher nutritional content than their out-of-season cousins. This ensures your intake of nutrients and minerals from the foods you eat is maximised.
Sustainable and environmental benefits
Vegetables and fruits grown in season are tended in a sustainable manner by their farmers who are cognisant about mindful about the environmental impact that conventional farming has on the planet. CSA farmers are generally smaller outfits that large-scale industrial farms, using fewer pesticides and other chemicals needed to ward away pests.
As seasonal food is grown locally, it does not have to travel hundreds of miles to reach you as the final consumer. This reduces the carbon footprint of the food, and reduces the time between it being picked and you eating it.
A sense of “giving back” to your local community
Contributing to your local community is a fulfilling experience and fosters a sense of kinship amongst those in your neighbourhood. Being involved in a CSA will also introduce you to other like-minded people and bring you closer to the farmers who grow the produce you eat.
Remember, eating seasonally isn’t difficult and joining a CSA can remove all of the guesswork from the equation.