1. SAVE MONEY
Let’s begin with cost. When produce is in season locally, the relative abundance of the crop usually makes it less expensive. An example of this is packaged herbs you see in a grocery store during the winter – a few (usually limp) sprigs of basil, all too frequently with black speckles and moldy leaves, cost about $3 per half ounce. In contrast, the gorgeous, bright green, crisp basil you see in both grocery stores and at Farmers Market in the summer when basil is in season often sells for as little as $1-2 for an enormous bunch. It’s the basic law of supply and demand, and when crops are in season you’ll be rewarded financially by purchasing what’s growing now.
2. TASTE FACTOR
Cost is important, but so is taste… isn’t it? When food is not in season locally, it’s either grown in a hothouse or shipped in from other parts of the world, and both affect the taste. Compare a dark red, vine-ripened tomato still warm from the summer sun with a winter hothouse tomato that’s barely red, somewhat mealy, and lacking in flavor. Did you know that when they transport crops, generally they are harvested early and refridgerated so they don’t go bad when being brought to your local grocery store? It effects how they ripen relative to how they would in their natural environment, directly impactin their full flavor.
Fresh, locally harvested foods have their full, whole flavors intact, which they release to us when we eat them, and when they are stored they begin to loose that flavor, juice and moisture. Chilling foods also impat the flavor, which they have to be when being shipped in. Lesson being again EAT LOCAL. EAT WHATS IN SEASON. EAT ORGANIC!
3. VARIETY ALL YEAR LONG
This is an opportunity to get creative and bring variety onto your plate. You may be suprized to know that there are a wide variety of crops harvested in the Fall (squash, apples, endive, garlic, grapes, figs, mushrooms) and winter (citrus, kale, radishes, turnips, leeks) in addition to products that we readily associate with the summer like sweet peas, corn, peaches, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and green beans. You can go to www.localharvest.org and find out more about what produce is available seasonally and locally and to find farmers’ markets near you.
4. HIGH NUTRIENT QUALITY
We have already discussed how when these foods are transported all over the world and picked before ripened, it does effect the flavor but it also has a huge impact on the nutrition density of our foods. In addition, transporting produce sometimes requires irradiation (zapping the produce with a burst of radiation to kill germs) and preservatives (such as wax) to protect the produce which is subsequently refrigerated during the trip. While no definitive study quantifies the impact of these treatments, if you go into your common sense corner we could all agree this maybe good reason to believe that eating local is really the safer option.
5. SAVE TIME AND TAKE CONTROL
One option is GROW YOUR OWN! These days you can learn how to garden your own easily, and they even have tools like tower gardens available so if you don’t have a yard you can still grow your own veggies at least. This also will save you money and can be very soothing for the soul. You’ll know exactly what went into growing those vegetables and you can enjoy them at their peak the day they are harvested. If gardening isn’t your thing go to your local Farmers Market and meet the people that are growing your food and get a better price. We are so fortunate these days as many of us are close enough to some local farms where we can sign up with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that will put seasonal baskets together for you. In some cases they will even deliver to your front door. This is a great way to get your produce as you will know that it is EAT SEASONAL, EAT LOCAL & EAT ORGANIC. Do a search for your local CSA’s or go to FARM FRESH TO YOU and they will deliver to your front door.
So determine what’s in season right now and dig in. Remember www.localharvest.com is a great resource. You’ll be rewarded with high quality produce, packed with nutrition, at a lower cost. And your taste buds will definitely thank you for it and so will your body!