While we may be in the middle of winter, you can always find seasonal produce from nearby farms at your local farmers’ market. Eating locally has become a trend in recent years for health and environmental reasons, and for supporting local small businesses and farmers. Local food travels a much shorter distance to get to you and that means it’s fresher, higher in nutrients, and reduces carbon footprint.
Fruits and vegetables grown locally in season are harvested right when they’re ready to eat, meaning they’re the best possible quality when you buy them. Most produce available in grocery stores is grown en masse and shipped long distances. Because it needs to survive the trip, it’s taken out of the ground early and allowed to ripen during travel. This means it doesn’t develop the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals, and every day it spends between being picked and eaten it loses the nutrients it does have.
Many times they need to be ripened artificially at the final destination as well. This process changes the texture and taste, reducing the flavor and mouthfeel. While local produce is best, it’s not always accessible or possible. A good alternative in these cases is frozen or canned vegetables, which retain most of their nutrients due to being harvested closer to peak ripeness and quickly preserved.
Locally grown foods also take less energy and fewer resources. Because they’re grown and harvested nearby, it requires less fuel to transport them to the nearest store or farmers’ market. And the shorter storage time means less refrigeration and no energy consumed for the artificial ripening process. A staggering 20% of the carbon emissions generated by the food system are because of food relocation. The produce you purchase at a farm stand or a farmers’ market will also almost assuredly be free of any plastic packaging or other environmentally harmful wrapping.
A lot of hay is made in online food and health spaces about miracle foods or super foods, but the reality is that no one single food, no matter how healthy and nutrient dense it may be, can supply the human body with all the nutrition it needs. It’s important to have variety in your diet to get everything your body needs. By purchasing locally grown in season produce you’ll have a rotating and varied menu all year round.
Our bodies adapted and evolved to eat what was growing seasonally so the natural cycle of available crops is meant to support our health and nutritional needs. In the summer high water content crops like melons, berries, cucumbers and others keep us hydrated in the summer heat. Winter vegetables like squashes and root vegetables are hearty and sustaining for things like soups and stews, and leafy greens in the spring are nutrient dense and light on calories.
In season produce is more likely to be available in higher quantities. This means it will also be cheaper as the supply is high. And since there’s no costly travel or storage costs to make up for, that too will drive the cost down.