Here in Portland, we’re fortunate enough to have an abundance of Farmers Markets continually spreading love through the foods farmer’s grow and the goods small business owners create. Eating Seasonally - have you heard the term? Maybe you have and maybe you haven’t. Either way, I’m here to give you greater insight into why you should consider eating more seasonally!
Eating seasonally says it right there in the name - consuming produce at the time of year that it is harvested, ideally within the region that you live. Nature provides us with the best foods to feed our body and keep our immune system happy through each season that passes. Have you ever thought about how watermelons are in season in the summer when we’re craving something juicy and hydrating? Or how squashes and root vegetables in the fall & winter when nothing sounds more cozy than roasting up a big batch of veggies with some olive oil and fresh rosemary? Nature is smart and provides us exactly what we need when we need it - so why fight our mother?!
My Top 10 Reasons to Eat Seasonally:
Unlike produce that you’ll find at the grocery store, what you buy from your farmer was allowed to fully ripen in the sun before being harvested. Freshly picked produce ends up having optimal flavor - crispy, fragrant, juicy, colorful. Just think back, have you ever had the opportunity to try a tomato picked straight off the vine or bite into one in the middle of summer versus in the dead of winter? They’re a whole different species!
Plants get their nourishment from the sun and soil. Produce picked when fully ripe and developed contain higher levels of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. So not only will your produce taste better, but your kale, asparagus, blueberries, and so on will nourish you far more than if you bought them out of season.
Seasonal produce is grown in their natural environments meaning they need fewer chemicals, preservatives, waxes, or pesticides to grow and be preserved. In addition, buying your seasonal food locally reduces the load on our environment due to transport, also known as “food mileage”.
There’s something special about eating local, shopping local, and supporting local businesses. Keep your dollar in Portland’s economy and celebrate what this city has to offer!
Food will simply be cheaper if you buy it in the season that it is harvested. Have you ever noticed how cheap tomatoes are in the middle of summer compared to trying to buy them in the winter? When there’s an abundance of a product, prices will go down. In addition, that tomato that you’re buying in the middle of winter, have you ever wondered how it got there? “Food miles,” or the distance it takes for our food to travel from wherever it was grown to a grocery store near you is also factored into that extra high price you find yourself paying for a food that isn’t even as nutritionally rich as if you bought it in season.
I won’t go into details, but buying seasonally and locally means you are purchasing the goods directly from the farmer. There is no middle man between you and where the food was grown and harvested. How many steps do you think it took for that tomato you’re buying in the middle of winter to get to the grocery store?
By choosing local and seasonal food, you are also more likely to get a cleaner product (free of pesticides, chemicals, waxes and preservatives). Many small family farms cannot afford to go through the organic certification process, but follow very natural and healthy growing practices. So unlike when you go to the grocery store and seek out the organic produce that still may be coming from quite a distance away, why not purchase a product just as clean and grown locally for a fraction of the price!
Getting to know where your food is coming from, who is growing your food, and being able to look your farmer in the eye is a unique experience and allows you to feel closer to the whole process. There’s an energy that’s hard to explain, but you can really feel the love in the produce you buy from a nearby farm after having the experience of interacting with the individuals involved in growing it. Keep your friends close, but your famers closer!
One of the greatest things about eating seasonally is your appreciation for produce changes. There’s nothing like coming out of the cold winter months with summer just around the corner and waiting on the edge of your seat for the first big, juicy strawberries of the season knowing that the flavor will even better than you remember from last summer. As you learn to eat seasonally, you appreciate what nature has to offer you in that season. You get creative with new recipes and experiment in the kitchen finding a new fun way to prepare zucchini in the summer, and by the time you’ve grow tired of that season’s produce, a whole new batch for a new season is just beginning to arrive.
As I’ve said before, nature is smart. The natural cycle of produce is perfectly designed to support our health needs. In the springtime, the abundance of leafy greens help us alkalize and detoxify after a long winter of heavier foods. Tomatoes and watermelon that are flourishing in the summer (when the sun is shining the brightest and longest) contain the powerful antioxidant lycopene which has been found to be protective against UV rays and sunburn. Eating local bee pollen and honey helps with seasonal allergies by introducing your body to the local pollen. Building a lifestyle around seasonal food facilitates the body’s natural healing process.
Living in tune with nature’s rhythm makes us more aware and appreciative of the beauty around us. We can live in harmony with our surroundings and focus on balancing our inner landscapes with our outer environment. Wondering what’s in season? Check out Seasonal Food Guide and experience it first hand at any one of the Farmers Markets Portland has to offer!
Melanie Matta, MScN