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It’s not a marketing ploy – there’s a fundamental reason why seasonal produce is far better tasting. In-season fruits and vegetables are fresher, sweeter and perfectly ripe. This is because they’ve been picked or harvested at the right time after they’ve naturally ripened in the ground, or on the vine or tree – allowing them to retain greater flavour. When we eat foods that are out of season, they will have been harvested early and undergone a process of refrigeration to keep them from spoiling during transportation. Fridges are beneficial for preservation, but they’re the enemy to flavour, and chilling will always diminish that perfectly-ripe, sweet taste. Often, products will have to undergo extra heating to artificially ripen them once they reach their intended destination too. This greatly reduces the flavour and removes that lovely sweetness that you only get with freshly picked produce. Out-of-season foods can taste floury, fibrous or even flavourless in comparison to their seasonal counterparts.
It’s not just the flavour that’s retained in seasonally ripened fruits and vegetables, but the nutritional value is far greater too. Eating produce closer to harvesting ensures better retention of nutrients, as many nutrients will start to decrease in foods stored for longer periods of time. Vitamin C, folate and carotenes in particular will rapidly decline in produce that are not consumed soon after harvesting. Larger suppliers may even stock out-of-season fruits and vegetables that have been gassed, irradiated (through radiation) to kill germs and preserved in wax to keep them looking fresh and extend their shelf life. It goes without saying that none of this will be beneficial to our health.
Eating foods that are in season will better support your body’s natural healing and cleaning abilities. In winter, for example, nature provides us with an abundance of citrus fruits which are high in Vitamin C and help to protect against the cold and flu viruses, and many varieties of squash, which contain Vitamin A to strengthen our immune systems ahead of the change in weather. Seasonal changes are always a key time for picking up viruses. So wild garlic, chives and leeks, which all contain natural antibiotics, are great to eat as it moves into the Spring. By contrast, summer brings with it lots of stone fruits that offer extra beta-carotenes and other carotenoids to help protect against sun damage.
Purchasing more locally grown fruits and vegetables protects small, local farmland from being financially pressured into expanding and developing for industrial or commercial use. Preserving this farmland also provides animals, insects and birds with a place to live and thrive.2 ‘Food miles’ are reduced with less travel, meaning less consumption of fossil fuels and fewer carbon emissions and greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, because local farmers don’t have the inflated transportation and distribution costs that large agricultural businesses do, they’re able to retain more of their profits. Helping small, local businesses to become even more successful.
Eating a variety of healthy, nutrient-filled fruits and vegetables is always going to be beneficial to our health and is certainly a giant leap up from processed foods and artificial colours and flavourings. But for the greatest benefits of all, try to keep seasonal fruits and vegetables at the forefront of your shopping list.
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