Eating Locally & Seasonally - Why it Matters and How to Do it
When I lived in Europe for modeling one of the first things I would do whenever I got to a new city was find out when and where the local farmers market was. Often wandering the markets alone in a sea of people, it was a beautiful way to feel like I was a part of the heartbeat of the community and discover the flavors that were true and native to each city. Whether it be the local olive oil and pesto alla genovese in the Cinque Terre, Italy, Feta and black olives in Athens, Greece, or a fresh baguette and perfectly aged cheese in Paris. Still to this day wherever I live I frequent the farmers market to take in all the smells and tastes, and stock up on local produce and fresh flowers for the week. Eating locally, and therefore seasonally is better for the environment, the economy, and our health. Perhaps the best benefit of all is the taste, when food is fresh and ripens naturally it is more delectable than any other!
Why You Shouldn't Eat Out of Season
As convenient as it may be to walk into a grocery store and see any fruit or vegetable you could want from anywhere in the world, it isn't natural. It used to be that we were directly involved in the harvesting, collecting and preparation of our own food, and we ate seasonally. However in the last 50-100 years with the industrialization of agriculture our food has become low-nutrient, filled with toxins and highly processed.
Nutrient-dense foods are real and unprocessed rather than chemically altered, manmade or filled with synthetic ingredients. Studies show that plants have to fully ripen on the vine in order to get to their highest nutrient levels. Produce that gets transported thousands of miles to get to the grocery store is often chemically ripened before it goes to the store, which makes the fruits and veggies look ripe and colorful, but doesn’t let them develop their full nutrient potential. Not only do they not reach their full nutrient potential but once they are harvested their nutrient density declines with time as it travels from farms to us. In North America, fruits and vegetables can spend as much as five days in transit, sit on the supermarket shelves for 1–3 days before purchase and then sit in your fridge for up to 7 days before being eaten.
How to Buy Local and Eat Seasonally
Buying local means that you buy foods that are naturally ripened, nutrient-rich and endure less travel, processing and packaging. When you buy locally you are also supporting the economy within your local community of small farmers. To do this you can research your local farmers market, look for a grocery store that supports local farms or sign up for a meal delivery service that supports local sustainable farms. Obviously it's not always convenient or affordable to eat 100% local, sustainable, organic food (some amazing recipes require exotic produce that isn't available locally) but if you can have an awareness and try to do it when possible it's worth it. I try to find a balance by getting a Sun Basket delivery once a week which has organic ingredients and recipes to make 3 meals a week, then go to the Hollywood Farmers Market on Sunday, and mix in a Whole Foods run for any extras.
The Seasonal Food Guide is an awesome resource to find out what is in season depending on where you live. In general some nutrient-rich winter plant foods are...garlic and onions, parsnips and sweet potatoes, kale, mustard greens, swiss chard and turnips. Leafy greens are best in the spring. Broccoli and tomato are best in summer. Pumpkin and other root vegetables contain large amounts of stored nutrients for fall and winter.