Seasonal eating

Do you like to do your bit to look after and love the earth? Good for you. But, do you eat grapes all year round? Today’s tremendous trivia post is on seasonal produce.

Gone are the days of walking into a supermarket and getting excited to see strawberries on the shelves again – it’s now possible to buy almost all types of fruit and vegetables all year round.  This is not because farmers have developed super all-year-round growing skills. It’s because of importing. If you eat supermarket produce that is out of season, be aware of the following:

Picked early to be perfect…
Fruit and vegetables taste best when left to ripen naturally. But, the longer they are left on trees the greater the chance of a bug having a few bites. So exporting farmers pick their fruit very early and ripen it with artifical means. Exporting farmers are kind of like fruit magicians – they use sneaky techniques to ensure their produce only peaks a few days after it has been purchased by consumers (on the other side of the globe).

In a nutshell, produce is picked way before it is ripe (at this point even the bugs don’t want it), pumped with ripening gas in a bug-free zone, washed and waxed with preservatives and then stored in temperature controlled spaces for months until it is exported. Nasty. But pretty.

Less nutrients
From the second they are picked fruit and vegetables begin to lose nutrients, so getting picked months prior to appearing on the shelves is not ideal as it means you have to eat a lot more fruit to get the daily nutrients you need. Imported produce is often more expensive, and you need more to get your five-a-day? Fail.

Implications for local farmers
Out of season imports can have a negative impact on local farmers, as they are often sold very cheaply and for cut-prices. You can read an article with more of an explanation of the economic implications of global fresh produce trading here.

We’re in somewhere at the beginning of Winter in South Africa, so here’s what you’d need to buy to be eating seasonally:

Autumn fruits include apples, blackberries, blueberries, fresh figs, grapes, pears, plums, and raspberries. Even though some of these fruits grow all year round, their traditional season is autumn. The wintery fruits are bananas, pomegranates, clementines, cranberries, grapefruit, kiwi, cranberries, satsuma oranges and tangerines.

The Autumn heroes – aubergine, beetroot, brocolli, leeks, mange tout, wild mushrooms, pumpkin, red cabbage, squash and runner beans. And for Winter – artichokes, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, watercress, kale and parsnips. Carrots, lettuce, onions and cabbage are available all year round, but are traditionally autumn/winter produce.

Herbwise, you can also go seasonal. If you grow your own, you’ll find parsely and basil are harder to sustain in the cold months so stick with rosemary, thyme and sage which are more hardy.

Our reccomendation is that you buy locally grown, seasonal organic produce. Here’s a list of some great organic markets and home-delivery box schemes around South Africa (thanks to Simply Green).

Eating seasonally is what nature always intended for our bodies. It encourages a diverse diet which is good for the metabolism. Characteristically, nature knows best.

Any suggestions for Wintery meals using the produce listed above?