Fruits and vegetables are imported from different parts of the nation, as well as the world, before they make it to your local supermarket. The time spent from harvest to purchase impacts the nutritional value of the produce, making them less ‘fresh’.
These ‘fresh’ foods are often treated with preservatives or wax to prolong their shelf-life, and most often than not, shoppers will end up consuming these chemicals. These chemicals can penetrate the skins of fruits and vegetables, so they can not be washed off.
One way to guarantee that you buy fresh and nutritious produce is by eating seasonally. Nutrition experts at Bulk.com have explored the benefits of eating seasonally and shared what foods you should be eating right now.
Seasonal Summer Foods
Rainbow Chard – Rainbow or Swiss Chard comes into season in June and lasts till August. It is an underrated leafy green packed with vitamins A, K and C. It is also packed with antioxidants and lutein, known for its anti-inflammatory properties. This leafy green is great for the heart, lungs and the kidneys. Rainbow Chard can be eaten raw in salads but can also be cooked, wilting down similarly to Spinach. Try putting Rainbow Chard in your omelettes, lentils or pasta bakes.
Gooseberries – these are a British classic, often found in jams and commonly turned into a ‘Gooseberry Fool’. Not only are these fruits low in calories, but they are also highly nutritious. They are rich in fibre, which can help control blood sugar. They also contain compounds that can help boost brain function. Gooseberries can be eaten raw and go great in a fruit salad. They can also be turned into a compote as a healthier alternative to syrup for ice cream or pancakes.
Samphire – this is in season between May and August. Samphire is known for its crisp texture and salty taste. This is great to eat raw in salads or cooked, which will reduce the saltiness. Samphire is a source of dietary fibre and can aid in digestion. It also has antioxidant properties, can improve bone health and boost your immune system. Samphire must be washed thoroughly before consumption to remove the saltiness. It is commonly steamed or pan-fried in some butter. This makes an excellent side-dish for fish.
Chervil – also known as French Parsley, is a herb with a taste profile similar to tarragon and a milder taste to parsley. It works harmoniously with other herbs and is great over eggs, chicken or green beans. It is an excellent source of iron, has digestive properties and is a diuretic – which means it can help the body expel excess salt and fluid. Chervil can be used in place of any herb and goes well in dressings and vinaigrettes.
Artichokes – these are loaded with nutrients, including vitamins B6 and C. A single serving also contains 10g of fibre, which is excellent for digestive health and promotes bowel regularity. Artichokes need to be cooked before eating, with the edible part at the base of each petal and the Artichoke heart. Artichokes can be steamed or boiled and are best served alongside a dip.
Rhubarb – often considered a fruit, this is a vegetable. Rhubarb is high in vitamin K, vital for bone health and can prevent blood clotting. It also contains vitamin A, which can help fight free radicals that cause your skin to age prematurely. Rhubarb can be eaten raw, excluding the highly toxic leaves. They can be turned into smoothies with other fruits but are commonly used in pies or jams. Try making a Rhubarb jam to enjoy in the mornings; homemade jams can be much healthier than shop bought as you can control the amount of sugar put in.
Cucumbers – these are in season from mid-summer to mid-autumn, but you will find the best cucumbers in warmer conditions. These are great for those wanting to maintain or lose weight as they are very low in calories but high in nutrients. They are high in vitamins K, B and antioxidants and promote hydration. Cucumbers are best served raw but can be soaked in a brine of vinegar, salt and spices and then turned into pickles.
Strawberries – these are in season from May to September. Strawberries are a great source of polyphenols which protects the body’s tissues from oxidative stress. They are also high in manganese, potassium, and vitamin C. Strawberries are particularly good for pregnancy as the high levels of vitamin C can help a foetus’ development. Strawberries are very versatile and can be used for both savoury and sweet dishes. Try adding some feta and strawberries to a pasta salad for a unique and sweet summery dish.
Spinach – Spinach is high in zeaxanthin, which helps flush out free radicals in your body and can help reduce the risk of glaucoma and cataracts. Spinach is also high in iron, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K. Spinach can be eaten raw but is best consumed when cooked as you can absorb more of the nutrients. Try adding some to your frittatas or as a layer to a lasagne.
Cherries – these are a great source of fibre and are also low in calories. Cherries contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds and are very similar to Strawberries as they contain polyphenols. They are also a great source of anthocyanins, which not only give Cherries their colour but also help muscle recovery after a workout. Cherries are great to eat before bed as they are high in melatonin which can improve sleep efficiency, try adding handful of Cherries to your nighttime routine.
Tomatoes – these are in season from June to October. Besides vitamin C and K, Tomatoes are high in folate, vital for tissue growth and cell function – another great superfood to eat during pregnancy. When in season, tomatoes are sweeter and more flavourful, which means they will go great in a salad. Try using fresh tomatoes to create your own tomato sauce; the difference in taste between fresh in-season tomatoes and canned is very noticeable.
The Benefits of Seasonal Eating
When produce is in season, they grow in abundance, which usually means there is an overstock of these products resulting in lower prices. When certain goods are not in season, they must be grown in managed conditions or be transported from other parts of the world. These processes require more maintenance and funds, which means an increase in the final selling price.
Seasonal foods are naturally more saturated in nutrients compared to their out-of-season counterparts. These seasonal foods are cropped at the optimal time, allowing them to grow naturally, resulting in nutrient-dense produce. Out-of-season produce must travel far to get to the supermarkets and then be purchased by consumers. This is why artificial chemicals such as preservatives and pesticides are used to prevent spoilage during transit and extend shelf life.
Seasonal food tastes better because it is cropped optimally, producing a riper and sweeter product. Since the produce is naturally growing in abundance, there is no need for artificial chemicals to be used to extend shelf life; these chemicals interact with the flavour and nutrients. Furthermore, the produce would not have travelled far, maximising freshness and flavour.
Supporting Local Farmers & Economy
Supporting local suppliers and farmers promotes a more sustainable way of living. Smaller farms are often more labour-intensive and use natural processes to grow produce, as growing out-of-season is more costly. Supporting local farmers results in a safer food supply and profits for your local community. As aforementioned, since there will be no travel expenses, prices for produce are reduced significantly.
Locally sourced produce means there will be a lower carbon footprint, as there is no pollution caused by shipping foods from one part of the world to another. In addition, fewer, if not no, pesticides are used, which can prevent pollution of water streams and ponds.
A nutrition expert from Bulk.com says: “It is clear that eating seasonally has numerous benefits that can impact the consumer and suppliers positively. It can also promote a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet by providing a variety of nutrient-rich produce that allow people to try new recipes and dishes.”
Knowing what foods to purchase each month can prevent wastage and allow people to plan what meals to make and ensure they get the most from their weekly or fortnightly grocery shopping. It can also prevent consumers from purchasing cheap, unhealthy processed foods.