By Shana Tatum
The health and environmental reasons for eating according to the seasons and from farms in your area are numerous. Eating locally is defined as food from growers that harvest and raise food in your city or region. Following the seasons with your meal-planning means eating foods that are grown during the season when you enjoy them.
Making those two choices naturally equates to eating sustainably, meaning less impact on the environment and its inhabitants.
In the spring, for example, we eat lighter after the heavy winter meals in January and February. Spring greens like arugula and collard greens lighten and detoxify our bodies from the fatty foods we may have enjoyed during the colder months. Foods like radishes, dandelion greens, sorrel and asparagus provide cleansing properties to promote detoxification. These foods also help prepare us for the warmer summer months.
In the summer, with increased activity (and the Houston heat) we have the need to replenish fluids. There is a bounty of produce filled with nutrient-rich liquids and foods higher in carbohydrates to provide energy for those extra hours of daylight. Foods like watermelon, tomatoes, peaches and cucumbers refresh and hydrate us.
In the fall, the days begin to shorten and we begin to yearn for warmer foods, moving away from the raw fruits and salads of the summer. We begin to enjoy foods like apples that are high in pectins to help digestion of heavier-cooked meals and look for warming foods in soups and stews.
With the cold and dry air of winter, the diet is filled with high protein and high fat foods that warm, sustain and moisturize. We greet this dormant season with dried beans and seeds from a plentiful fall harvest. Foods such as root vegetables, winter squash, meats and citrus fortify our appetite. These insulating foods keep us warm.
Eating seasonally promotes good health
Eating seasonally tunes the body and supports our natural physical cleansing and healing processes. When food is harvested at the peak of freshness, it provides the most nutrition. A wide variety of minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients and antioxidants are ours for the taking. It provides variety in the diet, which in turn leads to better gut health and more opportunities for new flavors, colors and tastes.
Economic Benefits to you and your community
Buying in season is less expensive, too. Having a good supply of locally grown food means you pay less for food that has not been harvested and shipped from far away. It usually is found on sale due to its abundance in the growing season. It also provides economic benefit to farmers when you buy seasonally. Shop at farmers markets or join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It improves your overall economy by keeping your dollars in your community.
Sustainable eating supports life
Farmers practicing regenerative agriculture provide us with healthy foods. The rotation of crops, composting to create living soil, harmony in management of livestock and crops for optimal fertilization gives life to the food we consume. It all begins with the soil and the life teeming in it. These practices also protect the farmers, animals and community at large by avoiding pesticides and herbicides that are toxic to all.
Direct environmental costs reduced
The transportation of our food from far-off sources plays a role in harvest time, and more importantly, nutrient density. Food may be picked before it is ripe just to make the journey across the country to get to our store shelves. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the typical American prepared meal contains, on average, ingredients from at least five countries outside the United States. Reduction in fuel use eases pollution, which is better for the land, water and air. It helps preserve farmland and our green spaces, too. These resources need protection to produce high-quality food.
Seasonal foods for June: