In our days almost no foods are off limit. Even in the most bitter days of winter there’s an abundant choice of fruits and vegetables on the shelves of supermarkets. Aubergines and courgettes that don’t come in till late spring/ early summer are available all year round, just like strawberries, raspberries and nectarines, although firm and tasteless, appear on the shelves in January, overlooking the fact that they are not in season till summer months. It would be natural to think Wow! So great to have this choice we couldn’t even think of a couple of decades ago! But… If you think deeper, these foods really shouldn’t be on the market this time of the year. Then how do they get there? Fortunately (or unfortunately?) people have developed all sorts of strategies to produce and sell the foods that normally are not in season – they are grown in greenhouses, treated with crop boosting chemicals or, at best, imported from the far-away countries to please us, the consumers. Or maybe to make money? It really works both ways, but better for them and less so for us.

The problem with imported produce

I think we all know what it means if the produce is grown in greenhouses, out of its season, and treated with crop enhancers, but if you are not sure, it means that food doesn’t contain the same vitamins, minerals and other compounds that it normally does when grown naturally in its appropriate season. Then, depending on the fertilizers and other chemicals used, the properties of food can be modified to promote a longer shelf life. It goes without saying that the longer the foods can be stored, the less nutritious they are.

When the produce is imported from other countries, it also means that the nutritive quality of food suffers because of the longer storage and transportation. The vitamin and mineral content of imported produce is simply not the same as of the foods produced locally. These foods are also frequently modified to prolong the shelf life of the produce – how else would it survive long transportations at irregular temperatures and conditions? In addition to nutrients content of the foods, transporting products from other countries means more greenhouse emissions. In the world where the global warming is happening much faster than we would have liked, additional CO2 emissions are definitely of no help. The more miles foods have to travel from their original location to your plate, the more is the cost. So, essentially, you are paying a higher price for a food that is less nutritious, probably genetically modified and chemically treated and contributing to the global warming. And let’s not forget about plastic. Imported produce requires some kind of packaging to be transported – usually plastic, and plastic is one of the biggest pollutants, killing approx. 1.5 million marine animals each year. It is truly sad that we have to pay extra for all this mess.

Why you should buy locally produced seasonal foods

It should be obvious by now that the benefits of seasonal and local produce are many. You know where your food comes from. You know that it is in season and thus has the best nutrients to offer. You know that it doesn’t contribute (at least as much) to global warming. It helps to avoid the excessive use of plastic – just be sure to bring reusable woven bags to the shop. You know that the money you pay stay in the community and support local farmers. You can always enquire about the farms at your local fruit and veg vendors. And you can always find local organic produce and buy it directly from the farm.

Yes, it takes a little bit of change, but it’s doable, and all the benefits are yours.

And it’s definitely worth the change if you know that the products you are buying offer you the most nutrition. So let’s find out which foods are in season this spring and what they can offer.

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