By Rachael Marion, UMass Amherst Dietetic Intern
The changing of the leaves reminds us that winter is right around the corner and the farmer’s markets will soon be wrapping up. It’s time to take advantage of those last couple of trips and stock up on the available fall produce. Modern-day food processing and distribution have made it easy to forget about the importance of eating what’s in season. Seasonal eating allows us to eat a varied diet that supports our body and our environment. Here are a few more reasons why eating seasonally is beneficial:
Better flavor and nutritional value!
Food that’s in season is fresher, healthier, and more flavorful! Have you ever eaten a peach in the winter that tastes nothing like the fresh ripe peach you had in the summer? Seasonal produce is rich in vitamins, minerals, and flavor. As soon as they are harvested, the nutritional quality of fruits and vegetables begins to decline. Produce can spend as much as a week getting to the store, then a couple of days before it makes its way to your refrigerator, and then up to another whole week before it’s finally eaten. Eating seasonally benefits your health since the food has traveled fewer miles and is at peak freshness.
Knowing what is in season will help your wallet!
Did you know eating seasonally can help you save money? When you buy food at the peak of its supply, there’s more to pick from, which means prices are usually at their lowest. Pricing in the supermarket can tell you a lot about seasonality. For example, if you’re usually paying $2 per pound of peaches and the prices increase the next month to $3 per pound, that’s a good sign that the fruit is scarcer and has to travel a greater distance to get to you.
Support the local economy!
When you purchase food that’s in season from local farms, you’re supporting both the local farmers that worked hard to grow the food and the local economy. Farmers are able to retain more of the value of their produce when it is sold locally because they don’t have to pay to have it shipped across the country. Supermarkets have very high standards for what the produce they will buy from farmers. This means farmers sell less product and a lot of misfit food items that worked equally as hard to grow end up going to waste. Your community needs your support. Take a trip to the markets, ask questions about the production process, and engage with your community!
Using produce that was grown locally and in season encourages us to be more creative in the kitchen, trying recipes we wouldn’t have otherwise tried. Use the buttons below to check out what’s in season near you and try some seasonal recipes!
The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.