You've probably heard the advice to "eat what is in season," but do you know what that means and WHY is it important? Eating in season means to eat foods that are being grown in your region right now. This means to eat less packaged food and more fresh delicious produce. Modern food processing has allowed for supermarket shelves to look the same in January as they do in July. But think about it… Our grandmothers didn't grow up eating prepackaged foods, frozen and shipped across the country to their local supermarket to be "cooked" in a microwave at home. They bought meat from the local butcher, milk from the milkman, and produce from local farmers. So why exactly is this better?
1. It's local.
By buying foods in season, you can be sure that your money will go to support farmers in your own community, rather than a factory farm across the country. Make the biggest impact with your food budget by buying local. This way you can know that you're supporting fair wages and decent working conditions.
2. It's cheaper.
Simple economics here. When supply goes up, prices fall. That's why asparagus is cheapest in the spring and apples in the fall. Buying in season means foods are fresher, which lessens your chance of opening a new bag of lettuce only to find it's wilting and starting to brown. Save your money for food that won't go to waste!
3. It's environmentally friendly.
When we eat what is in season, we can buy from our community, rather than having produce shipped in from across the country (and world!). Think of how much less gas it takes to ship food 10 miles than it does 1,000. In addition, small farms emit less pollution that the large-scale farms that produce is shipped from. Factory farms contribute 37% of all methane pollution.
4. It's healthier.
Foods that are picked when ripe and sold immediately to the consumer do not have to be sprayed with chemicals to keep them lasting longer.
5. It just tastes better.
When produce is shipped long distances, they are often picked before allowed to ripen, preventing them from developing a full flavor. When produce is freshly picked and ripe, it is most flavorful.
Note: This chart is for northern Illinois weather. What is in season in your area may be different based on your climate.
Megan McGowan is a yoga teacher, student, vegetarian food lover, world traveler, and avocado fanatic from Chicago. Her love for healthy food has instilled a passion for cooking since she was a child. When she’s not on her mat or in the kitchen, you can find her exploring the city or playing with her bunny Lola. Find her at www.meganmcgowan.com or on Facebook.
Sources: Illinois Department of Agriculture; Local Foods, About.com, Molly Watson
Images via: @cbstare