What is “seasonal shopping” and which produce should you take advantage of this fall?
Early fall is one of my favorite times of the year. The mornings are crisp, the days still warm, the sunflowers are out, the leaves are turning orange and the supermarkets are chock-full of harvest bounty. We just moved from the city to the countryside this year and have been making weekly visits to local farms that let you go out into their fields to pick your own fruits and vegetables. Therefore, I have been feeling more in tune with the growing and harvesting cycle of our foods, and appreciating the authenticity of eating seasonal produce more than ever before.
What does “seasonal eating” mean?
Simply put, eating “seasonally” means that you include those foods in your menu that are grown near you at the same time of the year. Some popular examples are berries and peas in the spring, beets, peppers and squash in the summer, and apples and pumpkins in the fall.
Local, seasonal produce uses less pesticides.
To keep foods looking fresh and plump, they are routinely sprayed with pesticides and preservatives. Have you ever noticed that apples or strawberries can have a “waxy” appearance? I am always a little skeptical when fruits look like they were taken straight from the pages of my son’s children’s books – the appearance of local, organic produce might be a little less than picture-perfect: don’t be put off by some slight imperfections such as bumps bruises, or irregular shapes. You may be surprised how much better they taste!
Seasonal produce tastes better and introduces variety.
“This doesn’t taste of anything!” my nephew exclaimed when he bit into a tomato the size of my fist, that had traveled all the way from Holland to make it onto his plate. He was right. Once you have experienced how good seasonal produce tastes, you won’t want to go back.
Seasonal produce is usually harvested at the peak of its ripeness and is bursting with flavor. Have you ever stood in front of a shelf of rock- hard, flavorless peaches in the wintertime? Eating more seasonally may mean that you won’t eat everything all the time, but it also gives you the chance to expand your palate and include new, seasonal foods into your diet that you may not have tried before.
You will save money and support a regional economy!
A very immediate benefit of eating seasonally is that the produce is often cheaper. All the extra effort needed for out-of-season produce is reflected in the price tag, and during peak harvesting time, local foods will cost less so they can be sold before they spoil. If you observe how the pricing of fruits and vegetables in your supermarket changes over the course of the year (kind of like in the stock market), you will have a good indicator for what’s in season and what is not.
By buying local, you are also supporting local farms, farmers and other workers in your community. For our products at White Leaf, we made it a priority from day one to support local family run orchards that were already promoting and practicing organic and Biodynamic farming. For that reason, we concentrated on purchasing fruit from small family-run farms where our dollars could make a difference. We hope this inspires you to also buy fresh and local as often as possible to sustain the farmers and your family’s health!
Here are some of my favorite classic fall picks:
-- Cranberries – I just love berries, and fall is usually not a time when most berries are in season. Cranberries are the delicious exception! While they can be eaten raw, they are usually enjoyed dried, cooked, stewed or in baked goods. They are super versatile and go well with sweet and savory dishes. They are full of antioxidants that protect our skin and cardiovascular system, and have traditionally be used to prevent urinary tract infections
-- Kale – a true nutrient dense superfood, it can survive on the fields in cold weather and even snow, and actually tastes better if is harvested after the first frosts. Kale stores well and can be eaten raw as a salad, sautéed or cooked. It is full of vitamin C and beta carotene, and contains folate and potassium. It is also an excellent source of vitamin K.
-- Pears – pears and apples are usually available in stores year-round, but I like pears the best in the fall. Pears can be picked before they are ripe and allowed to mature in your kitchen at room temperature. The can be eaten raw as a snack or cooked with meat or as a dessert. Soft, ripe pears are an ideal first food for babies, since they are mushy, sweet, and allergic reactions are rare. They can be mashed, pureed, or cut into little chunks for baby led weaning.
-- Root vegetables – this is a big group of foods, including beets and parsnips that can be cooked, stewed, roasted and eaten raw, as well as sweet potatoes and potatoes that are staples of traditional festive winter dishes in many cultures. They are healthy and easy to digest – some are even said to have anti-inflammatory properties and neutralize stomach acids. While the different root vegetables vary in their nutritional values, they are a versatile, delicious and filling way to add vitamins and minerals to your diet in the fall.
Speaking of, have you had the chance to tree our sweet potato, apple, beet baby food pouches? It's a hit among all ages, especially little ones!
-- Grapes – if you think grapes are only good for making wine, think again! This classic fall fruit is thought to have cleansing and purifying properties and may help to prevent cancer and improve symptoms of arthritis. The purple color of the red grapes comes from an antioxidant that is thought to reduce the risk of heart disease - which is also what gives the red wine it’s color, by the way!
Compared to other fruits, grapes are relatively high in sugar, but they do have a low glycemic index, which means it won’t cause a sudden spike in blood sugar.
Fruits & Veggies Are Always Better Than None At All!
As always, my favorite nutritional advice is “don’t stress about it”. In the beginning of my post I wrote that eating seasonally means that you INCLUDE these foods in your diet – not that you have to eat them exclusively. Remember that ANY fruits, vegetables and leafy greens in your diet are better than NONE!
In the right conditions, some foods can be stored for months beyond their harvesting time with minimal loss in nutrients, such as apples, root vegetables, potatoes, pumpkins, cabbage, potatoes and more, which is why you will often find them in stores year-round and they are popular ingredients in wintery soup or stew recipes.
If seasonal produce if hard for you to come by, you can also opt for buying frozen fruits and vegetables produced locally, which are usually frozen right after harvesting and preserve more of their vitamins than the canned varieties.
If you live in North America, this seasonal food chart can give you a good idea of which fruits and vegetables are in season at what time of the year. You can also check the seasonalfoodguide.org to find out what’s in season near you more specific to your location.