With the start of each new season, a fresh array of new fruits and vegetables are ready for harvesting. Eating in synchronicity with the seasons offers exciting variety, best flavor, good health, dollars saved and environmentally friendly choices.
It can be difficult to easily identify what is in season with advances in agriculture now able to provide us with many of our favorite produce items all year round. Artificial growing environments, international importing and long storage periods all help to meet the demand for a constant supply. Interestingly, we are able to save more and get more from our produce when we purchase in season.
Peak supply of fruit and vegetables is typically during its natural season of maturation. Such abundance contributes to overall lower costs of the seasonal food at local markets. Buying at the height of a season is a great time to choose organic, as prices are often less expensive. Taste and flavor are important factors in making a great meal so, select seasonal produce as much as possible. During their natural season, many fruits and veg are allowed to sun ripen whilst still attached to the plant, producing a delicious and full flavor. This is unlike some practices which involve picking produce early to then be frozen and ripened at a later date. Those who have eaten tomatoes in summer straight from a vine have experienced a superior taste to those that have been plucked from their branch early or in colder months.
Eating seasonally supports sustainability. As produce has less distance to travel from our local growers, there is a reduced requirement for the use of long haul transportation, refrigeration and storage. Choose to lower environmental impact by prioritizing New Zealand grown seasonal produce from your local grower or market grocer.
The precious vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients within our produce will quickly begin to diminish over time if lengthy transport and storage are required. Thus, the shorter period of time a seasonal fruit or vegetable takes to travel from garden to table ensures greater retention of its nutritional value. A seasonally balanced diet will also ensure we are consuming a wide variety of health-promoting nutrients throughout the year.
Seasonal produce can play a wonderfully supportive role in our overall health, as fruits and vegetables are made available at the time our body most needs them. An example being the recent water-rich fare of summer months, abundant in watermelon, berries, cucumber, and sweetcorn. All of which provided a cooling effect and supported rehydration after long, hot days in the sun. As Autumn begins to approach and temperatures being too cool, delicate and light produce is replaced with those that are hardier and restorative. Autumnal vegetables such as kumara, parsnip, leek, and squash become the perfect ingredients in warming, nourishing dishes.
The harvest of medicinal herbs also cycles with the seasons, as each plant is best plucked or dugout when its therapeutic properties are highest. Autumn is an ideal time to harvest herbs such as Dandelion and Echinacea roots, as the energy from the plant begins to descend to the plant roots in preparation for a period of hibernation. Rosehips are also best collected in autumn and are a rich source of Vitamin C, the perfect nutrient to prepare our bodies for winter.
Check in store at your local Huckleberry for a wide range of seasonal, organic and locally sourced fresh produce.
-Article by Naturopath Kate Dalliessi