Blog: Seasonal Local Produce - The Benefits
Written by Abigail Holt of Cucina.
Children and young adults are usually the worst for "eating with their eyes." We see it all of the time within our schools, hence why we 'hide' the nutritious aspects of our dishes to convince our customers everything in it is food they like.... They never know and usually say it tastes better!
Each season brings with it an array of vibrant fresh produce, usually a great time to start experimenting with new recipes and dishes to incorporate new flavours of seasonal fruit and vegetables. The health benefits of eating seasonally far outweighs the use of produce which isn't in season. Not only will your palate be impressed but your body and even bank balance will be too.
So what are the benefits?
In-season produce is often fresher and tastes better, sweeter and perfectly ripe. When fruits and vegetables are picked for consumption that have been naturally ripened on the vine or the tree and harvested at the right time, it will have much more flavour and nutrition. Most people have experienced that super juicy perfect sweet apple in winter or that sweet strawberry in Summer, When transporting crops, it must be harvested early and refrigerated so they don't spoil during transportation; chilling will reduce the flavour. When they get to their destination they may need to be heated in a hot house to artificially ripen the produce before it goes onto the shelves, this greatly reduces the flavour, changes the texture and the taste. Think of those floury apples, flavourless tomatoes and limp tasteless greens. You may find that the food may be half rotten inside or overly fibrous such as an out-of-season pineapple.
When farmers are harvesting a large abundance of produce due to the crop being in season, the cost of the produce will go down. When the produce is locally sourced because it's in season in your area, then travelling expenses and storage are not required therefore reducing the production costs that are then passed onto the consumer. Another great beneift of sourcing your produce locally! When we buy produce that is out of season, it's normally sourced from out of area locations that have a different climate and can be stored for long periods of time to offer people a variety of produce all year round, these factors will push the price up.
Produce that is purchased in season is more likely to be fresher, consumed closer to harvesting and higher in nutritional value, some anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C, folate and carotenes will rapdily decline when stored for period of time. Locally in-season sourced fruits and vegetables will also appear brighter and more vibrant rather than limp and dried up.
Supports Your Body’s Natural Nutritional Needs
In winter we are provided by nature all things citrus, these are particularly high in Vitamin C which is very important for preventing infections such as colds and flu’s. Winter vegetables offer comfort and are perfect for hot meals, healthy stews, soups, casseroles and other warming meals.Summer foods such as stone fruits provide us with extra beta-carotenes and other carotenoids that help protect us against sun damage, they also provide more sweetness for an energetic summer, as well as salad vegetables for those tasty cool summer salads.
Supports Local Farmers And More Environmentally-Friendly
Eating seasonally reduces the demand for out of season produce which further supports more local farming of produce in your area which means less transportation, less refrigeration, less hot houses, and less irradiation of produce.
Eating with the seasons is both rewarding and challenging. Seasonal Eating is about learning to use more local foods in season, reducing our impact on the planet, and having some fun in the kitchen and garden.
Overall, the key to increasing seasonal local purchases, is education. Each month all of our schools are supplied with ‘Produce of the Month’ posters and recipe packs as well as a tasting table. Students and staff love to see what our chefs have produced each month using a signature seasonal ingredient and often ask to take the recipes home to try after tasting. Our hope is that as our students progress so will their love for food. With thousands of children eating our food everyday we have a fantastic opportunity to instill this way of seasonal eating for their futures not just the present.