Buying Local Seasonal Produce

Eating a diet that follows nature's rhythms is far from a passing trend; it's just good sense, and it's how everyone ate not so long ago--before heart disease, diabetes and obesity had managed to wheedle their way into every corner of North America.

The benefits of eating locally grown, seasonal food are many--it's ultimately cheaper and better for small farmers and your community's economy, and it's a great way to keep in step with the natural world.  Perhaps more compelling, though, eating seasonally is an especially excellent way to boost nutrition.

Most fruits and vegetables reach their nutritional peak around the same time they ought to be harvested, which, conveniently, is also when they taste the best.  The redder a red tomato is, for example, the more beta-carotene it contains, and as a bell pepper progresses from green to red it gains 11 times more beta-carotene and 1 1/2 times more vitamin C.

Another nutritional bonus of buying from local farmers is variety.  Small-scale farmers don't have to select crops strictly for traits like durability and yield.  They can instead choose crop varieties for any number of desirable traits, from sweetness and vitamin content to funky shape, bright color or resistance to local pests. 

Eating a seasonally based diet with lots of variety throughout the year is the "cornerstone of preventive medicine" according to Preston Maring, a doctor at Kaiser Permanente's Oakland Medical Center in California.  Inspired by study after study documenting the benefits of eating an in-season, plant-focused diet - reduced risks of cancer and heart disease, increased logevity, improved cholesterol, improved vascular health, increased bone density, and weight loss, to name a few.  Maring has actually written prescriptions for patients to buy fresh food from the hospital's on-site farmers' market, complete with suggestions about how they can prepare it.

Eating locally grown, in-season food offers yet another nutritional benefit: Supporting farmers who manage their land sustainably is an investment in more nutritious food for all of us.  Modern commercial farming, with its focus on quantity over quality, often at the expense of soil quality, is giving us less and less nutritious food all the time.  Modern wheat and barley have 30 - 50 percent less protein than they did in 1938.  Newer varieties of corn have lower concentrations of protein, oil and three amino acids. 

The concept of nutrition is more holistic than the sum of the nutrient parts of food.  Nurturing a connection to the natural world is good for our bodies and our souls.  Herbalist and physician Aviva Jill Romm sees nutrition as "a way of loving and caring for ourselves and others that allows us and those we serve to reach our fullest potential."  Dan Barber, chef-farmer at Blue Hill, a sustainable agiriculture restaurant in upstate New York, believes that cooking with seasonal ingredients gives you "the feeling that you are a part of something much greater than a good recipe."


3 comments (Add your own)

1. NepJune wrote:
This was our 2nd year with Lancaster Farms. We opted for a full share and were able to get a 3-week extension ($25/week) for December.Last year I was a bit put off by all the lecttue, but this year I took advantage of it. They key is large meal salads or dressings that will wilt the greens (like raw cashew caesar). Now that it's cold out, I want more lecttue!

June 17, 2015 @ 8:20 AM

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January 12, 2016 @ 7:10 AM

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