One of the wonderful aspects of our change of seasons is the variety of foods we can choose from.
And although in our consumer driven, commercial world where foods of all types are available most everywhere and at most times of the year, there is a great benefit in eating seasonally as well as locally.
The first benefit is in environmental impact.
When you buy a mango out of season that was imported from Chile, how much did it cost to transport it to your local store? Many times it's flown halfway across the world at a cost much greater than just the price you pay for the item. You help our environment by buying your produce locally as much as possible and reduce the transportation costs involved in buying at your local grocery store.
In many cases, organically grown fruits and vegetables out of season aren't available, but that is changing with the world economy and stores like Whole Foods that are growing along with the demand for more organic foods. Recent statistics show that the demand is outgrowing the supply, so this may change over time when you can get most any organic fruit or vegetable any time of the year.
The second benefit is sustainability.
By buying locally, you're support your local economy, the people who grow the foods as well as enriching and sustaining the soil by continuing to grow produce without chemicals or pesticides. This is particularly important as the topsoil in American has been eroding from the use of progressive and chemical based agricultural farming practices.
Third is the taste and quality of the foods.
There is a difference between 'corporate organic' and 'locally grown pesticide free or organic'. You can easily spot the difference if you visit a local farmers market. The vegetables are normally larger, often not as 'standardized' in shape and color as in the grocery store, the colors are richer, smells are fragrant and fresh, the greens are vibrant and healthy and all usually picked the same day or just a day or so before coming to market.
In contrast, when you visit the produce section of your local grocery store (even Whole Foods), you see nice, neat rows of fruits and vegetables that look almost identical in shape, size, color and texture. Hardly anything smells fresh and you don't know how long the food has been in the transportation system to get there. The greens are not as vibrant and look standardized, piled one on top of the other.
It's the end of citrus season here in Arizona and spring is already here. For about 8 weeks, we've enjoyed the locally grown oranges (many different varieties), tangerines, grapefruit and lemons. We're fortunate to have friends that grow pesticide-free tangerines, oranges, lemons and grapefruits on the other side of town on a 5 acre farm. The fruit is abundant every season and they enjoy seeing us visit a few times to help them eat all their fruit. We often bring friends and their children to see the animals (dogs, cats, horses, donkeys and chickens)... the children just love interacting with them. It makes for a great family afternoon outing, getting back to nature.
Here's what I picked up at the farmers market today:
- spinach (nice and crunchy, firm, deep green color)
- leaf lettuce (different varieties, fresh)
- brussel sprouts (smooth taste, large)
- dino kale (firm, crunch and deep green color)
- green onions (fragrant and large)
- cluster tomatoes (beautiful color and feel, in all different shapes)
- carrots (large and firm)
- english cucumbers (firm, nice texture)
- fuji apples (from Washington State, no apples here in Arizona)
- organic cotton shopping bag (to add to my collection of reusable bags - only $7, the farm's cost to manufacture)
All grown organic or pesticide free, and all local except for the apples. The entire 3 bags of greens, vegetables and apples cost just under $30. A bargain compared to what I'd pay for the same organic produce elsewhere.
And frankly, it's fun to go to the farmer's market. If you can, bring the kids. Much more fun than the grocery store (and you'll spend less). You get a feeling of being close to your community, close to the earth and knowing where your food is grown. You can meet the farmers as well as others in your community.
Let me know what you think and how you buy your food by posting your comments below. To your best health!