Pumpkin spice lattes are over. It is now time for egg nog, gingerbread cookies, and candy canes. These few food items are all the “seasonal” foods we have left really, but there was once a time when all foods were seasonal.
Before we could fly tomatoes in from Mexico, they were only available when they were in season–summer into early fall. In the spring time, lettuce was one of the first greens you could get a harvest from, but it wasn’t available after the hot sun made them bolt.
Today, you can get a tomato any time of day, any time of year. Cold season and warm season foods are piled neatly together without any sign that the tomato had to be flown 2,000 miles in order to grace your table.
This comes at a cost. Rising Co2 levels from shipping food vast distances are causing our planet to warm, and while food miles certainly aren’t the biggest part of our collective carbon footprint, it’s something we should look at.
Why Seasonality is beneficial
If the idea of waiting months to bite into a delicious tomato has you horrified, don’t worry. There are plenty of other ways to help the planet if you want to help stop climate change, and even a salad with a long-distance tomato in it is easier on the climate than a beef steak harvested locally.
If you love all flavors and are curious about seasonal foods however, choosing foods that didn’t need to come from thousands of miles away can provide a lot of benefits.
When a flavor is limited, we tend to appreciate it a little bit more than if we can have it all the time. There’s something about biting into your first strawberry of the year, or lingering over the last watermelon. The tomato is there year round, and though we have it and use it every day, is it as good when you know the next one is always a grocery run away?
Getting back in touch with the seasons could also help local farmers, by bringing the focus back on fresh foods that are available only in those seasons. It may also bring us closer to our food, which we have increasingly lost touch with.
If you’re serious about seasonality, starting a home garden is another way you can drastically cut food miles, and depending on how you garden may even act as your own miniature carbon sink.
How to eat seasonally
It’s up to you how and what you eat. Yet it’s easier than you think to eat seasonally. You don’t need a flow chart of the different months and what’s ripe in them, all you need is to visit your local farmer’s market, or sign up for a CSA.
These farmer’s automatically offer you in-season foods because that is what they have. If you can’t for some reason get to the grocery store, than simply knowing a warm season crop from a cold season one can help you make more seasonal choices.
Seasonality can bring spice back into food, and help you look forward to the changing of the seasons, all while reducing your carbon footprint.
Do you think you’re in touch with the seasons? Take our quiz to see if you’re a seasonal food master.