Thanks to modern agricultural technology, we're able to eat a variety of produce year-round, but is that exactly a good thing? Should we say “No, thanks” to fruit and veggies that are harvested when they're not in season?
Fortunately, there's a movement to eat locally in response to increasing environmental awareness and going green campaigns. When you eat produce grown locally, it's also more likely to be a seasonal crop. Sounds like a good idea to me!
History of Seasonal Eating
Before modern agriculture and mass-transport of produce across the world, seasonal eating was the way everyone ate. According to traditional healing systems, like Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, nature provides exactly what we need to stay healthy at certain times of the year.
General food for thought: greens (sometimes referred to as “spring greens”) help people lighten up in spring time, sweet fruits offer quick energy for active summers, roots and squash help ground us in the fall, and fats and proteins provide warmth during winter.
Piggy-backing on this Eastern philosophy, Dr. Elson M. Hass authored a book titled Staying Healthy with the Seasons. In it, he notes:
Winter = Kidneys
During the cold and dry months, reserve your energy and rest.
Think your craving for warm soups are coincidence? Think again. Our bodies find balance during these months with heat and moisture.
Foods: The foods that take the longest to grow are the most warming; think carrots, sweet potato, garlic, and other root veggies. These take longer to digest, which build internal heat. Red colored beans, seaweeds, and root veggies all help nourish the kidneys.
Cook foods long and slow at low temperatures. Slow cookers, braising, and roasting are ideal.
Spring = Liver (the main detox organ)
Lighten up in preparation for the warming temperatures to come.
Foods: Dandelion greens and other fresh leafies are available and are known to cleanse the blood. In addition, foods like artichokes, asparagus, and cherries become available.
April showers bring heavy and cold, so counterbalance with light, dry, and warm cooking methods like toasting, baking, and grilling.
Summer = Heart and Small Intestine
Hydration and cooling are two areas of focus during this time of the year. Raw and cool foods help balance out the hot temperatures.
Foods: Heart healthy produce like avocados, tomatoes, melons, nectarines, cucumber, berries, and apricots appear. Avoid stimulants like coffee and black tea, which dehydrate the body and raise internal temperature.
With the dry, hot surroundings; use as little heat as possible to maintain the moisture content of the food. Raw is ideal, however lightly steaming or blanching is also good.
Fall = Immune System
This season is all in preparation for hibernation. The goal is to store energy and build up your immunity.
Foods: Foods rich in beta-carotene, like pumpkin, squash, kale, carrots, and broccoli, take center stage this time of year. Ever been to a Thanksgiving feast without pumpkin pie?
Add in heat and water-based cooking methods like stir-frying, sautéing, braising, and steaming.
As food is detached from its origin, it slowly starts to degrade in nutrients. Imagine the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant loss from a raspberry shipped all the way from Chile. The next time you reach for a tomato in the winter, know that imported foods may travel upwards of 1,500 miles and most are kept in sub-par conditions. This is just the trip to the store; sitting on the supermarket shelf is a whole other story. According to a Penn State study, spinach lost most of its folate and carotenoid concentrations after just eight days of proper storage.
Not only will produce be less expensive when in seasonal abundance, it will taste much better, too. When environmental conditions (weather, sun, the soil’s nutrients, seasonal pollen, etc.) are conducive for a particular crop, the outcome is a fragrant, ripe, colorful, succulent product. If your food tastes good, you’ll be more likely to consume more of it. My theory is that folks who don’t like veggies, just don’t know how or when to prepare them!
Buying local, organic, and in season is also the most sustainable. With less mileage traveled and the elimination of harmful preservation methods, environmental impact is greatly reduced. Check out this useful resource from the Sustainable Table to educate yourself on sustainable practices.
Wondering how to determine what foods to eat at what time of year in your neck of the woods? The Natural Resource Defense Council maps out which produce is available in your area at different times of the year.
Seasonal NutriBlast Recipes
Try these 4 NutriBlast recipes to get you through the year with locally-sourced and deliciously fresh produce.
- 50% kale
- 1 apple (core and seeds removed)
- 1 carrot
- ¼ small beetroot
- Handful of de-shelled pistachios
- Water to the max line and extract
- 50% spinach
- ¼ cup cooked winter squash (or sweet potato)
- ¼ avocado
- 1 pear (core and seeds removed)
- 1 banana (optional)
- Dash of cinnamon
- Almond milk to the max line
- 25% Dandelion greens
- 25% Spring Mix
- ½ cup cherries
- ½ cup raspberries
- ½ peach (pit removed)
- 3 macadamia nuts (or 1 Brazil nut)
- 1 tsp chlorella powder
- Coconut water to the max line
Summer Sun Citrus Blast
- 50% Lettuce
- 1 orange
- 1” fennel bulb
- 1 lemon
- ½ cucumber
- ½ cup pineapple
- Water to the max line