Spring! My favorite season is finally here! The season of fruit trees in blossom, juicy ripe strawberries, fresh artichokes, wild asparagus, and lush arugula. Nutrition is the most powerful tool in your quest for health at any age. With that comes the importance of eating seasonally. I must say it is harder at first than we think to eat seasonally only. Firstly because we have become spoilt for choice. Going down a supermarket aisle doesn’t help either. Those mangoes and pineapples lined up neatly on the shelves and available year round may taste good, but don’t have the added nutritional benefits of eating something that has been harvested and grown in our own country a few miles away. That mango or pineapple has been flown thousands of miles by plane and was probably picked more than a week earlier before it arrives to your fridge. This though is what we as consumers have created. Supply and demand. We are eating whatever fruit or vegetable we want whenever we want. Granted eating seasonal is difficult when you have been accustomed to choice. But when you give it a try- the taste will never turn you back. Strawberries I am getting now in season at our local farmers market have more taste and flavor than any cultivated strawberry.
Produce that is purchased in season is fresher and has a higher nutritional value. Some anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C, folate and carotenes will rapidly decline when stored for periods of time. Fruits and vegetables picked for consumption that have been naturally ripened on the vine or the tree and harvested at the right time, will have much more flavor and nutrition. When crops are transported to us, they must be harvested early and refrigerated so they don’t spoil during transportation. Fruits and vegetables that are stored for long periods of time due to transportation or to be used at a later date have a reduction in phyto-nutrient content. When they arrive chilled to their last destination, they then may need to be heated in a hot house to artificially ripen the produce before it goes onto the supermarket shelves. This greatly reduces the flavor, changes the texture and the taste. Think of those half rotten apples, flavorless tomatoes and limp tasteless salad greens.
Another benefit of eating seasonally is that you avoid unnecessary contaminants. When fruits and vegetables are sourced overseas you can’t be sure what the country’s regulations for pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are. Many countries across the globe have very relaxed laws about chemicals being sprayed on fruits and vegetables that other countries have banned due to their known harmful effects.Overseas agriculture may not regulate soil contamination tests to ensure land and soil quality. It’s important to support our bodies natural nutritional needs. This magically changes with the seasons. Our bodies respond and work in parallel with our environment. In winter we are have an abundance of citrus fruits, these are particularly high in Vitamin C which is very important for preventing infections, such as colds and flus. Winter vegetables, such as squash, offer us comfort for cold weather and are perfect for hot meals, healthy stews, soups and casseroles or other warming meals. Summer foods, such as plums, apricots, and peaches provide us with extra beta-carotenes and other carotenoids that help protect us against sun damage; provide more sweetness to boost our energy during the summer. And let’s not forget crisp, appetizing seasonal vegetables and greens to create tasty cool summer salads.
My top tip is when produce is in season, it’s a great time to buy in bulk and preserve or freeze for later use, so I can be sure where they have come from. It’s really important to know that it’s not always possible to only eat locally and seasonally for everyone all of the time. But what’s more important is empowering yourself with the knowledge to make decisions where possible that are better for you, your family, your health and the environment when you can.
My recipe to kick start Spring:
Strawberry Basil Pops
Makes 6-8 pops depending on size
2 cups strawberries
400ml full fat coconut or almond milk
3 tbsp maple syrup
18 basil leaves
Place all in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into ice cream molds and freeze overnight.