The word on everyone’s lips these days is “seasonal”, but what does it really mean to eat seasonally?
Simply put, this means to eat foods that are “in season”, or which are grown or harvested at that particular time of the year.
In an age where our food supply has become so globalised, it is often easy to forget that food has seasons at all – and that strawberries do not, in fact, grow all year round in the UK.
Here are the reasons you should be eating seasonally.
With the exception of perennial crops, certain foods grow in specific seasons for a reason. Whether this is down to weather changes, temperature, precipitation or soil conditions, each type of food thrives best in a unique set of conditions.
For example, in order to grow into the plump, sweet and juicy fruit that we love, strawberries need about 8 hours of direct sunlight a day, and need to be kept out of the wind – a little difficult to imagine how that would be possible during the short, blustery days of winter!
Eating foods that are in season in your country means that it is grown much closer to you, and will therefore get to you much more quickly. The quality isn’t going to deteriorate while they are being shipped from another country. On the other hand, foods that are out of season need to be imported.
Unlike in season food, which will have had a chance to naturally and fully ripen before being picked at their peak, such food is usually harvested prematurely, to account for the time they take to mature while on the long trip to you.
In season foods are greener
As locally grown, in season foods do not have to be transported across oceans to get to you, eating seasonally can drastically reduce your carbon footprint and foodmiles. They also tend to have less chemicals. Food that is picked before its prime, and that has had to travel a long distance, will not look as appealing as seasonal foods that have been allowed to grow to their peak. In order to combat this, out-of-season foods are often given wax coatings, chemical ripening agents and other preservatives. Seasonal eating reduces the need for such chemicals.
This is a practical benefit that most of us do not consider. Food that is in season is usually abundant in supply, which means it costs farmers and distributors less to harvest and transport it to the end consumer. Eating food that is out of season is more expensive purely because of the amount of time, resources, and manpower involved in getting those food items to you.
More variety in your diet
When you make the conscious effort to eat seasonally, you simultaneously introduce more variety into your diet. Besides keeping your meals interesting, this also means you reap the health benefits that come with having a much wider range of vitamins and nutrients in your body. Food intolerances and allergies are also far less likely as you are not eating the same things day in and day out.
Knowing these benefits, who wouldn’t want to eat seasonally? We all want to nourish our bodies with the best but the tricky part is having the time and the energy to ensure that we are always shopping seasonally.
Of course, it is also important to remember that, just because you shop seasonally, this does not preclude large food distribution companies from harvesting early and keeping your food in a warehouse until it is ready to be distributed. This is why it is important to support small batch producers, where you can be assured of ultimate freshness and quality.
It’s all about fresh, clean flavours after the hearty meals that saw you through fall and winter.
You might not think cheese had a season but late April and early May is great for cow cheeses, as the milk from cows that graze on young spring grass is far richer, creamier and has a more complex flavor.
While we use lemons all year round, they are actually best around this time of the year. Toss this Lemon Rapeseed Oil by Yare Valley Oils with spring vegetables to make a fresh salad, or drizzle over a spring vegetable soup.
As the days get longer and summer finally arrives, it’s about celebrating the season’s bounty. Blackcurrants, redcurrants, strawberries and blackberries are all in season. June is the start of blackberry season, and you can enjoy this seasonal berry in this handmade Sweet Blackberry Vinegar by Fred & Bex, which has a beautifully rich colour, incredible aroma and a perfectly balanced sweetness.
This Cotswold Natural Raw Honey by V&L Honeymakers is collected from hedgerows and bramble, fields and trees at the height of the summer, making it the quintessential taste of an English summer.
As the leaves start to turn, British apple season is once again upon us, try them in this warming Apple and Fig salad from Bettina’s Kitchen.
Around October, British truffles come into season, making this English truffle oil the perfect drizzling oil for soups, casseroles and risottos for a touch of indulgence.
Finally, you can really eat with the season when you have a slice of homemade carrot cake, which, in addition to being packed with this autumnal vegetable, is also wonderfully spiced with the flavours we have come to know and love at this time of the year. Try Deliciously Ella’s recipe for an autumnal treat.
One fruit that thrives in the winter despite the cold and frost is pear, we love pairing sweet Conference pears with earthy walnuts for a healthy snack.
While most of us are tuned into the benefits of olive oil, be this health or flavour-wise, what a lot of people don’t know is that the olive harvest in Puglia, the famous olive oil capital of Italy, actually takes place in the winter. This Ethichetta Nera (Italian for ‘black label’) olive oil is an exquisite, single estate extra virgin olive oil obtained from Ogliarola and Cellina di Nardò olives handpicked on olive groves in Puglia.
Sometimes seasonality isn’t just about eating what grows in that season, it’s also about the tastes, smells and flavours we associate with that time of the year. Our favourite is the sweet warmth of ginger, try them in Lorraine Pascal’s Baked Apples with Pecans, Raisins and Allspice and Madeleine Shaw’s Squash Curry with Ginger and Lime Rice.
Finally, give your hot chocolate a seasonal upgrade with this Winterspice Hot Chocolate, which combines the flavours of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, aniseed, clove and citrus with organic dark chocolate couverture.
Caprera is an online marketplace that supports small, independent producers throughout the UK. It is a content-rich platform that takes traceability one step further, showing their users not just where the product has come from, but the people and the process that go into making these products. Find them at caprera.com.