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Eating for the Seasons

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by Isaac Davis

The concept of a seasonal diet is one that has majorly escaped us college students. Today, as we bustle around Kroger or Walmart we can only really tell what season it is by the gaudy Easter décor. Grocery store aisles remain unaltered from balmy spring to white Christmas. And while it is a great achievement of the modern world to have access to affordable exotic foods all year round, are we missing a trick here? What are the benefits of eating seasonably?

Let’s start with our stomachs. The taste of the food we eat and buy is a universal priority. When food is grown out of season it reaches our shelves by the processes of hothousing or import. Compare this, if you will, to a locally sourced deep crimson, sun ripened tomato with its pallid and watery counterpart. Transporting crops can easily lead to a loss of moisture and flavor as crops are torn from the ground before proper ripening can occur.

“Foods that are chilled and shipped lose flavor at every step of the way – chilling cuts their flavor, transport cuts their flavor, being held in warehouses cuts their flavor,” said Susan Herrmann Loomis, owner of On Rue Tatin Cooking School.

There is also a detriment to the nutritional benefit of crops that have not been allowed to fully mature. In a quest to extend the life of products, radiation treatment is often used to stop bacterial growth, as well as the use of preservatives (such as wax) to protect during transportation. The benefits continue as the cost of in-season herbs have been shown to drop by fifty percent at the right time of year. The local farmers market is also a great way to meet new people, support local business and get involved with your local community.

For the globally aware college student, the impact of outsourcing seasonal goods poses a serious environmental impact In 2005 Food Hub identified that the import of fruits, nuts, and vegetables into California by airplane released more than 70,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent to more than 12,000 cars on the road!

While the lure of those exotic fruits, vegetables, and herbs is sometimes strong, is it worth the cost when we have a fresh, affordable alternative?

Look out for the asparagus, beets, and chard coming into season from late March onward. Fulfill your carbohydrate desires with sweet and regular potatoes. Why not make a fresh mint tea or some nettle soup?