This winter was my first time as a seasonal shopper. What’s a seasonal shopper? Well, it’s someone who buys food in season.
Back in the day, when you wanted something like a tomato or blueberries, you had to wait until the spring crops to arrive. Now, you can find these things on any given day at the supermarket. Convenient? Yes. Good for us? Not really.
This is why I have chosen to become a seasonal shopper because when you buy things seasonally and locally not only are you supporting your local community, getting the freshest, best tasting foods, you are also leaving a smaller carbon footprint on the planet.
“If it’s organic, why not just buy them out of season?”
My cousin brought up a good question when I was making the salad for our Christmas dinner (check out recipe below). This is what I told her: (I’m going to be using a tomato as all my examples)
When you purchase a tomato or any other veggie out of season it has traveled a long distance to get to you. The distance it takes for a fruit or vegetable to go from farm to plate and the effect it has on the environment is also known as food miles. Please keep in mind, food miles do not take into account for the amount of energy and materials it takes to grow, process and package the food. Whichever way the food arrives in our country it is then transported by HGV to the depot and then to the store (also not accounted for).
So if you think of terms of your own carbon footprint, well, buying things out of season is bad news for the environment. On average a food travels 1,500 miles to get to our plate. You can go ahead and add way more miles if they are being imported from places like Brazil or Chile. Take grapes, for example. Every year, nearly 270 million pounds of grapes arrive in California, most of them shipped from Chile to the Port of Los Angeles. Their 5,900 mile journey in cargo ships and trucks releases 7,000 tons of global warming pollution each year, and enough air pollution to cause dozens of asthma attacks and hundreds of missed school days in California.
If you think of terms of freshness, well, how fresh do you really think that tomato is? In order for it to be ripe when you purchase it at the grocery store, it needs to be picked way before it’s done ripening. The longer it takes to get from farm to plate, the less nutrients you actually get. While it’s being transported the fruits and vegetables can also be exposed to oxygen, light and heat, all which will rob nutrients. Not only do the nutrients diminish quickly, the taste becomes blander, the crispness is lost and the juiciness dries up. So how organic is that really? Read my post What does the word organic mean to you?
On a side note: This is part of the reason why when someone tastes a tomato fresh from the market they can not believe the amount of flavor that it produces. I am one of those people. It wasn’t until a year ago when I started buying tomatoes from my local farmer’s market that I remembered what a tomato was actually supposed to taste like! The first bite I had, I traveled back in time to when I was little and we would eat the tomatoes straight from our home garden. That is what a tomato the true flavor of a tomato is. My tastes were affirmed when I ate a salad at a family dinner a couple weeks ago and the tomatoes tasted like straight plastic. Yuck!
Have I convinced you to become a local, seasonal shopper yet? A good indicator to find out if something is in season is to head to your local farmer’s market and see what kind of fruits/vegs you can find. And next time you make a salad, try this version instead. Please add or substitute anything that my not be in season at the time.
- organic romaine lettuce (or whatever other type of lettuce you like [stay away from iceburg])
- organic olives (try and get fresh olives)
- organic grapes
- hormone and antibiotic free mozzarella cheese (grass-fed is best!)
- hormone and antibiotic free feta cheese (raw and grass-fed is best!)
- unfiltered, unrefined olive oil
- organic balsamic vinegar
- Prep: Chop romaine lettuce. Cut grapes and olives in halves.
- Add all of the first 5 ingredients in a big bowl
- Drizzle olive oil first, then balsamic vinegar
- Add unrefined sea salt and black pepper
- Mix well and serve!
It’s not as healthy as your tomato, cucumber, avocado salad but it sure is tasty. It also is a better alternative when you think of the little to no impact you are making on the environment by choosing to not purchase things out of season. We’ve grown into a culture of instant gratification and because of that we are now facing the consequences. If we can learn to be patient and wait for things, it might just do us (and the environment) a whole lot better!
Until next time,
Loriel – Healthy Roots, Happy Soul