We had an unusual snow shower today, which means that yesterday my son helped me move my planter with our asparagus in it inside. I did my morning workout hopping around it and it got me to thinking about how my husband’s love of asparagus led to one of the first standoffs in our relationship…the great asparagus embargo.
My husband LOVES asparagus and, when we first met, he saw some in November or December in the grocery store and wanted to buy it. I think I must have looked at him like he had grown a third arm. It wasn’t that I don’t like asparagus. I like it very much. It’s just that there was no way I was drawn to buy the overpriced, shallow imitation of asparagus that you can get out of season rather than wait until spring to enjoy it fresh. He was confused, having no idea what season asparagus is harvested in or why he should wait.
Unfortunately, he’s not alone…most Americans aren’t in touch with where their food comes from or when it’s harvested. We’re just familiar with what is on the grocery store shelves at any given time. The problem is that there are SO many reasons to eat with what the season is where you live.
- Taste. For me, this is one of the biggest ones. Fruits and vegetables taste their very best when they are very fresh and haven’t had to travel far. Anyone who’s had a freshly picked tomato or peach knows that there is a WORLD of difference between that experience and what they’ll find in their grocery store. The natural sugars in fruits and vegetables begin breaking down the moment they’re picked, so the sooner you eat them, the better they will taste. When you’re eating something outside of its normal season near you, the odds are even higher than it isn’t fresh because it’s had to travel far.
- Cost. This is another big consideration for most families. When produce is in season, it’s often on sale because there is too much of it. This is why there are huge displays of strawberries in the spring and not at other times and the cost is lower for those berries that are sweeter than any other time. Eating what’s in season not only tastes better, it’s less expensive as well!
- Health. Just like the natural sugars that break down once something is picked, so too do all the wonderful healthy chemical compounds in produce. The fresher it is and the less it’s had to travel, the healthier it will be for you. Amazingly, things in season also tend to match what we want and need at any given time. Winter is the time of hearty, warming root vegetables and winter squashes and summer brings us tons of bright, light salad fixings. Eating with the seasons can help you eat healthier all year long.
- Supporting Local Farmers. This one is near and dear to my heart. Buying produce in season and checking to see that it was grown not too far away means that more of your grocery dollars stay closer to home. No offense, California or Mexico, but I’d rather my money go back into the economy where I am. Buying local means that local farmers receive the benefit of your purchase and then they spend that money in the community. Even better is shopping farmer’s markets or buying a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that skips the middle man and gives your purchase dollars directly to local farmers.
- Reducing your food carbon footprint. If you’re buying asparagus from Mexico, then that means that a big truckload of refrigerated produce had to drive all the way from where it was picked to you. Our fruits and veggies take far more road trips than we do and it quickly adds up. By eating local and in season, you’re cutting that back.
There really is NO downside at all to eating fresh, local produce in season, except that maybe you might have to wait for your favorites until they’re ready. In the meantime, why not try things that are in season that you may have overlooked while you were eating things that aren’t in season?