For decades now, the town of Marino in Rome has been celebrating their grape harvest with the grape festival on the first Sunday of October, a day when even the fountains give wine. Likewise, the Orange day in Amsterdam celebrates the orange harvest with people dressing up in orange for the King’s birthday. Canada has its own Cranberry festival while Thailand celebrates its bountiful pineapple harvest with the Pineapple festival. The Asogli Yam festival in Ghana marks the cultivation of Yam while the people of Karnataka commemorate their fava bean harvest with a mela. We can go on about these festivals that celebrate the local crop and the season when the crop is harvested.
Often, we cannot differentiate between locally-grown food from those that are imported. Here are some worthwhile reasons to make a conscious effort to eat local and in season –
- The obvious reason – it tastes better
Nothing can beat the taste of a fresh, ripe mango, eaten as soon as it’s plucked during the mango season in India and Australia. By nature, each produce has its own best growing conditions and harvest season. So, crops grown in such optimal conditions are sure to produce the best and juiciest of fruits and vegetables. Produce that is artificially ripened cannot offer the same taste because the crop is picked earlier than its ripe stage and it undergoes a cooling and heating process that affects the taste.
- It costs less
Sometimes, the best produce you get is when you buy directly from the farmer. And this comes incredibly cheap! When the costs involved in transport and middlemen are cut, the product is bound to cost less. So, when you buy locally grown crops in season, you will be saving plenty of money and yet get deliciously fresh products. Of course, there is also the fact that when a fruit or vegetable is in season, it will be available in plenty wherever you go.
- You will get wholesome, fresh food
When a fruit or vegetable is in season, it’s natural that the product will be available in plenty and everywhere. What’s more, you can be assured of getting fresh produce, sometimes just hours after it is harvested. Since this produce need not be processed, packaged, or preserved, you get nutrient-rich food at a fraction of what it costs when the same food is not in season or when it is imported. We know that for most fruits, the nutrient value is higher when the time it spends on the rack is lower. This is especially true for fruits rich in Vitamin C. We will also be ingesting chemical-free food when we go local since there’s no need to add chemicals to preserve the product.
- Support for local farmers
Local farmers produce a small quantity of produce for sale in their locality. They cannot afford to produce in vast capacities to export to other countries; the corporates take care of that. So, when you buy locally, you will be supporting your community farmers. Since the farming is on a smaller scale, we get access to farm products that use minimal pesticides.
Apples in January, watercress in March, Strawberries in May, Broccoli in June, Blackcurrants in August, and Squash in November – this list mentions just a few seasonal fruits and vegetables you will get if you live in the United Kingdom. Just think of the colours this adds to your table. No matter where you live, discovering your local seasonal delights is sure to fetch you some gourmet fun.
- Less wastage
When we cut off the hassles of packaging and transporting, we are not only reducing our carbon footprint, but also wasting much less food. Though it’s not often mentioned, a lot of food is wasted along the supply chain. The time lag between production and sale of perishable products leads to considerable wastage; this can be prevented when we buy locally.
- Support sustainable agriculture
There is a common misconception especially among people of developing countries that locally grown produce is not “rich” enough. It is common to associate cost with quality of produce. Eating locally is the only way to overcome these fallacies and improve biodiversity. The variety of nutrient-rich food available in your local farm may surprise you. Visit a local farm and explore your options there. This is also the best way to encourage sustainable agricultural practises.
- Mindful eating
When you connect with your local farmers, when you know the people involved in getting your food to your table, you are sure to eat more mindfully. Eating mindfully is an important aspect of eating healthy.
Food plays a key role in the cultural framework of any country. Seasonal food has a native link with the people of any land; there are festivals that celebrate such foods, traditions that include them, and rituals that cannot be performed without these native products. Traditionally, food customs are passed on from one generation to the next. When we eat what our grandparents ate, we would be preserving an important aspect of our heritage. When we tend to ignore our traditional food and prefer imported products, we run the risk of losing an important piece of our history.
- Nature’s way of helping us adapt
Have you noticed that the summer season starts with a bounty of watermelons? Turnips and sweet potatoes turn up in winter to warm up our body – these vegetables require higher energy to get digested, and this additional energy results in our body warming up. These are, but just a few ways in which nature helps us to adapt to the local weather conditions. Seasonal produce provides us with just the right nutrients that are needed for our body to adapt to the prevailing conditions.
Eating locally and in season is a habit that has been followed by our ancestors for centuries. Yet, the growth of international trade has led to constant changes in world cuisine, so much that it’s tough to differentiate between what we get locally and what we import. That is why it’s important to identify what our local vegetation is and to eat locally-grown produce in season.