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What’s in store – why it’s good to cook with the seasons

Global warming… climate change… overpopulation… food poverty… these are just a few of the catastrophic global issues we’re faced with on a day to day basis. But even if we’re only following the headlines, many of us are choosing to become more environmentally-conscious – to do our bit, however small. One thing many of us are doing is adopting a simpler lifestyle: growing our own, measuring our carbon footprint, knowing where our food is from and what’s in it. Not only does it help the environment, it’s overall much healthier too.

To help reduce carbon footprint, many are choosing to ‘go back to basics’ and eat seasonally. It’s a simple change to make but incredibly effective – having a positive effect on our health, wealth and happiness (not to mention the planet).

‘Eating seasonally’, it’s a phrase we hear bandied about a lot, but what does it actually mean? Essentially, it’s just including foods in your diet that are harvested at the same time of the year as you eat them. For example, strawberries in the summer, apples in the autumn and so on.

Why eat seasonally?

UK communities generally grow up in urban areas, and we have increasingly little understanding of when and where various foods are produced. Effective importing timetables and inbound deliveries from all over the world all year round leave supermarket shelves looking the same week in week out – in other words, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Sounds great… but not when that apple has travelled thousands of miles clocking up a massive carbon footprint just so you can eat it in March!

Choice is great but it’s also destructive. Not only are we less engaged with our immediate surroundings and the wonderful, seasonal produce at our fingertips, we’re damaging the environment too. Here’s just a few reasons you should consider eating seasonally:

  • It’s kinder to the environment

To satisfy year-round demand, we grow food around the globe to meet growing conditions and schedules. Growing crops in non-native countries or, worse, creating synthetic growing environments leads to enormous fuel consumption and associated CO2 emissions when the crops are transported to our supermarkets shelves.

  • It’s expensive

Purchasing fresh food out of season costs a premium, simply because it’s not readily available in our country and has to travel a long way to get to our shelves. Next time you go to the supermarket take notice of what’s in season and how much it costs – cucumbers are a great example, cheap as chips in the summer but as the months get colder, the price climbs.

  • We’re disengaged with nature

In order to feel compassion for the planet and make better choices on its behalf (we are, after all, its custodians), we have a duty to reconnect with the natural cycles of the planet – our seasons. What could be better than getting excited for the next bountiful harvest because of the wonderful foods it brings? It’s a simple pleasure but, oh so, important.

  • It tastes better

When produce is harvested and consumed as nature intended, it tastes better. Don’t take our word for it, try for yourself – how good are apples and pears right now? Eaten in season food is tastier, naturally ripened and crammed with the best vitamins and minerals for that time of year.

In order to know what is typically harvested in Britain, and during which periods, BBC Good Food has this excellent resource. However, if you aren’t the kind to pour over tables, here are some pointers:

Spring

Carrots, cucumbers, spring onion, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage, rhubarb, beef steaks, spring lamb, haddock, crab and sea bass.

Summer

Fresh peas, salad leaves, radishes, tomatoes, beetroot, broad beans, blueberries, raspberries, plums, ham, pork pies, spare ribs, venison, pilchards and wild salmon.

Autumn

Potatoes, mushrooms, rockets, sweetcorn, watercress, apples, damsons, sloes, blackberries, chicken, grouse, heather-fed lamb, oysters, skate and brill.

Winter

Curly kale, parsnips, swede, red cabbage, sprouts, turkey, goose, gammon, partridge, grey mullet, mussels and scallops.

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