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Eating with the seasons comes with a host of benefits. Not only does seasonal produce taste better, but it’s more nutritionally dense. It also reduces your carbon footprint, leaves a little extra money in your wallet, and helps you form a connection with your local community.

More nutrient density

Factors such as the quality of soil, amount of sunlight, and climate contribute to the nutrient composition of foods. One study that examined vitamin C content in broccoli found that broccoli grown in-season during the fall had twice as much vitamin C as broccoli that was grown out of season in the spring. Interestingly, while the study set out to determine the nutritional differences between organic versus conventionally-grown produce, it concluded that the growing season seems to have the largest impact on vitamin C content. 

Improves taste and quality

Most people will agree that nothing tastes better than fresh strawberries in the spring and early summer and that most fruits and vegetables have the best flavor when purchased from the local farmers’ market. With the global demand for fresh produce on the rise, many producers have had to turn to post-harvest treatments to control ripening, spoilage, and quality during transportation, which oftentimes can mean a decrease in quality through the use of heat, irradiation, and edible coatings. For example, as one of the most consumed crops in the world, bananas have been shown to be significantly affected by ripening agents in terms of quality such as color, texture, and flavor. 

Reduces your carbon footprint

Having access to year-round produce has its benefits, especially in colder climates occurring in northern regions of the United States and Canada. This expansion of the global food market has been beneficial for increasing international trade, sharing cultural foods, and providing low- and middle-income countries with food. However, the global demand for food has undoubtedly come with a major environmental impact, as food now travels farther than it ever has, collectively leaving a large carbon footprint. Around one-third of the vegetables and more than half of the fruit purchased in the United States are imported from other countries. Tim Lang, professor of Food Policy at City University London’s Centre for Food Policy, coined the term food miles to describe this phenomenon and increase awareness of food consumerism and its environmental impact. 

The distance that our food has to travel isn’t the only important part of the environmental equation; growing methods also play a role. Studies have gone as far as to show that out-of-season foods grown in greenhouses in the United Kingdom require greater energy consumption than the same product grown elsewhere in-season then imported. Buying with the seasons and locally from a farmers’ market or through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program can help reduce the distance from farm to plate as well as our carbon footprint. We have many of those here in Northern Virginia. 

Improves affordability

It is no surprise that eating seasonally and locally is easier on your wallet. We know how expensive it is to purchase strawberries from the grocery store compared to the farmers’ market stand. When fruits and vegetables are in season, there is more supply available, resulting in lower prices. 

Creates a connection with the community

Choosing seasonal produce means not only supporting local agriculture, but it also gives you the opportunity to connect with the people growing food in your local community. 

Why is maintaining a connection with your community important? Studies show that social connectedness can promote longevity. In fact, research conducted on the world’s Blue Zones, areas around the world with the largest population of people who live 100 years or more, indicates that community is one of the threads that unite the centenarians together. 

Visiting your local farmers’ market may also encourage you to eat more fruits and vegetables. One study of households in rural communities demonstrated that fruit and vegetable consumption is highest among individuals who regularly visit farmers’ markets.

In season this coming Spring are: Asparagus, avocado, cabbage, kale, peas, spinach, turnips, lettuce, radishes, and rhubarb to name a few

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