Year round we can go to the market – the stalls change with each season. The vivid reds, yellows and greens of the summer give way to burgundy, racing green and burnt orange in the autumn as the market is invaded by butternut and acorn squashes, apples and pears. In the winter we see parsnips, wild mushrooms and kale being handed over by mitten-covered hands! Spring brushes the market canvas with green, the stalls fill with asparagus, artichokes, leeks, peas and herbs.
The advantages of seasonal shopping are vast. I shall mention a few nutritional facts here for you to consider.
1. Quality and freshness deteriorates quickly. In the hours and days after harvest, produce undergoes changes, almost all undesirable. Immediately moisture begins to evaporate, cucumbers lose their crunch, basil wilts, and peppers start to shrivel. Decay sets in especially in produce like lettuce and spinach. Natural sugars begin to convert into starch, which is why, for example, peas and carrots never taste sweeter then the day they are picked.
2. Nutrients dissipate quickly. Broccoli, for example, loses 34% of its vitamin C in just two days. Asparagus that has travelled, say for instance 3000 miles, arrives with only with 1/3rd of its initial vitamin C.
3. Some produce is covered in unnatural wax. Producers understand the points above and to enable us to buy produce that is harvested miles away, they find techniques to preserve the produce. To combat moisture loss, they spray wax on to the produce – cucumbers, peppers, melons, apples and other fruits and vegetables. Its keeps moisture in and gives the produce a shiny appearance which is good for marketing. According to Bryan Jay Bishin, who writes in Harrowsmith and American magazine, the wax is sometimes mixed with fungicides and sprouting inhibitors before it is applied. The only way to get rid of it is to scrub your produce with detergents or peel them. But this eliminates nutrients!
Our bodies are clever. Over thousands of years the human body has survived by eating a seasonal diet. Its what we need. Its simple.