Local, Organic, Seasonal Foods: How to Eat Them All at Once

man at farmers market
Blackberries

Eat local. Eat seasonal. Eat organic. These messages can easily become confusing. Which one is best? Fortunately, they go hand in hand. By eating foods that are grown locally, you will probably be eating the foods that are in season, and by choosing foods that are in season you are celebrating the rhythm and ritual of the year!.

The earth provides us with the foods that contain the nutrients we need during the season in which they are grown. Consider the tomato for instance. The bright red flesh boasts more than a visual appeal. That mouth-watering red pigment contains a compound called lycopene that has been shown to protect our skin from cancer. No wonder tomatoes are a seasonal summer delight.

Whether or not the local, seasonal produce that you choose is organic depends on the spraying practices of local farmers. However, if possible, it is best to buy organic. You will not only benefit from the nutrients within the produce but your body will be relieved of having to detoxify the pesticides commonly used in non-organic farming practices. Local produce can also be less expensive because you are not paying for the shipping costs of a transcontinental journey to your plate.

The best part about eating seasonal produce, however, is the flavor! Foods lose flavor as soon as they are harvested. Therefore, if you can buy foods that are locally grown, chances are you won’t need many other ingredients to produce a resplendent dish that will entertain your taste buds and any guests at your table.

Below is a chart of seasonal produce. Next time you are at your local farmer’s market, pick up some freshly harvested produce or use the chart to find local gems within your neighborhood grocer. (It's from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. Seasons will differ depending where you live, of course.)

 
seasonal produce chart
 

— By Ellie Freeman, dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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