It might seem like a dream come true to be able to eat all kinds of wonderful, exotic foods whenever the fancy takes you. These days, we are used to simply popping down to our local supermarket in order to pick up whatever our heart desires, and thinking no more about it. However, this way of living comes at a price, and not just in cash.
For example, a boom in the popularity of avocados over the past few years has seen production in and exportation from places like Mexico, South America and Kenya rise exponentially. The knock-on effect of this is that an enormous quantity of the green fruit is flown across the world annually, using up more energy than ever before in transportation, storage and preservation. This is without even mentioning the water and pesticides used in the growing process, and the materials used for packaging. When you order avocado toast at your local eatery, you are unwittingly contributing to this undesirable situation.
So, what’s the solution to problems like these? Eating seasonally according to your locale could help. This means eating what is naturally growing in your area at the time, thereby reducing the hidden costs of a global diet.
Here you can find some suggestions for how to get started on your seasonal eating journey.
Pick up a Book
Unsurprisingly, there are some great cookbooks out there which can help you to make tasty, nutritious dishes from the food seasonally available in your local area.
A good place to start is with the Ayurvedic tradition – this way of approaching life is based fundamentally on maintaining balance both within your body and without. Guides like The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook (subtitled A Seasonal Guide to Eating and Living Well), can help you to apply Ayurvedic principles to your own diet, wherever you are in the world.
Alternatively, give Ottolenghi’s Simple a try; it does exactly what it says on the front, offering up uncomplicated, delicious recipes that fit into your lifestyle rather than the other way around. This cook is famous for creating recipes that deliver the ultimate wow factor with very little effort.
If you’re more of a tech person than a book person, why not try one of the clever apps out there, specifically designed to help you eat seasonally? We’re so used to getting everything online these days that innovators have responded to this need by making most services available on the go.
Whereas you might go to Zalando for a brand new holiday wardrobe or PokerStarsCasino to play your favourite table games, you can try out apps like Seasons, Eat Seasonably and the Seasonal Food Guide to check which fruit and veg is in season near you.
Seasons can offer you advice whether you’re in the US, Europe or Australia, whereas Eat Seasonably specialises in helping residents of the UK. Seasonal Food Guide is currently only available for North America, but it has a growing army of fans so there’s always a chance that it will expand further.
Look Around You
Of course, one of the easiest ways to find out what’s in season in your local area is simply to look around you. Which vegetables are maturing on your allotment? Which herbs are ready to harvest from your window boxes? What does the greengrocer have on display in pride of place? And what are your older relatives, neighbours and local chefs eating right now?
There is a wealth of wisdom that you can glean from experienced farmers, growers and gardeners that you can then implement in your own attitude towards food and cooking. After all, these are the people who know best when crops are ready for eating, and when wild fruits and veggies are in their prime.
It’s also worth listening to your elders, as they may be used to eating seasonally already. The monopoly that supermarkets currently hold over fresh produce has not always been the case and so, generally, people used to be more in tune with which foods the different seasons would bring.
One example of the above point is in traditional dishes eaten for annual holidays and celebrations. Ever wondered at the coincidence between jack-o’-lanterns and Hallowe’en? Or root vegetables and Christmas? Traditional dishes are often based on the foods readily available to a culture at the time of the celebration or feast.
The protein at the centre of Christmas dinner may vary from country to country, but the trimmings remain very similar in the northern hemisphere – namely root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, parsnips and the like. There will also most likely be pickled vegetables, such as cabbage, made with produce from the previous harvest.
In warmer climates, such as Jamaica or Africa, fruit makes more of an appearance – and not just the canned kind! Sorrel is a Jamaican drink often enjoyed around Christmas, as the fruit arrives just in time to be brewed for the festive season, whereas pineapple and raisin salad is a mainstay of Christmas dinner in certain African nations.