Updated: Aug 6, 2019
The Basics: What Is Seasonal Food?
A fruit or vegetable is ‘in season’ when it is ripe and being harvested during a period of the year. For example, UK gooseberry’s short season has just begun, and will continue until the beginning of August. The duration of a season will vary year-on-year due to multiple factors — the weather being a major influence — throughout the growth period.
It isn’t just about fruit and veg... meat and fish have seasons too! For instance, lambs are born at specific times of the year, meaning they reach maturation for slaughter 4-6 months later. Fish availability is determined by a species’ migration pattern and consumption during breeding seasons should be avoided.
Foods that grow in the wild without any human input or interference have the most natural seasons. Like fish, wild game should not be hunted during breeding seasons, and if this is respected are one of the most sustainable, high-welfare meats we can eat. For those who are plant-based, the choice of edible fungi, berries, nuts, greens, herbs, seaweeds and flowers is incredible.
Why Have We Lost Touch With The Seasons?
Eating seasonally is nothing new — it’s something that we used to do without any given conscious thought. Large scale, yield-driven farms commercialising food production, increased import of exotic foods, and diminished home-cooking from scratch have all contributed to our loss of appreciation of food’s seasonality.
Supermarkets are very good at providing a constant supply of the same produce throughout the year. This makes it difficult for the consumer to know what’s in season and when, unless they’re particularly conscientious about reading food labels. Even then, labels can be misleading — for example, an item can be labelled ‘British’ if it’s packaged in the UK, even if the product itself has been imported.
Local Seasonality and Sustainability
Consume produce that is seasonal and local by sourcing exclusively what’s available in your country/region. In doing this you’re:
- Minimising food miles: reduced food transportation distances results in reduced fossil foil usage, which in turn reduces carbon emissions.
- Reducing energy input: food grown in heated greenhouses out of season uses more energy.
- Reducing packaging: supply chains are shorter, meaning produce can get to the consumer quickly and therefore requires less protection from spoiling
- Supporting local farmers: by buying local, you’re therefore helping sustain the local economy
- Supporting organic farming methods: food grown on local, small-scale farms is often grown organically. Replacement of harmful chemicals and artificial fertilisers with organic matter helps to reduce soil erosion, improves biodiversity and builds natural fertility.
Overall, eating seasonally leads to a reduction of negative environmental impacts in the food chain, and is therefore a sustainable solution.
Seasonality Is Important For Our Health
Buying organically grown, local, and in-season foods enables us to use ingredients at their peak in nutrient density which are free from chemicals that are harmful to the human body. Moreover, these ingredients will have ripened naturally (rather than picked underripe to last the long haul journey) meaning that the flavour will be incomparable, and the satisfaction of eating a tomato or raspberry, which bursts in your mouth after waiting for it to come into season, makes it all worthwhile.
What’s In Season This Month?
If you’re keen to start making some more seasonal food choices, July is a great month to start, as UK produce is amazing at this time of year
Fruit: Gooseberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackcurrants
Vegetables: Baby beetroot, Broad, French, Runner Beans, Peas, Kohlrabi, Courgette, Cucumber, Tomatoes, Rainbow Chard, Globe Artichoke, Lettuce
Fish: Bass, Trout and Sea Trout, Lobster, Dover Sole, Shrimp, Scallops
Wild foods: Samphire, Seabeet, Chanterelles, Dog-rose, Gorse flowers, Wood pigeon, Rabbit
Useful Resources To Help You Eat Seasonally
Seasonal food calendar: http://eattheseasons.co.uk/
Find your nearest market: https://www.lfm.org.uk/
Sign up to a local veg box scheme, such as farmdrop: https://www.farmdrop.com/london
Look out for my recipe, making the most of July’s vegetable bounty, to be released in a couple of week’s time, here on Oblique Life’s digital magazine.