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02 Apr, 2020

Lily's Guide to Eating Seasonally

Lifestyle

The idea and notion of seasonal eating is one that we are all familiar with because it’s simple, right? Eat what is grown locally at the right time of year and try to avoid eating food that has been imported from thousands of miles away. In reality, however, it’s harder than it seems.

Our supermarkets are packed full of products that are imported, in fact as much as 60% of the produce sold in supermarkets is imported, from our fruit and veg to our meat and fish, our pasta to our loo roll. It’s no wonder that while we may want to eat and shop seasonally and locally, our supply chains are not set up to deliver this. And so we end up compromising, often too much. What we all have to remember is that demand leads to supply - we have the power to change the supply chain if we demand UK produce, consistently.

There are so many reasons to eat seasonally, from reducing carbon emissions to the fruit and veg being far more nutritionally sound and flavourful because it is able to get from farm to fork quicker and is therefore less reliant on preservatives to extend shelf life.

But most importantly, we are not designed to eat the same food all year round. We should eat lighter meals in the summer and warmer dishes in the winter, our biological make-up demands it. It’s no coincidence that you crave soups and stews in the winter and salads in the summer. Your body has an amazing way of telling you what you need, you just need to tune into it as much as you can.

Before the industrial revolution we would have eaten what was grown locally, we wouldn’t have had the choices we have today, but we would have still had variety and the food would have been more nutritious because of the soil quality and the natural growing environment where preservatives would not have been needed. Back then, what we ate would have been in tune with what our bodies were craving, and I feel that this is what we need to get back to. Intuitive eating, listening to our bodies, because if we can do that the benefits will go far beyond our own health, it will have a global impact too. Not only will we be more self-sufficient, we can reduce air travel, we can reduce our reliance on meat products and we can reduce the need for preservatives in our food.

Here are a few tips for eating seasonally, along with a list of the ingredients to choose this spring.

  1. Always choose local if you can. Local can mean from a farm down the road or at the very least a farm in the UK. If it’s local then it’s in season. There is nothing quite like an apple grown from a British tree, full of nutrients and flavour, rather than being sickly sweet and watery. Aim for 90% - going completely local is challenging and sometimes it’s nice to have a tropical fruit but make it the exception not the rule, and celebrate it when you do pick that mango or pineapple!
  2. Conscious shopping. Ask the question, ‘Is it in season?’ - I recently did our local shop with my kids and said that we weren’t allowed to buy anything unless it was in season and therefore locally sourced. It made us ask the question to our grocers and our fish monger and our bakery. The exercise was great on so many levels, not only was it just nice to speak to the staff but it really made us think about everything we were buying. It was conscious shopping, and that felt good.
  3. Supplements can be your friend. If you are worried that by eating seasonally you are not able to get as many nutrients then supplementing is a good way to give your nutrient levels a boost. In the spring we tend to be slightly more deficient in Vitamin C as fruit tends to be out of season during spring and we tend to get a lot of our Vitamin C from apples, pears, oranges etc. Depending on the weather it’s also a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement until the sun really comes out in May/June time.

And remember the main benefits for eating locally and seasonally go beyond our own health:

  • It helps to reduce the energy (and associated CO2 emissions) needed to grow and transport the food we eat
  • It helps to to avoid paying a premium for food that is scarcer or has travelled a long way
  • It helps to support the local economy
  • It helps to reconnect with nature's cycles and the passing of time but, most importantly, because:
  • Seasonal food is fresher and so tends to be tastier and more nutritious

What to eat in spring

Here is a list of what’s in season over the next few months, keep this list handy (screenshot it) so that you’ve always got it when you're thinking about cooking!

  • Asparagus,
  • Broccoli,
  • Carrots,
  • Cucumber,
  • Sweet potatoes,
  • Jersey royal new potatoes,
  • Lettuce & salad leaves,
  • Peas,
  • Purple sprouting broccoli,
  • Radishes,
  • Rocket,
  • Samphire,
  • Spinach,
  • Spring onions,
  • Watercress,
  • Wild nettles,
  • Rhubarb,
  • Tomatoes.

Here's a handy wheel of the best of UK spring produce. Why not print it out and stick it on your fridge for inspiration?

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