There are many benefits to choosing both seasonal and regional fruits and vegetables. For one, purchasing locally sourced foods supports farmers in your community. Two, foods that have less distance to travel tend to be fresher, meaning they have more flavor and, in some cases, nutritional value. Third, purchasing local foods means less time spent in transport, resulting in reduced CO2 gasses from delivery trucks and less packaging.
Take cucumbers, for example. Cucumbers are a summer vegetable and can be purchased loose when in season. They also usually come from the local region. This isn’t necessarily the case in the off season. If we abstain from cucumbers in winter, we also abstain from the fact that they have to be wrapped in plastic to maintain freshness during a long transport route, which uses a lot of CO2.
When it comes to buying fruit and vegetables, seasonality is closely linked to waste avoidance. When strawberries are in season, for example, they are sold in open carton trays. Out of season, they have to be transported over longer distances and are usually shrink-wrapped.
Fruits and vegetables grown out of season in greenhouses or stored for long periods in refrigerated warehouses usually taste bland because they have not had enough time and sun to ripen. It also has a poor environmental balance due to high energy consumption.
Seasonal and regional shopping offers the following advantages:
- Short transport chains — This means fewer transport planes, ships and trucks that emit CO2; less loading and storage areas required in ports and airports; and fewer microplastics through tire abrasion.
- Possibility to avoid plastic packaging
- Supporting local farmers who, among other things, play an important role in maintaining and shaping our landscape
- Compliance with local laws and controls on environmental and hygiene standards for food products
- And, in my opinion the most beautiful — because for me directly felt — advantages: You get fresh, tasty and vitamin-rich food.
This last point is “more valuable” to me and describes food I would not want to throw away, under any circumstances. Continue reading to learn why this last point resonated with me and the domino effect it caused.
Unfortunately, embracing the importance of locally sourced foods is not a priority to the majority of the population. If it were, there would be no explanation of why nuts from New Zealand are offered in American supermarkets and potatoes from the desert of Egypt are found in German supermarkets (with serious consequences for the environment, although Germany is actually a traditional potato-growing country).
Regardless of the season, it is always worth taking a look at the country of origin when shopping. If you take a closer look at the label, you will see some amazing things. Do New Zealand apples really have to be transported all the way to America or Europe when there are actually enough grown in our home regions? Where does the avocado come from? Do I need an avocado from overseas or are there also some with a shorter transport route?
As a consumer, I always have a choice.
If more people shop consciously, collectively we can influence the range of products available in our supermarkets.
However, perhaps there is an alternative to a supermarket in your area?
A simple search will determine whether you have weekly public/farmers markets in your area where regional traders and farmers offer seasonal products.
In my town, there is such a market. Once a week, on Friday mornings, different farmers from the region come and offer fruit, vegetables, herbs, bread, fish and meat. To be honest, for a long time I was too lazy to go shopping there and constantly made excuses like “the market is only open in the mornings, I have to work” or “Shopping at the market is expensive,” “It is always so crowded there, it takes too long, I don’t have time for that.”
But I had a friend who raved to me for a long time about how much tastier the freshly harvested salad from the market tastes compared the one from the supermarket. So one day, I finally went to the market in the morning before work (Our weekly market opens at 7:00 in the morning.).
That one trip started a personal domino effect. Now, I look forward to my weekly visit to the market. In addition to all the ecological aspects, it is simply a nice experience to see fresh, unpackaged, regional fruits and vegetables lovingly laid out next to each other, and to possibly have a short chat with the farmers. It is also a special feeling to fill the freshness box in my fridge once a week with high-quality food. I take extra care to make sure everything is eaten before the next visit to the market.
Somehow, I have more respect for these fruits and vegetables, and I feel a much greater inhibition to throw them in the trash. The food I buy at the market seems more valuable because now I know the farmer who grew it, and I put in more effort and get up earlier to buy it.
As a bonus, I now think much more about what foods I need for the next week before I shop. I am more conscious about using the food and throw away less as a result. Not only it is more fun to cook with, but I also enjoy the food more, eat slower and possibly even less.
From more conscious shopping to more enjoyable eating?!
Yes, definitely, for me the path to slow food already starts with slow shopping.