The health benefits of seasonal eating
The best part of eating seasonally is that you get the best tasting, healthiest food available at that particular time of the year. While Australia produces a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetable crops all year round, there are some products which may only grow for a few months of the year. In these circumstances, growers may keep excess produce in cold storage so that consumers are able to purchase Australian produce all year round. The reality is that much of the produce that ends up on your kitchen tables may have been already stored for months. When purchasing fruit and vegetables which are not in season you need to consider how the produce was manufactured, for example; was it picked unripe, put into cold storage or gassed to ripen? If the produce was purchased from a supermarket, then the answer will almost surely be a resounding ‘yes’.
The experts believe that the nutritional value is likely to be unaffected, however any change in taste and flavour may put this belief up for debate.
Most fruit and vegetables reach their nutritional peak and perhaps their best flavour profile when they are ripe and ready to be harvested. For example, the redder a red tomato is, the more beta-carotene it contains.
When produce is in season locally, the relative abundance of the crop usually makes it less expensive. If you’ve ever tried to buy cucumbers in winter or oranges in summer, you’ll know what I mean.
When you purchase fruit and vegetables in season you will be surprised at the variety that each season brings.
Winter is the time for oranges, however there are other fruits and vegetables available such as: Custard apple, grapefruit, mandarin, lemons, quince and tangelo. Winter also has a great variety of vegetables for winter warmer meals such, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, leek, potatoes, radish, rhubarb, spinach and turnips.
In spring you will find delicious fruits such as: Bananas, blood orange, grapefruit, mango, lemons, papaya and pineapple. A variety of colourful, nutritious vegetables such as artichoke, asparagus, broad beans, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, leeks, mushrooms, , peas, silverbeet, spinach, and beetroot.
In summer you won’t be able to resist: Bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, melons, nectarine, passionfruit, pineapple, raspberries. The variety of vegetables for summer salads include asparagus, beans, capsicum, celery, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, radish, squash, zucchini and zucchini flower.
Autumn is the best time for: Apples, bananas, figs, grapes, kiwifruit, lemons, melons, nectarines, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums and quinces. Autumn vegies include Asian greens, broccoli, , beans, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, ginger, lettuce, onion, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, sweet potato, turnip and mushrooms.
So next time you are choosing which fruit or vegetables to buy, try choosing those that are in season, remember they’re generally the cheaper ones found at the front of the store and you’ll be supporting your local farmers as well.