Eat Local, Eat Seasonal
A couple of years ago, I picked up a wondrous item at my local farmer's market. No, it wasn't a scrumptious fig or a heirloom tomato that we are so blessed with here in Northern California, but rather something called The Local Foods Wheel.
I LOVE this product. It graces my fridge, as well as countless others throughout the Bay Area, as year-round reminder of what to eat now. There is a huge movement to eat local these days, for reasons ranging from reducing the carbon footprint of our food, to helping local economies. But one of the most important aspects that often gets overlooked is not just eating what grows locally, but what is in season.
Why is eating seasonally important? Well, for starters, it's one of the best ways to be connected to nature and the region around you. As you begin to pay attention to what grows at certain times of year, you may notice that the earth provides fruits and veggies that support your needs for the season. For instance, as fall and winter set in, we have squashes and heartier foods that help give you substance and keep you grounded and warm. Whereas in the spring and warmer months, you'll see brighter, lighter and more astringent foods that support your constitution in hotter times.
Eating seasonally can foster an appreciation for the cycle of things. So often, we feel an entitlement to our blueberries or avocados--we expect them to be available year-round at affordable prices at our local grocer. By paying attention to what grows at what time of year in your neck of the woods, perhaps you will understand why something may not be at the grocery store when you go to purchase it. Or, why it may be very expensive (having been flown in from another continent, etc.). Working with "what is" is a very humbling lesson and deepens our connection to the places we life and to nature's plan. It can be a lot of fun to develop recipes that are appropriate to the seasons, and really get to know your times of year.
Local food is better for you. It's fresher than what's transported across the globe to your mega mart. Supermarket produce is often picked a week before it's ripe, and has to do its final ripening in transport. Local produce is often picked the day you take it home. Nutrients are preserved, and the flavor is often more prominent.
Now, I live in an area that is extremely abundant all year-round, with farmer's markets almost every day of the week. Even without The Local Foods Wheel on my fridge, I can see what's local and seasonal. But I know that majority of folks don't always have this luxury, and the supermarkets don't necessarily highlight these items. So I highly recommend either getting one of these (only available for Northern California, New York and Upper Mid-West right now), or do a bit of research online. Better yet, talk to you neighbor who has a green thumb, or find a local gardener. Ask them, "What's in season right now?"
Stephanie Bernstein is the Founder and CEO of To-Go Ware. She has been practicing and teaching yoga for 12 years and currently resides in Oakland, CA.