Tuesday, November 3, 2009

4 Reasons to Shop & Cook by the Seasons

Recently, I've been emphasizing in my posts the benefits of shopping for and cooking with seasonal produce.

With this in mind, hopefully you've noticed that as the seasons have transitioned so too have the kinds of meal ideas I've posted.

For instance, last week the soups I wrote about contained fall /winter vegetables.

And as we head into the coldest months of the year, you'll note that my focus will be on warmer, heavier meals using root vegetables, grains, and stocks all combined to make hearty casseroles, stews, more soups, and legume-based meals.

Today I thought I'd share, in brief, a section from the book proposal I've written based on this blog. The section is titled 4 Reasons to Shop and Cook by the Seasons and I begin the section with the following:

The four seasons are nature's way of providing our diets with diversity while also providing an effective way to balance our systems so that we can cope with the heat of summer and the cold of winter.

Changes in growing conditions from spring to summer and then fall to winter are considered essential for balancing the earth's resources and its life forms.

But today it's so easy for us to forget about seasons when we eat. Modern food processing and worldwide distribution of food make certain seasonal foods are available year-round so that our grocery-store shelves look much the same in December as they do in July.

In-season fresh produce has the most flavor, nutritional value and it's plentiful and thus affordable. It makes sense to buy what nature has provided in abundance for the above reasons -- that is, for budgetary, practical, sustainable and health reasons.

4 Reasons to Shop and Cook by the Seasons:

1) Budgetary: The advantage of buying fresh produce when it's in season and therefore abundant is the savings. Compare the price of in-season produce with produce that has been imported from out of the area, even out of the country, and you'll quickly note the difference.

2) Practical: The practicality of purchasing seasonal foods follows from the budgetary advantage: If it's abundant, it's most likely on sale; therefore it makes good sense to buy in-season produce rather than higher-priced out-of-season produce.

3) Sustainability: Produce that's abundant and on sale is often local or regional. Purchasing in-season local food sustains the commercial infrastructure of one's community by supporting the regional farmers and food producers, plus it reduces product carbon footprint. Food trucked a short distance uses less fuel in transport than food from out of state or abroad.

4) Health: In most areas of the world it is hot in summer and cold in winter and just as we wear cool clothes in summer and warm clothes in winter, there are foods that cool the body and foods that warm the body. As a result of consumer habituation to choice, i.e. summer fruits and salad vegetables in winter, the notion that it is not as healthful to eat those cooling foods when it is cold may seem odd to some. However, there is wisdom in nature, therefore it follows that there's good judgment in choosing and consuming the foods that nature provides at specific times of the year.

It feels timely to share the above information. More than ever, people are feeling the need to be mindful of a grocery budget, and given that it's flu-season, mindful of their health.

There is good reason--4 in fact--to take advantage of the value-added pricing of abundant seasonal produce available at your grocery. So this week, I'll list produce on sale at Whole Foods, where I shop, and then offer some simple, healthful meal ideas using that produce.

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