5 Really Good Reasons To Eat Seasonally

Eating seasonally makes me feel happier and there are traditions around seasonal food around the world. In India, mango season is celebrated religiously. Actually, most people in India refer to seasons by the foods available at that time of the year. Having grown up in the United States, I didn’t really experience the joys of seasonal eating, since most foods were available year round. Though, I distinctly remember mango and green flat bean season, since my family made a huge celebration out of them. These foods were bought at an international market and were internationally imported foods. I have never appreciated fresh food as much as I do now until I started eating them in season. That is when mango and bean season clicked and I gained a better appreciation for how the world works.

dino kale garden

Aside from culture, there are many reasons to eat seasonally. From a health perspective, eating fresh, seasonal food makes the most sense. Hopefully, the points I make below are enough to convince you to include seasonal foods in your life.

1. Variety. Cooking with the seasons breaks up the monotony of your meals. There comes a time at the end of each season, where I cannot wait for the arrival of new crops. I become bored with the flavors and crops by eating them at home and at every  local restaurant all season long. It almost makes me want to stop eating the vegetables and fruits altogether, which I suspect is the case for many people. However, by shopping at the farmers market, I am constantly introduced to new vegetables and fruits which help stave off boredom on the plate and palate. Even dining out at local restaurants becomes exciting, be able to experience and taste what the talented chefs can make with the seasonal food.

strawberry lentils

2. Healthier. There are many health benefits to eating in season. Vegetables and fruits have the most nutrients when they are at their peak ripeness. The antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals in the food starts to decrease as soon as they are picked. Vegetables and fruit that are grown to travel long distances (1,500 miles on average) are picked before they can develop their full range of nutrients. Fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruits usually travel a lot less and are exposed to a lot less heat and light (both degrade delicate vitamins). Also, you can buy seasonal food in its whole, unprocessed form, instead of canned or frozen varieties. Canned foods are usually soaked in sugars, salts, BPA and are highly processed. Frozen foods are a pretty good option when you do not have fresh food available, however, there is a bit of processing and nutrient loss that goes on when freezing the food.

3. Environment. Seasonal produce usually means local produce, which is also great for the environment and local community. As pointed out in #2, local foods travel a lot less and are fresher, thus they retain much of their nutritive value. Fewer green houses are produced and less fuel is used in transporting local food. Food that is closer to the source also has less, if any, preservatives and pesticides sprayed on them and are unprocessed. The best place to find local, seasonal food is at the farmers market or by subscribing to a CSA. Though, if these are not options for you, look for the local sign in the produce section of your grocery store. More and more grocery chains are catching on to the fact that people want higher quality food. Spring does not arrive in San Francisco at the same time it does in New York City; seasons change at different times everywhere. Seasonal food gives you the opportunity to connect with the land you live on and the people who grow your food.

4. Wide Range of Nutrients. This one is a slight combination of #1 and #2. Eating seasonally ensures you are eating a variety of nutrients. A magical vegetable or fruit that has all the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, and fiber your body needs just does not exist. There are some pretty powerful fruits and vegetables out there, but even they lack a little something. Thus, it’s important to eat a variety of food and the best way to avoid eating broccoli year round is to eat the food that is in season.

5. Taste. Quite simply, food grown in its rightful season tastes better. If you are not convinced, do a taste test. A winter tomato, grown indoors or in hot houses, does not taste anything like a tomato grown under the hot sun, picked right off the vine just before it got to you. The better the fruits and vegetables taste, the more likely you will eat them. The more you eat them, the more health benefits and happiness you will gain. Give the vegetables and fruits you wrote off a second chance, by eating them in the season they were always meant to be grown.

tomatoes

Just shortly after experiencing seasonal food, I started to anticipate what the newest food will be at the farmers market. A partial reason, why I started Farmers Market Finds. I look forward to each season equally. Towards the end of winter, I start to look forward to asparagus, strawberries, and English peas. By mid-June, I can almost taste the heirloom tomatoes, peaches, and squash blossoms. And, by the end of September, I am making roasted butternut squash and thinking about Thanksgiving. In February, I am obsessing over blood oranges and kale.

What is your favorite food season and what do you anticipate eating most?  Please share your culture and food traditions with me. 

Farmers Market Finds: Strawberries!

It was a slow, quiet morning at the farmers market today. Partially because of the intermittent rain and the Easter holiday. Even though, I literally only had 30 minutes to get to, shop, and return from the farmers market, I decided it was worth the hustle. The alternative would have been to make time to shop at the grocery store for the week. I resist going to the grocery store, because the quality and prices of the produce just are not as good as what I get at the farmers market. Let’s just say I have been spoiled by shopping consistently at the farmers market for over 3 years now. Plus, I like to see all my farmer friends weekly.

It’s definitely full-blown spring now. Strawberries, artichokes, English peas, asparagus, avocados, fava greens, spring onions, green garlic, fresh herbs, and ramps are just some of the vegetables and fruits you will find at the stalls and stands. I’ve already pinned many recipes to include these vegetables in our diet. Photo Mar 31, 11 12 12 AM

Organic strawberries are just coming into season. Serendipity Farms

Strawberries are one of the fruits I refuse to buy non-organic. The 54 or so pesticides sprayed on strawberries are outrageous and dangerous for your health, the health of the farm workers, and the health of the environment. Tokyo-based Arysta LifeScience Inc, the company producing the fumigant pesticide methyl iodide, decided to pull out distribution in the United States after a year-long battle with farm workers, consumers, scientists, and environmentalist. However, Arysta still continues to market methyl iodide in other countries for strawberries and other crops. This means methyl iodide can still end up in the United States, which is another reason to eat local fruits and vegetables.

I liked eating strawberries as a kid, but most of the time ate them because my parents made us. I am pretty sure I was not eating local, seasonal, or organic strawberries most of the time. Some of the times the strawberries were super sweet and delicious, but other times the strawberries left a bad taste in my mouth. I remember telling my dad one day to stop buying strawberries and he was really surprised. Maybe, he thought all kids like the cute fruit and should eat them. Aside from the bad taste in my mouth, I started experiencing a tingling sensation on my lips, inside of my cheeks and tongue. It was not until I discovered farm fresh, seasonal, organic strawberries that I fully enjoyed them again. I have not experienced the tingling sensation again. I really do think it has to do with all the pesticides that are sprayed on conventional strawberries.

Photo Mar 17, 12 42 19 PM

There are many varieties of avocados other than Haas, something I only learned by shopping at the farmers market. The produce at the grocery store can get monotonous. Avocados really come into season during spring through autumn. They are not natural in the winter as they need warm climates to grow, something to keep in mind when you eat those guac and chips at Super Bowl parties.

Photo Mar 31, 11 14 18 AM

Beautiful, colorful radishes at Happy Boy Farms.

Photo Mar 31, 11 33 05 AMThe market basket, my Instagram post of the day.

What do you plan to cook this week?

 

Update: We Raised Over $4000 for Doctor’s Without Borders.

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Last September, Sila Mutungi posted on his Facebook status that he was thinking for doing pancake festival/fundraiser. I contacted him right away wanting to help organize. Sila and I split up in our tasks; he was in charge of organizing the music and I was in charge of everything related to the pancakes. Usually in large food festivals, sustainability is not even considered and I wanted to make sure that all of the ingredients were sourced sustainability.  Through generous donations from local farms and businesses, we had medjool dates, fair-trade coffee, bananas, chocolate, and sugar, organic apples and pears, organic butter, whipping cream, and milk, farm fresh eggs, and buttermilk pancake flour. View more pictures here and here.

Marcus Cohen Presents the Congress

Organizers: SILA and Nimisha

Roger Anthony, of Soul Cocina, was our executive chef.

Despite the rainstorm, hundreds of people walked through the doors, to enjoy live music and eat sustainable pancakes. In the end we raised over $4000. The entire event was run on donations and volunteers. 100% of the $10 cover charge went to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). We had chosen Pakistan as the recipient of the fundraiser. Pakistan was devastated by flooding, triggered by torrential rains, affecting 20 million people. The floods washed away crops and destroyed villages.

 

 

Here is a summary of how the money was used in Pakistan in response to the floods:

 

 

  • Conducted over 106,616 consultations at five hospitals, seven mobile clinics and six diarrhea treatment centers;
  • Screened more than 97,000 children and pregnant and lactating women and treated more than 8,800 malnourished children;
  • Conducted 434 complicated birth deliveries and 82 Caesarean sections;
  • Admitted 339 new born babies to the nursery;
  • Distributed 2.1 million liters of clean water per day and built 709 latrines, 280 shower sites, and 130 hand-washing points, and installed 271 hand pumps;
  • Distributed 73,708 relief item kits and 22,629 tents;
  • Distributed 2,000 transitional shelters

I would like to thank our donors, volunteers, and musicians again. A special thank you to Sila Mutungi, Roger Anthony (Soul Cocina),  Satish Ambati, and Bruce Hanson (for providing CODA SF).

MUSICIAN INCLUDED
SILA, Native Elements, Marcus Cohen Presents the Congress, The Dunes, Classical Revolution, Miriam Speyer, Dj Santero, Dj Zeph, and Dj Amar.

DONORS INCLUDED:
Alter Eco
Bob’s Red Mill
Straus Family Creamery
Farm Fresh To You
Whole Foods, Noe Valley
Rainbow Grocery Co-Op
Weavers Coffee and Tea
Bi-Rite Market

Rotee

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Meatless Monday in Kauai

Before coming to Kauai, I was told that it’s hard for vegetarians to eat here. Though, I was very skeptical of those notions. Kauai is known as the Garden Island- lush and tropical with rich soil. So far, every place we have been to offers pretty solid options for vegetarians. We also found many restaurants the specialize in local produce and for vegetarians/vegans/gluten-free diets. Also, there is at least one farmers market each day throughout the island!

I will try to update my meals with pictures of what I eat today. Hopefully it will inspire you to seek out your farmers market or the fresh produce section at the grocery store.


Banana Joes Fruit Stand- breakfast of fresh fruit smoothies and macadamia nuts.