Our latest homeschooling adventure was one called Pick Your Own – and no, I’m not talking “noses” here. No lessons needed with that one I’m afraid. We’re already pros.
Yes, we went berry picking. Another day, another field trip – this time for more local, fresh strawberries. Our third trip in the span of a week for these red bundles of joy got me thinking: I haven’t always gotten so nerdily excited when it comes to eating foods in season.
As a gal who really likes to eat, and a gal who’s put heck of a lot of time and energy into losing weight and maintaining said weight loss, it felt like a light bulb moment when I figured out that hey! you can eat MORE when you stick to the good stuff and still lose weight! It was right about then that I started to pay closer attention to the fact that different foods show up in the produce aisles at different times of the year.
So friends, besides being able to eat more of the real stuff without it getting in the way of your healthy weight goals – there are actually a bunch of reasons to take advantage of eating locally and in season when the opportunity presents itself:
(and around here, the happiest season of all is finally upon us!)
1. The Excitement Factor
You get to clap your hands together and twirl all around as you squeal with delight when you see your old friends return in abundance to the produce displays, both in the store and out.
2. The Freshness Factor
Any local food you come across is likely to have been harvested quite recently – as opposed to produce that comes from far away places and ripened as it made its trek across the country (or across the world) instead of the great outdoors.
So yes, local food is likely be more fresh, which leads nicely into #3 –>
3. It Tastes Better
You’ll be nodding your head appreciatively as you bite into your spring time asparagus and realize that it actually tastes a lot more like asparagus and a lot less like cardboard. If you’ve ever eaten tomatoes in the winter, you know summer time tomatoes win hands-down when it comes the award for Best Taste.
In many cases, the nutritional value found in most fruits and vegetables starts to decline as soon as it’s harvested – so not only does it taste better, but it’s more nutritionally dense when the time between the ground and your plate is reduced. The closer to home it’s grown, the less time between harvest and your mouth, the more nutritional value it’s packing for you.
5. Variety is the Spice of Life
You’re likely to find a wider variety of your favorite fruits and veggies at farmers markets than you’ll see in the store. A lot of the produce found in our grocery stores is specifically bred to withstand long distance travel, high yields and longer shelf life. Heirloom tomatoes aren’t meant to go the long haul – so they don’t show up at the stores quite so readily.
Look for unique and different varieties of your standard fare on the farm stands or grow them yourself. Then see item #1.
6. Cheap Organics
There are many small farms that use little to no pesticides on their crops, but they aren’t USDA Certified Organic because that certification can be quite costly in more ways than one. When your local farm doesn’t have to spend money on an organic certification, that cost savings can be passed down to you. Eating locally and in season can be a great way to get organics at lower prices.
7. Reason to Get Creative
Although this applies more to CSA’s, you’re likely to seek out new ideas with what to do with all the food in your share. By the end of the season, you’ll pretty much have no choice but to find different ways to cook and prepare this stuff that you’re eating for dinner again tonight. A kick in the pants to get creative isn’t a bad thing.
8. The Human Connection
If you shop for local produce at the farmers market, you can usually talk directly with the growers themselves, live and in person. Don’t be afraid to ask what they use for pest management and fertilization techniques if this is something you care about. The farmers market is also a great place to find like-minded folks and people who love food as much as you do. Conversations can be easy to start – or at the very least – easy to be eavesdropped on.
Real people have real stories, real recipes, real cooking tips – all about real food. That’s real good.
9. Support Local Business
Local farmers are local business owners. Buying locally grown food can be a great way to keep your money in your community.
10. Energy Savings
Local food uses less energy for transportation, processing, packaging, storage. Walk or ride your bike, bring a reusable bag and leave feel super groovy about the whole kit and caboodle.
11. Lots to Teach Your Kids
There are obviously plenty of fruits and vegetables that we eat all year round – but the pint-sized people here at my house totally know that we see peas in the garden in the spring, tomatoes overcrowd the garden in the summer, we go apple picking in the fall and shake our fists at the squirrels all year round.
Why Does All This Matter, Anyway?
Learning to love vegetables was a big part of my journey to a healthier life. When you buy foods straight from the source, from the people who put their heart and soul into what they do – you’re more likely to feel a real connection and identify with these healthy choices you’re making. Choices that are likely to trickle down and positively impact the lives of the people you love and care about most.
And when you lump all this corny stuff together into one, big feel-good pile of mush? You’re more likely to stick with it. You enjoy it more. You keep buying real food and learning how to make it taste good. And then one day you realize – hey! I actually like this stuff!
For all these reasons, consider hitting up the farmers market in your town or the road side stand you drive by every day. Join a CSA or better yet, grow your own. Forget about getting the stink eye from other people in the check out line; when you’re standing there with two kids in tow and no fresh fruits or vegetables in your cart because you bought it all someplace else.
“No worries,” you can say. “I attack my children like a velociraptor.”
They’ll totally understand.