January has passed and now February is here, and like most of us we use the first month of the year to become healthier. You check out your grocery stores, even farmers markets, and grab a basket full of fresh fruits and vegetables, but unknowingly you're not asking yourself a pertinent question--is this fruit or vegetable actually in season? Now you're pondering why would such a thing matter, right? Eating food based on local seasoned availability is the overlooked instrument that has the potential to fix our broken food system.
Health & Sustainability Potential: two primary components to be heavily considered in this scenario. Tailoring our food consumption toward regional conditions will in turn preserve our cultural diversity and thus eating habits. Harvesting what naturally grows in their designated season has the potential to improve health while maintaining an environmentally friendly presence. Produce can be collected for free or in systematic gatherings and distributions. Having the accessibility and availability of foods locally, increases the safety of what we consume and sustains our environment. This may seem rather complex, but believe it or not, this process is quite easy to live. I'll tell you how!
The sustainability of your dietary intake is based upon a life cycle assessment, everything we consume experiences this. We use such a method to assess any and all environmental impacts associated with all stages of an items lifespan. The life cycle of agricultural production is a long process to say the least. Here goes! Any piece of produce begins in its rawest form, followed by processing, packaging & distribution, storage, shipping, and additional storage. We then as consumers cook, eat, and drink forming food waste and disposal resulting with incineration. Now that is certainly lengthy, but thankfully as consumers we only experience a couple segments of any life cycle.
Again, why does any of this matter? The purpose of the life cycle assessment is to compare the full spectrum of environmental effects of not only the produce, but also the service it endures. The process is constantly being reevaluated for improvement. The further out of their natural element a product is, the less healthy, sustainable, and safe it becomes. A great example is a peach. The season begins in May, meaning if you see a peach prior, it has not been grown and harvested in the best or natural environment or under proper conditions and may be genetically modified. Out of season creates the unknown ranging from depletion of soil nutrients, causing the product to lack nutrients and ultimately causing damage to our environment.
Proactively choosing your diet intake will indefinitely affect your health and the environment, so why not eat seasonally and as local as possible? The next time you step foot into a produce market take the time to see what's local and seasonal. You'll be amazed! You can bet your pretty penny something is present that should NOT be due to seasonality!
Here are our seasonally local produce based upon our current winter season:
January-March for the New Jersey & New York Metro areas.
October- Early April
Brassica oleracea family. Frost resistant (available 3 seasons).
Widely uses pesticide organophosphate, make sure it's rinsed thoroughly and buy organic to ensure.
Anti-inflammatory: omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K, C, E, flavonoids.
Uses: Salads, Side Dish, Smoothies, Chips, Soup, Pesto
Perennial herb, Brassica family.
Required at Passover.
High in vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium, manganese, fiber.
Uses: Do not cook; Sauces, Mix in Condiments, Seafood, Vegetables.
Add vinegar to preserve for weeks or freeze.
Available in NJ Early January
All 4 Seasons
Alfalfa & Bean
High in vitamin C, K, folate, manganese, phosphorous, iron.
Richest when raw, although raw invites bacteria. Those with lower immune systems, elderly, and pregnant women should avoid raw consumption. i.e. E. coli & Salmonella
Alfalfa being resistant to weedkillers has caused generic modification & cross contamination due to pollination practices.
Best consumed organic.
High in iron, potassium, thiamine
Diabetic friendly due to minimally affecting blood sugar with its insulin carbohydrate component.
Low calorie, similar to potatoes.
Uses: Raw, Salads, Soup, Creamed, Chips
Available in NY January, July-August
Woody root vegetable. Said to have an oyster, carrot, parsnip, potato taste.
Light brown/blackish skin with white interior.
Turns quickly, root should be strong without blemish.
Fibrous, high in vitamin C, B6, folate, potassium, manganese.
Uses: Steam, Shaved Raw, Creamed for Soups
December/January & June/July
Allium onion family. Mild sweet taste.
Usually imported from overseas, so try to buy local.
High in vitamin A, C, B6, folate, potassium, manganese, calcium, iron.
Use like you would an onion- Raw, Sautéed, Fried
If stored in a cool dry dark place, last up to a month. Refrigerator storage up to 2 weeks.
** Only New York * Only New Jersey