Nowadays most fruits and vegetables are on offer throughout the year. Since everything is available at any time, we are loosing the concept of eating according to the season. Some even find it difficult to name typical spring vegetables or to indicate when exactly the strawberries are in season. Nonetheless, it would be better for our health to eat in accordance with the season.
When is a food in season?
Nature offers us a variety of plant and animal foodstuffs, but not all at the same time. The offer differs from season to season, therefore we speak of “seasonal foods”. It is, however, not that every foodstuff belongs to the one season – spring, summer, autumn or winter – but that it has its specific season, a certain period when it comes to full ripeness and is at its peak for consumption.
For example, the apricot season lasts only a few weeks, as this fruit gets overripe very quickly and then decays. Drying, though, can extend its season.
Grains such as wheat, have a longer natural season. Mature wheat, harvested in summer and stored in good conditions, can be enjoyed over the entire winter and up to the next harvest. Wheat therefore has a year-round cycle, retaining its qualities and its vitality all through.
Eating according to need
There is a wise correlation between what nature offers seasonally and our bodily requirements. Nature gives us the necessary food exactly when we need it most.
In broad terms, the following foods are available during the year: in spring, at the time of awakening and renewal, nature makes a variety of young shoots available – dandelions, greens, lambs lettuce and so on. Fast-growing, vital or also vitamin-rich plants aid the human body, with its intensified activities typical for this season, and they also satisfy the increased vitamin requirements after winter, when mainly long-lasting, vitamin-deficient foods are available, because at this time of the year almost no fresh foodstuffs are available.
From spring onwards, proteins are also available in greater quantities. Hens lay more regularly again, the cows calve and suckle. The supply of protein-rich foods such as eggs, milk and meat grows, meeting the increased protein demands during the hot, sunny months. The days lengthen, we work longer hours and tissue metabolism is thus also higher.
During the warmest time of the year, nature also offers the juiciest vegetables; cucumbers, tomatoes, melons. They help to meet the greater fluid demands conditioned by the high temperatures. Summer is also the time of energy-rich fruits that are easily digestible in the severe heat.
In September and October with the return of cooler days, the food needs to be more enriched, so that the body can better withstand the onset of winter. At this time more concentrated foods are available: cereals, pulses, chestnuts, nuts and so forth. The vegetables suitable for the cold season – carrots, beetroots, celery – are less juicy, just as the fluid requirements of the body are reduced.
In winter, the cold compels people to live on a high calorie diet, provided by foods that are suitable for storage: potatoes, cereals, pulses. We obtain vitamins from stored fruit and vegetables, dried fruits (sultanas and apricots) are also a good source. Preserving suitable food for winter is justified, natural and also provides consistent seasonal nutrition. Animals do the same – bees keep honey for winter, squirrels store nuts, and so on.
If the climate conditions – sunshine, temperature and so on – were to be unchanged throughout the year, then our physical needs would also remain the same and nature would provide us with a constant selection of foods. This is the case in tropical areas near the equator, where nature minimally changes the food supply throughout the year.
Benefits of seasonal food
There are two main reasons why it is advantageous for us to eat in season. On the one hand, because the foods are ideally suited to the organic requirements of the respective season; they comply with the seasons and we can maximize the benefit from them. On the other hand, foods during the time of full ripeness offer the most nutrients – vitamins, trace elements and so on.
A food out of season lacks energy, it is inferior. Moreover, such foodstuffs are often imported from far away and are treated with preservatives or cultivated in unnatural ways. All this reduces its essential quality.
To eat foods in season as much as possible is exceptionally beneficial for good health. In this way we enjoy the best of what nature makes available, and at a time when we most need it.