EP 31 – Eat This: Seasonal Eating

‘Tis the season to eat in season!

Think about your last meal: what vegetables were on your plate? How many miles do you think that it traveled to get there? How long ago was it picked, harvested, or stored before it made it to your meal? And what did that distance do to the invisible life force, the qi (chi), the prana or energy of that food?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we don’t often give any of that much thought, and maybe it’s about time that we do. Now if I’ve just lost you with the chi or prana, hold tight, I’ll explain that in a bit. With books like the 100 Mile Diet that came out in 2007 and the experiment that the authors took on to only eat foods that came from within 100 miles of their Vancouver apartment, it makes me wonder what would be scratched off the shopping list if you did the same?

I don’t think that morning bowl of Cheerios would make it, or in keeping with produce, that avocado smashed onto your toast. Sure, eating locally is better for the planet as well as your taste buds and body, but where is the best place to get your local foods? How can we connect with our food, and why bother? Could there be something to follow Mother Nature’s rhythm and plan when it comes to seasonal eating—or, the practice of buying what’s only available locally? 

Today on EAT THIS with Lianne, Seasonal Eating! Eating with the seasons, locally and let’s talk about that life force that comes from some foods and how could it benefit us?

Finding a farmer’s market

Years ago when I offered my Mommy Chef cooking classes to new moms and dads, I bought as much local product and ingredients as possible from local farmers’ markets. I became addicted to going, actually, seeing what was available. I was astounded by the size of the broccoli and cauliflower in the height of them being in season. The cauli was the size of a dinner plate! 

This year, every Saturday morning, I’ve been going to a particular farmers’ market to do my weekly shop. I get my fruits and veggies, and a few other things that I love. Shopping outside, in the fresh air and speaking with the people aka, farmers who grow what I’m about to buy, makes me feel good. It actually makes me feel more connected to my food. It took me a while to figure that out, that it’s possible to feel something from food – more than the crunch in my mouth I mean. And after episode 28 about Intuitive Eating, I’ve been working on staying out of my head and explore this ‘feeling’ around food. It’s kinda confusing but kinda fun at the same time. 

Let’s talk about markets. What’s the difference between a farmers’ market and a regular market? Well, you might know that a farmer’s market is run by people who can actually tell you where their products come from. But more than that, some are “producer-only” markets, with vendors that are required to grow, raise, or make what they are selling.

When searching for a farmers’ market in your area, there are a few good things to ask. You want to know what the regulations are like, for example, is it truly a producer-driven market, and is that enforced? Also, are all the products local?

I’ve stopped at those side of the road markets thinking that I’m buying from a farm, only to find out that the food comes from the food terminal where trucks drop their produce from miles away, and the little side of the road stand is made to look like it’s farm-fresh.

Also, want to know what the atmosphere is like? Is it somewhere that you like the layout and flow of and feels good to shop at? Know that you’ll need to wear your maks, and that there can be line ups, and while I didn’t like that the first time I went, I’ve gotten used to it now. 

Farmers’ markets can also make you feel more connected to your community. You get to ask questions, and people are more willing to talk about how certain foods are grown, where they come from, and tips and tricks when preparing them.

What about life force?

So what about this ‘energy’ – chi, prana and life force that I mentioned off the top?

First, let’s hear from Lisa Dowling, an East Asian Medicine practitioner and acupuncturist and get her perspective on eating in season and locally.

Whether you have heard of Traditional Chinese or Asian Medicine and what Lisa shared about the elements with summer, in particular, being the element of fire, let’s do a little experiment, shall we? The next time you eat food grown locally, like say a strawberry, a blueberry, or some cucumber, how does it ‘feel’?

If you’re present and in the moment as you eat it, what do you notice? Maybe something, maybe nothing. Then go grab a packaged something, like a cracker. I know those are really different foods and but that’s purposeful. See if you can tune into the feeling of it. I’m totally going to give it a go after my weekend shop. 

Benefits of eating in season

In-season food has a higher intensity and density of nutrients and that means it won’t just taste better, it’s better for you.

For example, foods picked in season have shown to have higher levels of Vitamin C, since vitamins degrade over time. With longer and longer storage times, out of season foods tend to have higher levels of preservatives and what are called ripening agents, which are chemicals, gases, and heat processes that are designed to make foods available year-round. 

This even extends to products like in dairy. One study showed that the concentrations of an important mineral like iodine, which helps with our thyroid, is better in milk produced in the spring!

Eating in season is also related to eating a higher variety of foods in general. Yes, it’s great to get broccoli all year round, but trying out new foods at the farmers’ market may give you a better shot of avoiding food allergies, since a highly changeable diet is much more beneficial in preventing intolerances. In other words, seasonal eating forces us to adapt our diets constantly, which can lead to better immunity and microbiome health. 

And, although the research isn’t quite firm yet, our bodies may change slightly depending on the season. For example, in the summer, along with that cooling energy that Lisa mentioned, we need foods that keep us hydrated! So it’s a good thing watermelon and berries become in season. In the fall, we need fiber and pectin that apples are full of, and they’re in season during the fall. And those grounding root vegetables for fall and winter being more starchy and satisfying for the colder months. Typically citrus fruits in the winter, although not local for us, they are high in vitamin C which helps immunity then too. 

So what’s in season?

Where I’m from, Ontario, things in season this coming August are apples, apricots, blueberries, cranberries, artichoke, squash, watermelon, and zucchini! It’s also a good practice to start looking at your government’s website and poke around at what’s in season in your area, since it will depend very much where you’re from. Let me know what you find! 

So eating in season has a whole lot of benefits. And it seems that the environment does extra well when we eat local and seasonal. Not only that, but seasonal eating can help us with an extra boost of life force energy, another level that you may not have known about, but with our little experiment, let’s see what happens when we pay more attention to how food feels. Leaning into nature’s rhythm could also involve stopping by your farmers’ market and engaging more with the community there.

Once you’ve finished at the farmers’ market and picked up a monstrous bunch of basil and some beautiful tomatoes, head over to Sprout Right’s Facebook and Instagram pages for the basil pesto and outstanding tomato salad that I made, or pick up my book Sprout Right Family Food, so you can put those vegetables to good use! My book, which was recently shortlisted in the Taste Canada Awards, features so many recipes that you or your family will love, plus so many nutrition questions that you’re afraid to or didn’t know you needed to ask. You can get Sprout Right Family Food on my website sproutright.com

Share this episode, subscribe and rate it so others know to tune in, and as always EAT THIS one mouthful at a time. 

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