Organic watermelon radishes from Hairston Creek Farm

What is 'local and seasonal'?

When I suggested to a group of friends that we cook a 'local and seasonal' menu for our next dinner, I was asked by one of them what this meant. The problem (although some view this as an advantage) of living in these times is that there are virtually no seasons at the grocery store. We can get whatever we want, whenever we want 365 days a year. I don't believe we comprehend what it really means to our planet to be able to have this luxury. I know I didn't just a year ago. If we really stopped to think about how many planes, ships, and trucks it takes to ship all of the food we eat to each grocery store in our country and how much energy it takes to refrigerate these shipments, and how early fruit and vegetables have to be picked in order to make the trip, I think at least some of us would think twice about buying whatever, whenever. In order for us to have most fruit/vegetables in the middle of winter:
  1. The food industry selects varieties that travel well (sacrificing nutrition and taste in the process);
  2. Farmers must pick the fruit/vegetable before it has matured (less nutrients are absorbed by the plant than if given enough time to ma;
  3. The food items must be flown or trucked hundreds and often thousands of miles to the appropriate grocery store
So, what does this mean for us? Well, first, these fruit and vegetables do not taste anywhere near as good as those that your local farmer picked the day before you bought them at the farmer's market. That alone, makes it worth the money/effort to buy locally grown food. If that is not enough, then realize that the varieties that are grown and sold at your typical grocery store, are not as nutritious as those sold at the farmer's market. Why? Well, first because they are selected based on how they travel, second, because they are picked before they are finished maturing, and third, because they have been in storage for days before you get them.

Local and seasonal means buying what grows within 100 miles or so from where you live at the time that the food item grows in your particular area. But be careful...buying strawberries at HEB in April does NOT mean you are buying a local, seasonal food just because strawberries grow in Central Texas in April. The reason is that most chain grocery stores carry strawberries from California year-round. Going to the farmer's market and buying strawberries there in April insures that you are getting strawberries that were picked the day before you are buying them. Will they be more expensive? Maybe. But before you decide that paying more money for the same product is not worth it, do realize that it is not the same product.