What is seasonality and why should we eat seasonal foods?
Locally produced fruits and vegetables do not grow all year round - that’s no surprise to any of us (I hope). But we easily take for granted that we can buy oranges, apples, tomatoes, onions and garlic at any time of year. To achieve this luxury - or modern expectation - requires a lot of resources. From thirsty, heated glass houses to planes, ships and trucks.
It shouldn’t surprise you to know that the Earth’s year is broken up into seasons. And all us Southern Hemispere-ers are aware that when it is summer here, it is winter in the North (the Northern Hemisphere dwellers have a dubious understanding of this, if at all). This seasonal duality across the hemispheres means that oranges are ripe and juicy somewhere, at least twice a year.
The in-between periods for any fruit or vegetable’s natural growing cycle are filled up with hydroponic produce - quite the innovation for feeding all of us. However, many have noted a lack of sweetness or bursting flavour from these foods.
Majority of oranges ripen in the winter months, so if you’re enjoying a Navel Orange in the Australian sun, chances are it was grown in California. Garlic is harvested in late spring, so your winter casserole is likely flavoured with Chinese garlic. Australia imports nearly 200,000 tonnes of oranges each year, and 12,000 tonnes of garlic. The most common practice for delivering out-of-season produce is to harvest them early and induce them to ripen during the travel time (using ethylene gas, or acetylene gas), which can mean less nutrients and flavour.
Aiming to consume our fruits and vegetables seasonally is an exciting challenge. It may take some getting used to! But it is worth the effort. There is more nutritional value in local, fresh produce. When produce is allowed to fully ripen before being harvested, the plant’s nutrients are able to fully accumulate. Your ecological footprint will also shrink from purchasing local foods. That’s a win win if you ask us!
We’ll keep you updated on each season’s favourite flavours.