As the year passes, and as each new season settles upon us, we are blessed with abundant and various seasonal crops and produce. While in most mainstream grocery stores, we can now find our favorite foods all year round; however, many prefer to eat what is being grown specifically in that season. Here in South Carolina, entities such as Certified SC Grown is just one example of an organization that is working to bridge the gap between field and plate, making finding local, seasonal fruits and vegetables more attainable.
Eating a well-balanced diet is crucial for maintaining good health, and one way to enhance the quality of your meals while being mindful of your budget is by embracing seasonal eating. Seasonal eating refers to the practice of consuming foods that are naturally harvested during a specific time of year when they are at their peak freshness and flavor. Not only does this approach offer a variety of taste sensations, but it also provides numerous health benefits. In this blog post, we will explore how eating seasonally allows you to access the freshest, most nutrient-dense foods at a lower cost and how this can be beneficial for managing your overall health and the health of the environment.
Variety in Diet
When we eat foods picked at harvest, we are consuming them at their optimal nutritional value, as they are picked at the peak of their cultivation season. They are also less likely to have been subjected to extensive transportation, lengthy storage, or artificial ripening techniques. These fresh fruits and vegetables contain the most vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants as they were grown in the best conditions and at the right temperature. For example, one study found that broccoli grown in the fall has nearly twice the vitamin C content as broccoli grown in the spring. So why should I look for fresh variety in my diet? Including a variety of fruits and vegetables in the diet is important to increase nutrient intake, which can decrease the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. Additionally, eating a wider variety of fresh fruits and vegetables can improve immunity by including a greater number of vitamins and minerals. Increasing the number of vitamins and minerals ingested is vital for the absorption of other nutrients, such as vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption. For more information on calcium, see HGIC June Is National Dairy Month.
One way to ensure an inclusive diet with many different nutrients is by adding an array of different colored fruits and vegetables. This trick is an easy way to make sure the plate is full of nutritional benefits while including the visual appeal of the freshest seasonal fruits and vegetables. Summer fruits like tomatoes, watermelon, and cherries improve heart health and provide a bright red color. Red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, strawberries, and red beans, are packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and antioxidants.
Darker fruits, like plums, blackberries, and blueberries, provide the benefit of reducing the chance of a stroke and improving memory. Blue/purple fruits and vegetables, including such favorites as cranberries, purple grapes, raisins, and eggplant, boost urinary tract health and memory function and promote healthy aging.
Summer vegetables like cucumber, zucchini, and spinach have a fresh green color and help with providing immunity, strengthening bones, and improving vision. Green means lots of heart-protective potassium and vitamin K, which aids the blood clotting process. Green fruits and veggies also help to maintain vision health and strong bones and teeth. Dark green, leafy vegetables have the highest concentration of antioxidants and fiber.
Summer fruits and vegetables with a yellow color, like mango and yellow squash, are great for strengthening bones and teeth. Yellow/orange fruits and vegetables, including carrots, peaches, squash, and pineapple, are also loaded with vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium and aid the immune system. Adding many fruits and vegetables with a mixture of colors into your meal helps ensure you get ample benefits and a variety of nutrients.
Tip: If you want to include more variety in your diet: add extra vegetables to stir fries, soups, salads, and smoothies.
Economic Benefits of Eating Seasonally
There are a variety of economic benefits to purchasing produce grown in season.
Typically, produce sold in season is more cost-effective because it is the freshest and is not being grown against the elements. Conditions such as climate, soil quality, and sunlight all determine the rate plants will grow and their yield. At the proper times of the year, when farmers have had time to amend their soil, the growth rate and yield of said plants will be greater and contain the most nutritional value when picked at peak ripeness.
When crops are abundant and readily available, their prices tend to be lower due to reduced transportation and storage costs. Additionally, local farmers often have a surplus of seasonal produce, leading to more competitive pricing. By opting for in-season fruits, vegetables, and herbs, you can make the most of your grocery budget while enjoying a wide range of nutritious options.
Embracing seasonal eating provides an opportunity to support local farmers and contribute to the sustainability of your community. By purchasing from nearby farmers’ markets or participating in community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, you can establish a direct connection with the people who grow your food. This fosters a sense of community and strengthens the local economy. Additionally, consuming local, seasonal produce reduces the environmental impact associated with water and land use, soil degradation, and pollution as we reduce the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation.
Foster Your Culinary Creativity
Exploring the culinary possibilities of seasonal foods, with their diverse abundance, fosters culinary creativity. By embracing the availability of various fruits and vegetables that align with each season, we can embark on a journey of discovering novel flavors, experimenting with recipes, and broadening the range of our meals. This exciting culinary exploration not only brings enthusiasm to our diets but also expands our culinary horizons.
The superior flavor, enhanced nutrient content, cost-effectiveness, and support for local agriculture are just a few of the advantages of adopting this mindful approach to eating. So, the next time you plan your meals, consider incorporating seasonal produce into your diet and reap the rewards of a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. Your taste buds, wallet, and overall well-being will thank you.
Remember, nature’s bounty awaits you each season – embrace it and savor the benefits!
Stirring Up Healthy Recipes
This month in Stirring Up Healthy Recipes, we are focusing on the enhancement of our diet through seasonal eating. Together we will explore some dishes that highlight our favorite summer fruits and vegetables that are full of flavor and color and pack a health punch!
If you have not registered for Stirring Up Healthy Recipes – what are you waiting for? You can sign up by following the link HERE.
Here are some recipes we encourage you to whip up after visiting your local market
- Summer peach and black bean salsa recipe:
- Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breast with Bruschetta
- Zucchini and Fresh Corn Succotash
Check Out Some Local Markets Across South Carolina
- The Anderson County Farmers Market also hosts events throughout the summer. They are open on Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
- Located at 402 N. Murray Avenue, Anderson, SC 29621
- Abbeville County Farmers Market is open year-round, Friday 7:00 a.m. – Noon. They accept SFMNP – Senior and WIC Vouchers.
- Located at 112 N. Main St, Abbeville, South Carolina
- Aiken County Farmers Market is open year-round Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 7:30 – 11:30. They accept EBT/ SNAP, SFMNP – Senior and WIC Vouchers.
- Located at 115 Williamsburg Street NE, Aiken, SC 29801
- Mauldin Farmers Market is held every Tuesday evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and runs until July 27th.
- Colleton Museum & Farmers Market is held on Tuesdays 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. and Saturdays 9:00 a.m. -1:00 p.m. at 506 E. Washington Street, Walterboro, SC 29488
- Fort Mill Farmers Market is located at Veterans Park, 106 N. White Street, Fort Mill, SC 29715 and is open Saturdays 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
- Lancaster County Farmers Market is held on Saturdays 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at 1920 Pageland HWY, Lancaster, SC 29720.
- Pee Dee, State Farmers Market, is located at 2513 West Lucas St., Florence, SC 29501, and takes place Monday-Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
- Sumter, Downtown Farmers Market, is located at Liberty and Main Street Sumter, SC 29150, and takes place Saturday 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
- West Ashley Farmers Market is located at 55 Sycamore Avenue, Charleston, SC 29407, and takes place on Wednesday 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
There are over 120 different markets across the state! Find the market closest to your house HERE.
Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Vouchers, which allow seniors to use coupons to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from authorized farmers during the summer. Look into your eligibility HERE.
Check your eligibility for WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) HERE.
- Learn and locate where to find fresh vegetables of the season in your area: https://certifiedsc.com/where-to-buy-local/whats-in-season/?month=july&category=produce&search=