In a time when we can have pretty much any food at any time of year, eating seasonally might seem like it limits our choices. Particularly in the dark, cold days of January, the bright pink raspberries in the supermarket look incredibly enticing, even if we know they’ve flown thousands of miles to make it to the shelf. Aside from the ecological impact of transporting food across vast distances, eating food not seasonal to our locale disrupts the deep wisdom of nature and our bodies and the ways in which these entities have co-evolved for optimal health.
Our bodies and our digestive systems actually follow a seasonal cycle, which is intimately tied to the cycles of nature (not surprising, when you consider that we are part of nature). The beginning of the calendar year, in the deep cold of winter, marks the time when our digestive fire is strongest. Our bodies crave the heavier, sweeter foods, which are most nutrient dense and therefore more able to sustain us through the most barren time of year. Foods such as heavier grains (rices, oats, wheat), root vegetables, and nuts tend to store well and are available to us even in the snowiest months. Because of their heavier qualities, these foods require a greater amount of energy to digest, and our bodies respond with an increased digestive fire.
As the seasons shift from the cold, dry winter to cool, damp spring, our bodies also shift. The foods we enjoyed in winter start to feel a bit too heavy for our digestive systems as the dampness in the air can lead to an accumulation of moisture in the body in the form of mucous. This is one of the reasons why congestion and allergies are so prevalent in the spring. Happily, the earth provides the perfect antidote to this accumulated heaviness in the form of detoxifying vegetables and fruits. The dark, bitter greens of spring (think kale, dandelion greens) combined with lighter, crisper textures (pea shoots, radishes), work to detoxify the body from the accumulated heaviness of winter. As the season progresses, beets and cherries join nature’s arsenal against illness.
The summer brings with intense heat and a consequent diminishing of our digestive capacity. You can think of this as the sun doing some of the work for us, as it offers us foods which require less digestive energy due to their lighter textures and high moisture content. Summer in New England is truly the time of abundance, as we see bounties of tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, summer squash, corn, lettuces, and stone fruits. These foods work to replenish the moisture lost in the long daylight hours and to cool the heat which builds in our bodies.
When autumn comes again, we have the fall harvest in anticipation of the dearth of winter. Apples, squashes, and other richly-colored foods indicate the turn toward colder weather and the need for more grounding, heavier nourishment once again. Our bodies are intricately tuned to take advantage of the particular foods which nature offers at any given time. This is why eating seasonally can be so beneficial for the body. Instead of trying to figure out what foods are healthiest or when to eat what, we can simply look to our particular corner of the world and see what the earth is providing.
One of our foundational tenets at al FreshCo is to work with local farmers to source the most local, ethical food we can for our meal kits. We do this because our conception of health encompasses our customers, our land, and the farmers who tend it. If you want to know what is in season locally, you can simply look at our meal kits each week for a simple, delicious way to incorporate more seasonal produce into your diet. We think you’ll notice just how wonderfully eating locally can taste and feel.