Dirt Therapy: Eating Seasonally—Reap the health benefits of local, seasonal produce

Dirt Therapy is a regular column by GNTG founder, Marianne Taylor, appearing in the Capistrano Dispatch

Some of my favorite childhood memories in the fall were sitting outside under the large liquid amber tree at our home while munching on a tart Granny Smith apple. My mother would buy a crate of apples every fall, keeping our family stocked up on homemade applesauce, pies and snacks for school. I would, of course, grab my daily dose and go under the tree to daydream and crunch away. As an adult, I still find myself gravitating to the apple aisle every September in quest of my now-favorite Honeycrisp apple, enjoying once again my daily dose of this crisp gem of a fruit.

There has been a lot of talk recently about eating in season and how it affects our health and our environment. Restaurants will tout their seasonal menu, from meats to produce. As you enter the produce department or farmers market, you are greeted with the latest harvest at the front aisle screaming, “take me home.” It works for me; I usually come home with a bag or two of the latest produce in season and munch away.

Eating seasonal is in fashion thanks to the White House kitchen garden and bestselling books such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma. This, however, is not a new trend—before supermarkets and fast food rows, eating whole foods as nature produces them is what people have been doing all over the world through most of history. In ancient times, eating seasonal was the foundation of holistic medical traditions, good health and emotional balance.

So why eat seasonal? What are the benefits? First of all, it connects us to the calendar and to one another, reminding us of simpler times and the joys of eating—grabbing my apple and escaping under the tree, or those messy pomegranate seeds staining my face on Halloween.

Secondly, produce picked and eaten at its peak is so flavorful and packed with more vital antioxidants, minerals and vitamins than foods harvested before they are ripe and shipped in long distances. Eating seasonal supports and connects us to small and midsize local farmers, such as the local South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano. It also reduces our carbon footprint, cutting down on pollution caused from shipping and trucking. Produce shipped and trucked has been picked green and ripens in transit, not giving you the abundance of nutrients and flavor that is fresh off the vine or farm.

Eating with the season also brings variety to your diet, supporting our body with a diverse array of nutrients from the plants we eat as they work together in an optimal way to give us the best health while reducing disease. If that is not enough to get you to make some simple switches in your diet, think of this: In season foods save you money in the long run.