Why You Should Always Eat What’s in Season

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I don’t know about you, but GMOs scare me. They really do. The idea that my fruits and veggies are being messed with so that they unnaturally grow in seasons when they aren’t supposed to (among other frightening things) is not right… yet, somehow, most of us encourage this process by buying foods simply because they are available year round.

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Fruits and vegetables that grow naturally are incomparable… they are fragrant, juicy, and taste incredible in comparison to the fruits and veggies we are used to seeing in supermarkets. When transporting crops, they must be harvested early and refrigerated so they don’t rot during transportation. The result is produce that has not had the time to develop its full flavor. When a plant has more sun exposure, it also has higher levels of antioxidants! The difference is obvious: take a trip to one of your local farms and taste the difference. Last summer, I drove a full hour to replenish my stash of fresh nectarines, picked right from the tree. You can’t beat that! 
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Fruits and vegetables that are grown in the wrong seasons need a lot of help to grow and appeal to us as consumers (meaning they need pesticides, chemicals, preservatives, etc…) If you choose to buy seasonal foods, you may even get healthy fruits/veggies even if they aren’t labeled “organic”. Many small family farms cannot afford to go through organic certification but still follow very natural and healthy growing practices (only using pesticides when really necessary), which means you don’t have to worry as much about the quality of your produce.  
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As you may have guessed, following the natural cycle of produce actually supports our health perfectly. For example, apples grow in the fall and they are the perfect transition food helping the body get rid of excess heat and cool down before winter. In the spring, the abundance of leafy greens help us alkalize, detox, and lose some extra pounds after a long winter of heavier foods. In the summer, we need to cool down and stay hydrated by eating things like cucumber, watermelon, etc. Nature is incredible and can actually help our bodies heal, if embraced correctly. 
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Eating seasonally means you have to challenge your creativity to come up with unique dishes based on what you find that week. I love using Pinterest to come up with ideas that I then spruce up based on what I have in the fridge and pantry. Variety is also healthy for our bodies — it’s a great idea to accustom our babies/kids to try all sorts of foods prepared in a variety of ways!
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Seasonal produce grows without much human assistance. We all know how toxic compounds added to our produce can contaminate the water and soil, as well as our health. Seasonal foods are more likely to be locally produced as well, which reduces the load on our environment due to travel. In addition, transporting produce sometimes requires irradiation (zapping the produce with a burst of radiation to kill germs) and preservatives (such as wax) to protect the produce during the trip.
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Buying things out of season means long shipping times, fuel costs, and often an insanely huge price tag. I was raised on an island in the Caribbean where most of our produce was imported, so I know what it’s like to not find many appealing fruits and vegetables at the supermarket. In the U.S., however, it’s all about supply and demand, plain and simple. Seasonal produce is much cheaper because of the abundance of it. Think about the limp, moldy packages of basil you find at the supermarket in the winter time… and the price you pay for it! Go to your local farmer’s market this summer and you’ll find bunches of basil for two dollars, at most. Support the small farms, not the giant retailers!
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It’s important to ask the right questions: where your food is coming from, who is growing your food, and how they do it. If we are more health and label-conscious as a society, we will be more powerful. That’s how major changes start to happen! There are a bunch of farms in the New York area and everyone I’ve met has been warm and knowledgable about growing your own seasonal produce: I learned how to dig up my own potatoes and carrots, crunched on sweet peppers in the fields, and handpicked golden raspberries, the best I tasted in my entire life. Join mailing lists and meet new people along the way!
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 You can read my post about local farms, here!

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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