To eat seasonal foods, is to eat ones that obviously grow locally. England has more than four seasons but what it does have is a hungry gap which is fairly long in the winter months. This means you either have to own a greenhouse or polytunnel (!), buy foods from those who do grow in one, or find foods out of season (unless you managed to save and freeze all the harvest).
Seasonal foods are not only better for the planet (local and organically grown), but tend to also be tastier and fresher and cheaper. And they also help to support your local farmers. No-one is suggesting not to enjoy the odd banana, but do try to eat local if possible, for most of the time. And most farm shops will only sea-freight tropical fruits, rather than have them imported by air. Also know there is a hungry gap (around April, when not much grows). But you can also find a lovely big list of seasonal foods to enjoy throughout the year.
If you are on medication, check as some disallows eating too many fresh greens, due to vitamin K (mostly heart medicines and blood-thinners – the same for grapefruit and some other non-seasonal produce). Cut carrot sticks lengthwise and again, to avoid choking.
See foods to keep away from pets (including garlic, onion, shallots, leeks, mushrooms, green potatoes and tomatoes, fruit pips and seeds). Keep fresh corn-on-the-cob away from pets (choking hazard).
Benefits of Eating Seasonally
Roasted Winter Rosemary Vegetables (Full of Plants)
The main benefits are that you get access to good food grown locally, which is cheaper and therefore does not use as much transport to get it to your door. You pay for the packaging and petrol from food delivered far away. Most supermarket food is picked and transported to central distribution warehouses, where they are stored chilled (sometimes for up to a year) before they get delivered to the store. There used to be an online grocery in Cornwall, which had a great description of how a supermarket works. It went something like this:
First the lorry picks up the fruits from the ‘local farm’ (which may be close to you). Then it drives past your front door, then takes a 200 mile trip to the central distribution house. The fruit sits in the building where it’s kept cool in big fridges run on fossil fuels. Then finally it is picked up again by another lorry driver, makes another 200-mile trip (going past your front door again) to finally land in the veggie aisle, with a sticker saying ‘support local produce!’
That’s kind of how it works with big supermarkets. Just because something is local, does not mean it went straight from farmer to the store. Rob Hopkins (a permaculture gardener who founded the Transition Town movement), did so during the lorry strikes, when the (then) Prime Minister Gordon Brown was in charge, and people were concerned that we were ‘days away from having no food’. He thought this was nuts. We are a fertile and pretty affluent country, which can’t survive more than a week without big supermarkets? The movement encourages people to grow their own food close to home, so that when the price of oil goes up, local people are not affected, as it took no oil to get the food on their plates.
The other big benefit of eating in season is that you don’t get so much plastic packaging. Most food grown out of season is stored and then transported, and often not organic. That means (in a supermarket where they sell organic produce), they have to legally wrap the organic produce in plastic, so it doesn’t get contaminated by the non-organic produce. If you go to a farm shop where everything’s organic, no plastic is needed.
Another reason is that you are more safe, regarding organic standards. Here we have Soil Association and Wholesome Food Association (a much smaller and cheaper and quicker certification for small farmers). But abroad the laws are not so stringent, so often an ‘organic vegetable’ may not be.
If you eat animal foods, eating in season and locally at least is a better guarantee of animal welfare, not being transported hundreds of miles or suffering live transport, to get to someone’s plate.
Since Brexit, it has become almost laughable, with newspapers asking ‘Can we feed ourselves?’ Of course we can. We have fertile land and brownfield land that could be fertile land. Yet a third of all our food is from the EU. Did you know that most of our spuds are imported from Belgium and The Netherlands. Potatoes! If ever a country (other than rainy Ireland) could grow potatoes, it’s here. Yet most supermarkets import the bulk of them. We also get a huge bulk of our tomatoes from Morocco. A fifth of all our fruit and vegetables come from Spain. We also import blackberries from Montenegro and herbs from Antarctica! In January, the UK imports 90% of its lettuce from the UK and buys 85% of tomatoes from Europe.