Yesterday when I made fruit chaat my son commented why didn’t you add some water melons in it? Watermelons in winters! This made me think, how we used to wait for different seasons so that we could eat our favorite fruit of that season. Nowadays most of the fruits and vegetables are available throughout the year. With better transport and storage facilities, we can eat fruits and vegetables from any part of the world at any time. Though we have larger variety and choices, but does it mean we are actually adding more varieties in our food?
I have noticed that it has become a tendency to eat the same set of fruits and vegetables throughout the year because we like them more. My children don’t even want to try something different because the things they want to eat are available all the year round. When we were younger, we tried different vegetables in different season, some we liked, some we didn’t like that much. But by trying, sometimes we actually start loving different vegetables that we had never tried before.
Health benefits by eating seasonal food
What about health benefits? Nature has evolved in such a way that the fruits such as watermelons, and mangoes, which have high water content grow in summers. Whereas citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, carrots, beet roots etc. are the produce of winters. Warm soups of these vegetables are very comforting in cold weather. Fresh fruits and vegetables have higher nutritional value too. Storing these items for days and weeks depletes many nutrients. Many anti-oxidants such as vitamin C and carotene decline rapidly if stored for longer duration. Moreover in order to preserve these food items they are subjected various processes such as irradiation, preservation in wax; harmful effects of which are not fully known yet.
In-season tastes good
Other factor is taste. Seasonal vegetables and fruits that are procured from nearby areas taste very nice. The cabbage or cauliflower curry that I prepare in winters taste good and flavorful. Tough and tasteless cabbage that we get in summers in India actually reduces the pleasure of eating a dish made of it. Tomatoes are more juicy and tasty, fruits are more colorful, and nutritious in their season of harvest.
Seasonal are cheaper
It makes economic sense too. Produce from nearby markets are cheaper as they are produced in abundance in their season of harvest. Cost of transport is lesser too. Exotic vegetables and fruits imported from faraway places cost more, and may not be the best nutrition-wise.
But then, the world is shrinking fast (figuratively speaking :)). We know much more about various cultures and cuisines. We like to try different dishes with exotic ingredients. So, what is the solution? Shouldn’t we make use of advancement of science and technology? I feel solution lies in maintaining a balance. If fresh and local substitutes are available, it is better to use them. Otherwise occasional use of exotic off season produce will not do much harm.
What is your take on this?