A Sign of the Times: Enjoying your local fall harvest.
Written by Caroline Klemens, Dietitian
While the local weather is breaking all time high temperature records, we have a chance to enjoy even more time outdoors, as it seems as if summer is hanging on. The days are sunny and dry but the colder, wetter weather is undeniably around the corner. The change in weather is a perfect time to move from summer types of fruits and vegetables to a heartier fall bounty. This change in weather is an indication of the change of what can land on our plates. And for that we can be very grateful, as we have the opportunity to experience more diversity.
A healthy and enjoyable diet includes diversity. As we move away from ultra processed foods in the grocery shelves and step into the fall bounty at the local farmer’s markets it is easy to see the array of colour and textures available at this time of year. Recently I was pleasantly surprised as I cycled by a farmer’s market and caught sight of the beautiful vibrant oranges, reds and greens in the all too familiar shapes of squashes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and beets. A sudden urge to make a large batch of chicken vegetable soup got triggered.
I often get asked if these local foods really make a difference and if so how! The first advantage is taste. But can it really make a difference? Produce that travels less kms to reach your plate naturally has more freshness and flavour.
Have you ever had an imported peach in the middle of the winter and a peach harvested in the summer and brought to your table within a week? I bet you’d agree that the flavour does not compare. Fresh fruits and vegetables that are transported far distances will be picked before they are naturally ripened on the vine or tree. When this happens there is less flavour. When you enjoy the taste sensation of produce harvested at the right time you will never trade that experience for anything!
Local produce has more nutritional value. Anytime fresh fruits or vegetables are exposed to light, sit longer after being harvested or are exposed to heat the vitamins and mineral get effected and the nutritional value naturally decreases. Aim to eat the foods that are grown closer to where you live.
Locally-grown seasonal foods also have a benefit of matching to our nutritional needs. For example, the beta carotene in the orange pigment of pumpkins and other squash will help boost your immune system just in time to stay healthy for cold and flu season.
It can be argued that locally produced foods have a lower cost, due to reduced transportation cost. Catch those savings and visit a market or your local neighbourhood grocer and pick a locally grown vegetable that you’ve never had before, search online for a recipe and experiment! Roasted vegetables make a wonderful salad, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
From the wise words of Michael Pollen “Eat foods, mostly plants, not too much”. I’m sure he would agree with adding “eat foods, mostly seasonal plants, not too much”! And remember let Mother Nature be your guide, as we know she knows best”! Enjoy the fall season.