Why cooking seasonally isn’t just a health fad

There was a time in the not too distant past when we ate artichokes and asparagus in the spring and cabbage and cauliflower in the fall because, well, that’s when they were grown and available.

But these days, thanks to technology and global distribution, we’re able to eat virtually anything we want when we want. Nevertheless, health experts and chefs believe it’s still better to eat seasonally – in other words eat what’s available in your area when it’s actually in season. Here’s why:

Cooking seasonally saves you money: Fruits and vegetables grown near you didn’t have to travel very far to get to your supermarket or farmer’s market, so they’re significantly cheaper than produce that travelled thousands of kilometres.

Cooking seasonally is tastier: Foods cultivated in your area can be harvested near their peak and are less likely to spoil before they end up on your plate. Local fruits and vegetables are also less likely to have lost their flavour or vitamin and mineral content so they’re healthier too.

Cooking seasonally is more responsible: Buying local doesn’t necessarily mean the food wasn’t picked by a big food grower or distribution company or that it wasn’t stored in a massive warehouse on the way to your table. But cooking and eating seasonal produce does make it more likely that you’re supporting local farmers and businesses.

Cooking seasonally provides variety: We’ve all gotten used to not thinking much about what we buy and, for instance, simply eating potatoes or tomatoes every day because they’re always available at the supermarket. But variety truly is the spice of life and eating seasonally means teasing our palate with a wider variety of foods all year long.

But, cooking seasonally isn’t the answer to everything: There are a lot of benefits to cooking and eating fruits and vegetables grown near you and we should all make an effort to do it more. But if you really adore bananas even though there isn’t a banana plant within a 1,000 kilometres of you, don’t go bananas about it. Enjoy what you love.

Do you shop locally and eat seasonally? Please share your challenges and ideas with the Shop Talk blog community forum.


Did you know: Long distance eating

“Fresh" fruits and vegetables at your local supermarket travel, on average, 2,400 to 4,000 km before they get to you.  (Source)

51 thoughts on “Why cooking seasonally isn’t just a health fad

  1. Farmer’s Market or roadside stands are never cheaper here in Nova Scotia. They used to be but unlike open-air markets and such elsewhere, they have become more of an affected trend that has taken root. I’d prefer, by far, to buy locally but price is not a factor. Plus pesticides are used here just as well. And fresher is not always the case. I’ve seen some tired, local produce locally as well.
    When I am fortunate enough to travel to Sicily….now there’s the real thing. Brilliant, fresh, cheap without the attitude that goes along with our markets.

  2. A greenhouse growers cooperative may be the answer to supplying year round farmers markets with fresh produce & fruit to support the ‘Buy/Eat Local” movement. Establishing a year round operation to supply farmers markets would be very expensive, but over the long haul it would be worth the effort. Pick a spot in the province that is the mildest in winter (a good micro climate). Make use of Geo-Thermal heating to maintain the temperature level in a large field of greenhouses. Open the cooperative up to investors (large & small) for start-up revenue.

  3. I eat locally every day. I freeze fresh fruits and veggies during the spring summer and fall. I open my freezer i the winter to an amazing ray of ediables. I buy potatoes carrots onions and apples locally in the winter.

  4. I have 2 freezers and when fruits and vegetables are in season I put them in the freezer. That way I have local produce all year .

  5. I agree that eating seasonally makes more sense. I like to support local farmers and rather prefer buying locally then buying items that travel greater distances. It helps the local economy and also the produce, fruits, etc have much more flavour.

  6. I agree! I try to purchase all organic, and locally here in Northern Ontario, thanks to produce delivered to my door by a great program provided Trusslers Pantry.

  7. one would think what you wrote would hold true, but it seems produce can be brought in from half way around the world cheaper than local products – much cheaper.

  8. eating sensibly comes with age and knowledge – Our Bodies are not what they use to be – Today we need Mores Specific Nutrition and better eating habits – Eating seasonably and going with the times always proves to be beneficial and economically the more practical route to go – with all our local resources we are able to maintain a healthy and balanced eating diet –

  9. All lovely thoughts but the nearest tomatoes and other salad materials let alone fruit of any kind is grown in BC; halfway across the country. We would be subsisting on onions, carrots, potatoes, rutabagas, and cabbages and that would be it.

    I think we all acknowledge the costs of buying foods that are imported but this has been the way of life for almost my entire life (I am in my 60s). It isn’t going to change any day soon.

  10. I recently found out that you are only allowed to submit two shoppers surveys every two months. If you submit three then your email is disqualified from the $1000 draw.
    I shop there several times a week and have been submitting surveys for many years. I guess it’s been a big waste of time. Shoppers owners are complaining to their employees that they aren’t receiving enough CSIs. Could this be why maybe? I know I will never submit another survey to shoppers again, this con game they have created needs to be fixed. NO MORE SURVEYS PEOPLE.

  11. there are some vegetables that are grown locally by hydroponics that are very high quality, I purchase some of these from a reliable source.

    Slightly more expense, but certain vegetables I prefer that have the necessary proteins, minerals etc. are more important to me.

    I still generally shop for seasonal vegetables especially fruits.

  12. I live in Canada. We have a lot of snow from about Dec, to March…. sometimes April and May. If I were to eat and cook only what is close to me, I would starve to death. I eat local in the growing season. Winter is not a good growing season up here. Making these generalizations is not useful.

  13. Food grown locally is way more expensive
    At the summer farmers market it will cost $5 for a lettuce
    I want to support local but money does have to come into it

  14. For years I have been thinking that with our relatively cheap cost of electricity in Quebec, Hydro should subsidize the costs of heating greenhouses that produce salad greens, sprouts and other foods sensitive to long-distance travel conditions. I even read that an Ottawa man was growing bananas there.

  15. The fruit & vegetables we get in Prince George, BC. Canada, are very good throughout the summer & fall, as they are supplied from either local producers, or come from the Okanagan , which is not too far away. The local farmers market also sells home grown products throughout the summer & fall, as well.

    1. I have my own garden so I grow most of the vegetables myself. Then I know they are organic and are fresh. A also have my own Raspberries, strawberries, sour cherries and grapes so make a lot of jams and jellies as well as the fresh or frozen fruit.

    2. I also like to buy from our farmers market in London, Ontario. We buy in bulk and I freeze a lot for winter use. Over the years I have had great success with freezing both fruit and vegetables. I know it saves me a lot of money and you can’t beat “farm fresh”
      Thank you to our farmers.

  16. Good advice except local fruit and vegetable options are very limited during winter and spring months for those living in the Canadian prairies.

  17. I shop at local Farmers Market regularly – in fact – I was there this morning and purchased some flowers and organic spinach. Buy all fresh vegetables at market and so most are seasonal.

  18. I do enjoy shopping for products within the one hundred mile status. However, in my location I would be rather limited by the season I have no problem shopping out of the one hundred I’ll program to get foods that are healthier and transported properly. It often means a higher price, but an example where you can’t go wrong is various fruits such as pineapple, bananas, kiwi and a host of others. Basically, I have my all year produce I buy no matter where it was grown, but I get so excited when produce is fresh and available in my area and make use of such in the peak seasons. Prices can be a disadvantage, especially cauliflower, but just stretch it in soups or a main course rather than a side on the plate. Shop smart and eat smart.

  19. I buy local produce as much as possible because the tastes are better, everything is fresher and I save a lot of money while supporting local farmers. Some local produce keeps for months even at home such as winter squashes and apples. These and some other items are available from local producers even beyond the seasonal because of the improvements in storage. And yes, it is good for the environment also.

  20. Except that we don’t grow much here in Canada in the winter.. I do agree with what you are saying though.Personally, I try to avoid buying from certain countries (ie China) and mostly organic. I am willing to buy a product if it is organic, regardless of where it’s from. Variety is key for a healthy gut so I aim for the rainbow!

    1. Grow here in Canada…go to Canadian tire and buy 1 of the new items…”Aerogrow””…I own 4. Grow ANYTHING ALL YEAR ROUND!!!. They’re fantastic!!!…bribritheturtleguy@gmail.com

    2. Totally agree with your comments. We have a great fruit and vegetable store nearby, so I try to get most of our produce there. As we are having some difficulty cutting vegetables now, I buy some pre cut. Also do a lot of soups at this time of year.

    3. You run a substantially greater risk of food poisoning eating organic foods. The key is washing and cleaning much more than we are used to – still without disinfectants and our lack of resistance to disease created by our sterile society, it still poses a greater risk than it would have 100 years ago. If you don’t want to cook it, be very careful. I’m a retired chemist with great interest in the other sciences.
      Question: why would you not want to lather your hand with disinfectants everywhere you go (hospitals not included, although it’s one of the best places to pick up a resistant life form)? Answer: you would be one of the leading causes of immune mutations of an otherwise manageable virus or bacteria. Soap and water is best when in doubt. It allows the non immune creatures to crowd out the occasional mutation.

  21. Being the middle of Saskatchewan in winter seasonal produce is not really that handy, but in summer it is better and I grow quite a bit myself.

  22. There is a food program named Miss Fresh that supplies locally grown produce on a weekly to monthly schedule (your choice). It isn’t “cheap” but you can also ask for more distant foods to be included. There are other similar programs but this one was my personal experience.

  23. Why are locally grown strawberries more expensive than those from California. Why is local produce at the Farmer’s market more expensive than the stuff from far away. Please also watch CBC’s Market Place program on Farmer’s Markets. Some of the stuff is not local. It is packaged to look like local stuff…….this is cheating.

  24. my blueberries come from richmond and the fraser valley ,forms 5 km. to 40 km. Raspberries from california and bananas from south america. but i eat these every day and i like what they do for me and my health….

  25. We also only eat seasonal food. We have veggie garden, I freeze and can everything I can . We also enjoy going to the farms and picking our own fruits. I will almost never serve imported foods with the exception being bananas and maybe oranges. I simply prefer what is grown in my own country.

  26. Actually we grow quite a bit in Canada in winter and early spring. I am a member of an organic farm and they grow veggies indoors, green houses) so every 2 weeks I get a basket full of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash, beets, leek, lettuce etc. It is surprising what farms have alk year round and are open to the public, including bee keepers etc.

  27. Why does Foodland sell peppers from Mexico and Spain when there are several pepper farms in Southwestern Ontario????

  28. Unfortunately this is impossible in the winter here, because most of the time it’s too cold outside for anything, including people. I do wish more of the food we bring in was more localised. Even in the summer months, we still end up having imported produce from Mexico and the US, especially the organic ones and I buy organic as much as possible. I love fresh garden grown and come the next harvest, I will buy from my local gardening friend!

  29. We freeze locally grown vegetables in the summer and fall and access them for soups, casseroles and stir fries during the winter months. We eat a lot of root vegetables like carrots, rutabaga, potatoes and cabbage in the winter months when trying to eat fresh vegetables. We buy frozen produce from Arctic Gardens brand as they encourage local farmers. We eat at least 6 to 8 vegetables a day. We only buy oranges and lemons in the winter months to get our vitamin C; however, we are very knowledgeable about the vitamin and mineral content of foods such as kale, swiss chard, zucchini, peppers, shallots, leek, parsley and cherry tomatoes that we have washed and frozen before the snow flies. We go to the local orchard in the fall and make applesauce for our desserts. We save a bundle of money; we leave less of an imprint on our planet and encourage local farmers. We are trying to leave a better legacy to the next generation. Eating healthily does not have to cost an arm and a leg.
    We also watch the sales flyers and purchase our meat, poultry and fish when it is on sale and we also watch the sales for basic food items such as peanut butter, canned salmon, canned tomatoes, etc. and stock up with enough product to last us until the next sales cycle. These steps require a bit more effort; however, in the long run, it is well worth it in so many ways.

  30. Living under snow for 5-6 months a year pretty much requires eating “non-local”. The rest of the time there’s also the issue of cost: why does local lamb cost 2X that of fresh Australian or New Zealand given the shipping costs?

  31. My husband and I love our fruits and vegetables. We buy them from the fruit stand through out the summer, and we freeze strawberries and can applesauce to enjoy through the winter. The fruit and veggies may be costly through the winter but we pay the extra cost because it is worth it to have to food we like.

  32. Can you explain why local food is always more expensive than from Florida or Mexico. Do our farmers pay higher wages for their Mexican workers?

  33. We are fortunate in the Fraser Valley that winter vegetable growing is possible. I try to stick mainly to my ancestral diet of brasicas, root vegetables, Kale, lettuce, Bok Choi & shelling beans, home- grown- canned produce and Sauerkraut. Most of this is available from Farmers Markets.

  34. As a single mother I could feed myself and two children very fresh and inexpensive food. The cost of seasonal foods grown within our area makes it easier to make balanced meals. If you preserve the fruit inseason, you have things as needed. But we now can have peas and carrots anytime instead of going to the market or garden to pick it

  35. My mother and dad had a garden that they put the potatoes and onions in a cold room. The turnips, corn, peas and carrots were frozen. The beets and cucumbers were pickled. All the apples, crabspples, saskatoon berries or raspberries ect were preserved in jars or frozen. The only thing that was bought was meat. Bit now mist people do not have the space or time to have a garden or fruit trees.

  36. In the 1940’s and 50’s my family ate what was available . Winter vegetables were stored in a cold storage. Potatoes, carrots, cabbage, turnips, onions and canned goods. People canned food in the fall. In the autumn people would make chili sauce and you could smell it all up and down the streets. Apples were stored in the cold storage as well. My mother would buy them by the bushel in the fall. Milk and eggs were delivered by the milkman.

    The food in summer was all local! Wonderful tasting tomatoes, green onions, lettuce, peas and later corn. Raspberries, strawberries came along. Wild strawberries and blueberries were prized. My father would go up the Gatineau hills and pick blueberries. Fabulous food! So much better than imported food. Healthier too!

  37. You run a substantially greater risk of food poisoning eating organic foods. The key is washing and cleaning much more than we are used to – still without disinfectants and our lack of resistance to disease created by our sterile society, it still poses a greater risk than it would have 100 years ago. If you don’t want to cook it, be very careful. I’m a retired chemist with great interest in the other sciences.
    Question: why would you not want to lather your hand with disinfectants everywhere you go (hospitals not included, although it’s one of the best places to pick up a resistant life form)? Answer: you would be one of the leading causes of immune mutations of an otherwise manageable virus or bacteria. Soap and water is best when in doubt. It allows the non immune creatures to crowd out the occasional mutation.

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