From January to April 2013 in France 30,205,440 pounds of strawberries were consumed.
This is no joke! Today in supermarkets you can find grapes in winter, or enjoy kiwis flown in from New Zealand all year round, or green beans from Kenya.
Trying to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables also has its’ downside: we sometimes choose the wrong product, and it is the environment that suffers…
Each country has its natural agricultural products and seasonal resources. And, no matter where you live, you will find plenty of seasonal alternatives as far as fruit and vegetables are concerned.
For example, in France, back in 2011, 221,945 hectares devoted to vegetables and 152, 627 hecatares devoted to fruit, were harvested. This produced 5.4 and 2.9 million tons respectively. The most harvested vegetable crops were the tomatoes (809 thousands tons in 2011) , carrots (597 thousands tons) and endive lettuces (491 thousand tons).
As for fruits, apples top the chart (1,858,000 tons ), followed by peaches, nectarines and pears. French residents have no need to import garlic from Spain since it is also produced in the Gers and the Drôme. The same goes for melons and kiwis, which are grown in Hérault, Tarn-et -Garonne and Vienne.
The same could be said about almost any other country in the world.
Bearing this in mind, why is it that in supermarkets we see the same fruit and veg all year round? The answer is simple, the products we see are grown in greenhouses.
Let’s look at the case of the strawberry. Towards the end of March, supermarkest offer strawberries grown in heated greenhouses. Around May time we can find fruit grown under plastic tunnels. Only in June can we find strawberries naturally grown.
And if we look instead at the quality of the produce? The differences between naturally grown fruit and fruit cultivated with the help of chemicals and artificial heat are striking? Artifically grown fruit and veg have an unnatural composition, are of very low quality and have low nutritional values. The vitamin content of fruit and veg is at its’ highest just after picking. After that these values decrease quickly. When fruit and veg is grown on the other side of the world it make take several weeks to reach our supermarket shelves. When we consume them there won’t be many vitamins left. As for taste, do we really need to describe the flavor of cherries found in winter?
You should also be aware of the fact that meat, cheese and fish all have their seasons too. The seasonality of seafood and meat is linked to breeding periods and the ageing process before consumption. Even though all meats are available throughout the year, it is better to try and respect its’ seasonality. As for cheese, it is much tastier when produced from the dairy flock that produce the milk have been roaming in pastures under the summer heat.
In a nutshell, if you understand the seasons, the geography and the produce of the region you live in, you should be able to make the best choice, both for yourself and the environment, and identify the local and seasonal products, picked in the right season. It may seem difficult at first, but small things, when added up, can make a difference in the long term!