When we go food shopping, most of the time we don’t pay any mind to where or when our produce comes from. We see the fruit aisle stocked with strawberries in winter, yet we don’t actually consider whether they’re in season.We don’t take into account the amount of fuel needed to fly imported strawberries half way across the world. We don’t think about the time they take to get from farm to table. Instead, all we think about is how much we want the sweet fleshy berry in our mouths. You pick up a punnet for £3, excited to have an indulgent night in front of the TV, glass of wine in hand, a bowl of strawberries and cream in the other. You take the first bite of the berry… and realise they’re not quite as good as you thought they’d be. The answer – eating sustainably.
Why is this?
Locality and seasonality have a huge influence on the flavour of produce – especially fruits and vegetables. Strawberries in winter are most likely imported, meaning that by the time they get to supermarket shelves, flavour is impaired for the simple fact they’re no longer as fresh. Strawberries in winter are also more likely to cost more than summer berries due to import and fuel costs. Simply put, fresh produce that’s out of season is nowhere near as good as it can be, will burn a hole in your pocket and ultimately leave you feeling disappointed.
Food that is not sustainable has a huge effect on the environment. The reasons why are simple. With over half of UK food imported, Co2 emissions from transporting the produce from farm to supermarket shelves thousands of miles away dramatically increases our carbon footprint. As we are increasingly sourcing our produce from other countries, co2 emissions from the farm production will increase too. What this means is that outsourcing our food production not only has a negative effect on our own country, but also influences the carbon footprint in others. Admittedly, I’m not particularly environmentally conscious – but I do try and buy local wherever I can to do my bit.
Local and in season produce is always better. By reducing our food miles, the time from harvest to consumption is decreased, resulting in a better quality product that is fresher and tastier.
Support local businesses by eating sustainably
Buying local not only supports local businesses and boosts local economy through the production of jobs, but also preserves open space. The higher the demand for local produce means that more land will be bought by farms, preserving green space from urban redevelopments. Easing sustainably also encourages diversification in the crops grown, reducing the reliance on single crop reduction which can in turn become detrimental to the soils in the long run. There’s also less waste – as the foods will be fresher, there’s less likely that the crops will spoil before hitting supermarket shelves.
How do I know where produce has come from?
Easy! Fresh produce is often explicit about where it has come from. The country of origin is usually clearly stated on the front of the packaging. Keep an eye out for the place of origin next time you’re out shopping – you’ll be shocked at how much food comes from abroad! If we make conscious decisions to eat food that has been produced locally – we are automatically eating in season. Buying food that’s been produced locally will almost always be cheaper, too!
Whilst we may not be thinking about where our food comes from or whether it’s in season, it’s really easy to swap out a few of our usual buys for better quality produce. Instead of buying out of season goods that don’t taste as good or as fresh, try researching what is in season and centre your shopping list around this. This will mean your dishes are tastier and won’t cost as much – and who can complain about this?