This post was contributed by Amanda Martino, an ENR fellow at Oregon Law.
It’s that time of year again. Budgets are stretching thin, finals stress is piling on, and eating plans turn into “how cheap and how fast can this meal be.”
But there is still hope for a supply of cheap and healthy foods! We in the ENR’s Food Resiliency Project are here to let you know that mac n’ cheese and ramen don’t have to be your diet staples for the next month in order to make ends meet. With Oregon’s abundance in farms and the amazing growing season here in the Willamette Valley, fresh produce can be the cheapest, healthiest, and most importantly, the tastiest way to keep up strength for those all day study binges. The key to taking advantage of cheap, fresh food? Eating seasonally.
What is eating seasonally?
A pretty simple concept, eating seasonal means eating produce that is in its peak growing season. For example, now is the time when pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and winter squash are at their peak harvest time. Incorporating those foods into your diet, as opposed to eating other fruits and vegetables that peak in the spring or summer, is eating seasonally.
Why eat seasonally?
Eating seasonal is cheaper. When produce is in its peak season, it’s more abundant and therefore, cheaper. Seasonal produce also doesn’t need to be grown in different locations where the climate is suitable and then shipped around the country, reducing its cost.
Seasonal produce tastes better. If a vegetable has to be grown in warm climates or greenhouses and then shipped around the country, it will lose its freshness and taste along the way. When grown out of season, produce may not ripen as effectively and not develop its full flavor. Picking, freezing, and transporting all reduce a vegetable or fruits’ moisture content, ripeness, and flavor as well.
Eating seasonal is better for the environment. Locally grown seasonal produce is less fossil-fuel intensive because it doesn’t need to be shipped over long distances. Produce that has to make long treks around the country is often times treated with preservative sprays or grown or treated with chemical additives to extend its shelf life.
Eating seasonal offers a huge menu of variety. When you focus on fresh ingredients that are available at certain times of the year, you may be surprised to find out how many different ways there are to cook up new and tasty dishes that will be gentle on your budget.
How does one eat seasonally?
Most regions and states offer simple charts to help guide consumers in making seasonal purchases. Here is our go-to guide for eating seasonally in Oregon.
– The Food Resiliency Project