What is seasonal eating?

What is Seasonal Eating?

In this on-demand day and age many of us have forgotten about – or never knew – times when we ate according to the seasons.

Before supermarkets and hot-houses and thousand-mile importation and even refrigeration were part of our every-day lives we ate a varied and healthy diet determined by what was growing in gardens and pastures, and what could be foraged in the wilderness.

As recently as our grandparents youth – provided you are Gen X or older – people lived and ate this way even in the most urban settings. But if we weren’t grabbing whatever landed on the shelves of the local big-chain grocery store, what did we actually eat back then?

Spring is a time of new growth and hints of colour pushing away the cold.

Fresh shoots spring forth for food that will renew nutrients lost after a long winter. Beans, peas and greens are abundant, berries are peeking through, animals are being born and orchards are flowering in anticipation for Summer.

Ah Summer, an explosion of colour akin to the final minutes of a fireworks show.

Gardens are rainbows of tomatoes, eggplant and squash. Trees and bushes are heavy under the weight of stone-fruit and berries respectively. Animal herds are growing by the day and fresh dairy is at its peak.

This is the season where we’re meant to eat fresh natural sugars and nutrient dense foods that will prepare us for cooler weather, but a season with such an over-abundance did not mean that extra food was wasted. Fresh ripe fruit and vegetables were preserved (canned) at home to store away and dairy was made into butter and cheese.

Once Autumn rolls around the landscape changes however.

Orchards are still full of fruit, but in the form of grapes, apples and pears. It’s time to harvest thick-skinned pumpkins, hearty cruciferous crops replace more perishable ones, and root vegetables are in over-drive.

Most seasonal produce from this time of year is the original definition of ‘long shelf life’ – protected from the elements in dark root cellars these items provide food for the months ahead.

Winter is a challenge if you aren’t prepared.

This season is not as barren as one would imagine, it is a time of leafy bitter greens, citrus and harvesting of the aforementioned root vegetables. The cooler temperatures greatly slow spoilage rates so animals are slaughtered and the meat cured for storage.

Spring and Summer produce, as well as dairy, was only consumed if appropriately preserved and stored during the previous seasons. And then, just as the stores begin to run down Spring buds peek through and it all starts again.

So what happened?

When did our diets change from the simple practical reality of local, diverse, seasonal food, to one of pure convenience? It took place slowly and, as with all things that crawl into our everyday consciousness, new generations grew up with a different perspective.

All of a sudden we were used to fresh tomatoes all year round and had no idea that there was anything odd about it – other than the fact that they were twice as expensive during certain seasons. Those who grew up in farming communities will talk of the flavour of summer corn or sweet peaches with a wistful look in their eye, but as most of us probably never tasted perfectly ripe produce straight from a tree or vine we never really questioned this new reality.

However the world is changing again.

Consumers are paying more attention to what they eat and where it comes from. There are movements towards local, seasonal, sustainable eating. Farmers’ markets – with actual farmers – are on the rise and old-school domestic skills are being embraced.

Co-ops and community gardens allow those in urban areas to be closer to the source of their food. School programs are educating the next generation about where the things on their plates come from.

We are starting to realise that seasonal food is better for our taste buds, our wallets, our health and the environment. It’s an exciting time and we hope you’ll join us in embracing seasonal eating!

What is Seasonal Eating?

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About JJ

JJ is editor and co-founder of Seasonal Sunday Lunch. She is a recipe developer, photographer, stylist, marketing consultant, freelance writer and creator of the popular food blog 84th & 3rd. JJ believes food should be fun, healthy does not mean boring and if all else fails pie makes everything better. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram.


  1. brenda hayes says:

    Interesting timing. Just 2 hours ago I checked out of the supermarket with fresh beets, topped with beautiful green leaves. The clerk asked what they were. I said “beets”. She said “oh, theses are beets? I thought they came in a jar or a can!” Whew!!


  1. […] way to cook or prepare one of your favorite seasonal items. You can find more about seasonal eating here.  You can see some of what is currently in season on the right hand side of this […]

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