We are currently living in the age of the diet. A time where eating habits permeate the general consciousness and loom unappetisingly in our peripheral vision like the ghost at the feast. This is not a phase. There is no escape.
Beyoncé’s ‘shocking’ admittance of a vegan diet shook the twittersphere, while established models like Chrissy Teigen upload candid images of their meals as often as they do images of themselves (even Kelis has got her own cooking show with a book on the way). We are in the throes of a food revolution and our voyeuristic obsession with the eating habits of the bourgeois is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce.
For many the pursuit of a healthy diet is all encompassing. Take the Raw food movement, bordering on cult status with it’s devout followers in tow, smugly brimming with the confidence that carrots and celery will help them cheat death. Or the grower, radiantly lounging at the top of the health-hierarchy, all organic all the time. But it wasn’t always like this, the end of the 1980’s saw a huge cultural shift in attitudes that affected every avenue of contemporary culture. Companies with a different approach started getting traction, leading to terms like Fair Trade being absorbed into the Western lexicon. With this also came awareness of the importance of eating organic, large public campaigns for a shift in diet like Jamie Oliver’s school dinner scheme coupled with numerous ready-meal scandals ensured that households thought twice about what they were buying and (more importantly) eating. Recently focus on health food has reached a fever pitch, at the centre of which we find seasonal eating. An exercise in restraint for the greater good.
In a nutshell Seasonal Eating refers to specifically eating foods when they are at their peak and ready for harvest. The practice of only eating produce when it is at its freshest is a sentiment that’s a lot easier said than done. Especially when you take two things into account. The merchant and the consumer. The current landscape of the British supermarket is designed to satiate the shopper 365 days a year, regardless of their palette and the allure of endless choice is a hard one to fight. Purchasing fruit and veg out of season is something we are all guilty of. But despite my best efforts to pretend otherwise, there is something inherently wrong with being able to buy the same pot of tropical fruit on my lunch break every day until I die. Here at People Tree we strive for sustainability in all avenues of life, by supporting unseasonable and unsustainable eating practice you are condoning the needless waste of energy and fossil fuels. The average distance from farm to supermarket is 1,500 miles. Hauling crops almost entirely devoid of nutritional benefit, laden with chemicals designed to keep them living long enough to make it from till to fridge. The energy intense system currently in place contributes to global warming and takes a toll on your funds in the long run.
There are many benefits to eating ripe produce. Obviously taste, texture and nutrition are key factors but by choosing to actively purchase based on season you are also supporting community and locality. There are a number of similarities between the preservation of hand crafting from our producers in India with British agriculture workers. The more time consuming (but sustainable) practice of employing local communities to hand weave garments ensures the employment of more individuals whilst investing in locally farmed produce by buying from fruit and veg markets also leads to a higher quality of product. Long-time People Tree collaborators Riverford Organic, are a company with the foresight to use regional farms to cut down the travel required to deliver food to the consumer. At People Tree HQ we are mad for sustainability and seasonal eating presents itself as another way to help the environment as well as local economy. Riverford circumvent a lot of the obstacles that arise when attempting to shop seasonally by producing curated boxes of food alongside various recipes. Ranging from a myriad of cultures despite having to adhere to the limits our climate places on what can be grown and when.
When it comes to seasonal eating, the proof is in the pudding. The health benefits of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables at their most nutritionally potent are numerous. Less fatigue, healthier skin and hair, more consistent sleep and higher brain function are just a few of the reasons why we’ve made a shift towards seasonal eating. If you’re still not convinced there is always the financial benefits which more than make up for the inconvenience, when stock is in season the large amount reduces it’s worth, meaning you can go bananas and horde your favourite vegetables for noticeably less than usual. Don’t know how to keep track? Eat Sensibly have even prepared a handy infographic which shows you just what fruit and veg is in season on a monthly basis meaning you can cherry pick your favourite ingredients at the time of harvest.
We live in a society of excess, where even eating healthily can appear extreme. By making slight changes in the way you shop you can help the environment as well as reap the personal benefits of seasonal eating, so why not give it a try? It’s a piece of cake.
words by Jordan Troy