08 May 2010

springing food

Spring has sprung and it is decidedly an excellent season for some fresh food. Spring vegetables and fruit are coming into their own now and farmers' and local markets are brimming with countless varieties of freshness. A pretty comprehensive list about what is in season can be found here and it is further broken down into region as well. Another good place to look is here which also gives you some recipes to try. My seasonal favourites include the berries, asparagus, morrells and artichokes.

Eating seasonally is a very good method to ensure nutrients in the food are at their highest. When you buy local and organic, it also drastically cuts down the 'foobon footprint'. This is a term I coined and in a previous post I write about the benefits of eating locally, organically and seasonally. So you may wonder why I'm posting something similar again.

Well, I have read a lot more, learnt a lot more and understood a lot more about the industrial food-chain to advocate a kind of eating that is most natural. There is nothing natural about strawberries in December or out-of-season asparagus flown in from Peru in October. I'm not even attacking the whole meat debate here as I am saving it for another post. The British Council started a SOUL food project in Ireland and it advocates eating the way food should be eaten. SOUL (Seasonal, Organic, Unprocessed, Local) is a concept that we have moved away from and it is now proving to have drastic consequences not only on our health but also the health of our planet.

I have spent the last couple of weekends visiting farmer's markets and talking to the farmer's themselves about the methods they use to cultivate their produce. Every farmer that I have spoken to uses a method that creates a holistic ecosystem on their land. None of these growers advocate factory farming of animals or growing fruits and vegetables out of season. They possess a deep understanding of the limits of the natural systems and also knowledge of how best to coax these systems to give them the best yield. The sense of pride that any farmer feels for his produce and farm, regardless of where they are from is a palpable energy they exude.

Most of these farms have more yield per acre than monoculture farms. In addition, they also have better soil health, animal health and use absolutely no chemicals and generate no waste. Many farms advocate an 'off-grid' method of cultivation where their produce can sustain not only the people living on the farms themselves but also the local community. This may seems like an Uthopian ideal to many city-dwellers but all agriculture started off this way before monoculture, GM crops and factory farms. All the industrialized methods of food production use pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics and an array of chemical arsenal to ward of diseases and boost health.

Health is a default state of Nature - most small organic farmers understand that when their animals exhibit poor health, then there is something wrong with the system, not the animal. The same goes for plants. By encouraging this mass industrialization of food we are compromising on at least 30 different kinds of health. We are also encouraging government subsidiaries to promote 'cheap' food and are not entirely realizing the real cost of it.

Spring is a season brimming with newness and possibilities. So start a new movement today, eat local, eat seasonal and eat organic. Head out to the nearest farmer's market, speak to the people who grow your food and learn where it comes from. Your food bills might increase a little but remember that you are paying for quality, health and well-being which is something you cannot put a price on. Also, did I mention that fresh, unprocessed, organic food tastes a whole lot better?

Photos: Akhila Vijayaraghavan ©

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