A close up of green peas and leaves

Eating with the Seasons: Spring

Here’s why seasonally inspired is more than a trendy catch phrase.

Seasonal eating is a hip term used a lot by restaurants, food writers and nutritionists. It’s a bit of a catch-all referring to the practice of eating food when it’s just picked, delicious and packed with nutrients. Each fruit and vegetable has its own unique growing cycle, and a plant should be picked at peak ripeness. When picked in this way, plants need to be delivered to customers quickly after leaving the farm. This movement promotes sustainable farming. People eat closer to growers so that their food is very fresh. The environmental and health benefits are driving the seasonal eating movement.

Here’s why eating with the seasons matters:

Fresher Food Tastes Better
Food tastes better when it’s had time to mature in its natural state, so tomatoes ripened on the vine or strawberries picked at their juiciest are more pleasing to the palate.

When fruits and veggies have to travel across the country or countries, it is picked prematurely to account for shipping time instead of being picked at peak ripeness. This translates to less tasty food.

Buying Local Costs Less
Seasonal produce is normally at the beginning of the produce department, and is usually pretty inexpensive and abundant. Eating seasonally means food is grown in closer proximity to you and is less costly to get it to you. The farmer brings fruits and veggies to your local grocer, the farmer’s market or the CSA pick-up (these are SO great and my fave is www.lorasnourishingproduce.com/). Whatever your source, you’re supporting the local economy and local farmers.

Proven Health Benefits
Research tells us that the longer a fruit or vegetable takes to get from farm to table, the more nutrient loss occurs. A study found that leafy greens lost almost 50% of their vitamin C after transport, storage and three daysof sitting on the grocery store shelf.

Similarly, a 2008 study found that broccoli in the fall (seasonal) contained nearly twice the amount of vitamin C compared with broccoli in the spring (not seasonal). Another study found that fruits and vegetables lose phenolics, vitamin C and anthocyanins – which are antioxidantsthat fight free radical damage and oxidative stress in the body – after 15 days of cold storage.

Take the “Eat With Spring” Challenge
According to seasonalfoodguide.com, which is a website and an app I use to see what’s in season right now, in Colorado by late April the following produce is ready to pick and is considered to be in season:

  • Chard
  • Chives
  • Horseradish
  • Sprouts
  • Watercress

It’s a small list, but a great start to the season. Here’s what I am doing to make these seasonal treasures extra tasty.

Watercress Salad
From loveandlemons.com
Watercress is a nutrition powerhouse with a peppery flavor which pairs beautifully with the sweetness of the peas and orange and the saltiness of pistachios.

4 ounces snap peas
1 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
3 cups watercress
Segments from ½ navel orange
1 ripe avocado, sliced
2 tablespoons toasted pistachios
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Champagne Vinaigrette (store bought is fine for convenience )
Lemon wedge, for serving

Blanch peas in boiling water for 2 minutes and put them into a bowl of ice water to cool. In a small bowl, Toss the sliced fennel with 2 tablespoons of the dressing and a pinch of salt. Assemble the salad on a platter with the watercress, fennel, snap peas, orange segments, avocado. Drizzle with some of the dressing and top with the pistachios. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon, and serve.

Swiss Chard with Lemon + Garlic
From foodandwine.com
A very simple sauté that packs lots of flavor.

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 pounds rainbow or ruby chard, thick stems removed, leaves cut into 2-inch slivers
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

In a large pot, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil. Stir in the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until lightly golden, about 1 minute. Add the chard. Season the chard with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the leaves are softened and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chard to a bowl. Sprinkle with the lemon zest, and serve. Serve as a side dish, alone, OR add 1 cup of white beans and toasted nuts on top and make a Mediterranean-style vegetarian meal.

Tip: Eat More Sprouts
Another nutrition powerhouse, full of fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, potassium, and phosphorus. Simply add them to salads, wraps, sautés, stir fries or soups. My fave is to add to avocado toast for a snack or breakfast/lunch.

Loaded Avocado Toast
Whole grain toast
Perfectly soft (but not too soft) avocado
A quick chop of radish, green onion, sunflower seeds and sprouts

Easy peasy. Just toast the bread, add avocado and a heap of your veggie mixture. Add an egg for protein to make it a meal.

Happy Spring! For more fresh seasonal tips and recipes, follow along at instagram.com/healthynestnutrition.

Research Sources: Food Science and Nutrition. Volume6, Issue6. September 2018. Pages 527-1536.Impact of transportation, storage, and retail shelf conditions on lettuce quality and phytonutrients losses in the supply chain. Millicent G. Managa, Peter P. Tinyani, Grany M. Senyolo, Puffy Soundy, Yasmina Sultanbawa, Dharini Sivakumar. First published: 04 July 2018 https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.685

Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2008 Feb;59(1):34-45. doi: 10.1080/09637480701453637. Nutritional quality of organic, conventional, and seasonally grown broccoli using vitamin C as a marker. Shahla M Wunderlich 1, Charles Feldman, Shannon Kane, Taraneh Hazhin. PMID: 17852499 DOI: 10.1080/09637480701453637

Nutrition Society (2010), 69, 582–591 doi:10.1017/S0029665110002004. The Author 2010 First published online 10 August 2010. Symposium on ‘Food supply and quality in a climate-changed world.’ Does eating local food reduce the environmental impact of food production and enhance consumer health? Gareth Edwards-Jones*

School of the Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, North Wales, LL57 2UW, UK