WHAT IS SEASONAL EATING?
Harmony is the word that comes to mind when I think of seasonal eating. It wasn’t until recent years that I started to appreciate the beauty of the seasons and their offerings. As humans, we are part of this Earth and intricately connected to the continuous flow of natural processes that permeate every facet of life.
We influence the environment just as it influences us, and by embracing this cyclical, interwoven relationship, we begin to feel more alive.
Different cultures around the world understand these connections by viewing humans as a part of a whole, without separating physiology from emotions and the environment. These cultures have developed systems, such as the Five Elements system from ancient Chinese Medicine, that are deeply woven into the fabric of daily life. The ancient Chinese recognized the cyclical effect of the seasons on human health and used this system to live in harmony with their surroundings.
When the seasons transition, our mind and body respond with subtle adjustments. We can immerse ourselves in conscious preparation for what’s to come by choosing to engage in thoughts that strengthen our relationship with the environment. This makes the transition in and out of the colder months a time of ease and enjoyment instead of a time to dread.
Nutritionally, we can consume foods that are grown locally, exposing our bodies to nature’s bounty of fresh foods, keeping us attuned to Mother Earth, her elements, and her cycles. Foods are grown and ready to harvest at specific times throughout the seasons, and by engaging in the natural production cycle of these foods, we can nourish ourselves with greater substance. Foods that are harvested locally are generally tastier, fresher, and overall higher in quality.
In general, juicy produce is available in the summer to cool and hydrate the body (cucumbers, fresh greens, radishes, zucchini, tomatoes). In the winter, foods that store easily and are protected by hard skins (ie. grains, nuts, winter squashes, tubers, and root vegetables) are available and require more cooking. These foods are generally heavier and richer in order to nourish and keep us warm during the cooler months.
We live in a distracted time, our sensitive biorhythms overwhelmed and out of balance, leading to a weakening of our instinctual awareness.
It’s not easy to stay balanced without paying attention to our inner needs, an art that takes practice and patience to develop. We can begin to attune ourselves to our surroundings through practices like seasonal eating, enhancing the bond between us and our environment, and allowing us to see our own true nature more clearly. When we embody these practices with intention, we begin to trust our intuition with greater fortitude.
Where to start?
You don’t have to eat seasonally 100% of the time. Seasonal eating is a way of being that allows us to sync into the energy of the season and tune into what our bodies need in the present moment, Mother Earth nudging us along the way.
Start your path to seasonal eating by following one or all of the following:
Simply start to pay attention to the food you are eating and how your body receives it. There is an enormous amount of wisdom inside of you, and by tuning into your inner voice you can begin to make choices that will nourish you on a multitude of levels. Low energy on a hot summer day? Try eating a cucumber. Cold and dry on a chilly winter's evening? Try a spicy root vegetable soup and see how you feel.
Sign up for a seasonal CSA vegetable basket. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is my favourite way to eat seasonally. Sign up for a basket at the beginning of the season and receive a bounty of fresh, local, organic produce weekly. The cost is less expensive compared to farmer’s markets and it’s a beautiful way to support and connect with the people who are feeding your family. Check out your local CSA farm directory, or if you’re in Quebec, check out the Family Farmer’s Network to shop for your very own farmers.
Eat seasonally at least once per day. If you’re not ready to commit to a CSA basket, head to your local farmer’s market and peruse the multitude of fresh available produce. Choose a variety of foods that you are familiar with and aim to eat at least one meal per day from these foods.