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The Advantages of Eating in Season

The Advantages of Eating in Season

By Chris Strub

As summer turns to fall, seasonal crops are quickly changing. While the sweet tastes of summertime may be comfortably familiar, continuing to eat produce that's out of season in our region may have undesirable effects on the health of you and your family. Sure, nowadays you can get most any vegetable just about any time of year-but are you getting the optimum taste and nutritional benefits from those foods? Fruits and vegetables that are not in season may travel up to 2,500 miles before they reach your kitchen table. They're also often harvested before they reach full maturity, which can cause vitamin degradation and significant nutrient loss.

Research has found that seasonal eating clearly has nutritional ramifications. A study conducted on dairy cows in London in 1997 found that iodine in pasteurized milk was higher during the winter, while the milk's beta carotene content was higher in the summertime - a direct correlation with the cows' diets.

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Eating in season brings a natural variety to your diet as well. Like to sprinkle blueberries on your breakfast cereal during the summer? Try switching to pomegranate in the fall - and when winter rolls around, bring on the grapefruit! Stocking fresh fruits and vegetables that are timely choices can bring a sense of excitement as your favorite season - no matter which season it may be - comes to an end.

There are plenty of healthy, local options to keep around the house as autumn arrives:

  • Cranberries: Cranberry beds are flooded in the autumn to facilitate harvest.
  • Onions: Sweeter onions harvested in summer develop a sharper flavor into the fall.
  • Zucchini: A great low-calorie source of folate, potassium and vitamin A.
  • Potato: The world's fourth-largest food crop (after wheat, rice and maize) is a fall staple.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower: The kids may shudder, but the anticarcinogenic properties are important.
  • Pumpkin: Don't be scared: this backyard vegetable is low in calories and filled with antioxidants.

You can find many of these seasonal treats at a local farmer's market, which do extend into the autumn months. Now in its 16th year, the Wisner Farmers Market, at Wisner Park, runs Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through September; the Elmira Eastside Farmers Market, at West Lawn of the Holiday Inn on Water Street, runs Fridays, 3 to 6 p.m., through mid-October; and the Grove Park Farmers' Market, at Grove Park, runs Mondays, 3 to 6 p.m., through Oct. 29. At Riverfront Centennial Park, the Corning Farmer's Market runs Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through October.

In the Southern Tier, the Downtown Binghamton Business Association puts on the twice-weekly Binghamton Farmers' Market on Tuesdays & Fridays, between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., through Oct. 31. The Vestal Farmers' Market is held every Wednesday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Vestal Public Library, until the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 21). In Owego, you'll find the Owego Farmers Market in the Rite Aid parking lot on Main St. on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through October. And in Endwell, a farmers market is held every Tuesday through October from 4 to 7 p.m., at Highland Park.