When a cook in Chicago buys supermarket oranges in February, that fruit isn’t coming from Illinois. In winter, oranges have to be shipped to Chicago shoppers from a warmer state — Florida or Texas, for example — or in some cases another country, like Mexico. Shipping food across several hundred miles requires a lot of energy to power trucks, trains, and storage refrigerators. And most of that energy comes from burning fossil fuels, which creates pollution that contribute to climate change. And foods that must survive being shipped long distances are also sometimes treated with chemicals — like petroleum-based waxes or chemical fungicides — to keep them looking fresh.
Seasonal, locally grown produce, on the other hand, travels a much shorter distance from field to plate. This means local produce often has a smaller carbon footprint than produce imported from afar. And since local produce is usually fresher than imported produce, it requires less preservation, less refrigeration, and tends to lasts longer once you take it home, reducing food waste.
Beyond helping the environment, buying locally grown produce also supports the local economy and helps keep small, family-run farms in business. And, as anyone who has eaten a fresh strawberry or apple just picked from the field or the tree can tell you, super fresh seasonal produce just tastes better than produce that has spent the last few weeks (or months) in storage.
It’s much easier to find fresh, locally grown produce if you already have a general understanding of what locally grown produce ought to be available in your state at any given time of year. So if you’d like to try eating more seasonal produce, but currently don’t know whether local peaches ripen in June or September, give the Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map a try.
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