Now here is a philosophy worth living by: shun, (pronounced shoon like moon) in Japanese, is the traditional concept that food should be eaten only in its proper season and only when it is at the peak of its flavor.
Many of us have been distanced from this concept as supermarkets have kept the produce section filled with virtually the same selection of fruits and vegetables year round with the help of imported goods and GMOs. Many of these non-organic and out of season foods must rely on waxes, preservatives and chemicals to retain flavor and enhance appearance.
Why should we care? Well, there is more to seasonal eating than just enhanced natural flavors. Sure, eating grapes in their season is tantalizingly more exciting for the taste buds, but there’s more. For one, nutrient content is also naturally higher when fruits & veggies are picked and eaten fresh in season. Second, there are environmental benefits if you take the extra step of purchasing local and organic. Purchasing locally produced foods not only reduces the number of miles your food has to travel, but also by eliminating the use of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified seeds it protects farm workers’ and our health, as well as the sustainability of the planet.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I still love my organic wild blueberries and cherries even in the dead of winter! I buy them frozen. I am also not saying to entirely avoid summer foods in the “off season,” as you can still get great benefits from including them in your diet with proper selection. What I am suggesting is that in living by the Japanese shun philosophy we can maximize the flavor and nutritional value of foods as well as minimize environmental impact of their production by incorporating in season (ideally organic) fruits and vegetables into our diet as much as possible.
Part of the joy of eating with shun philosophy is not only the delicious flavor of food and nutrient content at its peak of perfection, but it is also in the anticipation of a certain food coming into season. It’s the mouth-watering affect of imagining eating sweet, juicy strawberries before they are ready for picking. That being said, with summer approaching, we can get excited to soon be seeing an abundance of in season berries, as well as sweet peas, corn, peaches, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and green beans to name a few. Tis’ the season for farm lands and farmers’ markets full of incredibly fresh produce!
So get out there and support your local farms and your body! To see what is harvested seasonally in your area, check out www.localharvest.org. There you can find farmers’ markets near you and seasonal produce guides. Enjoy, and take care of you and yours!