My mom loves telling me stories about growing up in rural Ukraine. She lived in a slightly more remote town, where most families had their own gardens and animals as food sources. She always mentions that food simply tasted better where she lived, and laments that produce today simply doesn't match up in terms of quality or nutrition. Fruit was sweeter, meals more hearty and fulfilling. It made me wonder why she thinks so, especially considering that we're New Yorkers with easy access to any produce our heart desires, year round.

After a bit of research and personal experimenting, I realized that the global economy and agricultural capitalism only contributed to the problem. A key piece of information in the pursuit of solving this problem is: where my mom grew up, the food they ate was locally grown, and more importantly, seasonal. The type of food she ate was entirely dependent on harvest seasons and preservation, rather than being imported and mass-produced. 

Environmental Impacts

While the accessibility of such a quantity of produce is helpful in some scenarios, it contributes to major environmental issues. The water needed to irrigate crops year round, and energy exerted to import/transport food around the world adds to the already increasing burden of environmental damage. A 2018 study focusing on emissions of greenhouse gases has determined that the same global food system accounts for about 26% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables that are grown during their natural season and consumed in the same country generally have the lowest GHGs and are considered more environmentally friendly.

Nutritional Value & Seasonal Tastes

Along with that, food that hasn't flown or been driven around the world retains more of the taste that you love. Seasonal eating prioritizes local food that hasn't had time to break down, nutrient-wise, which means you eat fresher, more delicious produce! Not only does it taste better, it has higher nutritional value, in that vitamins and minerals typically bred out in favor of genes for hardiness are more available for consumption. This effect is most obvious in items such as berries, nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants), onions, honey products, as well as eggs and grass-fed beef. 

How To Start

It may seem a little daunting to eat seasonally at first, with all of the different options and a lack of experience with seasonal eating itself. A good place to begin researching is this seasonal food guide, where you can enter your state and the current month to get a list of produce that is in season. For example, in late October/ early November, in New York, foods like apples, beets, basil, and carrots are just about to go out of season, while the harvest seasons for cranberries, sprouts, collard greens, shallots, and parsnips are in full swing. Use this tool to cross-reference your favorite produce with its harvest seasons, and plan meals around what food is locally available.

Where to Go

The best place to shop for sustainable and delicious food is at your local farmers market, where you can talk to farmers and learn more about the process. Such markets are abundant in New York City, where they are consistently open in different locations every day of the week. These greenmarkets also serve as textile recycling centers, as well as compost/food scrap drop off centers, like a sustainable one-stop-shop. Many also take SNAP/EBT benefits, as a way to serve underprivileged communities all around NYC. This site by GrowNYC has an interactive map that sorts markets by borough, day of the week, and SNAP/EBT availability, and lists all of the farmers that will attend each market. 


While seasonal eating is a big step in the journey to sustainability, there are certain drawbacks in our society as a whole that make it difficult to eat seasonally! Many cannot afford food from farmers markets, and capitalistic norms bar many from participating in environmental efforts. While shopping and eating seasonally is important, our health and well-being as people comes before that, and it's important to remember that if you do not have the resources to eat this way, don't feel guilty! Any effort counts, and you do not need to do all of the things mentioned above to show that you care. Environmental efforts are meant to support and uplift communities that are unable to do so for themselves, and I hope that, one day, everyone can say that their food is just as fulfilling, healthy, and delicious as it "used to be."