Planning a dinner for friends or family usually involves a quick browse through a favourite recipe book and, after the dishes are selected, a trip to the supermarket with the shopping list. As you trundle up and down the aisles loading the trolley with ingredients, anxious to get home, does it cross your mind that the beans you are about to purchase were grown in Kenya and the peaches that you so badly need for the dessert do not look that juicy because they were picked a good four weeks ago in Turkey? The reason: they are not in season.
It is a sad but true fact that, seduced and inspired by watching super chefs create wonderful dishes, we now demand a colourful and huge array of exotic ingredients all year round to fulfil our culinary fantasies, and supermarkets are only too happy to oblige.
When did we become so disconnected with the food we put into our mouths, so unaligned with what nature produces, and so unfaithful to the farmers working hard within our communities? Convenience has replaced well being, which does not bode well for the health of our families.
Man has eaten according to the providence of the seasons for centuries; this enables us to acquire healthy produce when our bodies require it. The fresher the food, the higher in nutrients, vitamins and minerals it will be, providing us with powerful antioxidants needed to fight disease and maintain optimum health. It makes nutritional sense.
Seasonal produce also usually requires less spraying with pesticides as it is grown when nature intended. Crops from different regions have adapted naturally over the years, to suit their environment.
In spring, fresh green salad, crops peas, beans and fresh herbs are available after the heavier diet of winter. As we enter summer, a huge array of fresh produce is available, much of which can be eaten raw during the hottest months. It is not by chance that much of the produce - such as butternut, pumpkins and onions - that we harvest during autumn are suitable to be stored for the winter months, when fresh produce is more limited.
Sustainable farming should be an important contributor to local business; it makes economic sense and the community benefits in the long run. Who benefits from flying fresh produce to the other end of the world? Not the farmer, not the consumer and certainly not our precious environment?
In order for us to return to a more sustainable food system, we need to encourage and support local growers, local shops and the many farmers markets that have sprung up all around the country. We also need to reintroduce ourselves to the natural growing seasons of the food we eat, and grow more produce ourselves, whether in a large garden or on a city windowsill.
The rewards will be fresher, more nutritional produce, at a more affordable price, that will ensure better health.
Christine Stevens has farmed organically for the last 10 years, in the Western Cape. Here she produces a range of award winning quality Organic Wines under the Mountain Oaks Label and grows a range of Organic fruit and Vegetables . She has written two books 'Harvest' and 'Harvest Diaries', both about food and life on an Organic Farm. More information can be found at the Mountain Oaks Facebook page.