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Crisp apples, pears, broccolini, beetroot and yellow capsicums, all indicates autumn is upon us. Ildiko Dauda looks at the benefits of seasonal eating. *Click on the AUDIO tab to hear the English language story* Transcript is below.
Ildiko Dauda

8 May 2015 - 8:30 AM  UPDATED 8 May 2015 - 8:31 AM

By choosing conscientiousness over convenience, you can get healthier this season and save the planet along the way.

Let’s start with nutritional values. Eating seasonal organic produce means you’re getting nutritious food grown in harmony with nature without any chemicals or fertilisers.

Chef at 98 Chairs restaurant in Goulburn, Steve Walker, is a convert to seasonal eating. He left Sydney’s bustling inner-west suburb of Newtown and moved to a farm with his young family to grow their own fruits and vegetables.

He says it’s changed the way they eat.

“Well, you’re eating what’s in season and nutritionally it’s better for you. They’re growing on the vine or on the tree. They are getting the right amount of sun; they are taking the minerals from earth that they need to at the time when they are growing and the last four weeks of a fruit or vegetable on a tree when they are packing most of the nutrition. If it’s seasonal it will be ripened on the tree, picked off the tree.”

Steve Walker also changes his menu every twelve weeks depending on what’s in season and grown locally. He says cooking seasonally brings him joy.

“I find it really interesting and quite exciting. I can go and find out, go to the local fruit shop or different gardens and ask them what they have growing at the moment and from there it’s like wow. This is what we’re going to eat now. I didn’t know this was available etc. It makes you change your habits. Opens your eyes to more things. If you don’t restrict yourself to what you know you can get all year round.”

Wellness ambassador and Chief Operation Officer of wholefood store About Life, Vladia Cobrdova has brought the love of seasonal eating with her from Europe.

"You know coming from former Czechoslovakia that is the way I was brought up. It’s ensuring that you’re getting the most nutritious food, because the season has just started and the soil is ready and the farmers are harvesting at the right time when the nature intended.”

Vladia Cobrdova says eating seasonally is a win-win situation.

“You’re not only investing in the planet but also your body. It’s like a well planned retirement fund. You investing in your body and you will claim the benefits later. So kind of like Medicare, but better, because you are self-medicating with fresh produce. At About Life we believe in food as medicine, so that is really why the benefit is to eating organic and seasonal.”

Another benefit is cost. Following the basic law of supply and demand, when the produce is in season locally, it costs less. More and more Australians are visiting their local farmers’ markets or dedicated wholefood stores.

Vladia Cobrdova says by educating consumers, her philosophy of eating organically and seasonally will grow in popularity and encourage demand for local and seasonal produce.

“In About Life it is very important to us. We are very passionate about sustainable farming and organic chemical free food production. We are committed to work with local farmers who use these practices. We pay fair prices to all farmers and producers as we know how much hard work goes into bringing the freshest food onto the shelves for our customers. We’re also very committed to increasing the demand of local organic produce, so as this start to grow onto larger scale, the prices are going come down and that is our mission. Bringing the wholefood industry into the mainstream. And so, we believe it doesn’t have to cost the earth to eat healthy.”

Oxfam Australia’s Economic Justice team is currently working on a food justice campaign called GROW. Leader of the program, Kelly Dent, says the GROW method looks at six simple steps to better buy, prepare and eat food.

“It’s things like reducing waste, eating seasonally, supporting small scale farmers, cooking smart, eating less meat and dairy and also eating sustainably.”

Kelly Dent from Oxfam says seasonal eating also helps to build a sustainable future.

“So buying seasonal produce generally it’s tastier, it’s usually cheaper and it also has less environmental impact, because you’re not growing food when it’s the wrong time of the year. So either you are not growing it in another country and then transporting it all the way to Australia, or you are not using excess energy to say particular growing methods, to grow food out of season. So you are using less energy, it has less environmental impact.”

Nothing beats fresh food straight from the garden. And urban dwellers should not be deterred from growing their own food. Kelly Dent says you don’t have to have a lot of space.

“There is a lot of vertical wall gardens going on, nor do you have to be particularly good gardener to grow a few herbs and you know lettuce leaves and vegetables for example.”

Community gardens are a great way to grow organic fruit and vegetables. Kelly Dent says it’s also a good way of getting healthy while staying connected to your food and community.

“In the community garden I’m involved in, we have lots of children. And they come and actually see where their food comes from. So they make that immediate connection between growing the food and eating the food. And it’s great to see their excitement when they see beans growing and pick them off the vine and eat them straight away.”

Seasonal beans were tried and tested on Steve Walker’s farm.

“We just picked a tepee I made for my children with beans at the bottom and the beans grow right up to the top of the tepee and made a little cubby house for them. And now we started to eat that tepee with some lovely beans.”

Steve Walker says thinking ahead can provide you with all year round nutrition.

“When there’s an abundance of mushrooms, I might dry my mushrooms or when there’s an abundance of cherries I might bottle my cherries etc. Or I can freeze things that I have grown in that particular season, so I can still eat from the area, but you can store it when you have an abundance, but maybe just don’t stretch too far, try not to stretch overseas and eat as close as you can to home. I’m sure if you look hard you will be able to find. Nobody can eat everything, every day from their one area, but you just do your best. And I think year after year, you get better and better at it and meet more people who are doing it. And soon, you know you’ll have your tomato festival when everyone is making sauce together.”

And from the farm to the world, Kelly Dent from Oxfam reminds us we live in a world where one in nine people go to bed hungry. That’s 842 million hungry people.

She says there’s enough food in the world, the problem is the system is broken. She believes by adopting the simple steps of the GROW program in our everyday lives; we can contribute to a fairer food system.

“We are seeing rising prices, increasing scarcity of arable land and water, and also a rapidly changing climate and this is undermining our access to food around the world. And it’s this imbalance we need to correct. So we need to be able to produce more food from less. And to do that, we need everybody to act. We need the governments to act, we need businesses to act and we need people to act.”