A good way to ensure you are eating a range of plants throughout the year is to simply follow seasons.
The trouble is, we’ve become accustomed to being able to buy a wide range of fruit and veg all year round. In its latest series, the Channel 4 programme Secrets of Your Supermarket Food revealed that only 16 per cent of the fruit we consume is grown here. Around 60 per cent of the apples we eat – arguably, the quintessential British fruit – are imported. Veg generally fares better – 53 per cent of all the vegetables we eat are grown here – but for some reason we import around one million tonnes of potatoes every year.
With international sourcing, Freer explains, we can now feasibly eat the same five vegetables and five fruits “day-in, day-out for the entire year without so much as a single deviation”.
“They are always available, regardless of the journey cost or length, on the supermarket shelves. Yet as humans, we evolved to eat a hugely varied diet, enjoying hundreds (if not thousands) of different plants over the course of the year,” she says. “Eating with the seasons forces us to mix it up.”
It would be wrong to say there is no nutrition to be found in an imported vegetable, but eating seasonally means you are more likely to be eating produce that is freshly picked at the point of ripeness and transported to your plate in a minimum amount of time. “This can help to optimise the concentration of certain micronutrients and phytonutrients contained within the produce,” says Freer. “It often tastes better too as crops haven’t been selectively bred and grown for their long shelf life and transportability above taste or nutritional value.”