2 easy recipes featuring spring veggies

We’ve bean waiting so long! 

Finally, after weeks of second winters and miscommunications with our groundhog friends, the wait for springtime is over. Of course, along with budding tree buds and longer days, late March and the majority of April are also the most beautiful months for crisp spring vegetables, many of which are both delicious and incredibly sustainable to grow and eat.

Beets, broad beans, cabbage, carrots, mustard greens, onions, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach and swiss chard are only a few examples of the types of vegetables currently growing in Canada in both greenhouses and city gardens. They say that nothing tastes better than spring, and we can’t help but agree!

Green, lean and delicious, here are two easy, restaurant-inspired ways to celebrate the season.

BUT FIRST: A note about sustainable salmon

For the first recipe, I used Presidents Choice sustainably-sourced smoked wild sockeye salmon. Sustainable salmon can be a bit pricey but the long-term benefits are worth the extra money. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, many salmon farming practices have failed to be sustainable.

Wild salmon are needed to sustain everything from orca whales to coastal wolves. Even cedar trees in coastal rainforests depend on salmon because they harvest nutrients from fish remains left by bears. Fishing in bays and outlets with nets requires too many chemicals our over-polluted oceans don’t need. Nets also catch other wild mammals, killing thousands of harbour seals and sea lions yearly.

The answer is closed containment farming, which separates farmed fish from wild fish and the environment, allowing waste, escapes, and spread of disease and sea lice to be controlled.

You can help by making safe and sustainable choices when grocery shopping. Support safe salmon farming and look to the SeaChoice guide or the Marine Stewardship Council logo when shopping.

Salmon Salade Niçoise

This salad is inspired by the classic Salade Niçoise from the south of France and features all the usual suspects—namely potatoes, green beans and anchovies, as well as Canadian smoked salmon and a maple-garlic vinaigrette for a uniquely local twist. As you’re making the vinaigrette, add more olive oil or vinegar to taste. If you like your dressing sweet, feel free to add as much maple syrup as you’d like.

Ingredients

  1. For the vinaigrette:
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons red vinegar
    • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 tbsp maple syrup
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped very finely
    • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  2. For the Salad:
    • 1 small packet Canadian smoked salmon** *
    • 1 packet flat beans (or any other long beans, unfrozen)
    • 1 cup baby potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut in half
    • 3 medium tomatoes (local if possible), sliced thinly
    • 3 organic eggs, hard-cooked and peeled**
    • 1/2 cup olives
    • 2 cups spring lettuce, washed and chopped

How to:

  1. Stir together all ingredients for dressing in a small bowl and then pour half the dressing into a large serving bowl.
  2. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the beans and cook until easily pierced with a fork, about 6-10 minutes. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon into the bowl with the vinaigrette.
  3. While the beans are cooking, cook the eggs in a very small simmering saucepan under high heat until desired consistency. It takes 5 minutes of cooking for runny yolks, 6 minutes for soft yolks and 8 minutes for solid yolks, typically. Once cooked, take out and run under cold water. Either slice or add to serving bowl whole.
  4. In the same large pot (beans and potatoes have different cooking times so it’s easier to cook them separately), add the potatoes. Cook just until they are tender through, about 15 minutes. Drain and add to the serving bowl. Mix with spoon until covered in dressing.
  5. Take salmon out of packet and cut as desired. Add to bowl, along with tomatoes, olives and spring lettuce and mix.
  6. Add the rest of the vinaigrette and serve, adding any extra herbs, seafood or spices you’d like!

** If you’re vegan. Feel free to omit the eggs and salmon or substitute with avocado and smoked tofu, or vegan smoked salmon, for a similar feel.

Quick Spring Pickle

This delicious recipe is inspired by eastern-European quick pickles, which many of us grew up with. In pre-refrigerator times, these pickles were a simple way to preserve vegetables or fruits by submerging them in salty or sweet brine flavored with spices and herbs. The acidic environment of the brines stops bacteria from growing and multiplying, essentially making them spoil-proof. Vegetables you can use for this pickle include asparagus, carrots and of course baby spring cucumbers.

Ingredients

  • Carrots or asparagus, cut lengthwise into thick but long slices
  • 8 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, or use less)
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • Two large mason jars

How to:

  1. Mix all the dry spices together and separate into the jars, as well as the prepared vegetables.
  2. In a saucepan, bring the water, salt and vinegar to a boil for a couple minutes. Carefully and slowly, pour the hot brine into the jars until totally submerged. Cool completely and place in fridge.
  3. After just an hour, eat! These pickles will continue pickling and stay fresh in the fridge for two months.

Treat Yourself to Pulses: Recipes

For more information on International Year of Pulses, check out Part One of our blog series.

Want to harness low-cost, eco-friendly pulse-power in your diet? If so, you are in for a treat! Pulses are so flexible that you can find them in a vast variety of recipes and it may surprise you what you can make in your own kitchen.

(Credit Peamon Tart team)

For example, 2015’s Mission ImPULSEible national winners and UAlberta alumni Minghua Yu, Kaixing Tang and Andrea Roman were kind enough to share their recipe for a lemon tart with a gluten-free crust made from a mixture of canned pulses.

PULSE winners 2015

Peamon Tart Recipe

Mixed bean paste crust

  • 1 cup mixed bean paste (red kidney beans, chickpeas, Romano beans and great northern white beans)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 113 grams unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons pea protein

Crust cooking instructions

  1. Preheat the oven at 425 F.
  2. Insert the bean mix or chickpeas in the grinding attachment of a stand mixer. Place 113 grams of butter into an electric stand mixer and beat until smooth. Add 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1.5 teaspoons of xanthan gum into the stand mixer, continue beating until all ingredients are well incorporated into the mix.
  3. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 2 teaspoons of lemon zest into the mixer, continue to mix.
  4. Add 1 cup of bean paste into the mixer and beat at a low speed until all ingredients are well combined. If the crust appears to soft and sticky to handle, place in the freezer for approximately 5 minutes.
  5. Take about 1 tablespoon of dough and place it in the centre of 1-inch muffin tins; press dough onto the bottom and the sides.
  6. Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork.
  7. Place the pan in the centre of the oven and bake until the crust is golden brown; approximately 13 to 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and let the crusts cool down at room temperature for approximately 5 minutes.

Cream-cheese lemon filling

  • 140 g of cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 teaspoons of lemon zest
  • ½ tablespoon of cornstarch

Filling instructions

  1. Place 140 grams of cream- cheese into the electric stand mixer bowl and beat until smooth. Add ½ cup of sugar into the mixer and continue to bean until it is well incorporated. Add eggs into the mixer and continue beating. Add ½ cup of fresh lemon juice and 2.5 teaspoons of lemon zest into the mixer, mix until a uniform filling is made.
  2. Pour filling into the pre baked tart shell and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until filling starts to bubble.
  3. Cool the tarts for about 5 minutes in the freezer; transfer to a baking pan and refrigerate until well chilled, approximately 2 hours.

Other recipes

Looking for more pulse recipes? Here are a couple of favourites from the Office of Sustainability staff:

If you want to make yourself popular with a crowd, try these Vegan, Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies that Jasmine brought to the office.
Black-Bean-Brownies-Recipe

(Credit: Minimalist Baker)

 “I like this recipe because it’s a secretly healthy, yet delicious dessert with more texture than regular baked goods.  I also enjoy making people guess what unique ingredients I’ve merged with desserts.”

Jasmine, Outreach Assistant

If you’d rather make everyone jealous with how delicious your lunch smells, try making Spicy Chickpea, Coconut & Tomato Soup which Emma enjoys.

spicysoup2

(Credit: Julian the Thinker)

“I love this recipe because it’s very tasty, vegan-friendly and inexpensive to make. I like to blend the soup and then freeze it in muffin tins, making it easy to portion and bring for lunches.”

Emma, Project Planner – Green Labs

Want a substantial meal with pulses? Eric is a pro at getting a full meal without animal products, so it’s no wonder that he enjoys a Black Bean & Quinoa Veggie Burger.

Black Bean Quinoa Burger(Credit: The Foodie Physician)

“It’s a hearty, satisfying meal with a unique flavour profile that goes well in a lettuce leaf, if you want a healthier option than a bun. I love that it is easy to make and freezes well. It’s a perfect alternative to a classic meat burger. “

Eric, Graphic Designer

Have any tasty pulse recipes you’d like to share? Please comment or tweet us at @greenuofa!

About The Author

Kateryna Barnes is the Communications Assistant for the Office of Sustainability. Her favourite pulse-based recipe is Post Punk Kitchen’s Black Bean & Quinoa Soup because it’s an easy-to-make, affordable and healthy recipe that freezes well and reminds her of chili.

Celebrate International Year of Pulses

This year the United Nations declared 2016 International Year of Pulses as a way to grow awareness about the benefits of pulses as a part of an affordable, sustainable and healthy diet.

That sounds great, but what is a pulse?

Pulses: Not just a sign of life in your wrist

Pulses are part of the legume family. According to the UN’s definition , pulses only include crops harvested solely for their dried seeds; fresh peas and beans don’t count and neither do oilseeds like soybeans and peanuts.

Pulse_graphic_p3 (Credit: Pulse Canada)

As pulses are dried seeds, they can be stored for long periods without losing their nutritional value and are easily transported. Farmers who grow pulses have the option to both eat as well as sell their harvest.

Pulses are powerhouses that improve soil fertility by fixing nitrogen which extends the productivity of farmland. While they are growing, they also create a more diverse landscape for animals and insects and indirectly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, some pulses can be cultivated in very poor-quality soils and semi-arid environments where other crops cannot be grown.

Like other legumes, pulses are packed with protein, fiber and nutrients such as iron, folate and potassium. They are also low in fat and cholesterol-free; they can even help lower cholesterol. A 2014 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that pulses can help reduce LDL-cholesterol levels, lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Pulses are an incredibly environmentally-friendly source of protein. For example, it takes 4,275 kilograms more water to produce one kilogram of chicken than it does to produce one kilogram of lentils or split peas.

nat post cauliflower

 

 

(credit: G. Clement – National Post)

Recently, Canadian consumers have been dealing with shockingly high food costs in the face of a struggling economy (Hello, $7 cauliflower). If you’re looking to cut down on your food budget, integrating pulses into your diet might be a good option. They are an incredibly affordable source of low-fat protein. Next time you are in the grocery store, compare the costs of beans, chickpeas or lentils per gram to the cost of chicken.

exporter chart

  (Data: Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)

Pulses are also grown in Canada—and a lot of them too! In Alberta one in every twenty acres of cropped land grows pulses.

With all these pulses, Canada is by far the largest exporter of pulses on the planet, exporting 3.65 times more pulses than the next largest nation. With the bulk of the pulses being grown in the Prairies, they are quite local and accessible for Albertans.

Pulses are such an important crop in Canada that there’s even a national food development competition for students, Mission ImPULSEible, where competitors must create a tasty and healthy food product using pulses in an innovative way. This year, a team of UAlberta students represented Alberta in the national competition with their product BiotaGelata, which uses Alberta-grown pulses to make a non-dairy, vegan gelato. This summer they will be going to Chicago for the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo.

When they looked into making a pulse-based frozen dessert, they realized there was a market for it.

biotagelata

(Credit: BiotaGelata)

“We did a lot of research into the dairy-free market, and a lot of the products use soy or coconut milk,” said Nicolle Mah, one of the BiotaGelata team members. “With a lot of soy allergies, or many people who don’t like the flavor of coconut, we thought this would be innovative and would catch on with the market.”

With a bit of culinary know-how from teammate Austen Neil (who worked at Fiasco Gelato in Calgary and has experience as a pastry chef), the team created their own Maple Walnut gelato recipe. The dessert took first place in the provincial Mission ImPULSEible competition earlier this year.

The BiotaGelata team hopes International Year of Pulses and competitions like Mission ImPULSEible gives these crops their due.

“A lot of people don’t realize what a pulse is,” said Chandre Van De Merwe. “They also don’t realize that they are cheap and you can do a lot with a pulse.”

Want to try eating more pulses? Check back for Part Two to check out five creative pulse recipes!

About The Author

Kateryna Barnes is the Communications Assistant for the Office of Sustainability. She’s trying to eat more pulses in her diet to be healthier and more sustainable.

De-amplify Your Power Consumption

Happy Earth Hour!

Every year, for one hour in March, we shut everything down to remind ourselves to reduce our consumption in an effort to promote sustainability on our planet.

With technology increasingly engrained in our lives, we tend to forget the impact that each little device has in terms of electricity consumption. With that, let’s focus on the small things that we can all do to reduce the amount that these gadgets use.

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Wash dishes with a full load

While we may all be too busy to do the dishes in the first place, if you own a dishwasher, it is better to wait until you have a full load inside to run it. A full dishwasher cleans most efficiently. This habit provides the added bonus of needing to empty the dishwasher less often!

And for those of us who don’t own a fancy, new-age dishwasher, we can cut down on our water consumption when washing dishes by hand by not leaving the water on at all times.

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If you’re dining out on campus, SUB provides reusable dishes that you can use instead of the disposable polystyrene or cardboard container that the vendors provide. You also get a discount!

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Unplug your devices

We often forget that our devices draw power when they’re not in use. It only takes a few seconds to unplug and it takes loads off our eco-conscience.

As an added measure, make sure to buy gadgets with an Energy Star® rating, as they run more efficiently. Even better, if you don’t really need it, you may be better going without the gadget all together. And for those of us who have older or broken items lying around, the University of Alberta recycles a variety of electronics, and there are local charities who also take donations.

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Turn off the lights!

Here’s another thing we always forget–to turn off the lights when we’re done in a room. Once again, a small thing that takes no time.

And when our light bulbs burn out, buying more energy efficient ones is a smart, long-term, sustainable investment. Take a trip to a hardware store to find a pleasantly bright bulb with a low power rating. LEDs are currently the most efficient as they use 25-30 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, while lasting 8 to 25 times longer, which more than makes up for the increased upfront cost.

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Turn down the brightness of our devices

This is one that benefits not only the environment but also ourselves. Often our laptop and phones screens are on maximum intensity, which can cause eyestrain, not to mention the screen drains the battery on cell phones the fastest.

Start by turning down the brightness to help reduce eyestrain and save battery life. If your eyes are still getting tired, it is a good idea to give them some exercise by looking at something in the distance for a few minutes.

Incidentally, for those of us who stare at our devices late at night, a nighttime screen app like F.Lux can help reduce eyestrain by making the screen more yellow. This works because the blue light of our standard screens keep us awake and makes it harder to get a good night’s rest.

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Get a power bar

Ever wonder why plugs only have two sockets when you have five different things that need to be powered? Power bars are amazing at solving those problems, plus they make it way easier to save electricity because you can turn the whole bar off at once without ripping five cords out of the wall at the same time.

That concludes a few ways to save energy in our current technology-driven society. For this year’s Earth Hour, let’s all unplug, turn off all of these devices, disconnect from social media and get back in touch with ourselves and the real world. The internet can wait, and so can your status update!:)

Happy Earth Hour!


About The Author

Bertie Chen is a Campus Sustainability Volunteer and in her fourth year of electrical engineering at the University of Alberta. Sustainability is a big focus for her, as she hopes to work in a renewable field such as solar or wind energy in the future, and advocates energy saving initiatives for everyone.

Why Valentine’s Day is the absolute worst

Did you have a terrible Valentine’s Day? It’s not uncommon. This special day in the calendar can be especially hard, whether you’re single or in a relationship. It’s hard on the planet too! Our resident blogger Maja Staka examines Valentine’s Day through the lenses of social, economic and environmental sustainability.


Valentine’s Day is a holiday we all know too well. Our earliest memories go back to elementary school, when the holiday was basically an excuse to gorge ourselves on chocolate kisses and scour the drugstore aisles for the coolest cards to give our friends. Confetti was thrown around without a care and arts and crafts revolved around making crooked paper hearts for our mothers that said things like “thank you for feeding me so I don’t die” and “you are the bestest mom.”

At the end of the day, Valentine’s was just free candy and a giant bag of cards to feed our ego. Now, the holiday mostly involves misinterpreted text messages and endless Pandora commercials. The truth is, unless you’re the CEO of a greeting card company, a florist or a cheap motel owner, Valentine’s Day is the absolute worst—for us, and for the environment.

Love letters for landfills

First of all, the evolution of Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love has not exemplified ideals of social inclusion. According to the telegraph, the earliest ancestor of the holiday was an ancient roman festival called Lupercalia, a fertility ritual when men would spank young women with dog skin whips to make them fertile.

Once pagan rituals became passé, the holiday graduated from celebrating fertility to recognizing romantic love. In the mid-18th century, the passing of love-notes became the norm. As postal services became more affordable, anonymous letters became easier to deliver, each handmade with lace and paper, addressed to secret lovers and doting wives. Unfortunately, when Hallmark began mass producing cards in 1913, it became easier to send a pre-written message than one written from the heart. Sadly, the way it works today, Valentine’s has basically become a festival of consumer excess and packaging waste.

This Valentine’s Day alone, Americans are expected to spend more than $19 billion. Imagine the kind of good that money could do if it wasn’t spent on roses, chocolates and cards. Once the chocolates are eaten and the fancy jewelry is taken out of its case, their packaging goes straight into the garbage. Greeting cards too—most people glance at them once, scream with delight and then throw them in a dark drawer or waste bin.

Worst of all are roses—which, though innocent looking, bear a thorny secret. The 100 million roses grown just for Valentine’s Day produce nearly 9,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions in a single year. On top of being flown in from warmer climes, roses are so delicate that they have to shipped around in temperature controlled trucks, all of which wastes precious energy and contributes to the emissions that speed climate change and slowly destroy natural habitats.

Relationships are made, not marketed

Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day also perpetuates unhealthy gender dynamics and distorts our understanding of love. Weeks of marketing reinforce traditional, heteronormative expectations for how men and women should express their romantic feelings (whether those feelings are present or not). Men are pressured to buy gifts for their partners lest they appear cheap. Women are expected to reward their man for taking them to dinner and buying them shiny baubles. Unfortunately, the focus on material exchange suggests that love can be bought or sold; that the more money you spend on someone, the more you love them. These expectations disempower women and exploit both sides of the relationship.

Sustainable, healthy relationships are built on completely different ideals. A person must be willing to love their partner unconditionally and be prepared to learn from their relationship and shared experiences. You cannot buy love, you have to nurture it. True love doesn’t need to be evidenced by a flashy display of wealth.  Simply put, if someone has to buy you a box of chocolates to prove their love is real—it’s not real.

That said. I would never say no to a box of fair trade, organic chocolates.

About the author

Maja Staka is a Campus Sustainability Volunteer with the Office of Sustainability. She began blogging in high school and has been actively pursuing ways to continue writing ever since. Currently, she is both a graduate student at the University of Alberta and a part time French translator.

Photo credit: William Foval on Flickr.

7 tips for the winter holidays

Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa or just planning to enjoy your week away from campus, there are many ways to make the winter holidays more sustainable.

Choose a natural tree instead of artificial

The evergreen tree decorated with lights, apples, delicate ornaments, sparkly garlands, strings of beads sits at the heart of many families’ homes during the holiday season.

If you’re concerned about the environment, it might not be obvious whether a natural or artificial tree is preferable. But according to locally-produced podcast Terra Informa, a natural tree has less environmental impact than a synthetic tree. Keeping a synthetic tree for two decades or more can turn the tide, but that may increase your risk of accidental lead poisoning.

The best option, of course, is to decorate a living tree that can thrive outdoors for decades to come.

String up some colourful LED lights

LEDs are the most efficient type of electric light available today. An ordinary incandescent  lightbulb works by heating up a metal filament, which means most of that energy is wasted as heat instead of generating light. LEDs are electronic which makes them much more efficient and cooler to the touch. This also makes LEDs better on Christmas trees since they are less likely to spark an accidental fire.

Light the menora with beeswax candles or LED lights

Due to the risk of fire, many who celebrate Hanukkah prefer to use electric menorot. As with any sort of light, LEDs will provide the most light for the least energy consumption. But if you prefer candles, consider avoiding common paraffin wax, which is a petroleum by-product, a non-renewable resource. Beeswax is more sustainable, available from local manufacturers and has a naturally lovely scent.

2015-12 Holiday Tips B

Give gifts that make a difference

Your true love set the bar a bit too high with their golden rings, leaping aristocrats and partridges in pear trees. Give fewer, simpler gifts this year and be conscientious of the social and environmental impact of their production. Look for fairly-traded gifts from a store like Ten Thousand Villages. Or make your own practical gifts from scratch—things like brownies in a jar, freezer jams, photo albums, houseplants from cuttings and more. You could also change a life through giving gift certificates to social enterprises like Kiva.

Minimize waste when wrapping gifts

Holiday gifts traditionally entail a huge waste of wrapping paper and other packaging. Instead of gift-wrapping at the mall or home, consider some easy, fun alternatives. Paper or cloth gift bags can be reused over and over. If you prefer wrapping, use sheets from the weekend newspaper, especially the colourful funny pages. For finishing touches, you can use twine with pine cones and cedar sprigs to spruce up the package.

Eat seasonal, organic and Fairtrade goodies

Many of the classic holiday snacks are already easier on the environment. In wintertime, nuts and dried fruit have a lower impact compared to fresh, tropical fruits flown-in on refrigerated cargo planes. For those exotic ingredients you can’t pass up (cocoa, for instance) be sure to choose Fairtrade and organic to ensure the fairest price and working conditions for farmers.

Eggnog is a once-a-year treat, so you should absolutely get the best—both in terms of taste and environmental impact. You can make your own at home using organic cream and eggs, and fairly-traded organic sweetener and spices. Alternatively, purchase it pre-made from a local, organic dairy like the Canadian co-operative Organic Meadow.

Go meat-free for the big meal

Growing animals for meat is one of the hardest practices on our planet. The United Nations estimates that all livestock production accounts for 15 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Land needed for livestock also comes at a heavy cost in the Amazon basin (and even here in Alberta, where less than half of native grasslands remain intact).

Christmas dinner can be meat-free and still be a festive occasion for all. Choose a vegetarian main course that will be rich and substantial: a creamy vegetable pot pie; wild mushroom and nut roast; a spicy lentil loaf. Most traditional sides and desserts are already vegetarian—things like butternut squash, roasted root vegetables, field salad, apple pie and mulled wine.


Written by Trevor Chow-Fraser

Trevor is a communications coordinator for the Office of Sustainability. From time to time, Trevor can be found volunteering with campus community radio program, Terra Informa.

The winter holidays are all about tradition. This year, start some new traditions that will make the holidays a little more sustainable. Find your own way to make this special time of year a little brighter for the planet.

6 reasons to eat seasonally in university

Look, we get it. You’re hungry, you don’t feel like cooking and between studying for finals and trying to actually hang out with other humans, you just can’t find the time to eat healthy food, much less cook a healthy meal.  In fact, you probably haven’t touched a vegetable since the beginning of October and by now your middle name just might be Ramen. And what is seasonal eating anyway? Is it a fad diet? A rich soccer mom diet? Something your grandparents did because they had no other choice! No, no and yes!

Before the food industry exploded and we began chartering tomatoes from Mexico to Alberta, people survived on meat, wheat products and whatever vegetables still grew in their gardens, as well as the pickled and canned versions of these foods like pickles and jams. People ate what was accessible based on their surroundings, not always what they wanted.

Seasonal whole foods vs. processed foods

Just because technology has made it possible to eat guacamole in December doesn’t mean it’s good for our bodies. In fact, our bodies may have been revolting against this huge change in our diet for decades in the form of intolerances and allergies. According to the Daily Mail, a study done by Dr. Rob Lilywhite of the University of Warwick has shown that the relative prevalanceof food intolerances in the west could be tied to eating more highly processed foods, rather than to an intolerance of wheat or gluten.

“The evidence seems to suggest the problems stem from the amount of additives used in the processed foods,” he said. “The natural benefits from food starts to disappear.”

While the evidence is still emerging, he suggests that when “you destroy the natural structure, you destroy the natural health benefits in the raw food.”

Six more reasons to eat seasonal

This doesn’t mean that you have to give up chips and guac completely and go crazy on the pickles, but incorporating as many seasonal and fresh foods into your diet as possible now could help you avoid health problems later in life—and help you get the nourishment you need to think properly for that exam tomorrow. Here are 6 reasons to eat seasonally in university.

  1. You will save money  

Believe it or not, eating seasonally isn’t as costly as you might think. Seasonal eating usually equates to local eating, which supports farmland, kindles the local economy and builds community. When food is local, it doesn’t have to be flown in from oversees and is usually picked when ripe. This means the apples you buy at the farmers market or grocery store are easier to harvest and sell than the grapes flown in from California.

It all makes local fruit cheaper by the kilogram. Of course, not all seasonal food will cost less. Go with what’s affordable and more abundant each year. Cheaper food = more money for books and burritos, which is always a good thing.

  1. It’s better for you

Just listen to grandma, ok? Eat your fruits and vegetables! If you’re in Western Canada, eat your apples, pears, cranberries, beets, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, cauliflower, celery root, chard, collards, fennel, garlic, leeks, parsnips, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes and wild mushrooms. These are some of the foods that are at their height of freshness in November.

According to the Chicago Tribute, a study from the University of California shows that “vegetables can lost 15 to 55 per cent of vitamin C, for instance, within a week after harvest.” Therefore, the longer the transport time from farm to table, the more nutritional value a food item loses. Worried about catching a cold? Grab some local bell peppers or Brussels sprouts!

  1. Seasonal food tastes better

Think about juicy, firetruck red tomatoes in July. Now think about tomatoes in December. Could you ever really compare the two? Foods that aren’t in season arrive at the grocery store either still green or half-ripe, and they never quite ripen right at home—leaving you with boring flavors and textures. Food that’s picked when ripe and ready to eat, or immediately pickled or canned is brighter in flavor. You might want to eat peaches badly, but October plums are just as delicious and will almost always be juicier.

  1. Finding and eating seasonal foods is easy

First of all, there’s a farmers market held in the Student’s Union Building every two weeks, which makes sustainable, seasonal shopping a breeze whether you have a break between classes or just want to buy some produce in your pyjamas. The farmers market is also a great way to support local farmers and business people while hanging out with your friends.

To spot seasonal foods at the grocery store, simply look to the very front of the produce section where these foods are clearly marked. Foods that aren’t in season are usually hidden or off to the side.

Recipe planning also becomes a breeze because you’re not faced with so much variety when eating seasonally, which for some of us is a really great thing. Those beets on sale? Those would make a great salad with some goat cheese and almonds!

  1. Seasonal is more interesting

They say variety is the spice of life and this is true for food as well. Once you start eating seasonally, you get introduced to a myriad of fruits, vegetables and protein sources you wouldn’t otherwise have eaten. Did you even know kale had more than one variety? Or that there are eight types of squash typically sold in Canadian supermarkets? Expand your gastronomical horizons and go for that glazed carrot recipe with toasted cumin seeds, or roast some pears with maple syrup and top with vanilla ice cream. Who knows, by trying new and local foods, you might even stumble upon a new favorite!

Finally, and most importantly…

6. Seasonal eating is sustainable

When you buy local produce or Canadian made food products, especially on university grounds, you are helping the environment and creating new dialogues about sustainable eating. When food is mass produced and transported to us, mass amounts of greenhouse gasses are produced which enter the atmosphere and create air and water pollution. When food doesn’t have to take so long of a trip from farm to plate, less energy is needed and more energy is conserved in the food. Learning how to eat sustainably (and seasonably) in university will contribute to your sustainable future and make you a better earthling in the long run.

About the author

Maja Staka is a Campus Sustainability Volunteer with the Office of Sustainability. She began blogging in high school and has been actively pursuing ways to continue writing ever since. Currently, she is both a graduate student at the University of Alberta and a part time French translator. She loves cats, warm carbohydrates and listening to rap on her way to the farmers market.

Photo by Larry on Flickr