Why choose local, seasonal, fresh and organic veg?

Choosing fruit and veg at a market

Aqra bil-Malti: Għalfejn għandek tagħżel il-prodott agrikolu lokali, tal-istaġun, frisk u organiku 

These days, when it comes to selecting your fruit and veggies, everything everywhere point to choosing "local" and "seasonal." Like "fresh" and "organic," these words can mean different things to different people, so let us look at some definitions for the terms:

* Local. Local can be defined as having been grown in the area where it's purchased. When considering the small size of our islands, that means anything grown in Malta and Gozo. It lasts longer because it has not spent days travelling across the world to reach you, meaning less preserving chemical sprays and cold storage and less resources and pollution.

* Seasonal. Today, you can obtain almost any kind of produce at just about any time of the year, with vegetables and fruit flown in cold-storage from far-away lands where they are in season. Remember that if it's not in season, it's not local. That also means that it will not have the same great flavor you find in local fresh-picked produce. 

* Fresh. We tend to think we should always choose fresh and, if it's local and seasonal, fresh is usually better. However, sometimes canned or frozen vegetables or fruit are a better choice, especially when you're cooking them. Remember that canned and frozen produce is typically picked and processed at its peak, which is better than out-of-season fresh produce that has been travelling for days or stuck in cold storage for months.

* Organic. By definition, organic produce has been raised without chemical fertilisers and pesticides, using sustainable agricultural practices. "Natural" is not the same as "organic," neither is "additive free" or "no preservatives." Read the fine print when you're shopping for organic.

Bear in mind that much of the modern produce, which is grown on huge farms and packaged in giant processing plants, is bred for looks, shelf life and resilience during shipping. Watch out for perfect-looking veg as, while it may look good, chances are it will not taste great.

When it comes to veg, you must educate yourself: know what is in season, what is grown locally, and how to determine if something really is organic. Then you can truly enjoy the best flavours and the best health benefits from your kitchen.

Click here for a list of seasonal fruit and veg available in Malta. 

Do you think eating local, seasonal, fresh and organic produce is really that important when it comes to health and flavour? Rate this article and share your views in the comments section below.