Did you know that our country is blessed with six different seasons? The geographical diversity of India was established eons ago and our ancient scriptures classify these six seasons as Vasant Ritu (spring), Grishma Ritu (summer), Varsha Ritu (monsoon), Sharad Ritu (autumn), Hemant Ritu (pre-winter) and Shishir Ritu (winter).
Moreover, this vibrant diversity also has an impact on the local cuisine, which as they say, changes every 100 kilometres in India.
Consequently, our bodies too have to adapt to the frequent change in season. You may have noticed frequent 'epidemics' of coughs, cold and flu with doctors often saying that it is because of the change in the weather.
Thus, comes in the importance of eating fresh seasonal produce, sourced from in and around the locale we live in.
The primary reason for it is to help your mind and body adapt to the changing environment and the best way of doing this is eating what and how your grandparents ate. For example, for those of us living in North India we know it is peak summer when the mangoes are at their sweetest. Similarly, tinda, tori and other gourds become part of the hot afternoons meals. Lassi, chaas and khus based drinks become our go-to beverages to keep cool.
Similarly, bajra or pearl millet is best eaten only between the autumn Navratras and the spring Navratras, the reason being that the heat it produces in our body is perfect to keep it warm in the winter months but can be too much to handle in the summers.
Another reason for eating seasonal is that because of its shorter shelf-time, the nutrients in the fruit and vegetables are intact and are thus the healthiest. The fact that in-season produce is easy on our pockets is a bonus too.
Lastly and a reason that is closest to my heart as a chef is that eating ingredients that are produced within a 100-kilometre radius and in-season support the local farmers to produce in their natural environment, which because of the avocado, kale and quinoa eating consumers, can be a difficult task. I personally plan my menus at Naad with what is available fresh in our neighbouring farms or what is growing in our own kitchen gardens.
If you travel frequently, both within India and abroad, it is a good practice to eat the local food as much as possible. Apart from cultural reasons wherein you can experience a new cuisine, it also helps your body acclimatise to a new region.
If you have any questions on what you should be eating each season, feel free to write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author: Chef Sahajan is a graduate of the Institute of Hotel Management, Bhubaneswar and brings with him over 16 years of culinary experience. He specialises in the 'tridosha' form of cooking, based on the principles of Ayurveda. Chef firmly believes in cooking fresh, seasonal produce that are aligned with the cycles of nature. In fact, he nurtures his small kitchen garden on the Naad estate and often cooks with herbs and vegetables sourced from our own backyard. A keen photography enthusiast, he is also a member of several industry associations including the Indian Federation of Culinary Association (IFCA), World Association of Chefs (WACs) and the Chef Guild of India.