Prepare your Christmas menu with seasonal products
Wagering on local and seasonal products for our daily diet is an excellent way to combine health and sustainability, since these foods are generally healthier, more sustainable and cheaper. In special Christmas meals too, we can benefit from all their advantages, and contribute both to our own well-being and to that of the planet.
In this globalised world, people in developed countries have easy access to food from anywhere. Now the "novelty" phase has passed, various forums are starting to seriously consider whether it is sustainable (and affordable) to eat products produced thousands of kilometres away.
Although fifty years ago the importation of products diversified and enriched our diet, now the opposite is beginning to happen: experts say that having certain foods all year round makes us forget others equally good and nutritious that can contribute to a more varied and balanced diet.
What is local and seasonal food?
The "season" of a food is the time of the year in which it is in the fullness of its production cycle in a given territory, which has a positive effect on both its quality and its price. As for the local product, this is the one that is sold in the same territory where it is produced, albeit the town, local area or region, with the objective of limiting the transport needs. So drawing on such products not only gives us more balanced and healthier food, but also contributes to the diversity of the territories and to sustainability.
Sustainable agriculture, fishing and diet
The benefits of these kinds of products can be grouped into two broad areas: environmental and health.
Regarding the protection of the environment, Celia Ojeda, who is responsible for the Greenpeace consumption programme, explains that "they promote biodiversity, local and ecological agriculture and sustainable fishing. In addition, they avoid transport from different parts of the world, with the savings in emissions that this entails." And by radically shortening the distribution chain, they are fresher and cheaper.
In the case of fish, ships do not have to travel long distances to fish, which means significant savings in fuel and waste. Furthermore, it gives consumers the freshest products available, since they do not go through long freezing processes.
As for the health benefits, these are based above all on the fact that they allow a more varied diet. Beatriz Beltrán, Professor of Nutrition and Culinary Dietetics at the Complutense University of Madrid, highlights that "it is a wise way to give more variety to our diet and enrich it in flavours. And this diversity has a direct influence on making it healthier."
The expert points out that "imported food can be as healthy as its local equivalent", but consuming the food in its proper season, from our territory and combined with other local products, enriches our diet, improves our economy and participates in the protection of the planet.
"Going for local and seasonal products brings greater variety to our diet and enriches it in flavours"
SEASONAL PRODUCTS (December)
Fruit: orange, persimmon, custard apple, kiwi, lemon, tangerine, apple, banana, grape (1)
Vegetables: garlic, leek, broccoli, red cabbage, cauliflower, cabbage, pepper, tomato, chard, thistle, endive, chicory, spinach, lettuce, artichoke, pea, green bean, aubergine, courgette, celery, turnip, beetroot, radish, carrot (1)
Fish: sea bream, fine clam, striped tuna, gilthead, sole, mackerel, mussel, razor shell, wrasse, lemon fish, octopus, snapper, bream, cuttlefish (2)
1. Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Environment. The calendar of fruit and vegetables by months can be consulted at: http://www.alimentacion.es/es/campanas/frutas/frutas_verduras_temporada/
2. Source: Greenpeace. The calendar can be consulted at: pescadodetemporada.org
A Christmas menu of sustainable delicatessen
Starter: Iberian slice and quality cheeses. Salad with pickle
As an appetizer, we propose eating from the dehesa, a protected natural space unique in the world and a Biosphere Reserve. Its main feature is Iberian ham, which, with nickname of "acorn", defines the products that come from pigs reared in freedom. In the dehesa the sheep and the goats from which milk is obtained for the Torta del Casar and the Torta de Serena and Ibores cheeses also graze.
To go with it: from the wild fauna that move freely around the mountains of Jaén come the pickles of Arte Monte (gourmet delicacies derived from wild meat), an excellent option for special salads. To use seasonal vegetables, we can make these based on lettuce, chicory, endive or spinach.
To drink: we propose a rosé wine with a very Mediterranean air, Alagú Rosé, from the Forcallat grape, an almost extinct native variety of Alicante, recovered by Fincas Casa Corredor.
Fish: Oven-baked sea bream or sustainable Bluefin tuna with fresh vegetables
Entering the first great dish of the menu, we can go for the classic sea bream on its back, a typical Christmas dish in Madrid and in full season, or innovate with a sustainable Bluefin tuna. On its website, Balfegó (www.balfego.com) proposes different options for preparing its tuna, caught on the high seas and subsequently fed exclusively on fish in pens on the shores of the Mediterranean, off Tarragona. The technique used in its capture and breeding guarantees the absence of small fish and allows reproduction even after its capture. The fishing quota is allocated through ICCAT, the global regulatory body, and part of the income obtained goes to research projects.
To go with it: as a garnish for both options, we recommend seasonal vegetables baked or grilled, such as peas, green beans, aubergine, courgette, carrots ... A comfortable option that guarantees full freshness is to order freshly picked vegetables from the Dehesa el Milagrao via its website. These all come from their gardens, divided into five plots on which the crops are rotated to allow the land to rest.
To drink: either of the two fish pairs perfectly with Caraballas Verdejo, an ecological wine from Rueda cultivated with maximum respect for the ecosystem and sustainability.
Meat: Suckling pig of Segovia
Regarding meats, in winter we have almost all options, with animals both hunted and bred. For its convenience, we suggest the suckling pig in the Tabladillo Segovian style (www.tabladillo.es), a product with which it is enough to heat the oven and put it in to have a great meal in two hours
To go with it: artichokes are in full season at Christmas. Steamed, baked or fried, they are a healthy, tasty and original garnish.
To drink: we propose the 100% organic red Lavia, produced in a small winery with grapes from old high vineyards of Bullas Denomination of Origin, in Murcia.