From an ecological point of view, it makes the most sense to use regional and seasonal fruit and vegetables from the field , even in winter . Short transport routes, low energy consumption in cultivation and the added value of regional businesses speak for themselves. For an optimal supply of vitamins and other vital substances, regional and vitamin-rich cabbage varieties in particular offer a good alternative to imported tropical fruits. In addition, you can grow sprouts , collect wild herbs or keep vegetables harvested in autumn yourself, for example through fermentation .
But what if, in addition to cabbage and sprouts, you feel like a fresh orange or a juicy pineapple? The supermarket shelves are as full as they are all year round. German apples from storage lie right next to New Zealand specimens until well into spring. But which variant is really more ecological: a fresh, imported fruit from warmer countries, stored fruit from the region or maybe the frozen fruit?
The ecological balance of regional and imported fruits in comparison
The question of whether regionally stored or imported fruits are the more sustainable variant in winter cannot be answered across the board, because many other factors play a role in the life cycle assessment of a food: cultivation and working conditions in the country of manufacture, the type of transport, the energy consumption storage and also whether the respective fruit is currently in the open season in its country of origin. Depending on the choice of fruit, these factors have numerous advantages and disadvantages.
1. Imported tropical fruits
In terms of CO2 emissions, the transport of food by plane is the most polluting factor of all. “Flying fruit” is rarely labeled, which makes it much more difficult to choose when shopping. One can assume, however, that the further away a country of origin is and the more perishable a fruit is, the more likely it is that it was flown in and thus has a particularly poor environmental balance. Imported fruit that comes to us by ship and truck from other European countries, on the other hand, can be an ecologically sound alternative to regional stored fruit. Compared to months of storage, this transport route has hardly any negative effects on the ecological balance of a food. The only disadvantage: Fresh fruit that is long on the way by ship or truck is in most cases harvested unripe, then ripens on the way and is therefore significantly lower in vitamins than ripe fruit.
2. Storage fruit from local cultivation
After transport by plane, heated greenhouses represent the next largest environmental impact in this sector. Resource-saving open-air farming – as is the case with Spanish oranges from December to March, for example – is more environmentally friendly in direct comparison than greenhouse cultivation of out-of-season fresh fruit in Germany. Regionally freshly harvested and self-stored fruit still has the best ecological balance. But the same applies here: Long storage times have a negative effect on the vitamin content.
3. Frozen fruit
Despite the high energy consumption in storage, frozen goods have the great advantage that they are independent of fast transports and seasonal harvest times. Frozen fruit can be harvested fresh and ripe in areas with optimal growing conditions, frozen directly to preserve vitamins and transported on the relatively climate-friendly shipping route.
Tip: The easiest way to influence whether growing conditions and harvest freshness correspond to ecological expectations is with fruit from your own garden or other sources of self-sufficiency . The harvest can be frozen in late summer and autumn , thus creating a good winter supply. Long transport routes are completely eliminated.
Shopping tips for fruit in winter
With all the weighing up of the different factors, it can quickly happen that you no longer understand what the best decision to buy fruit in winter is. That is why we have summarized all the practical shopping tips:
- Try first of all to regional sources of vitamins winter recourse . With kale, sea buckthorn and the like, you can easily ensure a sufficient supply of vitamin C in the winter months.
- Buy imported fruit preferably when it is the open season in the country of origin . When that is can usually be easily recognized by the particularly good taste at low prices.
- Prefer fruit transported by ship or truck to fruit that is flying . Perishable fresh fruit such as papayas, guavas, mangoes or strawberries from other continents are not a good choice as there is a high probability that they will travel by plane. If in doubt, it is worth trying to ask the dealer.
- Also check the country of origin for non-regional fruit . Imported goods from other European countries are very likely to be less harmful to the environment than fruits from overseas.
- When buying imported fruits, make sure they are organic . In this way you avoid environmentally harmful monocultures and large amounts of pesticides, which not only harm us, but also the people in the respective country of cultivation.