It’s hard to believe there was a time when grocery stores were limited to what fruits and vegetables could be grown that particular season. But today, food can be transported from anywhere in the world, meaning we can snack on blueberries in the winter and enjoy avocado everything year-round.
But that vast availability makes it hard to tell what foods are actually in-season, which means you could be missing out on some major benefits for your health, community and environment. Luckily, we’re here to help! Today, we are going to take a deep dive into the perks of eating in-season produce and show you when different foods are in peak form.
Why seasonal foods are good for you
Like a bountiful harvest, there are many reasons why fruits and vegetables are best consumed in the season they are grown.
There are several health benefits
When you eat a fruit or vegetable in its season to shine, you are getting their corresponding vitamins in their most pure form. Studies have shown there is more nutritional value to fruits and vegetables that are allowed to ripen naturally as opposed to those that are grown against their normal cycle.
The bounty of the season also tends to align with our own bodily needs. For example, we spend a lot more time outdoors in the summer. In turn, nature gives us some of the most hydrating foods of the year, such as cucumbers, watermelon and berries. In the cooler, gray seasons, citrus is in top form, which helps replenish some of the vitamin C we’re missing out on.
Simply put, eating seasonal foods gives us the vitamins and nutrients we need the most in their peak, raw form.
It is cost-effective
Seasonal fruit and vegetable harvests are abundant, which means they tend to sell for a lower price during their peak season. It’s not uncommon to see off-season produce go for twice the price it would in its prime season!
A good strategy to take advantage of this price cut is to stock up on in-season fruits and vegetables and freeze them. While this won’t work with every single fruit or veggie, freezing seasonal produce preserves its freshness and nutritional value, so you can enjoy things like summer corn in the depths of winter. This handy freezing guide can show you how it’s done.
You’re helping your community and the environment
Farmer’s markets are more than just a great place for a morning date or family outing. They are also a bustling hub of in-season goodness, where you can support local farmers by buying food directly from the source. It’s also a great opportunity to ask questions about the growing process, information you aren’t likely to find when shopping elsewhere.
Plus, produce from a local farmer has to travel far less than what you might find in a supermarket, which means fewer fuel emissions are expended to get that food in your home. You can find a farmer’s market near you here.
Honestly, it just tastes better
You know how most leftovers don’t taste quite as good as the day you made them? Eating out-of-season produce has a similar feeling.
To make foods available year-round, ripening agents are used post-harvest, which keep the produce in a “just-harvested” form and protect it for its long journey to your local grocery store. But what we gain in mass availability, we sacrifice in flavor and nutritional content—off-season produce just doesn’t have the same punch as seasonal goodies since they are going against their natural ripening schedule.
What foods are in-season right now?
All right, so you know about the benefits of eating seasonal foods—let’s shop! The list below can give you a great starting point, but keep in mind the availability of these items may vary based on where you live.
- Bean Sprouts
- Leafy Greens
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Swiss chard
- Winter squash
To see a full listing of what is available in your state by season, check out this handy guide.
The bottom line: Seasonal foods have a multitude of benefits that you just won’t get from off-season goods. Foods harvested in their peak season have more nutritional value and taste better. There are significant cost savings to eating seasonal food—try buying in bulk and freezing to enjoy fresh produce year-round. Shopping at a farmer’s market supports your community and can also help the environment.