You hear it often these days, but why exactly is it best to purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season? Here are the 3 main reasons:
Perhaps first on the minds of many grocery shoppers is price and in-season fruits and vegetables are the best value. Produce that is in season in your area likely won’t have to travel as far to get to your grocery store and you can likely enjoy even greater savings by purchasing straight from the farmers themselves. When not in season, produce has to be shipped from parts of the world where it is in season and this raises the cost.
Produce that has traveled a great distance to reach you also has fewer nutrients. As soon as a fruit or vegetable is harvested, it begins to lose nutrients. A tomato picked from your garden before dinner will have more nutrients than one picked in a greenhouse 3 weeks ago, shipped to your grocery store, and placed on a shelf for 4 days before you purchased it in the middle of January. Some nutrients deteriorate faster than others but seasonal and close to home are always better. [frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are often packaged very soon after harvesting in order to preserve their nutrients]
There is nothing worse than a flavorless tomato or strawberry in the dead of winter to turn someone off of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. In their prime season, fruits and vegetables grow and taste their best. If you have ever compared the taste of an early spring peach to a late summer peach, you know what a huge difference it makes to wait until a fruit is in season!
So, with grocery stores that stock everything all the time, how do you know what’s seasonal?? One good indication is cost – there tend to be pretty good sales on items that are in season. Many stores also have tags now that indicate if a product is local and if they have produce from your local area, it’s in season.
Seasonality can also vary slightly based on what region of the country you live in. California, for example, enjoys longer seasonality of many fruits and vegetables because of the warmer climate. Epicurious has a great map that allows you to choose the month and the state you live in to find out what’s in season. You can check seasonality in neighboring states too because “local” often includes products from neighboring states.
Cooking Light is also another great resource because they not only tel you what’s in season, but allow you to search recipes so you know what to do with it! This is an especially great place to go if you get a weekly or monthly CSA box from a local farm. A CSA (community supported agriculture) is something you sign up for with a local farm [search for one in your area here!]. They fill a box for all “subscribers” with whatever they harvested that week and you can pick it up at a designated time/location. It’s pretty cost effective and a great way to support local farms and try new things because it’s likely that you’ll get at least one item you’ve never tried before.