By Dylan Love
The season of the year and the freshness of your produce are inextricably linked.
You may be unsure of what “in season” means, but the truth is, produce in your grocery store should be reflecting the seasonal harvest. Fruits and vegetables taste better and fresher at certain times of the year when they’re being picked from the fields — yet, your grocery store probably offers the same produce selection everyday.
While fruits and vegetables are available in our grocery stores year-round, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re fresh. You can truly taste the difference between a freshly picked apple and one that’s been sprayed with chemicals and preservatives to maintain the appearance of freshness. Would you willingly put the latter in your body if you had the option to eat more cleanly?
Eating seasonally, locally, and organically has become a common lifestyle choice and with plenty of reason — there are multiple benefits to eating what’s in season beyond just doing what’s better for your body. Not only does your wallet benefit in the long run, but buying in season also stimulates the local economy. Though the improved taste alone would probably be enough to sway you.
Here’s a couple of seasonal produce highlights to help guide you through the next year:
Autumn, with its crisp and cool weather, makes us think of pumpkin flavors and warm, hearty meals. Unsurprisingly, pumpkins are a seasonal fall food. Winter squash also hits its prime during September and carries on through early March. Apples are another classic. They’re best harvested between September and November, but you can get them in your grocery store year-round. Other produce items in season include: beets, broccoli, grapes, mushrooms, garlic, fennel, figs, green onions, and potatoes.
Things get a little interesting around December, January, and February. You’d think that there’s no produce in-season during months where the ground seems to be dead and barren, but some fruits and veggies actually taste better when they’re harvested in cooler months. Broccoli, cabbage, artichokes and some citrus fruits all benefit from harvesting at this time. Such harvests are said to be “frost-kissed.”
Winter is the best time to pick up some citrus fruits: oranges, tangerines, kumquats, pears, kiwifruit, lemons, and persimmons are great choices. They’ll keep you full of vitamins through the cold, dark months. Cranberries are also very much in season during this time and deliciously sweet when cooked thoroughly. Other produce in season during the colder months include beets, potatoes, kale, celery, fennel, and other greens.
Spring brings plenty of new fruits and veggies to the table. Spring means that tasty apricots, honeydew melons, and mangos are great additions to your daily fruit intake. They make for great healthy snacks during a spring afternoon. It’s also the season for carrots, which are available in the spring and through the early summer (be sure to buy local and steer clear of the grocery store version of “baby carrots“). Other fruits and veggies that thrive during March, April, and May include asparagus, cherries, arugula, mint, fava beans, lettuce, peas, and strawberries (which peak from April through June).
June, July, and August typically mean lazy days grilling out with friends and family — there are plenty of seasonal items to be had during these months. Watermelon and corn are both seasonal summer produce items that make a great addition to any backyard barbecue. Tomatoes are in season once June hits, but they’re good well through August. Not a bad time to pick some up and slice them for your burgers. Other tasty summer produce includes avocados, okra, cucumbers, berries, peppers, and summer squash.