A Practical Guide: What Produce is in Season Right Now?
It is important to know what fruits and vegetables grow during different times of the year.
We can get almost any kind of produce we want whenever we want it by simply going to the grocery store, so most of my life I wasn’t aware of what kinds of fruits and vegetables were naturally in season. I did notice that tomatoes in January tasted horrible compared to tomatoes in July and winter strawberries were mostly white and tasteless, but I didn’t pay much attention to why.
When I first got married and we were on a really tight budget, I began to notice the prices of produce could really fluctuate throughout the year. I started paying attention to prices and began buying what was cheap, and it was about this time that I accidentally started eating seasonal food. What do I mean by seasonal food? I mean eating food that is grown and harvested at the time of year that it was created to be grown and harvested. It’s the food’s “peak” time.
For example, a tomato grown in January is usually pretty tasteless because that is not the time of year tomatoes are normally grown. They are a summer crop, and tomatoes grown in summer are 100 times better than any winter grown tomato. Fruits and vegetables that we get out of season have often been transported thousands of miles from a different country, or the produce has been grown in hot houses. This not only affects the taste of the fruits and vegetables, it also affects the density of their nutrients. Food that is grown and eaten in the correct season tastes better and is better for your body.
About three years ago, I picked up the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It is a book she wrote about her family’s journey to committing to only eating food that was seasonal and grown within a 100 mile radius of their home for a whole year. I was fascinated with the concept, and after reading her book, my husband and I changed our eating habits. We began eating season and local fruit and vegetables.
When we have guests over in our home, they always rave about how good the food is. I’m a decent cook, but by no means am I an amazing chef. Most of the dishes I make are super basic, but the key is that I buy good produce. The majority of it is grown on my farm, and the rest I usually pick up from a local farmer’s market. It doesn’t travel thousands of miles in a truck or get picked weeks before it is actually ripe.
Eating food in season tastes so much better, it’s better for the planet, and it’s better for our own health. Sadly, most of us don’t even know what is in season when. Our food culture has so drastically changed over the past 100 years that most of us don’t have knowledge that was common to our grandparents or great-grandparents. I learned more about what was in season when I subscribed to a CSA box for an entire year. It showed me what was in season for my local area and climate. It also helped me plan my garden better as I learned what I could grow in my area. I highly recommend finding a local CSA subscription ang signing up. You may need to try out a few different ones before you find one you love, but give it a try!
Now, I LOVE eating fruits and vegetables only when they are in season. We binge on strawberries for weeks until we don’t want to see another strawberry again for a while, and the same goes for figs. I stuff myself full of them for weeks, but by the time figs go out of season, I’m ready for a break from them. I can’t tell you how fun it is as a family to anticipate the upcoming season. Usually around January, my kids start asking how much longer till strawberry season. We have a monthly countdown, and there is so much joy when the first strawberries show up at the farmer’s market. We get so excited, and it has created a high value in us for real, seasonal strawberries. It makes them special. We don’t buy them out of season which causes us to have a higher appreciation for them, not to mention they taste 100 times better!
The rest of this post is divided into four sections: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring.
Although many of you live in different areas, this quick reference guide can help anyone living in the United States know what is in season when. It will fluctuate a little depending on where you are at in the States, but in general, it works for everyone. For example, even if you are a place that can’t grow citrus, this guide will still tell you when it is in season in places citrus does grow like Florida and California. This will notify you of the best times of year to buy them from the grocery store. Also, some types of produce grows at different times. For example, there are breeds of apples that are early harvest so you can eat them in the summer while others are strictly for fall harvest. The guide below is very general to give you an idea of how to start. Check out your local farmer’s market to get a better idea for your specific area because I’m sure I missed some things on this list!
Vegetables: tomatoes, corn, squashes, zucchini, peppers, root veggies (beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, etc.), lettuce, greens (collards, chard, kale, etc.), eggplant, beans, potatoes, okra, eggplant, artichoke
Fruit: peaches, melons, plums, apricots, grapes, berries, figs, apples
Vegetables: peas, cilantro, garlic, artichoke, dark leafy greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, pumpkin, radish, turnip, rutabaga, other root veggies
Fruits: olives, pears, apples, limes, pomegranates
Vegetables: brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, dark leafy greens, turnips, leeks, celery, cabbage
Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, dark leafy greens, cabbage, rhubarb, onions, peas, cilantro, fava beans, garlic
Fruit: strawberries, cherries
As a side note, some veggies store well. Lots of the winter squashes, for example, are grown in summer. However you can find them at farmer’s markets and grocery stores in the winter because they store really well.
You can also buy fruits and veggies in season and then process them certain ways that allow you to enjoy them out of season. We typically freeze some strawberries to enjoy their flavor in the winter season. Food storage has been done for thousands of years, and there are so many ways to enjoy food grown in the correct season while eating it out of season.
I hope you enjoy buying produce grown in season as much as I have. Seriously, people will begin to think you are an awesome cook… they won’t realize you’ve actually just become an expert seasonal produce shopper!
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