People only had what they could grow themselves or buy locally, which meant relying primarily on in-season ingredients along with a few preserved items. Today, global trade and industrialization have made it possible for people to get almost any ingredient at any time of year.
While it might be nice to eat apples in spring and asparagus in winter, sourcing out-of-season ingredients comes at a price. Eating in-season produce helps to support environmental sustainability, costs less, and can even help general health. In this guide, you’ll learn more about the benefits of eating seasonably and discover tips to practice this relatively simple food philosophy in your own life.
Eating in season means purposefully purchasing and consuming fruits and vegetables when they are naturally ready for harvest in your area. For example, if you live in Wisconsin and eat seasonally, you would eat apples only July through October, when apples are in season in the Midwest. Apples found in the supermarket outside of Wisconsin apple season are either stored from last year’s harvest or shipped from other regions where apples are in season.
Eating with the season is simple. Find out what grows in your area, when different items are ready for harvest, and be purposeful with what you buy. Keeping track of what’s in season is relatively easy. But, to simplify things even further, consider making an eating-in-season chart featuring lists of each season’s bounty. Keep reading to the end of this article to see examples of in-season fruits and vegetables for spring, summer, fall, and winter.
Making a simple change to the way you buy food can make a big difference, both for you and for the planet. Seasonal eating uses fewer resources and energy, costs less, and can even be more nutritious. Some of the benefits of eating seasonally you can look forward to include:
To produce year-round produce, many factory farmers turn to artificial methods to boost crop yield and increase the length of their growing season. Artificial pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides play a considerable role in keeping crops’ healthy’ while pushing them to their growth limits. Since it is impossible to grow a single crop all year long, many farmers store their excess harvest for months – or even years – to sell to grocery stores during the off-season.
Fruits and vegetables are most nutritious when fresh, so eating in-season is healthier than eating produce from cold storage for ten months. By choosing to eat only those ingredients in season, you’ll guarantee that you are getting the best and most nutritious produce for maximum health benefits.
Storing produce year-round costs money. So does shipping it from the other side of the world. Because of this, produce prices go up during the off-season, which is why you could find yourself paying $5 for a single, mealy apple. Buying in-season produce can help you save money since you’ll be buying fruits and vegetables at the peak of their availability.
The use of harsh pesticides and artificial means of extending growing seasons takes a significant environmental toll. Still, it isn’t just industrial toxic chemicals that pose a threat to ecological sustainability. Longer growing seasons and growing non-native produce in incompatible climates require different water use, and often leaves soil stripped of its natural nutrients.
Shipping produce worldwide requires a tremendous amount of fuel, adding to the already mounting fossil fuel emissions crisis. Buying local and in-season produce is an easy way to reduce your fruits and vegetables’ carbon footprint, supporting sustainable farming practices.
Do you know how vegetables taste after weeks in the crisper drawer? Exactly. Old produce isn’t the same as fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables. So, for the sake of your taste buds – stick to eating in-season! Plus when eating fresh you may find your cravings are satiated with less consumption because what you are eating is full of flavor.
If you live in North America and want to start eating seasonally, try focusing on each season and its bounty. With each season comes a new harvest and a new menu of exciting fruits and vegetables to explore. The exact products you’ll be able to find in your local market will depend on what is growing in your area. Still, in general, these are the foods you should be enjoying each season:
The first day of spring happens each year on the spring equinox when the sun crosses the equator heading north, gradually bringing more light with it each day. Typically in the second or third week of March, the start of spring brings lots of fresh, bright greenery and the first signs of a bountiful harvest season. Three common ingredients that are in-season during spring are:
The summer solstice occurs when Earth’s Northern Hemisphere is closest to the sun and marks the first day of summer. Most often, in the third week of June, the summer solstice brings with it tantalizing fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Some common in-season summer produce includes:
The autumnal equinox (typically mid-September) marks the official beginning of autumn when the sun crosses the equator heading south. Colloquially known as ‘harvest season’ throughout North America, autumn is one of the most bountiful seasons. Common autumnal plants include:
Winter formally begins at the winter solstice, when the Northern hemisphere is at its furthest from the sun. Generally, in mid-December, winter in the Northern hemisphere is often the least fruitful season. However, some products still grow happily during these colder months. Some common produce that comes in season in the winter includes:
Eating with the seasons is easy, as long as you know what ingredients to purchase. Choosing only to buy in-season foods is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and eat nutritiously. Additionally, taking advantage of the best-tasting varieties of your favorite fruits and veggies. For the sake of the planet and your health, consider switching to seasonal eating now as the seasons change.