Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with better health and a decreased risk of developing diseases like cancer. If you’re having trouble trying to add more produce into your diet, look no further than the season!
Fruits and vegetables have their own seasons, or times during the year when they are at their most flavorful and contain the most nutrients. That’s right! Foods that are in season have higher nutritional content than foods that are out of season, or unripe produce! One example of this was seen in a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, which found that vitamin C levels in broccoli were almost twice as high during the fall when it is at its peak season than in the spring.
In-season produce is also tastier: eat a meal in any 5-star restaurant in the world, and you’ll find that the top chefs utilize foods that are at the peak of their season because they also taste better than imported or hot-house grown produce. Fruit is sweeter and juicier, and vegetables and herbs are more flavorful when they are eaten during their natural harvest period. If you’ve purchased tomatoes from a huge display at your grocery store during the winter, then you know that they are usually nothing special. Out of season, non-organic produce is covered in wax, and preservatives and chemicals are used to make them look fresher. This type of conventional produce is intended to have a longer shelf life – and the natural flavor is not considered as important. The introduction of hothouse production and imports from other countries has certainly made it easy to buy whatever fruits and vegetables you’re looking for at any point in the year, but making a trip to a local farm stand or farmers market will provide you with better tasting, beautiful produce that is truly worth the wait! As a bonus, you’ll also be helping the environment and supporting your local economy when you purchase your produce from a local farmer.
Not sure of what’s in season? Check with local farms and farmers markets in your area – naturally, the availability of local, seasonal produce will also depend on what’s being grown near your home! Even if you choose to buy conventional produce from the grocery store, knowing what is in season can help you choose the best fruits and vegetables! Here’s a general idea of what fruits and vegetables are being harvested during the four seasons of the year:
Winter: Beets, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Grapefruit, Kale, Leeks, Lemons, Onions, Oranges, Parsnips, Pineapple, Pears, Potatoes, Winter Squash
Spring: Apricots, Asparagus, Collard Greens, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Peas, Radishes, Rhubarb, Spinach, Swiss Chard
Summer: Bell Peppers, Blackberries, Blueberries, Carrots, Cantaloupe, Celery, Cherries, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Garlic, Green Beans, Honeydew Melon, Kiwi, Lima Beans, Mangoes, Nectarines, Okra, Peaches, Plums, Raspberries, Strawberries, Summer Squash & Zucchini, Tomatillos, Tomatoes, Watermelon
Fall: Apples, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Cranberries, Garlic, Ginger, Grapes, Greens, Kale, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Rutabagas, Sweet Potatoes and Yams
Nutritional quality of organic, conventional, and seasonally grown broccoli using vitamin C as a marker Shahla M. Wunderlich, Charles Feldman, Shannon Kane, Taraneh Hazhin. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition Vol. 59, Iss. 1, 2008
“Seasonal Produce Guide.” USDA Snap-Ed Connection. United States Dept. of Agriculture, 20 Apr. 2016. Web.