One of my favorite things to do during the summer months is to go to the local farmers market to buy in-season fruits and vegetables. I love perusing the stands, observing what’s available and buying my produce from the local farmers. I choose my recipes for the week based on what I can buy fresh. When I take a step back to think about how the options change from late spring, to summer then into autumn, I realize that it becomes natural to eat seasonally. But, when I go to the grocery store, no matter what season it is, I can buy just about any produce item I want. This made me realize that there are benefits to eating seasonal produce right after it’s harvested.
In season produce is always so fresh and flavorful. Have you ever tried eating strawberries during the winter? They usually have no taste or are very tart. In the summer, fresh local strawberries are sweet it’s as if they are coated in sugar. They taste amazing and are so refreshing. When out of season produce is harvested to be shipped, it’s usually picked early before its ripe. This causes it to lose flavor and nutrients. When fruits and vegetables are given the opportunity to ripen naturally, they have more nutrients and taste so much better.
If you think about it, seasonal produce really is better for our health. Our bodies crave different nutrients at different times of the year. Eating seasonally allows us to follow the natural cycle of crops and support our health. For example, watermelons and cucumbers are summertime foods that help hydrate our bodies in the heat. Conversely, squash and root vegetables are synonymous with cooler months and soups to warm our bodies.
Another reason I enjoy eating seasonally is that it’s a way to mix up my recipes and try new foods. It’s easy to get bored with eating the same things over and over. If you focus on eating seasonally, you will naturally vary your diet, which also helps improve our overall nutrition. And for those of you that don’t like fruits and vegetables, focusing on what’s in season, may cause you to try new things. Hey, you might be surprised and find that brussel sprouts really aren’t that bad.
When we focus on eating foods that are in season, it’s easier to buy them from local farmers, which means they travel a shorter distance to reach us. This helps to reduce the carbon footprint and impact to the planet. Have you ever thought about how much it costs or what impact an avocado traveling from Mexico has on the planet? As we are faced with climate change, we need to start changing the way we think and change our day-to-day behavior to make a positive impact.
I find that buying in-season and local produce is less expensive than going to the grocery store. It also supports local farmers, our community and our local economies. I enjoy talking to the local farmers at the markets because I can ask questions about how the food is produced and ensure that it is arriving on my table chemical free. When we buy produce at the grocery stores, we have no idea where it comes from, what might be on it and if the organic sticker is actually on an organic item.
It might be hard to discern what’s actually in season these days at most grocery stores. The produce section seems to be stalked with berries, apples, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts year-round. The list really is endless. If you’re struggling to know what is actually in season, check out the Seasonal Food Guide to double check. They also have an app that makes it easy to reference while you’re out. Another great resource is the USDA SNAP-Ed website. These resources are a great way to learn to eat healthier, learn about new foods and may even spark some new recipe ideas.