A Guide to Eating Seasonal Food
What Are the Benefits of Seasonal Eating and How to Plan your Calendar
Choosing to eat within local growing seasons is a wonderful creative experience that has far reaching environmental impacts. Explore the many ways that preparing seasonal food can enrich your life.
Benefits of seasonal food
When you learn how good cooking and eating seasonally can be for everyone, you’ll find it hard to resist the fun and pleasure you’ll experience with this dietary choice. In short, these are the main benefits of seasonal eating:
- Flavor: Fruits and veggies eaten shortly after they’re picked during their peak growing season will taste fresher and much more flavorful. Seasonal eating is therefore like inviting a party to your mouth!
- Environment: When grown in their ideal season, plants are naturally stronger and more resistant to pests and disease so that they require fewer pesticides and fertilizers (soil amendments and pest management for organic farmers, of course).
- Nutrition: Some fruits and vegetables can only be grown in certain seasons. When buying them off-season, you’re likely purchasing items that were picked weeks, if not months, earlier. Since produce starts to lose nutrients shortly after being picked, out of season options will have lower nutritional values.
- Support for local farmers: When you purchase fresh, seasonal food, naturally it will have to come from local farmers. This helps to keep wealth within your community and supports family farms.
Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration to get you thinking creatively about what to cook with seasonal foods. Here are some recipe books to get your culinary brain into high gear as you learn to cook with the seasons:
- Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source with More Than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You by Terry Walters
- Eating With the Seasons: How to Achieve Health and Vitality by Eating in Harmony With Nature by Paula Bartimeus
- The Locavore's Handbook: The Busy Person's Guide to Eating Local on a Budget by Leda Meredith
How to shop in season and learning about the seasonal food calendar
What’s in season in your local town will depend on where you live to a large extent since the growing seasons and varieties cultivated in Miami will be different from those in Kansas. The Natural Resources Defense Council has an Eat Local Guide which gives you a tool to search by state and season for what’s freshest right now. Eat Well Guide has a similar system for finding seasons produce in Canada in their Seasonal Food Guides section. For a generic seasonal food calendar check out this Woodcraft's calendar.
But if you’d like a quick rundown of the most commonly available seasonal fruits and veggies throughout both countries (international seasonal foods will vary from these), here’s a good general reference:
Apricots, Artichokes, Arugula, Asparagus, Beets, Carrots, Chard, Fava beans, Fennel, Fiddleheads, Garlic (green), Grapefruit, Green onions, Greens, Kiwis, Kumquats, Leeks, Lemons, Lettuce, Mint, Nettles, Navel oranges, Parsley, Pea Greens, Peas, Radishes, Rhubarb, Scallions, Spinach, Spring onions, Strawberries, Sweet onions, Turnips
Apples, Apricots, Avocados, Basil, Bell peppers, Blackberries, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Cantaloupes, Carrots, Chard, Cherries, Chickpeas, Chiles, Cilantro, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Figs, Garlic, Gooseberries, Grapes, Green , eans, Green onions, Herbs, Lettuce, Limes, Mangoes, Melons, Nectarines, Okra, Onions, Peaches, Peas, Plums, Radicchio, Radishes, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Shallots, Spinach, Spring onions, Strawberries, Summer squashes, Sweet onions, Tomatillos, Tomatoes, Watermelons, Zucchini and blossoms
Apples, Artichokes, Arugula, Beets, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery and celery root, Chart, Chicories, Chiles, Cranberries, Edamame, Eggplant, Endive, Escarole, Fennel, Figs, Garlic, Grapes, Green , eans, Green onions, Herbs, Horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lemongrass, Lettuce, Mimes, Mushrooms, Okra, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Peppers, Persimmons, Pomegranates, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Radicchio, Radishes, Rutabagas, Spinach, Sweet potatoes, Tomatillos, Turnips, Winter squash, Zucchini
Beets, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cardoons, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicories, Clementines, Endive, Escarole, Fennel, Grapefruit, Herbs, Horseradish, Kale, Kiwis, Kumquats, Leeks, Lemons, Mandarins, Oranges, Parsnips, Pears, Persimmons, Pommelos, Raddichio, Rutabagas, Satsumas, Sweet potatoes, Tangerines, Turnips, Winter squash