Seasons Change…Your Produce Should Too!
“What fruits and vegetables should I buy as winter becomes spring?”
It is recommended that roughly 50% of your plate be comprised of fruits and vegetables— roughly 20% fruits and 30% vegetables.
So, what constitutes as “seasonal fruits and vegetables”?
May is Strawberry month!
Image source: Pixabay
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, we certainly have a lot of options—but in order to maximize the flavor, quality, and freshness of fruits and veggies, you should try to buy what is in season.
Visit: Sustainable Table for a great seasonal produce guide.
Have you ever wondered where our produce is coming from if it is not grown locally? Chances are it is being shipped from California or imported from South American countries. Don’t worry, we got you covered there too! Give “Where Do Our Fruits and Vegetables Come From?” a read.
If you are looking to buy crops that are grown locally, you are relying on the farming conditions of your state. Your local farmer’s market is a great indicator of crops grown in season. What is in season at a farmer’s market depends on your local climate, or that farmer’s ability to extend his season with greenhouses or grow tunnels. Remember, produce can vary significantly by state, even between neighboring small states. Climate affects the soil, water, and growth rate. Additionally, when produce is harvested can affects its nutritional value.
Many state agriculture departments produce harvest calendars.
As we mentioned in “Going, Going, Local”, fresh produce can lose the majority of its nutritional value in just three days! Buying ripe produce in season is important in order to maximize the nutritional benefits. If you want to discover what fruits and veggies are in season in your home state and when, we recommend Sustainable Table, or state-by-state listings provided by Field to Plate and Pick Your Own.
There are a two different ways to approach your produce purchases:
- You can determine produce seasonality by its availability in the United States.
- You can determine what is in season locally.
Nutrition Through the Seasons
The U.S. Department of Agriculture promotes the importance of varying nutrition, and the USDA seasonal produce guide shows what fruits and veggies are in season in the United States depending on the time of year. So, before identifying what produce is being grown in your state, you can also determine fresh produce based on seasonality on a larger scale. Additionally, the Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) provides excellent seasonality charts based on the farming in Northern California. California leads the country when it comes to fruit and vegetable production. Therefore, a large quantity of “seasonal produce” that is featured in your local grocery store will have come from the farms in California.
Ripeness Through the Senses
So, now that we have determined what is available based on the season, how can you tell which produce is the ripest?
While we don’t expect you to harvest all your fruit yourself, here are some helpful tips to use when visiting your local farmers market or produce aisle. It all comes down to the 5 senses. First you want to identify if the fruit as any visible flaws, i.e. bruising, mold, discoloration, etc. Then, you may want to handle the fruit or vegetable to test the firmness.
The Bottom Line:
You can find U.S. grown produce throughout most of the year, but every fruit and vegetable has an optimal growing season which is dependent on its growing region. Your grocery store usually displays seasonal items prominently. If you prefer to buy locally grown produce, then you can rely on your farmers market or use state seasonality guides. Determine the ripeness by using your five senses but be considerate of other shoppers or the farmer who grew the food! And always wash your fruits and vegetables before eating.
“Agriculture and Food Supply Impacts.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
Katsman, Hannah. “Tips for Choosing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.” Cooking Manager. N.p., 11 May 2012. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
“Ripeness Guide: When Is It Time to Harvest?” Almanac.com. The Old Farmer’s Almanac, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
“Seasonality Chart: Fruit and Nuts | CUESA.” CUESA. Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
“Sustainable Table’s Seasonal Food Guide.” Seasonal Food Guide. GRACE Communications Foundation, 2016. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
Thomson, Julie R. “12 Tricks For Buying The Ripest Summer Produce.” The Huffington Post. HuffingtonPost.com, 22 Aug. 2012. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.