In addition to being a healthy addition to your diet, buying vegetables and fruits in season offer a variety of benefits. Each piece of produce has an actual growing season – for example, you are more likes to see fresh, vibrant tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, and apples, among others.
Modern farm practices have practically eliminated the natural growing season of your favorite produce, but with a little research and care, you can find local produce sources for seasonal produce that are better for you and the environment.
Just think about all of the resources, fuel and associated pollution that single strawberry used to travel 2,000 miles or more by plane, train or truck to get from the field to your supermarket.
In fact, food transport accounts for about 11 percent of the total carbon emissions, with 83 percent of those emissions occurring before your food leaves the farm!
Imagine if everyone in the United States purchased seasonal produce locally? That 11 percent impact multiplied by millions of people could make a monumental shift on our collectively negative impact on the environment.
By shopping at your local farmer’s market or produce stand – and also shopping for fruits and vegetables in season – you can reduce the distance traveled from farm to table from thousands of miles to just a handful of miles. This in turn significantly decreases your personal impact on the carbon footprint and the environment.
Here Are 5 Benefits of Buying Vegetables and Fruits In Season:
1. More Nutritious and Delicious
Fruits and vegetables have a typical growing season, and when you eat those foods in that season, they are typically grown in their ideal location, which makes them more flavorful and packed with the greatest quality of nutrients.
Produce harvested in its true growing season will be packed with more potent vitamins and nutrients than if it was grown in unnatural conditions, such as a greenhouse. No frozen, canned or spring cob will compare in taste or nutritional value to that sweet ear of corn at a summer barbecue.
Seasonal produce is full of vitamins and minerals that assist your body in its natural processes, from increased energy levels to the improved health and complexion of your skin.
Here are few key vitamins and minerals found in your favorite produce:
- Vitamin A is packed with good-for-you antioxidants that are essential to your eye, skin, and bone health. You can find Vitamin A in: Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Tomatoes, Pink Grapefruit, Leafy Greens and Cantaloupe
- Vitamin B (1, 5, 9) keeps our bodies fueled and focused, giving us energy to power through our day. Eat your Vitamin B in: Avocado, Beans Bananas, Beets, Oranges, Lemons, and Leafy Greens
- Vitamin C is great for overall good health and improved immunity. Find high levels of Vitamin C in: Acerola Cherries, Potatoes, Kiwi Fruit, Broccoli, Oranges, Leafy Greens, and Mangoes
- Vitamin E is an all-around beneficial vitamin that aids in essential body functions and resistance to infections: Avocados, Red Sweet Pepper, Mango, Kiwi, Wheat Germ Oil, Turnip Greens, Butternut Squash, and Broccoli
- Vitamin K supports blood clotting and regulated blood calcium. Find Vitamin K in: Asparagus, Lentils, Edamame, Leafy Greens, Broccoli and Peas
- Calcium is essential for strong teeth and bones. Load up on Calcium with: Almonds, Okra, Leafy Greens, Broccoli and Watercress
- Iron is key to providing energy and reducing fatigue. Feeling sluggish? Get your fill of: Beans/Lentils, Figs, Dates, Cabbage, Leafy Greens and Pumpkin Seeds
- Magnesium is essential to allow your cells to perform their intended functions optimally. Find magnesium in: Almonds/Cashews, Avocados, Bananas, Apples, Leafy Greens, Apricots and Whole Grains
- Zinc plays an important role in your body’s immune function. You can find Zinc in: Almonds, Lentils, Pumpkin Seeds, Leafy Greens and Sesame Seeds
2. Easier On Your Wallet
In addition to a healthier diet, you can stretch your weekly food budget by incorporating produce during its natural growing season into your meals.
When produce is purchased within its natural season, it is typically found in abundance, and by the rules of supply and demand, it is typically less expensive than other times of the year. So, look for those seasonal vegetables and fruits that are typically on sale at your local farmer’s markets and supermarkets.
A great tip is to shop later in the week, as many produce stands will offer discounts as the produce ripens and loses its shelf live.
Make your own jams and sauces and then can them and save them in your pantry for future meals.
Even if you buy bananas that are ripe and ready to be eaten, you don’t need to eat a whole bunch at once. Save one or two and then toss the rest in a freezable container and pop it in the freezer, so you can have it available when you need it to make a smoothie or bread down the road.
You can also buy in bulk and use a dehydrator to make healthy on-the-go fruit and veggie bites from seasonal vegetables and fruits.
Or, make your own jams and sauces and then can them and save them in your pantry for future meals. Get a little creative with your preservation methods, or just eat what is naturally available, so each season will have a fresh new plethora of flavors and meal options to keep your palate satisfied.
3. Better On the Environment
The travel distance between where your produce was grown and your local supermarket makes a huge impact on the environment. By choosing produce grown in their natural growing season, you can significantly reduce the energy and resources required to transport your products from the farm to your kitchen table.
The best way to ensure that your produce has minimal travel is to shop locally.
For instance, apples are a fall harvest, so if you see an apple in the middle of winter, it was probably grown either far away in a distant country or in a greenhouse, either of which will deplete nutrients and taste. The same goes for juicy, plump tomatoes.
The tomatoes that are sun ripened in June will taste better and likely travel a much shorter distance than one you purchase in November, which was likely grown in a greenhouse and refrigerated early to prevent spoiling during transport.
The best way to ensure that your seasonal produce has minimal travel is to shop locally. Not only does your purchase support local small business, but you know that your impact on the environment is minimized. The quality of your produce will also likely be much better, without dents, dings or soft spots.
Shopping locally for seasonal produce is better for the environment, and your taste buds will thank you too.
4. Diversify Your Culinary Skills
If you only purchase vegetables and fruits in season, you can experiment with new produce that you may have never tried before. This experimentation can do wonders for the diversity of your cuisines.
For instance in the fall, squashes are in their natural growing season. Squash offers a great deal of versatility to your dishes – you can mash it, bake it, fry it, grill it, roast it, sauté it or blend it in with your next soup, stew or sauce.
Go to your local market, see what is fresh or catches your eye, and explore new flavor profiles.
Incorporating seasonal vegetables promises that your recipes will be anything but boring! Look up new recipes online, or use websites that help you find a recipe that centers around a specific ingredient.
Don’t know where to start? Go to your local market, see what is fresh or catches your eye, and explore new flavor profiles. Employees of local food stores are full of useful information and are always happy to answer any questions you may have.
5. You’re Shopping Smarter
Become educated in what is local to your region and to the current shopping and growing season. Depending on where you live, there could be a variety of produce options that aren’t available elsewhere. Below is a quick reference guide for you to take with you on your next shopping trip.
Use This Quick-Reference Guide to Buying Vegetables and Fruits In Season:
Buy – and Eat – Fresh Vegetables and Fruits In Season For Your Health and Mother Earth
It is best to eat produce during its natural growing season whenever possible. Whether you live in the country or a large city, there are local farms and farmer’s markets where you can find fresh seasonal produce that is grown locally and tastes better than anything that traveled 2,000 miles to your supermarket shelf.
Explore your local region and try out new fruits and seasonal vegetables. Who knows – you might discover your next favorite addition to your dinner or dessert tonight!