As the seasons change, they bring new weather and new life, and edible plants and grains are no exception. In these days of groceries shipped from every corner of the globe, when we can get an apple any time of the year, it's easy to forget that fruits and vegetables are still "in season" at specific times, and there are differences in nutrition and flavor in the same product throughout the year.
If your time, food access, and finances allow it, there are tons of benefits to prioritizing in-season foods on your grocery shopping list.
Foods that are grown outside of the local climate and season may not reach a diner's plate until days or even weeks after harvest. Some varieties are kept in cold storage for months before reaching stores. That's not ideal for the nutritional content of those foods, since many vitamins start to decay soon after food is picked.
The Australian oranges, South American peaches, and fresh leafy greens found at local shops even in the middle of winter have a much higher cost than the price on the shelf or the loss of nutrients from storage. Shipping food around the globe accounts for 6% of total emissions, contributing to pollution and climate change.
Some areas have a delightful abundance of one particular locally produced food. Whether it's Washington apples, Iowa corn, Georgia peaches, or Maryland crab, locals will know well their famous flavors and when they're at their absolute best every year.
There may even be fun festivals to celebrate the iconic season!
Most seasonal foods are grown to be harvested all at once in a short window of time, which means a sudden abundance in stores. Shoppers can expect to pay a premium for a lower-quality version of the same thing shipped from far away when they're out of season nearby.
The best price is usually found mid-season on fresh, regional foods near where they're produced, making them healthier for plates and bank accounts alike.
Nearly every grocery store stocks the same basic lineup of foods year-round. A few varieties, or sometimes just a single type of each thing. The world has so much more flavor and variety to offer! Seasonal displays keep something new cycling through to add some excitement. Local farms may even have obscure heirloom or novel varieties that can't be found in stores.
There's something magical about knowing exactly where food comes from and meeting the people with a passion for producing it. Local farm stands, farmer's markets, and CSA services are great ways to get to know local growers. They're also a priceless resource for insider information on the best seasonal goodies!
The best healthy, wholesome meals are a feast for the eyes as much as they are for the palate. Fresh seasonal food is the best way to naturally add appealing colors, succulent textures, and tantalizing novelty. It's also something to look forward to; you'll find yourself waiting eagerly for the most delicious seasonal favorites to arrive every year.
There's nothing quite like plump, ripe berries plucked fresh from the vine, still warm from the sun. Berry brambles grow wild in many places, along with other wild, seasonal delicacies. Every area has a different selection of local foods for informed adventurers to forage, such as wild morel mushrooms, tender fiddleheads, sweet pawpaws, prickly pears, greens, nuts, fish, game, and more.
The freshest and most local seasonal produce could be as close as the backyard with a home garden. Growing your own veggies is also a great way to become familiar with the area's climate, soil, seasonal timing, and what grows well—or doesn't.
Annual plants need to be replanted every growing season, while perennials should continue to produce at about the same time year after year.
Every region has a slightly different growing climate and collection of locally grown foods. With a little planning or a quick search, shoppers can plan ahead for seasonal eating so they're ready to say goodbye to items at the end of their prime season and enjoy the bounty of the next season as they become available.
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