At certain times of the year, certain vegetables and fruits are tastier, surplus, and more affordable than usual. That's because they are at their peak —during the harvest season. This seasonal produce guide has several benefits not only for you but also for the environment and your local economy.
Through our quick guide, appreciate seasonal eating and keep track of what to plant, harvest, or eat all year round.
To eat seasonally is to plan your meals based on nature's produce harvest timetable. Some fruits and vegetables are available all year round, but many food crops have a period where they are in ‘season.’ It is when they are at maximum yield and ripening in a particular region.
We've listed four reasons why we agree seasonal eating is a great idea.
Many people say fruits and vegetables are tastier at peak season. That's mostly likely because it is a time of natural ripening or maturity when they have the most flavor. Plus, they are as fresh as can be at this point, with all the nutrients intact.
You are most likely eating healthier if you eat in season because you are not buying food preserved artificially. Some chemicals used to prolong the shelf life of produce can be bad for your health and the environment.
Moreover, keeping fresh produce for a long time during transportation to other locations can lead to nutrient loss. One study observed that lettuce lost about half its vitamin C after being transported, stored, and sitting in the grocery store for three days1.
Additionally, focusing on seasonal eating makes you less reliant on processed or fast food. That's great because no matter how the brands spin it, it's always best to consume such foods sparingly.
An important part of eating in season is that you eat according to the season of your locality. And who best to supply you with in-season produce than the local farmers? That's why anyone will tell you that the first place to go when looking for seasonal produce is the local farmers market.
Buying from farmers' markets strengthens the local economy. The farmers, their employees, and everyone along the local supply can sustain their livelihood.
If you need help locating a farmers market in your area, go to the grocery store. You can tell what produce is in season by how abundant and cheap it is. However, you can always ask the store manager which of their produce is in season and sourced locally.
Read more: Reasons to buy local.
Seasonal eating helps to prevent food waste. How? A surplus harvest will spoil and be thrown out if people don't buy the produce. The farmers cannot consume it all, and not all produce are viable for long-term preservation. Most times, the farmers need facilities for long-term storage, like chain supermarkets.
Another thing that makes seasonal eating eco-friendly is its lower transportation carbon footprint. The produce travels a short distance from a local farm to the grocery store or farmers market. That journey is usually by road and takes at most a day. Compare that to imported out-of-season produce that typically spends days to months in transit accruing food miles.
Furthermore, since the weather and growing conditions are just right, crops planted in season require less fertilizers and chemicals.
During peak season, farmers are likely to sell at cheaper prices to sell out fast. They do this to avoid losses due to the produce losing freshness or spoiling due to being kept for too long.
So, if you are on a budget or can save on food expenses, seasonal eating is a smart option. It's even cheaper to buy and preserve the produce in bulk. Good preservation methods will have you enjoying seasonal fruits and vegetables year round.
If you could use quality advice on the matter, read our article on eco-friendly methods of food preservation.
If you have decided to eat more locally grown fresh produce, a guide can greatly help. We share two reasons we think so below.
It would be disappointing if you planned a meal only to find that the ingredients wouldn't be available until the next harvest season. Quickly planning another meal with locally farmed ingredients could be stressful, especially if you have a family or dietary restrictions.
A seasonal produce guide keeps you informed of what is available and what isn't. It makes it easier to plan your meals and avoid the stress of changing recipes mid-preparation.
Related Read: Zero Waste Meal Prep.
Some seasonal fruits and vegetables are only available for a short time in the year. If you enjoy those entirely seasonal delicacies or have an adventurous taste bud, it would make sense to have a guide.
It will keep you aware of what's in season so you can get a taste of your favorites before they are gone for the year.
This guide is based on public resources from USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The list focuses only on American seasons and produce, but what's in season at every particular time varies according to the climate of different regions. The weather and growing conditions determine what crops are growing in each season.
Note that certain vegetables and fruits are available year-round because they peak at different times of the year in nearby regions.
In the following sections, check out what fruits and vegetables are in season. We also included lists for herbs and spices.
Early spring ushers in the season of planting fast-growing vegetables. Spring also comes with an abundance of leafy veggies and some root vegetables. There are more than a few year-round veggies, like artichokes, which peak in spring.
Cherries, which are in season for just about six weeks, come in season around late spring. A lot of spices are also spring season harvests.
Related read: Click on over to our quotes about spring for more from the season.
Summer is the season with the most fruits. Wherever you live, you'll find more varieties of fruits and veggies in the summer months.
Even year-round veggies and fruits like bell peppers, peaches, okra, and green beans peak in summer. Cherries come in season around mid-May but peak in June.
Related read: Click on over to our quotes about summer for more from the season.
Fall is the season with the most berries. Even Californian strawberries remain in season till early fall season. Besides berries, fall is also the peak season for fruits like pumpkins and butternut squash.
The season is also famous as salad season because of the many leafy year-round vegetables that peak in the fall. The season also marks the short appearance of pomegranates and cranberries.
Related read: Click on over to our quotes about fall for more from the season.
Winter season is when most root vegetables and oranges are in season. Some other fruits and veggies, like onions, parsnips, cabbage, carrots, and Florida-grown tomatoes, can survive the winter season.
Related read: Click on over to our quotes about winter for more from the season.
If eating seasonally sounds challenging to you, you are not alone. Some people worry about boring recipes or how easily fresh produce goes bad. We have put together a few smart tips to help you deal with everyday challenges.
The seasons come not just with weather changes but also with different fruits and vegetables. Seasonal eating benefits you by encouraging you to eat fresh, healthier, and more affordable food. It's great for the planet because it supports a more eco-friendly food supply chain and discourages food waste.
Use our seasonal produce guide to find in-season fruits and vegetables for your next meal plans and grocery lists.
Managa, M. G., Tinyani, P. P., Senyolo, G. M., Soundy, P., Sultanbawa, Y., & Sivakumar, D. (2018). Impact of transportation, storage, and retail shelf conditions on lettuce quality and phytonutrients losses in the supply chain. Food Science and Nutrition, 6(6), 1527–1536.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.
Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.