What's In Season?
Each season is associated with the growing of certain types of crops of fruits and vegetables. Traditionally, this also dictated the market availability of produce. These days, we’re used to having most products we want available year round. While it’s convenient, can have some consequences for our health and community.
“Eating seasonally” means eating a variety of local foods that grow in that particular season. A commitment to this type of eating means making these foods a foundation of your daily meals and sourcing locally grown foods. It’s making a conscious decision to support local farmers by choosing as many foods as possible from your state and region. Buying locally grown, in season produce offers many benefits. You’re supporting your local economy and ensuring that farmers have a better chance to make a living growing and providing food. Many large chains do not make a commitment to their local supply chain, they have contracts with large commercial farmers all over the world to get the best pricing, then use many resources to get those products in stores. You’re helping to reduce your carbon footprint when you shop local, too.
Locally grown tastes better! Seasonal food means the produce will be at peak in that season. You can visually tell the difference, too. In season produce looks better. Compare buying a tomato in August (beautiful, red, juicy) to one in January (pale, small).
Applying the same theory as terroir in wine, that the soil and air conditions affect the crop, eating locally connects you with the nutrients available in the land around you. This can be beneficial, especially in a product like honey, which has been known to help people with seasonal allergies by ingesting local pollen varieties.
The quality of the nutrients in your fruits and vegetables is also related to how long produce has been sitting since it was harvested. Food starts to change as soon as it's picked and deteriorates with time. Most commercial product is harvested hundreds or thousands of miles away, traveling for days or weeks to get to your market. Not only that, they are picked before they should be to account for travel. So they ripen off the vine (or tree, or wherever), instead of developing and ripening on the plant, as nature intended. Time, temperature changes, exposure to air, and artificial light all rob fruits and vegetables of valuable nutrients. Locally grown fruits and vegetables reach your plate sooner than those from far away…meaning that the nutrients are preserved and intact.
The greater the variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet, the greater the variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you eat. Take a look at your pantry and refrigerator. How many varieties of fruits and vegetables are you getting a day? Here’s something to consider: Look at the species of vegetable you are eating. You may be surprised to learn that your diet is not too varied. Cooking vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower may seem like you’re eating a variety, but they are all the same species: Brassica oleraceae! While it’s never a bad idea to eat veggies, try picking a variety of species too.
So… what’s in season now? Since I live in New Jersey, I’m focusing on what is available in my agricultural zone (I’m in Zone 7!). What zone are you in?
- Stone Fruits (peaches, nectarines, plums, etc)
- Zucchini & Squashes
- Tomatoes (peak is in August!)
You can find more information on fresh New Jersey produce here: https://findjerseyfresh.com/availability/?_sft_post_tag=july
Here’s a handy New Jersey Seasonality Chart: https://www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/fn/pdf/njseasonalitychart.pdf