As someone who lives in the Pacific Northwest in very close proximity to the Okanagan Valley (an area of British Columbia known for its seasonal produce), I feel spoiled by the array of fruits and vegetables available during the spring, summer, and fall. When the rainy season begins and the dark months ahead seem endless, though, it can be easy to forget about the still-impressive variety of seasonal produce available during the winter. It only takes one trip to my local farmers market to jog my memory and suddenly I feel inspired again by what the season has to offer.
What are the main benefits of eating produce in season?
When you buy locally grown, seasonal produce you skip the (many) middlemen involved with importing out-of-season produce. Seasonal produce is picked at peak ripeness, unlike out-of-season fruits and vegetables, which are picked well before they’ve ripened. This results in produce that is tastier and potentially more nutritious.
Eating seasonal produce is advantageous for your wallet and your body. Because seasonal produce is grown locally, its cost doesn’t have to factor in transportation and long-term storage. To save even more money on fresh fruits and vegetables, inquire about farms that allow self-picking or a reduced price on produce that is still perfectly good but not the most aesthetically pleasing.
Supporting Your Local Economy
By purchasing fruits and vegetables grown nearby, you’re putting money directly into the local economy. Every time you make the choice to buy local and in season it helps to support local businesses, whether it’s the farmers, their employees, or the small businesses working hard to sell seasonal produce.
What’s in season during the winter?
Average temperatures across the United States vary wildly, especially in January and February. While some regions are experiencing subzero temperatures and snow, others are basking in the glow of the warm sun. If you live in the northern part of the United States where temperatures frequently dip below freezing, you can expect to find hardier seasonal produce that is able to withstand hostile growing conditions. Think:
- Brussels sprouts
- Celeriac (aka celery root)
- Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes)
- Swiss chard
- Rapini (aka broccoli rabe)
- Sweet potatoes
If you live in the southern United States, seasonal produce will likely include a combination of winter produce, greens, and citrus fruit, such as:
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
- Mandarin oranges
Where to Buy Seasonal Produce
Depending on where you live, seasonal produce can most often be found at local farmers markets or by subscribing to a community supported agriculture (CSA) share. Shopping at a farmers market gives you the ability to choose your produce and allows you to meet the farmers face to face. A CSA share is a great option if you don’t live near a farmers market or don’t have the time to visit one. A CSA box is delivered to your home (or to a central pickup location) and includes a variety of produce that was recently harvested by local farmers. For example, a spring CSA box might include asparagus and radishes, a summer CSA box peaches and cucumber, and a fall CSA box apples and onions. Eating with the seasons can be a fun challenge, especially if what’s growing in your area isn’t something you’re familiar already with. Try to learn a bit about the bounty near you and have a good time!