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It’s likely that you can find various types of produce all year long at your local grocery store. But did you know that those apples you bought earlier in the spring are actually more nutritious in the fall? Or that zucchini is tastier when bought in late summer versus the middle of winter? If you’ve noticed this, you may already have an idea of what it means to eat seasonally.

Fruits and vegetables all have a natural season, when the climate favors more successful growth. If you’ve ever planted a veggie garden, then you may be familiar with some of the produce that you can harvest during each season. The tomatoes and peaches that are plentiful in August are just some of the produce that’s in season during late summer, for example.

What does it mean to eat seasonally?

Eating seasonally means purchasing and consuming produce around the same time it’s naturally harvested. These days, fruits and vegetables are technically produced year-round, but you should look for items during their peak season (you can find a quick cheat sheet here.) Ideally, you should also look for items that have been grown locally, as this means the produce is fresher than those imported from far away.

What are the benefits of seasonal eating?

  • Seasonal produce is more nutrient-dense. Fruits and vegetables grown and consumed during their natural season have more nutrients than those grown out of season. For example, a study found that Vitamin C levels in broccoli grown during the fall (in season) were almost twice as high as those in broccoli grown during the spring.
  • It will lead to a more varied diet. Yes, it’s great to eat the reliably healthy fruits and veggies that you know you love. But you could be missing out on some vitamins and minerals if you only stick to the same group of produce. Try something when it’s in season, and you could discover a new favorite.
  • Seasonal produce tastes better. To keep up with consumer demand, a lot of commercial farms prioritize growing practices that favor large quantities and longer shelf lives. While this means we can have strawberries year-round, they unfortunately aren’t as flavorful after chilling, transportation, and artificial ripening.
  • It’s less expensive. In-season local produce grows more abundantly and also doesn’t need to be shipped hundreds or thousands of miles. This means cost-savings for farmers and distributors, which translates to a lower price for you, the consumer.
  • It’s more environmentally friendly. To grow produce off-season, farmers need to create artificial climates, which requires a lot of energy and leads to high greenhouse gas emissions. Transporting this produce then contributes even further to these issues. Eat seasonally and you’ll greatly reduce your carbon footprint.

How do I find seasonal produce?

Thanks to modern grocery stores, many of us have become accustomed to finding any produce we want year-round. So, it’s not as easy to know what’s actually in season for your region. For a helpful resource, check out the Seasonal Food Guide website or app. Type in your zip code to see a list of produce that’s in season specifically for your area, plus links for shopping tips and recipes. Your local farmer’s market is also a great place to start.

Don’t forget that frozen fruits and veggies are also a great way to enjoy produce, especially during winter. They are often harvested in-season and frozen immediately, preserving their beneficial nutrients so you can enjoy healthy meals with your favorite produce all year long!