Eating locally grown foods that are “in season” means that certain foods are in abundance during a particular time of year.
Support local farms
By supporting farmers’ markets and getting to know the local growers, one can find out easily what is in season in a particular area. This is when the food will be the freshest, most flavorful and nutritious, and often less costly. If there is no access to a local farmers’ market, the produce manager at the supermarket will usually have that information.
Purchasing directly from family farmers also helps the local economy by allowing the farms to stay up and running and in business. They will sell directly to the public through a variety of ways: Farm stands, food co-ops, farmers’ markets, membership shares, and U-pick farms.
These farms may be certified organic farms. If not, they often adopt no-spray, no-hormones, and other such policies.
“The best organic food is what is grown closest to you,” says LocalHarvest.org. Their website is full of useful information to find the sources of food grown in your region.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables
In the case of vegetables and fruits, being “in season” means that it is the time of year where they are grown well. As weather conditions during growing seasons vary regionally, this factor alone can determine what is seasonal for a particular geographic location.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Service, seasonal fruits and vegetables are as follows:
Fall vegetables: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, lima beans, onions, okra, peppers, potatoes, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, summer squash, tomatoes, winter squash
Fall fruits: Apples, avocados, cantaloupe, dates, figs, grapes, honeydew melons, lemons, peaches, pears, plums, prunes, Valencia oranges
Winter vegetables: Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, winter squash
Winter fruits: Apples, avocados, dates, grapefruit, lemons, navel oranges, winter pears
Spring vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, spinach
Spring fruits: Apples, avocados, grapefruit, lemons, navel oranges, Valencia oranges, strawberries, pears
Summer vegetables: Cabbage, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, lima beans, lettuce, okra, onions, peppers, potatoes, summer squash, sweet corn, tomatoes
Summer fruits: Apricots, berries, cantaloupes, cherries, figs, grapes, honeydew melons, lemons, nectarines, peaches, plums, strawberries, Valencia oranges, watermelons
1. Adapted from U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Service: Food, Family & Fun: A Seasonal Guide to Healthy Living, June 1996. Retrieved from ERIC on October 1, 2010.
3. Personal experience