Want to eat more fruits and vegetables? I'm sharing my favorite recipes and top reasons to choose local, seasonal produce in this guide.
Why Choose Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables?
I fell in love with fruits and vegetables once I started cooking with the seasons. Here are five reasons I seek out local produce whenever possible.
Peak fruits and vegetables tend to pack more flavor than off-season or non-local produce. Taste a fresh-picked tomato in August or September and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.
Many fruits and vegetables start to lose nutrients immediately after they're picked. You can avoid some of this degradation by opting for local produce that hasn't traveled long distances before making its way onto your plate. Frozen fruits and veggies are another nutrient-dense option (especially when fresh produce isn't available—see below).
It's often easier to grow a crop during its peak, so you'll usually see the best prices on fruits and vegetables when they're in season. Local produce also requires less transportation, and farmers may pass along these savings to you.
Shopping for local, seasonal produce gives you an opportunity to support the farmers in your community. Sustainable food systems are complicated, because there are so many factors that go into a food's overall carbon footprint. When growing practices and other factors are comparable, local fruits and vegetables tend to be more environmentally sustainable. This is largely because transportation needs are so much lower.
Changing up your ingredients with the seasons is an amazing way to add variety to your diet. I always feel a push of culinary creativity when the seasons change. Each one has its own set of unique ingredients to experiment with.
Is Fresh, Seasonal Produce the Only Option?
There's no need to eat fresh produce 100% of the time.
Frozen and canned foods are convenient and cost-effective ways to add extra nutrients to your meals. Fruits and vegetables are often frozen immediately after they're picked, so their nutritional content is sometimes even higher than what you can get from fresh!
I use frozen and canned products year-round, but they're especially useful during the winter, when locally-grown produce is more limited in my area.
How to incorporate canned and frozen fruits and vegetables:
- Use canned tomatoes to make homemade soup or pasta sauce.
- Sauté or steam frozen broccoli to use in salads and grain bowls.
- Add frozen, chopped spinach to curry dishes.
- Make smoothies with frozen fruit.
What's In Season Right Now?
(Based on seasonality in Colorado, USA.)
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
- Green beans
- Bell peppers
- Summer squash
More Healthy, Seasonal Cooking Tips:
- Learn how to properly store fruits and vegetables to maximize freshness.
- Freeze or can to preserve peak-season produce for the off-season
- Repurpose leftovers to reduce food waste
- Shop at farmers markets or join a CSA (community supported agriculture)
- Search for seasonal recipes online to keep mealtimes interesting
- Grow your own food (a pot of fresh herbs is an easy way to start)