Eating seasonally is a popular buzzword as of late because so many of us are seeking the freshest, safest and most delicious fruits and vegetables.
If you’ve ever wondered what fruits are in season in winter or wished for a winter seasonal food guide or list to ensure you’re getting the best produce, this seasonal eating series is just for you. Be sure to check out the list of winter vegetables and corresponding recipes at the end of this post. There are even a few winter fruits on the list so don’t miss out.
Eating Seasonally has Many Benefits
There’s nothing worse than purchasing store-bought strawberries in a grocery store on the East Coast that has traveled almost three-thousand miles from California only to bite into a flavorless, sad excuse for a berry. Out of season fruits are often picked unripe and either altered in some way before they arrive on shelves or allowed to ‘ripen’ off the vine.
Fresh Summer strawberries are a treat that should be enjoyed when it is actually Summer. One of our favorite recipes, Vegan Strawberry Chocolate Muffins uses fresh local strawberries, in fact. Choosing to eat seasonally benefits us of course, but it also benefits our local farmers.
I just finished reading Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, to my homeschooled third grader. I did read the book years ago of course. Though, as a 10-year-old, I was just following the life of Almanzo Wilder as I read. As an adult with an interest in home gardening and living off-the-grid though, it was as though I was reading it for the first time. I was struck by how resourceful families had to be. Of course, it shouldn’t surprise me that all parts of the animals were used during butchering season or how vegetables were grown throughout the year and used at different times and in various ways later on. I knew these things of course, but reading about it again as an adult really
Eating Seasonally Makes Economical Sense
We’ve come a long way from life at the Wilder Homestead in Burke New York. Industrialized agriculture is a necessary evil today and as such, while we have a vast array of food available at our fingertips at any point, the quality of said food does suffer. The Wilder family had to grow their own crops and keep their own animals. They had to be resourceful and use every part of the animal and food. My third grader learned how convenient life is for him now and was able to compare and contrast his life as against that of Almanzo’s.
While it is nice to have the option of having a delicious smoothie bowl in the dead of winter, there is something to be said for seasonal eating. Making an effort to eat seasonally as often as possible is beneficial for many reasons; here are five reasons you should eat seasonally as much as possible. I don’t know that there are any disadvantages of eating seasonal foods, but I do think making sure you use up your produce before it goes bad, can sometimes be a challenge.
Seasonal Foods are More Nutrient Dense
Higher nutrients — Seasonal produce contain the highest amount of nutrients because they were harvested recently and are fresh. The fresher the produce the higher the nutrient value.
Food Deserts Limit Access to Healthful Seasonal Foods
In my early twenties, I lived in the Bayview/Hunters Point area of San Francisco. While I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, once I moved away from home I pretty much couch-surfed my way through my early twenties. Granted, I did have a tiny studio apartment of my own for some time but I was soon ready to spread my wings and travel. I found myself at 19 years old, living with my dad who owned a home off of Third Street in San Francisco. The neighborhood at the time was a food desert. To me, as a clueless young adult, I learned that residents in the neighborhood didn’t have easy access to quality grocery stores. The one store that was in the neighborhood was overpriced and often offered sub-par products.
Food deserts are a significant problem in the United States. By definition, a food desert is that has limited access to nutritious food. Essentially, what is happening is that lower-income areas of the country are being left behind in many ways. One such way is through access to affordable, healthy food options. Many larger grocery stores don’t want to move into lower-income areas leaving residents of said areas with subpar options.
Urban Farms Can Improve Food Security
Over the last several years, across the country, local farmers are stepping up. Urban farms are growing in numbers across the United States. Here in Charleston, Fresh Future Farm offers access to affordable healthy food. Food security simply means residents have access to a decent amount of affordable, nutrient-dense food. It’s not enough for fast-food chains to spring up all over. Nutritious food should be easily accessible for everyone, regardless of where they live.
Eating Seasonally Ensures Better Flavor
Better flavor — Seasonal produce will be more enjoyable to consume because of the flavor. Freshness also contributes to the flavors. Keeping the produce fresh while being shipped across the country is nearly impossible which is why the flavor of the produce will diminish.
Seasonal Foods are Cheaper
When we eat fruits that are in season, we can save money. Because seasonal foods are in abundance, prices will be lower. By purchasing local foods direct from local farmers and farmer’s markets, we cut out the cost of transporting produce. Because the seasonal foods have a shorter distance to travel before they’re sold, consumers reap the benefits of shorter transportation times. So essentially, buying fruit that is in season in June during the Spring months is a far more economical choice than buying the same fruit that is not in season in winter. The price goes up in winter because there’s less of it to be had.
Buying Foods in Season Helps Local Farmers
Giving back by supporting farmers in your community and eating seasonally can boost your local economy. I’ve become quite enamored with a local company in the Charleston area called Vertical Roots. According to their website:
Vertical Roots is dedicated to bringing farm-fresh, hyper-local, and pesticide-free produce right into the communities we serve. In the process, we aim to build a sustainable future for agriculture and sustainable jobs for farmers
Aside from doing great things by providing quality seasonal foods to the Charleston area, Vertical Roots is also creating jobs. It’s truly a win-win situation for all.
One of my favorite things in the world is a good farm share. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) connects farmers with community members. As a customer of a CSA, you subscribe either weekly or seasonally (depending on your local farmer) and receive regular allotments of that week’s crop. It’s a great way to eat seasonally, support your local farmer and try new foods and experimenting with recipes.
Find a CSA or Farm Share Near You
Did you know that the USDA provides a list of CSAs and farms throughout the country that offer consumers the delivery of locally-grown products? You can access a list of CSAs and farm shares in the US here. While this is not an exhaustive list, it’s a great start. There are countless ways to find local produce for you to eat seasonally. When you choose to eat seasonally, you can get creative and try something you may have never encountered before.
Last Summer when one of our local shares, the Twenty Bag, included shishito peppers in the weekly share, I was able to break out of a cooking rut and try something different. I discovered the amazingness that is a blistered shishito pepper! That’s not something I ever would have tried of, nor thought of making before. Thanks to my weekly farm share though, I found a new favorite, healthful snack.
Winter Seasonal Foods Checklist
We’ll periodically be updating this list as recipes are added. If you’ve ever wondered what food is in season in November vs what food might be in season in October, this list will be for you. Depending on where you live, some of these winter seasonal foods may or may not be in season. I like to rely on my local farmers, year-round farmers’ markets and CSAs to ensure I’m getting the freshest produce available that allows me to eat seasonally when I can. I love that I have the option of purchasing a variety of fruits and vegetables year-round but know that produce will look and taste its best when it comes from farmers in my own community. Eating seasonally does not have to be difficult, these recipes can help: