The idea of eating food that is in season will be specific to where you live in the world. It's based on eating locally grown produce that has been harvested when it's at its best. This "peak season" produce is not only the time when the fruit and vegetables are freshest, but they also will be the tastiest and have the best nutritional profile.
Seasonal produce belongs in your diet because it's flavourful, great for you nutritionally, and has the smallest carbon footprint possible - especially if you grow it yourself.
Do All Fruit and Veg Have A Season?
There are a couple of exceptions to seasonal produce. Notably, beetroot, carrots, parsnips and radishes are root vegetables that can be grown, harvested and consumed any time of the year with a consistent flavour and nutritional profile.
As a rule of thumb, though, most foods grown are going to have a season when they are at their best. Here are 7 seasonal produce you can find at your local fruit & veg trader from early spring till autumn. It's worth checking that they are indeed local and seasonal before you buy.
While we can buy lettuce year-round at the supermarket, these lettuces have had technological advancements to extend their lifespan. Improvements in picking, packing, shipping and storing can make lettuce last far longer than it used to.
If you're looking for the crispiest, sweetest lettuce from local sources, early spring lettuce is best. If you're buying out of season, there could be nutritional deficiencies or, worse, in imported lettuces, there could be pesticides used in its farming. If you can't get in-season lettuce, consider an alternative like cabbage or kale.
Fresh peas have a very short season - only around a fortnight at the start of spring. During this time, peas have a very high sugar content and taste incredible. They're packed with nutrients and offer protein, fibre, and a range of vitamins and minerals. However, a great alternative is buying frozen peas. These are frozen at the point of harvesting and will stay fresh and sweet.
It's in season between May and late June. Fresh asparagus has a great nutritional profile. Stalks provide an excellent source of protein, fibre, a range of vitamins, iron, folic acid and selenium. But out of season, this vegetable becomes lacking in nutrients, and the stalks are woody and bland. Eaten out of season, it can be an uninspiring vegetable.
If you've ever eaten an out of season strawberry, you'll likely have wondered why you bothered. Bland and small, this is because they're grown in artificial conditions. Strawberries are the ultimate summer fruit, at their best from mid-June to mid-August. Wimbledon has it right!
These delicious fruits are firm, reddish, and have a small amount of fuzz during July and August. They're stacked with Vitamin A, C & beta-carotene. Outside of these months, they have reduced flavour and nutrients. They even look slightly different.
Tomatoes are in season between early August and mid-October. If you buy them outside of that period, they are sometimes picked unripe. After transportation, they are artificially ripened with ethylene. As you might suspect, the flavour and nutrients in these lack after months in storage.
Grapes are in season during late summer. It's worth knowing that the seeds contain most of the nutrients. The chalky limestone soils of Sussex, Kent and southern facing slopes are perfect for growing grapes. The roots grow deeply and can be cultivated even in a sunny garden.
There are a wide variety of mushrooms, and it's essential to stick with seasonal types, such as morel in spring, lobster in summer, chanterelles in autumn and truffles in winter. This deliberate selection of seasonal varieties will provide an optimised level of minerals and the most robust flavours possible.
With more and more people becoming interested in minimising their carbon footprint and the adverse effects of imported food on the environment, awareness of seasonal choices in harvested foods has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. The popularity of allotments has meant that it's no longer only those living in the countryside that can enjoy the delights of an in-season harvest from their garden or window box.
While it's not always possible to shop extremely locally, making decisions about in-season fruit and veg rather than imported sends a clear message to supermarkets. Not only are these foods lower in the essential nutrients we expect from our fruit and veg - they don't even taste as good. And in the case of imported foods, they can sometimes contain chemicals and pesticides to prolong the shelf life of the fruits and veg.
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