"Eat local and in-season." We've all heard it so many times that it's easy to forget what an impact these two things can make, both for our bodies and the planet. We're still in peak produce season now, but depending on where you live, things will start to taper off in the coming months. Even so, there are plenty of ways to eat seasonally through the end of summer and into fall!
Benefits of Eating Seasonally
- Fresher produce: If you're eating locally-produced food, then by default, you're getting a lot fresher produce. Things that don't have to be shipped thousands of miles don't require any processing (win!), and they're much more nutrient-dense (double win!) because they experience less exposure to heat, light, and oxygen post-harvest than produce that requires weeks of transport time before sitting on a grocery shelf.
- It's delicious: We've all tasted the difference between a sad grocery store tomato in January and a freshly-picked tomato in August. Seasonal produce is at its natural peak so it's crisp, juicy, ripe, and delicious all by itself.
- More variety: It may seem counter-intuitive since out-of-season foods limit what's available at any given time, but if you're hitting up the farmer's market or getting a local CSA, you're much more likely to try out veggies you typically pass up or never see. Plus, when you're limited by what's in season, you naturally vary what you're eating month to month which is great for micronutrients and a healthy gut!
- Good for the planet: Shipping food across large distances requires burning a lot of fossil fuels, and it's only compounded by the refrigeration needed to keep produce from spoiling. Plus, food that's in-season typically requires fewer chemicals to fertilize it and much less energy to create the temperature and environment it requires. Mother nature's got that part handled!
- Get in tune with the nature: Making a conscious choice to eat seasonally promotes balance with our planet's resources. We can enjoy the variety of the seasons rather than fighting against their natural rhythm. Is there any better feeling than biting into a juicy summer peach or enjoying a cozy squash soup in autumn?
- Support your local economy: When you buy directly from local producers, you know exactly where your money is going and get to truly appreciate the work that went into producing your food. Plus, most small-scale farmers are much more conscious of their environmental impact when it comes to pesticides and farming methods.
How to Eat Seasonally Through Fall
Start with the farmer's market
If you have the option, shop your farmer's market or produce stand as long as it's open for the year. It may be year-round if you live in a warmer climate, and many cities now offer limited indoor winter farmer's markets! This ensures you're getting mostly seasonal produce without the need to keep a mental list of what's in season when.
Consider a CSA
If they're available in your area, consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture). Each week or every other week, you'll receive a share of whatever they're harvesting at that time, which ensures you're getting lots of variety at peak freshness. Most CSAs offer full season shares, as well as fall and sometimes winter shares so it's never too late to check into your options.
A fall or winter CSA might include storage crops like squash, pumpkins, onions, potatoes, beets, cabbage, and carrots, dried grains, or greens grown inside a heated greenhouse.
Seasonal Produce Rules of Thumb
If you don't have access to a farmer's market or CSA, there are plenty of lists online detailing what's in season when for your region. But as a rule of thumb, here are the basics you can look for at the grocery store in each season:
Summer: Think juicy, bright, bursting with flavor. Berries, tomatoes, peaches, plums, dark leafy greens, corn, bell peppers.
Fall: Think of deep fall colors and cozy flavors. Burgundy beets and cranberries, dark green brussels sprouts and broccolini, dark orange squash and sweet potatoes, apples, etc.
Winter: Think about root veggies and produce that stays fresh a long time. Onions, kale, celery, carrots, turnips, citrus fruits.
Spring: Think green and crisp! Asparagus, peas, leeks, artichoke, rhubarb, etc.