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The Benefits of Eating Seasonally

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I remember going to the market with my parents as a child. As one of seven children, it was a special treat to spend any time alone with Mom or Dad even if it was shopping for groceries. So these memories stand out. I loved to pick out fruits and vegetables, poking for firmness, taking in the scent and making sure it was just right. Selecting in season produce was easy in the seventies and eighties because that was all that was available. But that’s changed.

The development of mass transit, global shipping, and scientific advances in agriculture and food preservation have allowed us access to the produce we love 365 days per year. While this is convenient and at first glance seems like a great way to expand our options, the long term effect has been a decreases in nutrients provided by produce, lower quality products, and destruction of local farming. By creating a constant flow of non-local and out-of-season products, we’ve lost touch with our farming communities, wiped our support of the local economy, and sacrificed many of the important benefits of eating seasonally.

What does it mean to eat seasonally and locally?

We all have our favorite fruit or vegetable and we know how it’s supposed to taste. For me, it’s watermelon. I cut into the skin so the juice pours out onto the plate then slice the fruit from the rind, pop a piece into my mouth and set my taste buds dancing. I know when it’s ripe. As a matter of fact, I judge the end of summer by when watermelon loses its flavor. When I bite into a piece of pink juicy deliciousness and discover it tastes more like white bread than my summer sunshine, that’s it, pack up the boat supplies. The season is over

You can taste the difference between local produce and something shipped hundreds or even thousands of miles before arriving on your supermarket shelf. But as with most things, there are differences of opinion about the definition of “eating seasonally” and “eating locally”. What people do seem to agree on is that eating seasonally is to eat close to the time that the food item was grown and picked. Eating locally means eating near the location where the food was grown, typically within 150 to 200 miles.

It’s important to note that seasonal food may not be local. Apples, for example, are flown into my local supermarket from all over the country, in season and off. Locally grown food, however, is always seasonal if purchased fresh.

Why is it better to eat food that is in season?

There are many reasons why it’s better to eat food that is in season. The best reason is that it tastes better! It is picked at the right time so it reaches peak taste. It is also healthier since nutrients are not lost by picking too early or too late.

Do seasonal fruits and vegetables taste better?

Fruits and vegetables taste best at the peak of ripeness, soon after they are picked. When produce is shipped across the country, or the world, it must be picked before it fully ripens. Then it must survive the journey to its ultimate destination without rotting. In order to do so, shippers pack it into dark boxes where it completes the ripening process in an unnatural, and often chemically enhanced, manner.

Are seasonal foods better for you?

Food that is picked before it ripens does not have enough time for nutrients to fully develop. Once picked, it loses nutritional value over time unless somehow preserved. Foods grown out of season are forced into ripening either through unnatural growing conditions or the use of chemical ripening agents. These chemicals are added to fruits and vegetables to slow the ripening process while they are being processed and shipped long distances.

In addition, eating locally grown food will expose you to a wider variety of foods which will increase and diversify your nutritional intake and help you to achieve a balanced diet.

Are seasonal foods less expensive?

Yes, because foods that are readily available are less expensive. In addition, sellers don’t have to increase the cost of local foods in order to cover long distance transportation and preservation costs.

Is it better for the environment to shop locally and seasonally?

There is a negative environmental impact for every gallon of gas burned to ship produce great distances. It contributes to smog, pollution and green house gases. In addition, local farms maintain open space and undeveloped land.

Do the economy and my community benefit if I shop locally and seasonally?

Money spent with local farmers generally goes back into the local economy. It creates jobs in the farms and in the local businesses where the money is spent. Since the 1990’s there has been a growing trade deficit in the U.S. for fruits and vegetables. According to the Congressional Research Services Dec 1, 2016 report, “The U.S. Trade Situation for Fruit and Vegetable Products” , this deficit totaled $11 billion in 2015. Imagine what local economies could do with $11 billion!

How can I eat more locally grown fruits and vegetables?

The best way to eat healthy may be to grow it yourself but this isn’t an option for many of us. Thankfully, we have alternatives. Most communities have a seasonal farmer’s market and many have markets year round. Community Service Agencies (CSAs) are another possibility and often extend beyond fruits and vegetables to include meats, breads, and other locally produced items.

Whatever route you chose, be a knowledgeable and empowered consumer. Ask the seller questions about how the food is grown and if chemical pesticides or other chemical processes are used. The best person to inform you about the food you’re going to eat is the person who grew it.

Is organic better?

I’ll leave you with one final tidbit. There has been a growing call in this country for increased access to organic foods. I haven’t decided if switching to all organic foods is the answer for my family. I thought it was until I read an amazing – and disturbing – book titled “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, by Michel Pollan. It takes the reader through a journey following food from seed to table then reviews four of our largest food sourcing methods which Pollan refers to as “Industrial”, “Big Organic”, “Pastoral” and “Hunter-Gathering.” 

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” forever changed the way I look at food and the questions that I ask myself before purchasing. It opened my eyes to the horrors of industrial farming and what actually goes into what we eat. I recommend the book for those who want to learn more but it is not for the fainthearted.

What fruits and vegetables are in season in New England?

For more information about the foods listed below go to:

Seasonal Food Guide

For recipes for seasonal foods try:

If you’re interested in learning more by reading books from Michael Pollan, you can find them here:

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan

In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan

What produce is in season in New England in the Winter?

  • Beets
  • Cranberries
  • Horseradish
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Shallots
  • Sprouts

What produce is in season in New England in Spring?

  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Collard Greens
  • Fava Beans
  • Fiddleheads
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Green Onions
  • Horseradish
  • Lettuce
  • Mint
  • Morels
  • Mushrooms
  • Mustard Greens
  • Nettles
  • Parsley
  • Parsnips
  • Pea Shoots
  • Ramps
  • Rhubarb
  • Rosemary
  • Sprouts
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Watercress

What produce is in season in New England in Summer?

  • Apples
  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Bok Choy
  • Brambles
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Chili Peppers
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Collard Greens
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Currants
  • Eggplant
  • Fava Beans
  • Garlic
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Gooseberries
  • Green Beans
  • Green Onions
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lamb’s Quarters
  • Lavender
  • Lettuce
  • Melons
  • Mint
  • Mushrooms
  • Mustard Greens
  • Onions
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Pea Shoots
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Shallots
  • Shell Beans
  • Snap Peas
  • Snow Peas
  • Sorrel
  • Spinach
  • Sprouts
  • Summer Squash
  • Sunchokes
  • Thyme
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini

What produce is in season in New England in Fall?

  • Apples
  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Bok Choy
  • Brambles
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Celery Root
  • Chard
  • Chicories
  • Chili Peppers
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Collard Greens
  • Corn
  • Cranberries
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Green Beans
  • Green Onions
  • Ground Cherries
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lamb’s Quarters
  • Lavender
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Lima Beans
  • Melons
  • Mushrooms
  • Mustard Greens
  • Nectarines
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Plums
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Quince
  • Radicchio
  • Radishes
  • Rapini
  • Raspberries
  • Rosemary
  • Rutabaga
  • Sage
  • Shell Beans
  • Snap Peas
  • Snow Peas
  • Sorrel
  • Spinach
  • Sprouts
  • Strawberries
  • Summer Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Thyme
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Watermelon
  • Winter Squash
  • Zucchini

2 thoughts on “The Benefits of Eating Seasonally

    1. Hi Monika, I’m so glad you liked it and look forward to posting more that you enjoy. Thank you!

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