With warmer weather and increased outdoor fun, summertime brings an incredible variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as a bevy of questions for produce enthusiasts.
How do you know which types of produce are at their peak?
Why should I buy local foods and produce?
Is there any advantage to buying and eating fruits and vegetables “in season”?
The summer season is the peak time for most varieties of berries. They include sweet strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
Not only are these treats delicious they are also high in fiber and beneficial antioxidants to help fight disease.
Studies show that berries are a good source of polyphenols, making them a heart-healthy addition to your diet.
Summer squash is an excellent low-calorie, low-carb addition to your summer plate.
Although technically a fruit, yellow squash is loaded with vitamins A, B, and C, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and iron.
With a growing season that begins in mid-May and ends in mid-to-late July, the cherry season is one of the shortest on the list, making it vital to take full advantage of this short window.
Cherries make a great low-calorie snack full of fiber, potassium, and magnesium.
Fresh, sweet corn
Corn is one of the most adaptable foods on the planet, and nothing announces “summer” like sweet corn.
The season for this warm weather favorite peaks from May to early September, and the United States is the world's largest corn producer.
Tomatoes are a versatile fruit capable of starring in delicious sauces, soups, or battered and fried.
Tomatoes are so multitalented that they may do some of their best work independently, eaten fresh off the vine.
Watermelon, Cantaloupe, and Honeydew
Summer is prime time for these three delicious fruits that work well served together or separately.
All three fruits are low in calories and high in nutrients, including vitamins A and C, and are excellent sources of potassium.
Are In-Season Foods Cheaper to Buy?
Produce and other foods cost less when in-season due to their ample supply.
For example, mid-to-late August is when the corn harvest reaches its peak. Farmers have an ample supply, and there is plenty of fresh corn for everyone, so the prices are lower. But in February, fresh corn is harder to find, so the price increases.
Do In-Season Foods Have More Nutrients?
Fruits and vegetables are living, breathing organisms that begin to lose their nutritional value soon after harvesting.
In-season foods and produce are more nutrient-dense than foods consumed out of season, and there may be a few reasons why this occurs.
Consuming locally grown produce as close to harvest as possible ensures that you receive the most significant bang for your nutritional buck.
In addition, produce allowed to ripen in the natural environment is less susceptible to the breakdown of nutrients, texture, and flavor caused by respiration.
Do In-Season Foods Stay Fresher Longer, Creating Less Waste?
Large commercial produce distributors attempt to prolong the lifespan by harvesting and packing delicate fruits and vegetables before the foods are fully ripe.
This early harvest theoretically gives the food time to reach its destination, in some cases across the country, before spoiling.
Locally sourced produce doesn't spend days or weeks in transit and can ripen naturally on the parent plant instead of inside a refrigerated truck.
The additional time in the field allows the fruits and vegetables to reach their peak nutritional profile and flavor.
Enzymatic browning is the term for the natural chemical change that occurs in the appearance and texture of foods as they age, and it's one of the biggest causes of fresh produce waste.
The more time these foods spend in transit, the more food we lose through browning and spoilage.
Are Any Foods Always In-Season?
With all of the health, environmental, and economic advantages of eating in-season produce, many people wonder if there are foods that are always “in-season.”
Thankfully, several foods have longer growing seasons, making them available year-round. Among these are certain varieties of apples, bananas, onion, and lettuce families members.
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy seasonal foods, and consuming local produce tastes better, is more nutrient-dense, and is better for the planet.
Consider starting a garden to grow some of your food or visiting a local farmers' market to find some delicious fresh local produce.