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Deciphering Produce Seasons

Posted in Food Safety on October 13, 2019

If you’ve ever experienced the stomach-twisting moment of a grocery store trip for your favorite produce, only to find out that your hankering is not in season, I feel for you. I really do. I’m a Brussel sprout girl myself, and am currently living in the glorious time where these delicious greens are tumbling off the shelves. However, that means the rest of the year the closest I get to these delightful vegetables is in my dreams, or pricey restaurants. Even then, I’ve slammed into a craving-wall when a waiter regretfully informs me that particular item is unavailable at the time. Hey, I’ve got my favorite appetizers and struggle with the loss of them like any rational a human being might. Anyway, I figured I’d contribute rather than sulk, or at least make myself feel better about previous pouts by taking away your future guesswork. I’m here to destroy or make your dreams this month. Let’s keep those wants in check, or celebrate, based on what is available to you, while keeping in mind produce safety. Let’s talk Produce Seasons.

It’s THAT time of year

Curb your appetite until your snack is plentiful, or take the opportunity before the seasons change. While I’m already making this guide, I’ll remind you why you need these earth-grown foods in your diet. It’s important to note that peak season is important for price reasons, but it’s also best for your taste buds, as well as overall health.

Though seasonal produce may vary dependent on where you live, food disbursement is interconnected and can be effected by areas much farther away than your front door. Fruits and vegetables can become less beneficial when they’ve traveled long distances to your plate. Why? Well, that’s because produce begins to lose nutrients the moment it is harvested. This is why locally grown foods are best for your body. Along with that, the less your grub needs to travel to your home, means the least amount of chemical intervention needed to sustain it.

So, wrap your stomach around this guide, and plan your dinners for the times. Below you’ll find what produce is exclusive to the season, but don’t get discouraged, scroll down a little farther and you’ll find what’s available multiple times per year, and it might just surprise you. 

Fall into these delectable dishes. Isn’t it funny that we often decorate our homes this season with Fall produce? Well, let it be a reminder to actually eat those veggies as well. Don’t stop there, though, brightly colored fruits are in high season during this time of year, and I’m not talking just about pumpkins. Take advantage of the normally high-priced fruits and build that system up. During these months, you’re probably closing doors and windows to keep the night chill away. You might even start hunkering down at home a little more often without summer activities keeping you away. Do you know what that means? It means your likely being exposed to bacteria carried between members of your household, and the germs are piling up. It’s just about opposite of Spring cleaning, and that can pose a few risks.

Don’t forget to take these off the shelves as there exclusive peak time is Fall:

  • Cauliflower
  • Cranberries
  • Ginger
  • Grapes

Winter weather produce has some incredible perks. Getting as many nutrients in winter is vital to your immune system, especially while it’s under attack during the flu and cold season. Focus heavily on your Vitamin C to keep that system running strong.

Sure, there’s plenty of winter veggies that share their time with other seasons (see the multi-season list below), but did you know these guys shine in the winter time:

  • Grapefruit
  • Leeks

Ah, Spring.  Here’s the first part of the year where fresh produce is on our doorstep. It’s a chance to eat organic, clean, and be a bit more nit-picky about where we obtain our springtime nutrients. Our local stands are replenished, and our produce doesn’t have to travel far. During this time we have quite a bit to make up for after the harsh winter season. So, replenish your A, E, C, and K vitamins, as well as your Potassium and Folate. Now that the warm weather is coming back, you might have the urge to go outside and replenish that Vitamin D offered by the sun to help those bones. Did you know Vitamin K also helps to promote bone health? That’s right, Vitamin K binds calcium and minerals to the bone. So keep it up through the winter, and refill this Spring.

Here’s your primetime Spring  produce:

  • Asparagus
  • Cabbage
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Rhubarb

The Summer heat makes for delicious options. Not only does cold fruit help cool the body, you can help heal your skin that’s being pounded by the sun with fruits that are rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C.  The same goes for your hair, nutrients such as Vitamin B-5 and calcium can help fight the chlorine damage you’ve taken on while swimming at your buddy’s backyard barbecue.    While you’re at it, up that protein intake, since you’ve been working those muscles with all that outdoor activity.  Here’s a few more uncomfortable reasons to eat up during the summer: wet bathing suits are perfect avenues for yeast infections. Take in less sugar and to counteract this possibility. Also, cold sores can be brought on by sun exposure. Your vitamins B’s can help with that.

Let’s be honest, Summer offers a lot of exclusives. It is still a peak season though, so don’t turn your nose up at these summer specials:

  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Lima Beans
  • Mangos
  • Okra
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Summer Squash
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini

Finally, the produce that’ll keep popping up at your grocery store, the buddies that harvest multiple times per year to keep us healthy, introducing the Multi-Seasonal Produce Extravaganza:

  • Apples- Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter
  • Apricots- Spring/Summer
  • Avocados- Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter
  • Bananas- Spring/Summer/Winter
  • Beets- Fall/Summer/Winter
  • Bell Peppers- Fall/Summer
  • Broccoli- Spring/Fall
  • Brussel Sprouts- Fall/Winter
  • Cabbage- Spring/Fall/Winter
  • Carrots- Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter
  • Celery- Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter
  • Collard Greens- Spring/Fall/Winter
  • Garlic- Spring/Summer/Fall
  • Green Beans- Fall/Summer
  • Kale- Spring/Fall/Winter
  • Kiwifruit- Spring/Fall/Winter
  • Lemons- Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter
  • Limes- Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter
  • Onions- Spring/Fall/Winter
  • Parsnips- Fall/Winter
  • Peas- Spring/Fall
  • Pears- Fall/Winter
  • Strawberries- Spring/Summer
  • Pineapples- Spring/Fall/Winter
  • Potatoes- Fall/Winter
  • Pumpkin- Fall/Winter
  • Radishes- Spring/Fall
  • Raspberries- Summer/Fall
  • Rutabagas- Fall/Winter
  • Spinach- Spring/Fall
  • Sweet Potatoes/Yams- Fall/Winter
  • Swiss Chard- Spring/Fall/Winter
  • Turnips- Spring/Fall/Winter
  • Winter Squash- Fall/Winter

Yes, friends, shopping for seasonal produce might feel overwhelming, or maybe disappointing; but, you always have the option for frozen if you feel like you’re missing something your body needs. I’m willing to bet, that your kitchen creativity will thrive once you give the fresh section a shot. Maybe, by the end of these four seasons you’ll be a smoothie wizard, or potluck side-dish master. Wait, how about a produce guru? Why not? You’re reading a food blog, I’m betting there’s an experimental chef waiting to pick the perfect fruit and vegetable. While you’re at it, take a gander at some bacon and Brussel sprouts recipes and enjoy this fall season with me. And our friends at the USDA got your back, too.

Good luck on your culinary endeavors, and remember to make your foods safe.

By: Heaven Bassett, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)