Are you getting fresh?

Strawberries in the middle of winter. Winter squash in the dead of summer? What is this world coming to? Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but there’s something to this. There really are benefits to eating vegetables when they’re in season.

Of course, it’s better to choose an actual strawberry over a strawberry-flavored toaster pastry any time of year. But when it comes to choosing your produce, you may want to give seasonality a place in your meal planning. Here’s why:

  1. Your food shouldn’t have its own frequent flyer miles. This is      a little obvious, but if you’re in Seattle and buying watermelon in      January, it’s safe to assume it was grown elsewhere (or under artificial      conditions).  If you want to eat a      clean and natural diet, you probably want to get your food as close to the      source as possible.
  2. Produce shouldn’t contribute to global warming. Whether you      believe in global warming or not, pollution is a real thing. And it      doesn’t take much to imagine how many more toxins are released to send      food from Chile to Oregon than it does to send it from Alvadore to Portland.
  3. Fresh food tastes better and is better for you. Plain and      simple. Imagine picking a juicy red tomato off the vine and taking a bite.      Now, imagine doing the same to a standard grocery-store tomato that was      picked while it was still green and unripe. Sure, it turned red by the      time it got to you, but the connection to its source of nutrients was      severed many days ago. It’s simply not fresh. Think about what happens to      you when you haven’t eaten in three days. You know your body is losing      nutrients every day, but they aren’t being replenished. The same happens      when produce is severed from its food source.

You don’t need to know when cumquats are in season.  There’s only one thing to keep in mind if you want to buy seasonal produce. If it’s locally grown, it’s in season. Here are a few places you can expect to find seasonal produce:

  1. Specialty supermarket – Specialty grocers like Whole Foods often stock a good supply of local produce, but you may also be able to find a small section at any nationwide grocery chain.
  2. Farmer’s markets – Did you know that farmer’s markets are held in the winter too? Sure, the stands aren’t as well-stocked and plentiful, but they will have some great seasonal favorites.
  3. CSAs – Most farmers work year round, which means they have to sell produce and fund their business year round. So, you’re likely to find many of the same CSA programs in the winter as you’ll find in the summer, just with different produce.
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