We’ve all heard it before – “You should eat seasonal produce”. But…. what does that actually mean?
Seasonality of produce is an important factor of food production, and it varies based on the region or state in which you live (i.e., Michigan has different Summers and Winters than California). Farmers need to be aware of what crops grow best during which seasons in order to have the most plentiful harvest, and consumers need to know the exact same information so they know what to look for in the grocery store or at the Farmer’s Market.
There are plenty of reasons why you should pay more attention to seasonal produce. Purchasing seasonal produce is typically less expensive than buying that same fruit or vegetable during its off-season. This relates to the simple concept of supply and demand; in-season produce is in large supply so it is sold at cheaper prices to maintain demand. Produce is more expensive in its off-season because it costs more to import it from regions of the country/world where production can happen year-round. Buying seasonal produce not only supports your local farmer, but it also supports your wallet!
Many even believe that seasonal produce tastes better. When it is only being shipped locally, the crops can be picked at their peak freshness. Additionally, seasonal produce is grown closer to you so it won’t spoil on the journey from farm to table. Buying seasonally can also help you broaden your palate horizons! We often get stuck in our ways of consuming the same meals with the same ingredients over and over again; buying produce seasonally will help expand your recipe book and expose you to dishes that you would not experience otherwise. This will also help you eat a more well-rounded diet of produce with different nutritional content!
Which fruits and vegetables go with which season, you ask? Well, for starters, take a look at either of these great resources published by Michigan State University: Michigan Availability Guide and Michigan Produce Availability Chart. For example, apples are best during the Fall months of September through November, lettuce and mushrooms are grown almost year-round, and tomatoes are grown during the Summer months of June to August/September. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is also a great resource for figuring out which produce go with which season, as well as a source for recipes to use those produce for.
If you want to learn more about seasonal produce, farming, or general health and wellness, come on out to the Fall Open House at The Farm at St. Joe’s of Ann Arbor on Saturday, September 24 from 10a to 2p, located on the hospital campus at 5557 McAuley Dr. This event will feature fresh food samples, health and wellness information, kids’ activities, and farm tours! Click here for more information. We hope to see you there!