If you follow the Family Nutrition Program on Facebook or Twitter, you have no doubt heard that buying produce in season can save you money. Produce that is in season is also more flavorful and higher in nutrients.
Why is Seasonal Produce Best?
Produce is in season when it is grown and harvested at the time of year it grows best. Because it is grown at the perfect time, the plants produce the highest quality and quantity of fruit or veggies.
High quality, seasonal produce has the best flavor and most nutrients compared to fruits or veggies that are grown out of season. Out of season produce is usually grown far away, like California or even China. So that it doesn’t spoil before travelling the long distance to your local grocery store, they are usually picked before they are ripe, which means they are less flavorful. For me, there is no comparison between the juicy flavor of a tomato out of the garden and a bland tomato from the store in the dead of winter.
Since produce begins to lose nutrients as soon as it is picked, the nutrients it contains are draining away each day it travels to get to you. For this reason, many people find local produce tastes better. Keep this in mind when you are trying to get kids to taste new fruits or veggies. (FYI- Plain, no salt or sugar added frozen or canned fruits and veggies keep their nutrients longer than fresh produce that is shipped long distances. More info here.)
Plants produce more fruit or veggies when grown in season. Since there is a larger supply in season, the price goes down. Food eaten out of season may have been grown in a greenhouse (which costs more to heat and water) or traveled long distances (which costs more to ship), adding to the price you pay for fresh berries in March.
Where can I find seasonal produce?
You can find produce in season in your grocery store. But you can get even better taste and a wider variety of fruits and veggies at your local farmers market. Many times, the produce at the market was picked the day before after fully ripening on the vine. You can’t beat that for fresh! The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has created a very useful chart to let you know what fruit or veggies are in season in Virginia.
So the next time you sit down to plan your family’s weekly menu, take out the chart, along with the sales papers, and add more fresh, flavorful and nutritious produce to your meals. What are your favorite meals using fresh summer fruits or vegetables?
Stay tuned for our next post on a cheap, kid-friendly source of fresh, seasonal produce.