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A Beginner’s Guide to Seasonal Eating

Seasonal eating is a new phrase for an old-fashioned concept — eating fruits and vegetables based on what’s in season. At the supermarket, you can get tomatoes and strawberries at any time of the year. But fruits and vegetables that are in season are fresher, tastier and healthier than the ones out-of-season.

If you’ve heard of the idea, you may know seasonal eating is also associated with several health benefits. Food that ripens on the vine and is grown when it’s meant to will be both rich in flavor and healthful. It’s also better for the environment because seasonal food is local food — less distance means less gas and energy spent on refrigerating produce.

Are you interested? Then check out these ways you can start eating seasonally.

Shop at a Farmer’s Market

One of the easiest ways to eat seasonal foods is to shop local. When your food is local you know it’s probably in season.

The farmers at your local farmer’s market can also tell you how they grew their produce. If it’s organic and grown sustainably, they can let you know. Reducing the distance your food travels and the refrigeration it needs is not only great for the environment but also ensures greens are a little less sad and wilted than the ones you’ll find at the supermarket. Produce such as strawberries, avocados and soybeans have heavily localized production. Most are grown in just a few places, making eating local and supporting small businesses easier.

Know What’s in Season

If you’re shopping at a supermarket, you won’t get the same advice or recommendations about the seasonal produce that you would from a farmer’s market. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat seasonally if you can only shop at the grocery store. You’ll just need to do a little more research.

You know something is off when you walk past aisles of brightly-colored fruits in the dead of winter. But other out-of-season fruits and vegetables may not be as obvious. You have to know what fruits and vegetables are in-season based on your region to shop seasonally at a supermarket.

In the spring, for example, you’ll find plenty of in-season fruits in the South. But in the rest of the country, the available seasonal produce will look different. You’re not likely to find citrus fruits or apricots outside the Southern states, but you will find a variety of fresh greens worth cooking with.

Be sure to check where the produce is from before buying. Even if strawberries are in season, the supermarket may also be selling imported strawberries.

Preserve Your Leftovers

No one likes wasting food. But food waste can feel even worse when you know you can’t get the same quality of fruits and veggies until next year.

If you’ve hit a point where it is no longer possible to eat your fresh produce — you’re sick of it, your roommates are sick of it and even your dog has run out of patience for rutabaga — preserve your leftovers. Canning, pickling and freezing won’t preserve all of the flavor of your ingredients, but it will keep you from wasting food. There’s also the great health benefits of Lacto-fermentation to look forward to.

And if you find yourself burdened by a new kind of fresh food in the months to come, you’ll have some interesting ingredients to spice up your meals.

Get Adventurous

It’s good advice for anyone who wants to expand their diet, but great advice for anyone wants to get the most out of eating seasonally. Getting adventurous with your eating habits is one of the best ways to make sure you’re getting all the health benefits of seasonal eating. You may have never tried cooking with rhubarb, radishes or kale, but that’s no reason not to start. Expand your horizon, learn new cooking techniques and get all the health benefits of eating fresher food.

Starting Your Seasonal Eating Journey

The best way to start eating seasonally is to dive right in — find out where to get fresh, local produce and experiment with all the different ways you can cook it. Seasonal eating may be more work than shopping at the supermarket, but the benefits for your health, the environment and your taste buds are big.