We have become so accustomed to having access to fruits and vegetables year round that many of us are not aware when a fruit or vegetable is in season. Why is this important?
1) Nutrition: Fruits and vegetables picked at their peak ripeness have more nutritional value. For example, the redder a tomato, the more beta-carotene it contains. The fruits and vegetables found at your local grocery store were likely picked days, sometimes weeks, before it was placed on the store shelf.
2) Variety: eating seasonally requires that we change the food we eat throughout the year. Different foods provide different nutrients, enhancing your overall nutritional intake.
3) Support Farmers: the freshest fruits and vegetables can be found at your local farmers market. Often, the farmer picked the fruit or vegetable the day before, or even the morning of the market. Unless you have your own garden, you cannot find food any fresher then this. Shopping at your local farmers markets supports your local farmers and community, as well as your health.
4) Environment: Eating seasonally has multiple environmental benefits. First, if you are purchasing from a local farmers market, your food did not need to be shipped across the country or the globe, reducing carbon emissions. Secondly, eating seasonally encourages farmers to practice intercropping and crop rotation; the growth of multiple crops on one piece of land, either at the same time or at varying times of the year. These practices help prevent soil depletion.
To learn more about which fruits and vegetables are in season, check out these helpful charts created by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA).