Do you ever find yourself wandering through the grocery store, wondering whether the tomatoes on display are actually ripe or if those strawberries are genuinely sweet? Well, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there. The secret to delicious, fresh, and affordable produce year-round is to buy in-season fruits and vegetables. And the good news is, it’s easier than you might think!
In this blog, we’re going to go on a journey through all four seasons, showing you how to buy and savor the very best of in-season produce. From the crisp delights of spring to the hearty flavors of winter, you’ll discover that each season has its own treasures just waiting to be enjoyed.
Spring: A Season of Renewal
Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, and that’s reflected in the array of fresh produce that becomes available. As the days get longer and temperatures rise, you can look forward to a plethora of greens, delicate flavors, and vibrant colors. Some of the best spring fruits and vegetables are:
- Strawberries: Spring heralds the arrival of the sweetest, juiciest strawberries you’ll ever taste. Look for bright red, fragrant berries that are firm to the touch. These gems are perfect for snacking, baking, or making homemade jams.
- Asparagus: Crisp and tender, asparagus is a springtime favorite. Choose spears with tight tips and bright green color. Roast them with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt for a simple and delightful side dish.
- Artichokes: Artichokes are a unique spring treat. When selecting, pick ones with tightly packed leaves and a vibrant green color. Steamed or grilled, they make a great addition to any springtime meal.
Summer: A Burst of Sun-Kissed Flavor
Summer is the season of sun-kissed skin and equally sun-kissed produce. With the warmth of the sun, fruits and vegetables become more abundant and diverse. The farmers’ markets are teeming with nature’s candy, and supermarkets are filled with colors and aromas. Summer produce examples are:
- Tomatoes: Nothing beats the flavor of a ripe, juicy tomato in the summer. Look for tomatoes that are firm but yield slightly to gentle pressure. Use them in salads, sandwiches, or as the base for a fresh tomato sauce. (Some people even just put a sprinkle of salt over their bite and eat it like an apple!)
- Corn: Sweet corn is the quintessential summer vegetable. To choose the best ears, look for green husks that are tightly wrapped. A peek of plump kernels at the top is a good sign. Grill, boil, or steam for a tasty summer side dish.
- Berries: Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are in their prime during the summer. Select berries that are plump, firm, and deeply colored. Use them in desserts, smoothies, or as a topping for your morning yogurt.
Fall: A Harvest of Earthy Flavors
As the weather cools down, fall ushers in a rich harvest of earthy and hearty flavors. This is the time to embrace the cozy aromas of pumpkin, squash, and apples. Fall produce includes:
- Pumpkins: Fall and pumpkins go hand in hand. Whether you’re carving for Halloween or baking a delicious pie, choose pumpkins that are heavy for their size and have a deep, consistent color.
- Apples: Visit an orchard, and you’ll be overwhelmed with apple varieties. Look for apples that are firm, with no blemishes or soft spots. Enjoy them as a healthy snack, or get creative with apple pies, crisps, or cider.
- Butternut Squash: The sweet and nutty flavor of butternut squash is perfect for soups and roasting. Pick squash that feels heavy for its size and has smooth, unblemished skin.
Winter: Hearty Comfort Foods
Winter might not be known for its abundance of fresh produce, but there are still plenty of delicious options to enjoy during the colder months. When the days are shorter and the air is crisper, you can warm up your kitchen with these winter vegetables. Winter produce includes:
- Brussels Sprouts: These little cabbages are at their best in the winter months. Choose firm, compact sprouts and roast them with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt for a tasty side dish.
- Cabbage: Cabbage is a versatile and hearty winter vegetable. Select heads that are heavy, firm, and free from blemishes. Use it for coleslaw, sautéed dishes, or stuffed cabbage rolls.
- Citrus Fruits: Oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are a burst of sunshine in the winter. Pick fruits that are heavy for their size, with smooth, brightly colored skin. Enjoy them as a healthy snack or use their juice for a refreshing drink.
Now that you know which produce is in season for each of the four seasons, let’s talk about how to make the most of your seasonal bounty.
Tips for Buying and Using In-Season Produce
- Shop Local: Visit farmers’ markets or consider joining a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. These options often provide you with the freshest in-season produce while supporting local farmers.
- Inspect Thoroughly: When selecting produce, always give it a good once-over. Look for vibrant colors, firmness, and minimal blemishes. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to ask the vendor for advice.
- Store with Care: To keep your in-season produce fresh, store it properly. Some items, like berries, should be refrigerated, while others, like tomatoes, should be kept at room temperature. Consult guides or the internet for specific storage recommendations. You can also freeze or preserve a lot of produce to enjoy the freshness of something that might not be in season!
- Get Creative: Don’t be afraid to try new recipes and cooking techniques with your in-season produce. Experimenting in the kitchen can lead to delicious discoveries. Try grilling, roasting, sautéing, or even preserving for future use.
- Preserve the Season: If you come across an abundance of in-season produce, consider preserving it for later use. Canning, freezing, or making jams and pickles are excellent ways to enjoy seasonal flavors throughout the year.
- Plan Your Meals: Meal planning helps you make the most of your in-season produce. Look up recipes that feature your chosen ingredients to ensure nothing goes to waste.
- Share with Friends and Family: When you have more produce than you can handle, share the wealth. Giving away some of your bounty is a great way to spread the joy of fresh, in-season produce.
By embracing the beauty of in-season fruits and vegetables, you not only enjoy the freshest flavors but also support local agriculture. It’s a win-win for your taste buds.
The next time you find yourself at the grocery store or farmers’ market, remember to check what’s in season and let Mother Nature guide your culinary adventures. Whether it’s the tender asparagus of spring, the sun-ripened tomatoes of summer, the earthy squash of fall, or the hearty cabbage of winter, each season brings its own unique treasures.
As always, we’ve rounded up some recipes (one for each season) for you to try.
Do you have any tips or tricks for finding the best in-season produce? Let us know what you think! Try a recipe or two and connect with us on Facebook! We love hearing from you!