How to Make Seasonal Eating a Priority

by Katherine Sacks

9/10/20

Summer tomatoes are so good they don’t require recipes. You can slice one up, sprinkle some salt on it and chow down. Or layer juicy slices onto bread slathered with mayonnaise and call it a sandwich. Summer tomatoes, grown at home or bought at the farmers’ market are so good they are the subject of rhapsodic poems and worthy of being eaten, raw, like an apple, with the juices running down the eater’s chin.

Why does everyone freak out about summer tomatoes? And why are people lining up at farm stands and markets for peak summer corn? Because produce eaten at the height of its season, and close to where it was grown usually tastes better — juicier, more flavorful, fresher.

Sometimes it’s obvious what’s in season: tomatoes, corn, melon, zucchini, these are the best known flavors of summer. But, have you ever wondered when one of your other favorite foods will show up at the market? Are you trying to include more seasonal eating in your diet to support local farms and incorporate nutritious, fresh foods into your meals? FoodPrint has a tool that is perfect for just that. The Seasonal Food Guide can help; it’s your farmers’ market cheat sheet, making seasonal eating simple wherever you are.

DIG DEEPER

Seasonal Eating Is Easy with the Seasonal Food Guide

Want to know how long those tomatoes and corn will be available at your local farmers’ market? Wondering what’s in season at other times of the year or in other states? The answers are in the Seasonal Food Guide, available as a website and app that can help you to learn when and where your favorite locally grown produce is in peak season (and has maximum flavor).

The Guide’s comprehensive database includes more than 140 types of fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts and herbs, and is searchable by zip code and geolocation, in half-month increments, and includes information from each of the 50 states. You can search based on where you currently are, or a different location and time of year, allowing users to look up seasonality information anytime of the year, anywhere in the US. To get the database as accurate as possible, the information is sourced from experts including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), state agriculture extension offices and state departments of agriculture.

Along with seasonality information, the Guide also links to our Real Food Encyclopedia, which provides shopping, sustainability and cooking information for each ingredient. Bonus: our app lets you set a calendar invite to remind you when your favorite produce item can be found at a farmers’ market near you, making seasonal eating easier than ever.

Why Make Seasonal Eating a Priority?

Choosing seasonal produce supports local farmers and communities; is healthier and tastier; and is better for the environment.

Seasonal Eating Supports the Local Economy

Eating with the seasons is a great way for consumers to help cultivate a more resilient, sustainable food system. When you purchase food that’s in season from local farms, you’re supporting both local farmers and the local economy.

Choosing In Season Produce is Better for the Environment

Seasonal choices can also mean supporting food that spent less time traveling and in storage, which can significantly cut back on environmental impacts. When you purchase directly from local farmers, you can also ask them about their production methods; farmers selling at farmers’ markets or farm stands are less likely to use pesticides and more likely to use regenerative methods like cover crops that encourage soil health.

Seasonal Produce is Healthier

Studies also indicate that seasonal food can be more nutritious than food consumed out of season. In fact, some research shows that fresh produce loses nutritional value over time, so berries shipped from overseas in the winter months may not be as nutrient dense as the berries purchased locally during the summer.

Waste Free Ideas for Seasonal Cooking

When summer-ripe tomatoes and fresh sweet corn are so delicious that they barely need cooking, you may find yourself buying so much that you have more than you can eat before it all goes bad. Instead of letting that food go to waste, use these ideas to make the most of your produce. (And these are just a few tips, check out our waste-free cooking series for more ideas.)

Apples: Did you know an apple core makes up 30 percent of the volume of an apple? Instead of tossing it, make use of cores and peels with these recipes, including DIY apple cider vinegar and apple jelly.

Berries: While you can find strawberries and raspberries in December, a juicy summer berry is like no other. But you might find some of your berries have begun to wilt before you even get home. Luckily berry puree is great for so many things: you can use it in cocktails, stir it into oatmeal, make ice cream and popsicles with it, and for so much more.

Carrots: If you purchase carrots with the greens removed, you’re missing half the ingredient! Instead, grab them greens on, and use the carrot stems and fronds to make pesto, salsa verde and other herby dips. While carrots don’t need to be peeled (a good scrub will do), if you insist on peeling, use the peels to make vegetable stock.

Corn: Many cooks focus solely on the corn kernels, but there are many ways to use the entire ingredient; try using corn husks as a tamale wrapper, boiling cobs to make corn stock, and drying out corn silk for an herbal tea.

Tomatoes: While nothing beats a summer-ripe tomato, these beauties have a much shorter shelf life than their commercially produced brothers. Once your heirlooms start to sag, there are plenty of ways to preserve them, including roasting, making tomato sauce and pureeing them into soup.

Top photo by supakvadee/ Adobe Stock.

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