Everything Has a Season
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By Keri Alford, Mecklenburg Extension Master Food Volunteer
You may know that strawberries and blackberries are more plentiful during the late spring and early summer months. But did you know that carrot season in North Carolina is between December and January? Although we often enjoy a wide array of fruits and vegetables all year round, there are distinct growing seasons for everything that we consume. There are also four key benefits to eating our favorite foods when they are in season.
#1 – Fruits & Vegetables Taste Better
You can certainly find strawberries in your local grocery store in September, but they absolutely will not taste like fresh strawberries from your local farmer’s market in May! Fruits and veggies that follow their natural process of growth and maturation in alignment with optimal environmental conditions and weather patterns will look, feel, smell, and taste their best. By contrast, produce that is picked before it is ripe, shipped long distances, and treated with preservation chemicals, can lack the vibrant taste that local foods offer.
#2 – More Nutritious
The primary reason that fruits and veggies in season will taste better is that they are truly ripe and packed with nutrients. Studies have shown notable increases in the vitamin and mineral content of produce that is picked and sold locally in season. A century ago, our ancestors only had seasonal cues to alert them when a fruit or vegetable was ripe and safe to eat. It was not possible to eat fresh produce out of season. While that may seem limited, compared to the constant access to produce we have today, eating according to seasons was practical, sustainable, and nourishing.
#3 – Saves You Money
Another great reason to eat fruits and vegetables when they are in season is that they will cost less money! That’s right. Think about how many watermelons you see in April versus July, and the difference in price for the same fruit within the span of a few months. Produce is abundant during the natural and local growing season. When there is plenty of a fruit or vegetable, it becomes inexpensive to buy. This can be explained mostly by the economic supply and demand concept. But an additional incentive to sell abundant seasonal produce for a good price is to ensure that the ripened goodies have a better chance of being consumed before they expire.
#4 – Environmentally Friendly
Last but not least, eating produce when it is in season often requires that you eat locally grown food. This helps the environment by reducing air pollution from the vehicles and planes used to transport fruits and vegetables that are not in season. Also, growing local produce benefits your local farmers who put their time and energy into reaping edible crops for you to enjoy.
Like everything else in nature, there are complex and interconnected reasons why things happen when they do. But when nature is allowed to take its designed course, we usually reap the benefits in multiple ways. Eat local, in season, and enjoy!
About the Contributor
Keri Alford is an Extension Master Food Volunteer with N.C. Cooperative Extension, Mecklenburg County Center. She is a Master of Public Health Candidate, nutrition and wellness enthusiast.