There are many benefits of eating seasonally, including a superior taste, a higher nutritional value, and less environmental impact. But sometimes, despite our best intentions, it’s difficult to know where to start. In this article, Rebekah Fedrowitz shares her helpful guide to eating seasonally in spring including what produce to look out for, how to use it, and where you can source it.
THE BENEFITS OF SEASONAL EATING SERIES
It is a gift to live in a society where we can walk into the grocery store and get pretty much whatever we want whenever we want it. We can appreciate the convenience of year-round access to a wide variety of fresh produce. But it’s important to recognize the benefits of selecting produce based on what’s in season.
Seasonal foods—especially those that are grown locally—are loaded with flavors and nutrients that off-season produce can’t begin to compare with. Have you ever had a strawberry in January? You know it lacks the juicy sweetness that makes May strawberries so irresistible. The same is true of tomatoes in March versus July, or peaches in April versus August. I would even go so far as to say that people’s dislike of certain foods could partially be due to eating those foods out of season. Asparagus is a great example of this. In the spring it’s tender and has a pleasant flavor. But in the summer it can often be tough, stringy, and have such an off-putting taste it’s no wonder so many people dislike it.
The Added Benefit of Seasonal Eating
But superior taste is just one of the benefits of eating seasonally. Seasonal foods also have a much higher nutritional value. In-season produce is often able to be sourced in a closer proximity instead of being shipped from other regions or countries. This means the produce is able to stay on the vine or tree longer. Longer time on the vine leads not only to a more satisfying flavor, but also to higher nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Plus, the shorter travel distance helps the environment by reducing the use of fuel and extra packaging elements that are required for longer transports.
But grocery stores are full of tomatoes in January and strawberries in November. How do you know what’s in season and where to find the best selection?
Here is my seasonal food guide for spring to help you find and choose the freshest, most nutritious produce for the current season.
SPRING’S SEASONAL PRODUCE
What’s in season will somewhat depend on where you live. But here is a list of some key foods coming into season as winter is thawing and temperatures are warming.
- Apricots: Apricots are a delicate, peach-like fruit that graces our palette in the late spring. They almost tease us for the summer fruit that’s to come. Since they don’t ship well, sourcing apricots locally will definitely provide the most ripe and flavorful fruit. Try them alone, on a salad, or in baked goods. Or for the more adventurous home-chef, preserve this seasonal selection by making homemade jams or dried fruits.
- Artichokes: We tend to buy these marinated in the jar. But if you’ve ever wanted to venture out and try one fresh, this is the season to do it!
- Asparagus: These are a quintessential—although debatably enjoyable—spring vegetable. Asparagus offers its most pleasant flavor in the spring season. But a key to an enjoyable taste is to avoid overcooking it! Trim the woody ends of the stalk and enjoy it raw, sautéed, roasted, or even grilled.
- Beets: Beets are somewhat of a year-round vegetable. Their peak season is in early to mid summer. But spring beets are smaller and more tender than those that come later in the year. Beets store well in the fridge for several weeks and can be eaten in a number of ways. Some of my favorite ways to eat beets are raw, roasted, or sautéed.
- Carrots: Similar to beets, carrots have a long harvest season. It starts in late spring and goes well through late fall, depending on climate. Early carrots are smaller and are delicious eaten whole, chopped on a salad, or lightly roasted.
- Cherries: This popular, sweet fruit shows up in late spring and doesn’t stick around long. So grab them while you can. You can enjoy cherries alone or you can add them to sweet baked goods, salads, and even meat dishes.
- Fennel: A bitter, liquorish-like vegetable that’s actually harvested in the fall may still be making an appearance in the spring for plants that have wintered-over. Great in soups or salads, you can use fennel bulbs in similar ways to how you would use an onion.
- Leafy greens & lettuces: From kale and swiss chard to arugula and dandelion greens, spring is peak leafy greens season. Eat these nutrition powerhouses sautéed with olive oil and lemon juice. Add them to soups or eat them raw in a salad topped with other spring veggies or grains.
- Citrus: Citrus is typically a winter fruit. But you’ll often find the end of the harvest for lemons, grapefruit, and unique varieties like kumquats in the early part of spring.
- Kiwis: A winter and spring fruit, you can store kiwis in the fridge for weeks. So stock up while they’re ripe and juicy. Most often consumed raw, you can also add this sweet and slightly sour fruit to jams and preserves or dried for a sweet treat.
- Kohlrabi: An alien-looking root vegetable that is often overlooked and can be prepared in similar ways to potatoes and turnips. Add them to soups, sautée or roast, or even puree this late-spring through fall vegetable.
- Leeks: Part of the same family as onions and garlic. Leeks are an extremely versatile ingredient that pair perfectly with potatoes, eggs, mushrooms, chicken, and so much more.
- New Potatoes: Early-potatoes are small, tender, and thin-skinned. This makes them perfect for salads, spring vegetable soups, and sautéing. No peeling required!
- Peas: From traditional round garden peas to sugar snap and snow peas, spring is the peak season for this crisp legume. That’s right—peas are not actually a vegetable. But they are great in a stir-fry, sautéed, or served on a salad.
- Radishes: Depending on the type of radish, you can easily find them throughout most of the year. But in the spring those iconic round, red balls make their first appearance. Smaller varieties of radishes, known as table or Easter radishes, are great on salads. They’re also delicious roasted or served raw with a bit of butter and salt. Their slightly bitter taste helps to round out many dishes.
- Rhubarb: This tart, celery-like vegetable is a spring staple. It brings a bright acidity to pies, jams, and salads. Rhubarb is also surprisingly great paired with meats like chicken or pork.
- Spring Onions: Onions are usually dried and available year-round. But in the spring, you can find fresh, green (aka spring) onions. Spring onions are more mild than dried onions. And the green tops are also edible, making them great for grilling, topping salads, and all the creative ways you can think of to use them.
- Strawberries: Usually available in the early spring in warmer climates like Florida and peaking in May or even early June in cooler climates. Strawberries are like the bridge between spring and summer. Look for bright red fruit with minimal white near the stem. If possible find a local field to pick these irresistibly juicy berries.
- Turnips: Purple-top turnips are in their prime in the summer and early fall. However, the earliest of the harvest arrives in the spring with smaller, sweeter, and a little more tender bulbs. Roast, sautée, mash, or puree. You can cook turnips in many of the same ways you would potatoes.
WHERE TO BUY SEASONAL PRODUCE
Grocery Stores & Supermarkets
You can buy most produce year-round at grocery stores and supermarkets. However, you’ll notice that certain foods are more accessible, have more varieties (think of all the different types of apples in the fall), and go on sale at certain times of the year. Those are all good signs they are in season. So keep shopping at your favorite neighborhood grocery store. Or check out grocery stores that source local and regional produce. Also, use the list above to seek out seasonal produce that’s good for your body and your budget.
Farmers markets aren’t everywhere. However, many cities and towns will have a nearby market where local and regional farmers come together to offer a selection of their seasonal harvest to the community. This is one of the best ways to eat seasonally with fruits and vegetables picked at their peak and with minimal delay in reaching your table. And as a bonus, you’re often able to speak with the farmers themselves to learn about how the food is grown (i.e. organically or sustainably). You can even discover new varieties or creative ways to prepare the foods.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Another great way to find seasonal fruits, vegetables, and even meats or eggs is to join a CSA, or Community-Supported Agriculture. CSAs are typically offered by local farms as a way to directly connect people with seasonal produce. This allows you to skip packaging, transportation, and third-party vendors. CSAs can help to reduce challenges like food waste and environmental load while getting you the freshest vegetables you can get without having a garden yourself.
Online Subscription Boxes
In the era of ordering everything online, produce is no exception. Consider signing up for a regional imperfect foods box that helps reduce food waste by sourcing produce that’s misshapen or considered too ‘ugly’ for grocery stores. Or subscribe to an artisan box featuring unique selections you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. There are some fun ways to get seasonal produce delivered right to your door. Check out FarmBoxDirect.com, MisfitsMarket.com, or Girlndug.com for a few seasonal food delivery options.
No matter how much you love to cook, I think we can agree that a dinner out at a local restaurant is always something to look forward to. For a menu that features a seasonal selection, look for local farm-to-table restaurants. Chefs are often able to access seasonal foods that aren’t available at your local grocery stores or markets. This gives you an opportunity to try new things.
WHEN OUT OF SEASON IS OKAY
While we can do our best to eat seasonally, it’s not feasible for most of us to select all of our groceries exclusively based on what is in season, let alone what is local. Most of the places I’ve lived only have a local farmers’ market for a few months out of the year. And even then the selection is limited to what grows well in that region. So yes, it’s okay to shop at the chain grocery store in your neighborhood or to buy broccoli in January and pineapple in November. But to get the most flavorful, satisfying, and nutritionally-beneficial foods possible, do your best to select foods that are in season.
Regardless of your previous experience with seasonal foods, I hope you are inspired to favor fruits and vegetables at their peak to be able to experience the abundant fullness of the gift of food.
Which of the foods Rebekah shared about are you most excited to try this season? Do you have any favorite ways to incorporate these seasonal fruits and veggies into your meals? Share your ideas and recipes in the comments below!
Eating seasonally is a great way to enjoy nutrious foods with maximum flavor. Sign-up to receive Rebekah’s spring recipes collection featuring seasonal ingredients like cherries, beets, asparagus, strawberries, and more!
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