In most mainstream supermarkets, the vegetable and fruit aisle is an arena of debauchery and fraud. Unripe produce is stuffed behind the ripened stuff, in the hopes that customers will mix up everything when they squeeze for the ripe produce (we often believe, incorrectly, that ripe produce is in the back).
Water-misters above aisles keep things fresh and clean, but also keep everything looking ripe. Supermarkets generally restock to capacity, not to freshness. No one wants the last leek or head of cabbage on the shelf, because they believe it has gone bad. If there is a lot of produce, we will be more inclined to buy, even if perfectly good produce is thrown away at the end of the day to keep things looking full.
If you are looking for the ripest, freshest and most nutritious produce, there is no need to go to specialty organic stores or boutique markets (unless that is your thing). Buying in-season and remembering when produce is in- season makes a more productive grocery trip. And you will be consuming the earth’s best when it’s ripest.
Eating produce in-season benefits the earth and the farmers, too. Local farmers can only grow what is in-season. So, whether you are buying from a farmers’ market or supermarket, you are keeping money in a small regional farmer’s pocket. Eating seasonally also keeps healthy farming practices alive.
Buying that basil or those tomatoes straight from the farmer’s market can be what keeps you between whatever pesticides or mystery chemicals big brand farming companies are doing to keep things looking nice on supermarket shelves.
It’s hard to remember things in season, but there are dozens of calendars online that will tell you. In the northeast, for example, late summer and fall brings the freshest eggplants, apples, cauliflower, onions and winter squash.
Seasonality affects the way that we enjoy and consume fruits and veggies. Wonder why pumpkin pie always tastes kind of gross after Thanksgiving? Pumpkins are at peak ripeness in September and October. Want kids to enjoy fruits and vegetables? Make seasonal produce (apples, watermelons, strawberries, melons, cranberries) a treat to celebrate new seasons. Some of my earliest memories of my father are enormous tomatillos as a treat in August.
Of course, seasonality is regional. Some produce must be brought in from other places. Sometimes non-regional fruits just taste bad when imported or forced to be grown in factories. I’ve always believed that pineapples from New York taste like pissed off oranges.
But making it pertinent to eat seasonally not only keeps you a step ahead of supermarket debauchery, it gives you produce at its freshest, making eating healthy even more delicious.
Here is an easy seasonal guide.