Do you know when the growing season is for your favorite fruits and vegetables? Have you ever wondered why strawberries seem to taste so much better at a certain time of year? During months when a fruit or vegetable is not in season, it has to be shipped from across the country or across the world to stock the shelves in your grocery store, and is harvested before it ripens in order to achieve this. Produce that is picked while ripe has better flavor and better nutrition, which you are missing out on if you eat produce that is not in season.
Seasonal diets are becoming popular and emphasize both the benefits and difficulties of eating what is in season or grown locally. Seasonal and local foods are commonly associated with higher prices and exclusivity – not every grocery store will carry food grown within 100 miles. At Trellis for Tomorrow we acknowledge the importance of supporting local farmers and the environment by eating locally and seasonally, but we also recognize this is not a possibility for all. We believe that all people, regardless of location or economic status, should have access to healthy and fresh produce.
A study by Brighter Planet on the American Carbon Footprint found that the average American has a carbon footprint of over 12,000 pounds of CO2 each year. These emissions come from growing, processing, distributing, selling, transporting and cooking food, as well as from its waste. Your average meal travels 4,200 miles to get to your grocery store, which is why eating locally can have such a great impact!
Following a seasonal diet will look different depending on where you live, but here in Southeastern Pennsylvania, we are the beneficiaries of a particularly bountiful growing region. There is no way to list all the incredible things available in our region, but we can name a few.
In the spring we have an abundance of leafy greens including spinach, lettuces, and all manner of brassica (kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower), as well as wonderful root and fruit crops too many to mention. During the summer we have plentiful produce including tomatoes, berries, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onions and corn. Cooler fall months bring apples, squash, and root vegetables such as potatoes, beets, and carrots. It is difficult to eat seasonally in the dead of winter, but we encourage you to try your hand at preserving or freezing food during its peak season so that it can be enjoyed year-round!
The graphics below indicate seasonal peaks for the listed fruits and vegetables. See if you can find your typical purchases and favorites, and try to limit your local purchasing when these items are not in season!
Brighter Planet’s study can be found here: https://www.kohalacenter.org/HISGN/pdf/carbofoodprint.pdf