What’s a person to do when faced with the dizzying array of “fresh” fruits and vegetables in the modern grocery store? Strawberries are now available in the middle of winter, but they also usually taste like cardboard at that time of the year! I’ve had to think through my buying habits very carefully in the last few years, since I spend most of my time and money in the produce aisle :-)
I love to buy organic if possible, especially if it’s an item with thin skin, or an item that I know from previous experience is far superior in taste to the non-organic varieties (like oranges). But organic is not the be-all and end-all of making choices. Some organic growers are huge agribusinesses that are only one step better than non-organic growers. They may not be spraying, but they are just as likely to be depleting the soil and shipping produce long distances.
Sometimes, buying local produce is the better choice, even if the farm is not certified organic. Fresh produce, in season, locally grown…especially if it’s grown on smaller independent farms…may end up being your best choice. Get to know your local farmers and farmstands. Find out what local farms supply your local grocery store.
That means we also have to know what actually is in season! We’ve lost our sense of the seasons over the last decade. Even though it’s probably neither possible nor convenient to eat local, organic, in-season food 100% of the time, most of us could do a lot better job if we simply went back to basics and paid attention!
So here’s my list of what’s available in my neck of the woods. Please feel free to leave more suggestions in the comments, particularly if there are food items available in your local region that I didn’t mention.
Spring:Crabs, soft-shell crabs, salmon, sardines, shad, shrimp, trout, sole
Artichokes, asparagus, avocados, beans, fennel, morel mushrooms, new carrots, new greens, new potatoes, peas, radishes, scallions, spinach, spring onions, watercress
Apricots, mangoes, rhubarb, strawberries
Chives, dill, mint, parsley
Summer:Clams, monkfish, pike, sea bass, trout
Beans, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, fennel, mushrooms, peas, peppers, new potatoes, summer squash, tomatoes, zucchini
Blueberries, cherries, gooseberries, loganberries, melons, nectarines, peaches, plums, raspberries, rhubarb
Basil, rosemary, sage, thyme
Autumn:Mussels, oysters, sea bass, trout (brown)
Arugula, beans, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, parsips, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, spinach, turnips
Apples, blackberries, cranberries, elderberries, figs, grapes, melons, nuts, pears, plums, pomegranates
Winter:Halibut, lobster, mussels, scallops
Goose, other fowlBeets, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chestnuts, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, parsnips, potatoes, rutabaga, shallots, spinach, turnips