As winter turns to spring, and spring turns to summer, fresh produce begins to appear at the local grocery stores. Fruits and vegetables are often seasonal and require specific times of the year and climates to grow. In April and May in Illinois specifically, foods such as asparagus, peas, broccoli, lettuce, and more are now in season! If you are looking forward to summer produce, foods such as arugula, beets, cabbage, cherries, cilantro, lettuce, radishes, rhubarb, strawberries, and more will be in season in June and July. Check out seasonalfoodguide.org to see what is in season in your area!
When looking for in-season fruits and vegetables, looking at the local farmer’s markets is one place to start. Farmer's markets offer a variety of products at reasonable prices, peak ripeness, and the best quality of flavor and nutrients. Out-of-season must be picked from a farm far away and before it is ripe; this means that the produce does not have the chance to absorb all the nutrients from the parent plant, which can affect the taste. When given the chance to fully ripen on the parent plant, in-season produce has a fresher and higher-quality taste.
Those who participate in farmer's markets are usually local people selling their crops. When participating in these farmer's markets, you are uplifting those in your own neighborhood and supporting the local spaces that grew the produce. This can build up your community and create a sense of belonging. Additionally, in-season fruits and vegetables, especially those at farmer's markets, tend to be cheaper than their out-of-season counterparts.
About the Author: Valerie Leonard is a dietetic intern and master's student at the University of Illinois at Chicago earning a degree in nutrition science.