When buying fruits and vegetables, there are a few things to keep in mind. First is how long your produce will last in your fridge. There are ways to make your produce last for longer. But if you’re not going to use it all in time, it might not be worth it to splurge for fresh when you can just buy frozen instead. Next you want to consider what’s in season.
While sometimes it’s easier to just make a quick dinner entirely out of items from the freezer or from cans, other times it’s worth the effort and the price to pay for produce that tastes fresh. Cooking with in-season produce has its perks. While you can probably acquire all kinds of fruits and vegetables during all times of year, in-season produce is often at its freshest, meaning that it will taste its best during that time of year.
There are some types of produce that are in season all year round (and plenty of salads you can make with them). Avocados, for instance, are a year-round fruit. Potatoes are in season year-round, as well, so you have ample opportunity to try out all the perfect ways to cook them. Bananas, carrots, celery and onions are all year-round produce items, which is why you can count on always finding them at the supermarket. But not all fruits and vegetables are at their peak during any season. Here’s a month-by-month guide to buying seasonal produce.
In the season of New Year’s resolutions and tall drifts of snow, January brings with it some hearty, delicious produce for warm, satisfying meals. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale are in season. This is the perfect month to try roasting some of these vegetables or making cozy cauliflower casseroles. The winter squash available all winter long (as their name implies) will pair well with them in some sheet pan dinners. Citrus fruits are in season, as well; grapefruit, lemons, oranges and tangerines make refreshing, zesty additions to your January menu. Leeks, in the same family of vegetables as garlic, are also in season, as are root vegetables such as parsnips, rutabagas and turnips. What should you make with these items? These root vegetables are perfect additions to cozy soups and stews.
Many of the same vegetables are in season in February as January, so there’s plenty of time to munch on citrusy salads before the fruit tastes less fresh. Fennel and radishes come into season this month, as well, and yes, you can still find plenty of winter squash to cook with.
March is the month where you can expect produce to begin to transition away from the wintry and toward more spring vegetables. Depending on where you live, the weather may still be frosty, but you can count on spring items such as artichokes, mangos, pineapples and fresh greens like arugula, spinach and lettuce. Start thinking about cooking lemon, asparagus and pea pasta, or roasting whole artichokes for a dinner side dish. Citrus fruits, however, will start to fade from season this month along with heartier greens such as kale.
April showers bring more than just May flowers. They also will bring spring vegetables like sweet peas and asparagus, along with many of the fruits and vegetables that started to be available in March. As the weather warms, root vegetables such as parsnips and rutabagas go out of season and are replaced by seasonal produce such as rhubarb and zucchini. Now is the time to make fresh spring salads and start thinking about making strawberry rhubarb pie.
May signals the end of spring, so make the most of those spring vegetables while you can. Asparagus, artichokes and radishes are on their final weeks. The beginnings of summer are starting to sneak onto the shelves with fruits such as apricots, cherries and strawberries. Say goodbye to pineapples and mangos, though. This is the last month they’ll be this fresh until next year. Swiss chard and okra also are in their prime this time of year. Keep an eye out for those, as well as zucchini and fresh summer squash.
Say hello to summer, which will no doubt gift you with the freshest strawberries, blueberries, cherries, cantaloupe, kiwi, peaches and watermelon you’ll see at any time of the year. Summer is one of the best times to eat hydrating, fresh fruits and enjoy healthy snacking outdoors. Other produce to expect this season includes crisp summer vegetables such as cucumbers and green beans. They’ll make quick and reliable side dishes for your weeknight grilling!
Just in time for cookout season, July has everything your fresh summer side dishes need to taste great. Tomatoes, corn, zucchini, summer squash and bright bell peppers will start to be in season. So when you set up your grill and get to cooking restaurant-quality burgers, you can bet on some of your plant-based menu items tasting great, too. Additionally, all the fruits from June are joined by tart raspberries, sweet blackberries and plump plums. This is prime time for the best fruit pies. Make one of your own or hit up one of the nation’s best pie shops for the tastiest in-season summer desserts.
One of the warmest months of the year, August is a great time for produce. Now is the time to make all your favorite summer salads and get creative in the kitchen with fresh fruits and vegetables. As far as fruits go, expect to see all kinds of berries, melons, apples, stone fruits such as apricots and peaches, kiwis, mangos and figs. Stone fruits can make some delightful desserts. Use this season’s berries to make a healthy frozen treat. Colorful vegetables such as corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, green beans, bell peppers, zucchini and summer squash are in season. You can also expect to see the beginnings of fall with some denser types of squash such as acorn and butternut. Spruce up the last cookouts of the season with these delicious barbecue classics using the season’s best produce.
The fruits available in summer will no longer be as fresh, if they are available at all. But the change of seasons isn’t all bad. Grapes, pomegranates and persimmons will replace summer berries. And fall produce is ripe with nutrients like beta-carotene, which gives pumpkins and squash their orange color. Gourds such as acorn squash, butternut squash and pumpkin will be in peak season starting in September. Add them to sauces for a savory, herb-filled fall pasta recipes. You can also get excited to cook all your fall favorites with sweet potatoes, mushrooms and cauliflower, all of which come back this month. Apple picking season is starting, too, so get your hands on some ripe apples and bake a delicious apple pie.
Fall is in full swing; whether you love the season or hate it, by October you’re surrounded by all things Halloween, cozy sweaters and changing leaves. It’s also the perfect time for comforting fall casseroles and other seasonal meals. There are lots of things you can cook with this season’s offerings, which include many types of squash, mushrooms, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, sweet potatoes and rutabagas. Make some roasted sweet potato fries or a whole roasted cauliflower to serve with dinner. You might also want to whip up a warm pot of soup using leeks and root vegetables. Fruits that are in season throughout October include apples, persimmons, grapes and pomegranates — which are great for your skin, by the way.
Getting ready to cook for Thanksgiving? This season’s produce has you covered. Make a holiday pie everyone will remember with freshly-picked pumpkins and apples. Brussels sprouts are officially in season, so you can cook them as a side (here’s the best way). Cranberries are at their freshest in November, too; consider making your own cranberry sauce instead of buying the canned kind from the store. Pears, persimmons, tangerines and oranges are in season, as well. Other vegetables you want to cook with include cauliflower, beets, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms and winter squash.
You have to even out those sugary holiday cookies somehow, right? In the dead of winter, your front yard might be barren and covered in snow, but elsewhere certain types of produce are still thriving. There’s still plenty to cook with and make nourishing, warm packed lunches for your snowy days. In December, all the wintry produce such as citrus fruits, cabbage, cauliflower and kale is readily available. Sweet potatoes, pears and pomegranates can be used to make savory and sweet recipes like a warm grain salad. Turnips, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and rutabagas are other standouts to expect during the holiday season. But no matter what time of year it is, all this knowledge about which produce is in season can help you plan your dinner menus accordingly — one of the ways you can save lots of money from your grocery bill.
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