© Aleksandra Lande | Dreamstime.com
Cooking with fruits and vegetables that are in season has its perks. Although you can acquire most produce any time of the year, in-season produce is at its freshest, meaning it’ll taste its finest. And any dish — from the best taco to a perfectly grilled burger — can be taken to the next level thanks to fresh, in-season ingredients. Using information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we created a month-to-month guide on what seasonal produce you should check out on your next shopping trip. Here’s what’s in season each month.
In the month of New Year’s resolutions and heavy snow, hearty produce are at their freshest. Brussels sprouts and kale — cruciferous vegetables which have been proven to lower your risk of cancer — are in season. Winter squash, as its name implies, is also perfect for purchase all season long. When you need to take a break from the veggies, citrus fruits — such as lemons, oranges and tangerines — are in season. Adding citrus to your winter diet can help eliminate dark circles and revitalize dry winter skin.
Depending on where you live, the weather may still be frosty in March, but you can count on spring produce like pineapples and kiwi to be nice and sweet, and fresh greens like Swiss chard, collard greens and spinach to start dotting shelves.
You might not be able to predict the weather to know whether those April showers will be bringing May flowers, but you can predict the best fruits and vegetables. Much of the produce that was fresh in March is still at its best in April. And as the weather warms, produce such as rhubarb, peas and asparagus are in season.
Make the most of those spring vegetables while you can in May. Hints of summer are starting to sneak onto the shelves with fruits such as apricots and strawberries. Okra and zucchini are also in season, ready to hit the grill.
Say hello to summer and the freshest blueberries, cherries, cantaloupe, kiwi, peaches and watermelon you’ll taste 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 include crisp summer vegetables such as cucumbers and green beans.
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 iconic 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.
August is one of the warmest months of the year and a great time for produce. Colorful vegetables like corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, green beans, bell peppers, zucchini and summer squash are in season. And as far as fruits go, keep berries, melons, apples, apricots, peaches, kiwis and mangos on your grocery list — these heart-healthy foods are still in season.
As the seasons begin to change in September, so does what’s freshest at the grocery store. Grapes, pomegranates and persimmons will replace summer berries. And foods perfect for healthy, glowing skin — like pumpkins and sweet potatoes — will be in peak season starting in September. Apple picking season is beginning, too, so get your hands on some ripe local apples and bake a delicious apple pie. Just make sure you know all your apple varities.
Whether you love the fall or dread it every year, it’s officially in full swing when October rolls around. Get those spooky dishes ready with fresh mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, celery and sweet potatoes. Fruits that are in season throughout October include apples, grapes and pomegranates.
If you’re preparing to cook for Thanksgiving, fall's produce has you covered. Your shopping list should definitely include pumpkins. Also consider apples and Brussels sprouts — some of the best Thanksgiving side dishes. Cranberries are their freshest in November, too, so consider making your own cranberry sauce instead of buying the canned kind. Pears, parsnips, oranges, turnips and winter squash are in season as well.
During winter, your front yard might be barren and covered in heaps of snow, but certain types of produce are still thriving at your local supermarket. In December, cabbage, kale, collard greens and turnips are readily available. And sweet potatoes, pears and pomegranates can be used to make savory and sweet recipes, perfect for the holidays. No matter what time of year it is, knowing which produce is in season can help you plan your shopping accordingly and cut your grocery bill in half.
More from The Daily Meal: