When we talk about produce in our workshops, we are often asked whether “eating seasonal” is important. At first, we passed it off as a bit of an advanced topic – we just want you to eat your vegetables, people. However, after holding almost 40 workshops this year, we began to realize that despite the fact that our attendees all had differing priorities with respect to produce, eating seasonally kept them all moving in the right direction. However, “eating seasonal” isn’t as easy as it sounds, considering in America, we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want. Grapes in March? Asparagus in October? It’s all available (even if it has to be shipped 3,000 miles to get here). So let’s de-mystify seasonality, and talk about five reasons to go seasonal.
1. Seasonal = Less Expensive
The aforementioned grapes in March are probably going to come from Chile, and will probably cost you upwards of $5 a pound. Buying things out of season means long shipping times, fuel costs and other factors that all add up to an insanely huge price tag. And even if they’re not shipped a great distance, growing out-of-season produce in a faux-summertime greenhouse in the U.S. still adds up to more energy consumed and costs incurred, which are (of course) passed along to the consumer. Eating seasonally means buying things that can be grown locally (or relatively locally), in their natural weather and climate conditions. Less energy, less transit time, cheaper price tag. Winner.
2. Seasonal = More Nutritious
Vegetables may not be as much fun to eat as, say, coconut butter, but we eat them anyway, because we know they’re so nutritious. So why would you purposefully buy produce that has lost so much of it’s nutritional kick? As soon as a fruit or vegetable is harvested, the nutritional breakdown begins. Many vitamins present in the fruit or vegetable before harvest are highly unstable and are largely depleted after a few days. Since out-of-season produce may be shipped from thousands of miles away, it spends many days in transit, all the while losing some of the key nutrients. Buying produce at its height of seasonality (freshness) means the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals are also fresh.
3. Seasonal = Yummy
Kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts may not make the top of our “fun foods” list – but they fall to the very bottom when they taste flat and dull. Fresh produce picked in-season is going to please our palates the most – think of a crisp Gala apple in October, or a juicy tomato in August. Out-of-season produce spending ten days in a transit crate arrives in your supermarket bruised, squishy and tired, lacking the vibrant flavors that make fresh vegetables and fruits so darn good.
4. Seasonal = Variety = Good
Eating seasonally means that every few month or two, we’re trying something new, and that’s a good thing for our taste buds and our health. Different vegetables and fruits contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals… but we don’t get the good stuff that comes from asparagus or nectarines if all we eat are peppers, onions and apples. Following the seasons forces us out of our produce comfort zone – and increases the chances that we’ll stumble upon a few new vegetables or fruits that we didn’t even realize we liked.
5. Seasonal = Natural
A big part of our Whole30 program is designed to help you reset your broken food and hunger mechanisms. We want to return you to the place where “hungry” means “hungry” (not “bored”, “depressed” or “cranky”), and we want you to be in tune with whether your body is craving a particular food, or whether your brain just pitching a sugar tantrum. Being more focused on eating seasonally will help you reset those ancient and beneficial connections between body and brain, between ancestral heritage and today’s un-natural modern world. Fruit in the middle of winter isn’t “normal”, but acorn squash or kale chips sure do feel… right. Try making seasonal eating a bigger part of your Whole30 program and see if those connections reset even faster.
So now you’ve got five good reasons to go seasonal… but what exactly IS in season today? Here’s where we’ve really got you covered. Check out our new Seasonal Produce Guide, designed to take all the guesswork out of produce seasonality. We’ve categorized things into the four seasons, plus a small “year-round” category as a nod to some of the technological innovations that allow us to have some foods around the clock. There are some regional variances, but in general, stick to things that are in season (or close to it) for the freshest, healthiest, tastiest produce in town. We’ve even given you some helpful hints as to our recommendations for nutrient density, and a “organic” indicator that indicates whether the particular item is generally ‘clean’ (pesticide-free) or ‘dirty’ (heavy on the chemicals, so buy organic if you can).
Got a good seasonal vegetable recipe, or a shopping tip to help people make the most of the current in-season produce? Drop ’em to comments.
We can help you live the Whole9 life.
Fill out the form below to join the Whole9 Newsletter.
Tom Denham says
The Seasonal Produce Guide is one of the greatest things you have ever done! Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but WOW – Everything I need on one page and if I lose it in the grocery store, I can print it out again. I especially like that you highlight the especially nutritious stuff in bold print. This inspires a goal for me: Create a recipe for every bold print item over the next 12 months (and maybe every item if I stay as excited as I am today).
Samantha Aurelio says
THANK YOU FOR THIS GUIDE! :D
Tamara of In the Night Farm says
Hey, thanks for the produce guide. I managed to miss that until now.
Yes! LOVE this, printed it, shared it. Thank you!
Rob Young says
Once again, something that makes complete sense…giving me the usual “DUH” moment! To be honest, living in NY all my life where we can usually get anything at anytime, I have completely lost touch with consumption as nature intended and could not tell you what fruit or veggie was grown when if my life depended on it…with the exception of Apples (of course). The Seasonal Guide is GREAT and is going up in the CFR office for sure! Thanks guys!
That seasonal produce guide is awesome! Thanks for putting it together
Annette (aka Rex) says
YES! I have been looking for a concise guide!
Melissa and Dallas – you guys are so cool! THANKS
Meghan Waldeck says
Variety and such notwithstanding, I assume frozen veggies and fruits are still okay, right? Not that I’m eating frozen blueberries all winter at the expense of my kale and brussels sprouts, but if I plan ahead in the summer and freeze some stuff, that’s not really the same as shipping from Chile. Right?
Hey everybody – your local farmer’s market will have a similar guide, and it will be specific to your area. If they don’t have one, show them this and tell them to get with it! This guide helps the farmer’s sell more of their product and offer specials at the end of their season so less food goes to waste.
Dallas @ Whole9 says
It would be AWESOME if you created recipes for those veggies and fruit, since people sometimes are bored with broccoli and spinach, but don’t know how to cook leeks or parsnips. Thanks!
Frozen veggies are your second best option to fresh, so if you’re freezing your own blueberries (and still eating your veggies), that’s great. We encourage people to plan ahead and stock up on healthy, nutrient-dense food when you can, like seasonal veggies/fruit or a bunch of venison. Great point.
You know what makes it easy & cheap to eat seasonally? A CSA. I live in Oregon so maybe some states don’t have quite the access we do on the west coast, but the produce I get once a week is picked that morning and it’s all seasonal. I love this guide, but I guarantee we’re eating a greater variety and greater amount of veggies thanks to joining a CSA. EatWild.com is a good resource for finding a CSA.
Good post, AWESOME guide. Loving it, and soon as I have a working printer again I’ll be sharing it!
This is an unbelievable resource. Thank you so much guys for putting it together! I’m curious though what makes broccoli a clean food. I’ve seen it listed as such elsewhere and I was wondering if you could explain the rationale behind that.
Melissa @ Whole9 says
Different studies report different results with respect to “clean” (little pesticide contamination” or “dirty” (lots and/or multiple sources of pesticide contamination.) Our list is a conglomerate of reputable sources, none of which had broccoli listed on their “worst offender” list.
The Organic Consumers Association lists broccoli as one of their “cleanest” foods (http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/pesticide-residues.cfm). The Environmental Working Group’s 2010 study listed broccoli as the 19th cleanest produce item (http://static.foodnews.org/pdf/2010-foodnews-data.pdf). The general reviews we surveyed were positive enough to add it to our “clean” list. However, certified organic produce is the only way to be 100% certain that no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers were used in the production of your produce.
Hope that helps, and thanks for the kind words.
Christie Tracy says
Marcy – I am SO jealous! I’ve been reading lots and lots lately about CSA’s, but live just outside of Corpus Christi, TX, and we have no access to anything even remotely like this. It sucks! We have ONE farmers market (45 minutes away) that is only open from 9 – 10am on Saturdays, and if you’re not there right at the second that they start selling at 9am you can forget about getting anything because they sell out of everything SO FAST!! We don’t have Whole Foods or Trader Joes either. We’ve got a TEENY TINY little Sun Harvest but honestly their produce is really crappy and usually about 30 seconds away from going bad :( Anyway, now that I’m done with my pitty party. . . I guess what I’m trying to say is that those of you that have acess to CSA’s should ABSOLUTELY take advantage of them as Marcy suggested, and realize how fortunate that you are for having access to such a wonderful resource !!!!
Melissa and Dallas – Thank you guys SO MUCH for this great resource! I’d never noticed the seasonal guide before on the site – I’m printing it out now and it has a new permanent home folded up in my wallet :)
Lauren G. says
That guide is all sorts of awesome! I’m not sure what’s more exciting, the fact that you published something I’ve been looking for for quite some time, or the fact that I’ve been rewarded for my laziness in waiting for someone else to publish a guide so that I didn’t have to look up all that information!
On a side note, I was so excited about finding collard greens at the store here in Germany a few weeks ago that I bought them without blinking (even though I now know November isn’t really their season) since leafy greens are a rare find here. I tried my hand at preparing them ‘Southern style’ with some bacon and spices but if Tom Denham is taking requests, I’d love to see what he comes up with for a collard green recipe so I don’t have to ‘Whole30’-ify some other sub-par unhealthy recipe. Come on Tom, help a Whole9 sister out!
P.S. I have not forgotten my quest to get you to publish Healthy/F off scale 2.0 soon. Perfect holiday reading with a tie in to your re-post of ‘Whole9’s Guide to eating dirty’. Just sayin’!
Tom Denham says
Lauren, I love requests! As soon as I cook the red kale and the black kale in my refrigerator, I will get right on collard greens. I think I saw it at Whole Foods Market when I was there yesterday. If the first try is not a kitchen disaster, I should have something by early next week.
Marcy- Thank you so much for posting about CSA. I had no idea what this was but Mr. Google straightened me out right away. I emailed a local farm this morning that i found on localharvest.com and i’m on my way to becoming a member.
YOU GUYS ROCK!! Not just Dallas & Melissa but the bloggers as well.
Lauren G. says
Tom you’re kind of awesome. :) Gold star for trying out a collard green recipe, and two thumbs up in general for all the great stuff you come up with. Last week I cooked up 3 of your recipes and it was great to have something healthy and easy to make after work without having to think about it.
Tom Denham says
I am happy to report that I like collard greens and found them to be relatively easy to cook. See my recipe at http://www.wholelifeeating.com/2010/12/pork-loin-chops-with-collard-greens/. Lauren, thanks for inspiring me to get cooking!
If you don’t like veggies, hide them in soup. Check out the book “Twelve Months of Monastery Soups” by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette. It’s organized by season/month so you can eat seasonally and get all kinds of veggies you would normally never dream of.
Hello, I would like to know where u found collard greens at in Germany?
The first time I ate Broccolini it was at a restaurant in Spokane. I loved it! It was much more mild than Broccoli or Asparagus (which is what I was told it is a cross of). Unfortunately, I have NEVER seen it at any of the grocery stores. Any ideas???
Melissa @ Whole9 says
First, make sure you review our UPDATED Seasonal Produce Guide for 2012!
If you’re having a hard time finding broccolini at your favorite grocery stores, ask the produce clerk to start carrying it! (Or maybe they already do, but it’s not available all year long.) That’s your best bet for letting your stores know you’re interested in the product.