June 13, 2024

Last Updated: June 13, 2024



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Seasonal Produce Chart (With Printable Infographic)

By trk

Last Updated: June 13, 2024

best seasonal fruits and vegetables, how to eat seasonally, produce infographic, seasonal produce

Just because most produce is available year-round doesn't mean it's a good buy. Here we tell you about seasonal produce, as well as why some produce isn't seasonal, and why some is okay to buy and some isn't. Best of all, we give you a handy printable infographic with all the info you need to make smart produce choices.

Seasonal Produce: Why It Matters

Knowing what produce is in season is smart for a few reasons: 

  • Seasonal produce is fresher, so it tastes better
  • Being fresher also makes seasonal produce more nutritious
  • Seasonal produce is less expensive than when bought out of season 
  • Cooking with the seasons results in tastier, healthier meals.

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Location and Seasonality

spring fruits and vegetables

Where you live can make a big difference in seasonality. If you've ever had a mealy, flavorless tomato in January, or a mushy, tasteless apple in March, you know exactly what we're talking about. These are two examples of produce sold year-round that should really be bought only in season. (Yes, we are recommending that you don't eat tomatoes in the wintertime, or apples in spring or summer--unless you find hothouse grown varieties that are picked fresh year round--this is possible for tomatoes, but not for apples.)

If you live in southern latitudes, you have longer growing seasons and more local, in-season produce to choose from than if you live in northern latitudes. The growing season in the southern climates can range from March-October, while the growing season in colder climates ranges from about June-October. 

Wherever you live in the US (and Canada as well), you'll start to see strawberries in early spring, trucked up from a southern state or quite possibly Mexico or even further south. But in most parts of the US, local strawberries aren't ready until mid-June or later. 

The further north you live, the later the season will be for a lot of produce, especially spring/early summer fruits and vegetables, which will more likely be late spring/later summer fruits and vegetables in more northern climates. This is less true for fall crops, which are all done about the same time regardless of where they're grown.

It would take too long to list all the locally grown produce seasons for different produce around the country. The point is that you should learn what's in season where you live and try to buy locally when you can for the best flavor, nutrition, and price when you can. 

Buying produce that's been hauled in from another state or country isn't the end of the world, and some of it may be quite good, depending on how far it's traveled and how fresh it is. But in general, you want to stick to produce that's in season close to you if you want the best flavor. 

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Produce that Is Not Seasonal

beets

All produce is seasonal, but much of it is available year-round. But just because it's available doesn't mean you should buy it. 

Some seasonal produce is fresh and grown year-round in hothouses or shipped from warmer climates, This includes most herbs, garlic, lettuce, avocados, and some tomatoes and grapes. (These are common examples but there are more.) These are okay to buy year round, if you find that they're flavorful and fresh. Bananas, coconuts, and most other tropical fruits are also fresh year round because different varieties ripen at different times, so most of it is fresh and tasty all year long (the tropical growing season is year-round). However, shipping can be a problem, and if fruit is picked too early or shipped a long ways, it can lose its flavor--which can explain why not all mangoes, bananas and coconuts are equally delicious.

Other produce is available year-round because it's put into cold storage after harvesting so it will remain available long into its off-seasons. This includes apples, asparagus, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, some citrus fruits, and more. Some decline very little in taste, like onions and garlic, but others lose both flavor and nutrition. Most of the produce listed here is not good out of season, apples and asparagus in particular (and tomatoes, unless you find freshly harvested hothouse varieties).

When you buy produce out of season, it's hard to know if you're getting fresh produce that's been shipped from a different climate or months-old produce that's been in cold storage. If it's tropical, then it's probably okay, but if it's something grown in north America, be wary if you see it on grocery shelves out of season. 

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How to Choose Produce

Beyond choosing fresh, in-season produce, look for firmness and fragrance. Anything soft or mushy-feeling is past its prime, and anything with no smell isn't ripe and was probably picked too early in hopes of it being ripe by the time it reaches the store. Many fruits and vegetables will continue to ripen after picking so buying unripe produce can be a good strategy if you're not going to use it right away. On the other hand, if picked too early, some produce never ripens properly. There's really no way to know for sure, which is yet another powerful argument for buying in-season produce whenever possible.

Modern produce has been bred and treated for hardiness during shipping, which often means sacrificing flavor. This isn't true for all produce, but it does explain why some firm, red tomatoes (for example) that look beautiful are completely flavorless. 

Buying in season largely prevents this type of tragedy. 

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Seasonal Produce Infographic

Here's a printable infographic that lists seasonal produce for most parts of the US and Canada. To print, click on the link below the graphic. It will open up a PDF, which you can print.

The produce listed as "All Year" isn't necessarily produced all year round (though some is, like lettuce and greens from California), but this produce does well in cold storage, not losing a lot of flavor or nutrition. Though you can often find most types of produce year round, we recommend you avoid tomatoes, apples, berries, cherries, melons, peaches, plums, pears, asparagus, cucumbers, peas, corn on the cob, and green beans out of season. 

Seasonal Produce Infographic

To print click this link:

seasonal produce infographic.pdf

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Seasonal Produce FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about seasonal produce.

Why Is Seasonal Produce Less Expensive?

Seasonal produce is less expensive for a few reasons. One is that when it's in season, it's abundant, so there is ample supply, and when there is ample supply, prices go down (basic economics). Another reason is that it's had to travel a much shorter distance than out-of-season produce that often comes from other countries and has to travel thousands of miles. This greater travel distance (and greater carbon footprint as well) adds to the price.

Why Is Seasonal Produce More Nutritious?

Locally grown, seasonal produce is much fresher than produce that's shipped a long distance. It is also picked at its peak, rather than before it's ripe. Being picked at its peak adds not only to the nutritional content, but also means better flavor.

Why Is Some Produce Available Year Round?

Produce is available year-round for a few reasons. Some produce is grown year-round in warm states like California and Florida. This includes greens, lettuces, herbs, citrus fruits, and avocados. In most cases, these are always going to be tasty and nutritious.

Other produce is harvested in the late summer or fall, and what isn't sold right away is put into cold storage for year-round availability. Some produce does well in cold storage, including potatoes, onions, and winter squash (to a degree). Other produce does poorly in cold storage, including asparagus, berries, apples, broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, and more.

So just because something is available year round doesn't mean you should buy it. You will learn to tell the difference by flavor, if not by using our infographic.

Is Eating Seasonally Hard to Do?

Eating seasonally can be a challenge to learn, but once you know the produce grown in your area, it can be easy and even fun. Americans are accustomed to buying what they want when they want it, and most of us have been so conditioned to expect what we want to be available that we haven't given much thought to whether it's good or not, much less to the carbon footprint of what we're buying. But we don't have to do it this way. Learning to cook with the seasons requires a bit more planning and understanding of the food chain in your location, but other than that, it is not difficult. You may even find yourself looking forward to, say, apple pies in the fall, hard squashes in winter, fresh peas and baby carrots in the spring, and delicious stone fruits and berries in the summer. Yumm-yumm! 

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Final Thoughts

berries

Buying seasonal produce is smart for a few reasons: it's tastier, it's cheaper, and it's more nutritious. Learning what produce is in season where you live can even help you become a better cook. 

You don't have to buy everything in season, but learning what you should buy in season (berries, stone fruits, apples, corn, asparagus) and what doesn't matter so much (potatoes, tropical fruits, greens and herbs) goes a long way toward running a healthier, more economical kitchen.

Use our seasonal produce infographic to learn what's in season when in most of the United States and other northern latitude countries.

Thanks for reading!

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Seasonal Produce Infographic Pinterest


About the Author

The Rational Kitchen (TRK) is a collaborative effort, but the founder, editor, and writer of most of our articles is Melanie Johnson, an avid cook, kitchenware expert, and technical communications specialist for more than 20 years. Her love of cooking and the frustrating lack of good information about kitchen products led her to create The Rational Kitchen. TRK's mission is to help people make the best decisions they can when buying kitchen gear. 

When not working on product reviews, Melanie enjoys reading, playing with her dog Ruby, vintage video games, and spending time outdoors and with her family.

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