Tuesday, 15 March 2022

How to make the most of in-season produce

Eating in-season comes with a long list of benefits, so let’s dive (or bite) right in. What produce comes to mind when you think of winter? If you’re unsure, it may be because in Australia, we’re lucky to have access to most produce year-round.

The issue with this luxury is that eating out-of-season produce means it has often been flown across the world (which isn’t particularly great for the environment), grown in artificial conditions, picked prematurely, has lost some of its nutrients, and more. On top of that, ripening agents such as chemicals, gases, and heat processes are used to keep the supply going.

Eating with the seasons is good for the planet, your health, and your wallet. Now, where to start? Right here, with our seasonal eating guide!

Find out what’s in-season

This may seem like an obvious one, but having access to an abundance of produce year-round means it’s easy to forget what’s actually in season. We’ll give you a brief rundown, but be sure to check out our summer, autumn, winter, and spring produce guides as well!

Autumn – March to May

  • Fruit: apples, bananas, figs, grapes, kiwi fruit, lemons, watermelon, nectarines, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, quinces
  • Veg: artichokes, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, daikon radish, eggplant, mushrooms potatoes, pumpkins, squash, sweet potato, tomatoes, turnips, zucchini

Winter – June to August

  • Fruit: bananas, cumquat, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, lemons, mandarins, navel oranges, pineapple, quince
  • Veg: beansprouts, broccolini, brussel sprouts, broad beans, celeriac, carrots, cauliflower, fennel, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, silver beet, spinach, turnips

Spring – September to November

  • Fruit: bananas, cherries, grapefruit, lemons, lychees, honeydew melon, mangoes, navel oranges, papaya, strawberries, star fruit
  • Veg: artichokes, beetroot, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, fennel, leeks, mushrooms, parsnip, peas, rhubarb, spinach, turnip, watercress

Summer – December to February

  • Fruit: avocado*, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, lychees, melons, nectarines, valencia oranges, peaches, plums, raspberries, and strawberries
  • Veg: asparagus, beetroot, broccoli, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, rhubarb, snow peas, spinach, turnips, zucchini

*Did you know that those creamy avocados that you spread on your toast are technically a fruit? It grows on a tree and is considered a large berry with a single seed.

Pro tip: be sure to check out the Seasonal Food Guide and the Australian Seasonal Produce Guide – you’ll never doubt what’s in season again.

Look out for specials

In-season food is often cheaper, as it’s in peak supply (which means there’s lots of it). Seasonal specials are usually easy to spot, a la a box of cherries in summer or heads of fennel in winter.

Remember to wander away from your big supermarkets to check out a farmers’ market, order a produce delivery box, or head to a cafe/restaurant that rotates its menu according to the season.

Maximise those nutrients

If produce is out-of-season, it’s likely to have travelled far and wide to reach your local supermarket – this means nutrient loss along the way. As soon as produce is picked, nutrients start to deteriorate due to heat, light, and oxygen (especially your vitamins C and B). This is yet another benefit of eating with the seasons!

Remember that spinach you’ve had in the fridge for a week? Well, it’ll only have 75% of its vitamin C left by the time you get to it, so be sure to eat the delicate foods first.

It starts from the inside

It’s a cold winter's day - your hands are slightly numb, and you’re wearing a scarf but can’t seem to warm up. You think to yourself, ‘a warm soup would go down a treat right now’ follow that instinct! As the weather changes, it makes sense that the way we look after ourselves accordingly (including the food we eat).

Warm and nourishing foods in winter (to keep pesky colds at bay), refreshing salads in summer (to restore the water that you may have sweated out at the beach).

Keep your pantry and freezer stocked

Eating frozen, dried, or canned food is a great way to add variety to a seasonal diet.

Frozen food, in particular, gets a bad wrap – with many people assuming that fresh trumps frozen. Quite the opposite is true! Freezing food can significantly slow down nutrient loss, so that frozen bag of berries may contain more nutrients than fresh punnet.

We hope that we’ve given you some useful information to kickstart your seasonal eating journey. One last thing before we go, it’s important to remember that the weather differs in our six wonderful states, and so does the seasonal produce.

Interested in Nutrition?

Discover more about how the food we eat affects the environment through Food and the Environment: from farm to fork, one of our Nutrition Short Course offerings.

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