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Do you ever wonder why you see an abundance of asparagus at the store in May and June — for the lowest price per pound? Or why the first farmers markets in May primarily sell fresh lettuce, garlic scapes, and hard-to-find morel mushrooms? Every type of produce has an ideal growing season depending on where you live, which not only impacts its price and availability, but also its flavor.
Eating seasonally is a simple concept — consuming produce when it’s in season — that has several benefits for your health, your wallet, and your local community. Here are a few reasons to start eating seasonally if you don’t already, plus tips for incorporating this practice into your life.
Eating seasonally is…
- Better for you. When fruits and vegetables are grown out-of-season or transported over far distances to reach your grocery store shelves, they are harvested early and ripened artificially so they don’t spoil. This can prevent the nutrients in the produce from fully developing, making fresh and seasonal produce a better choice for healthy eating.
- More flavorful. Ever wonder why recipe magazines and cookbooks have tomato-heavy dishes in the summer? In addition to having the maximum amount of nutrients, in-season produce picked at the peak of freshness is full of flavor. And, if you’ve ever had a fresh-off-the-vine heirloom tomato, you know how different it tastes from one shipped internationally to your grocery store in the middle of January.
- Supporting your community. When you purchase locally grown foods, you’re supporting local farms and growers in your community, which, in turn, boosts your local economy. You can also learn more about your food and how it was grown when you can talk with the grower at their farm or a local market.
Tips for eating seasonally
- Visit a farmers market. By visiting a local farmers market you see what is in season for yourself and meet the farmer who actually grew the food you’re buying. The 712 Initiative’s Farmers Market Council Bluffs provides community members an opportunity to buy fresh seasonal produce every Thursday in Bayliss Park throughout the summer.
- Use a guide. What’s considered seasonal really depends on where you live. SeasonalFoodGuide.org offers a database and a free app to help you find information on fruits and vegetables that are seasonal in your area.
- Buy frozen. When you live in an area without a year-round growing season, it can be hard to eat seasonally all the time. But, buying frozen produce is just as good as buying it from a local grower when it’s in season. That’s because frozen fruits and vegetables are picked and frozen at their peak ripeness, which preserves their flavor and nutrients for much longer.
- Choose “farm-to-table” restaurants. You can even eat seasonally when you’re dining out, thanks to restaurants that feature local and seasonal ingredients on menus that change throughout the year. 712 Eat + Drink is a great local option.
- Grow your own. If you have a green thumb, start a small backyard garden with some of your seasonal favorites like asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, or tomatoes. At CreekTop Gardens we have plots that gardeners rent each summer to
Thankfully we have a lot of great local farms and opportunities to buy seasonal produce around Council Bluffs. Whether you’re buying at the farmers market or growing your own produce at CreekTop, The 712 Initiative continues to deliver programs that encourage healthy lifestyles in Council Bluffs.