The iPhone App that Tells You What’s in Season

Seasons iPhone App showing food in season

Eating with the seasons is one of the best ways to get the optimum nutrition and taste from your food. But when you’re sitting in that restaurant or visiting your local shop, how do you know which of the foods on offer are actually in season right now?

Well, if you have an iPhone, you can now find out at the touch of a button with ‘Seasons’, a new iPhone app created by Christian Klotz and Saskia Schmidt.

Behind the Seasons App

Christian and Saskia are passionate about eating with the seasons and used to go to farmers’ market every week. They started their iPhone app just for fun, but it soon blossomed into an indispensable guide to seasonal fruit and veg – a harvest calendar for the whole year that you can put in your pocket.

After completing their first calendar – a guide to the German fruit and veg season – they continued to cover the different growing seasons of the UK, Ireland, France and the US. Now, using GPS/WLAN, the finished app will auto detect the region you are in and covers West and Central Europe, UK and Ireland, the US and Canada.
foods in season

How Does it Work?

If you click the star icon, you’ll get a complete overview of what fruits and vegetables should be available right now. You’ll be given several categories to choose from, from a screen featuring four stacked pallets. From here you can find food at the beginning of its season, food in season, food at the end of its season and food that is always in season.

Touch the relevant pallet section and you’ll be given a list of the foods available in that category, each with a photograph for easy identification. Select a food and you will be presented with further information on its growing season, history and uses.

As well as finding foods in season right now, the Seasons app also gives you the choice of searching by month, category and keyword. This is really handy if you want to plan in advance.

Gardeners will also find it a handy tool for helping them plan their crops to make the best use of their plot.

In all the app covers 170 foods spanning fruits, vegetables, lettuces, herbs, fungi and nuts.

How to Get the Seasons iPhone App

If you are interested in the Seasons iPhone app you can find out more information about it here. The app is currently being sold for just £1.19 ($1.99/€1.59) from the Apple App Store and through iTunes.

strawberry seasonin season info

Guide to Buying Fruit and Vegetables in Season

At supermarkets we can get most fruits and vegetables all-year round no matter what the season, but buying out of season comes at a price, including lower nutritional quality and greater burden on the environment.

Greater Nutrition

If you are looking for the greatest taste and nutritional benefit it is unlikely that you’ll find the answer on your supermarket shelves. Food grown locally – which is able to reach you within hours of being picked – will give you the most nutritional value.

The reason for this is that from the moment fruit and vegetables are harvested they begin to lose nutrients. This doesn’t bode well for food that is flown or shipped from abroad, which not only takes longer to reach our stores, but also undergoes extra handling, packaging and storage all of which can degrade its quality.

How to Find Local Food

You can use websites such as Local Food Advisor to find food growers and suppliers close to where you live – and you could be surprised at what is just around the corner from you. Fill in the quick search form on the home page and you’re sure to make some discoveries!

You may also find that there is a regular farmers’ market near you. Check out the Certified Farmers’ Markets website to locate markets near you. At the farmers’ market you’ll find food sold by the farmer who grew it and who probably harvested it earlier that day – it will be seasonal and fresh, and you should notice a difference in the taste.

Another way to ‘eat local’ is to organise a veg box delivery. Some of the most well-known companies that do this in the UK include Riverford and Abel and Cole, and you can even get a veg box from your milkman.

What’s in Season When?

Before supermarkets, more people grew their own fruit and vegetables out of necessity or bought from local stalls and shops filled with fresh supplies from local farmers. We all knew what was in season back then, but these days we’ve lost touch.

Luckily, today there are a number of websites that can tell us what’s in season when. Jamie Oliver’s website has a handy table which shows the seasons of around 50 popular foods, including fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and seafood. A similar chart can be found on the website The Time is Ripe.

If you have an iPhone you can have all this information on the move with the Seasons iPhone app.

If you don’t already grow your own or buy local, give it a go and see if you notice a difference. I believe that buying local food in season is the way to go if you want to get the best taste and nutritional value from your food. As well as avoiding all the negative aspects of buying out of season, you will be supporting your local farmers and other food producers, too.

 

The Cost of Buying Out-of-Season Fruit and Veg

At supermarkets today we can get most fruits and vegetables all-year round no matter what the season. Convenient, yes, but what are we really getting when we choose to buy out-of-season fruit and veg?

Buying produce that would normally be out of season in our country means that it has either been imported from another country or grown in heated greenhouses. Both processes create carbon emissions, which is bad news for the environment.

Extra Food Miles

In the 1990s the term ‘Food Miles’ was coined by Dr Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at London’s City University. Food Miles refers to the distance a foodstuff has travelled from the farm to our plate, which is then calculated in terms of impact on the environment.

Food Miles don’t take in to account all the energy and materials used in growing, processing and packaging the food, but it does give us environmental food for thought.

For example, planes that import food generate 177 times more emissions than ships, but whichever way food arrives in our country it is then transported by HGV to the depot and then to the store. The final trip is the one you take to and from the supermarket.

In the UK, the transportation of food alone is responsible for 25% of the distance clocked up by HGVs. Buying food grown in your local area can cut this down dramatically, however this may not always be the case if you buy your local food from a supermarket.

Even food grown down the road from you may have had to travel to the supermarket’s central distribution depot before it comes back again to be put on the shelves in your store.

I am only scratching the surface of the environmental impact of out-of-season foods here, but if you want to know more, the article ‘Food Miles’ by Caroline Stacey on the BBCs Food pages expands on the issue.

Ever-Decreasing Nutrients

Other factors of importing fruit and veg, are the time it takes and the handling and storage that is involved. These can all affect the nutritional content of the food.

From the moment fruit and vegetables are harvested they begin to lose nutrients and taste. You’ll know this yourself if you’ve ever ‘grown your own’.

A carrot eaten minutes after being pulled from the ground is vibrant in colour, smells amazing, is crisp, juicy and full of taste. Each day that that carrot sits in a fridge, box or shelf, affects its quality. Its colour becomes dull as it begins to dry out, it loses its smell and taste, and eventually it becomes bendy. The invisible side-effect of this is the loss of nutrients.

Fruit and veg that has been imported can sit in storage containers, trucks or on supermarket pallets for days and weeks. During this time it can be exposed to oxygen, light and heat, all of which will rob nutrients.

Modified for Transport

Because food can spoil in the transportation process, through bruising from handling and packing, many fruits and vegetables have been modified to help them better survive the journey.

These modification have included thicker skins (which doesn’t do any favours for the taste) and changes to shape and size so they can fit more uniformly into their boxes.

Is it Really so Convenient?

So, yes, supermarkets are convenient, but when it comes to shopping for fruit and vegetables, it’s easy to see how these days more and more of us are stepping back and really starting to think about our choices.

 

See How Fruit and Vegetables Decompose

I found an interesting time-lapse video on YouTube, which shows how fruit and vegetables degrade over a period of 74 days. One photograph was taken every 40 minutes to make this film, which is replayed at 30 frames per second.

You can find out how this video was made at Henry’s Webiocosm Blog.