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.

 

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How to Find Local Food Producers in the US

I am conscious that many of the visitors to Vegging Out are from the United States, so for this post I wanted to focus on finding local fruit and vegetable suppliers in the US. I’ve been searching the web high and low and here are the best three websites that I’ve found so far.

Find Places Where You Can ‘Pick Your Own’ in the US

PickYourOwn.org helps you find farms in your area where you can pick your own fruits and vegetables. The site also gives you picking tips, plus instructions on how to preserve your fruits and veg, as well as recipes for jams, soups, sauces, ice cream and more.

To find a Pick Your Own farm near you, click on your state then narrow the search to your local area using their maps and links.

I worked in the United States for a year, so I chose the place I worked in Pennsylvania for my test. I located a strawberry farm and a blueberry farm, which also sold homemade pies, cakes, muffins, jams and jellies.

Search For Local Farmers Markets in the US

The United States Department of Agriculture’s website for Agricultural Marketing Services, provides a service called the ‘Farmers Market Search’. They aim to maintain a current listing of farmers markets throughout the US.

Simply use the search fields to find markets in your area. Again, I used my Pennsylvanian example to see how the site worked and found the Wayne County Farmers Market in Honesdale, which is open from May to October from 9am to 1pm. Full addresses and phone numbers are also supplied.

Discover Farms and Other Food Producers in Your State

Local Harvest is a community style website with lots to offer, including a ‘Food/Farm Event’ calendar, a regular newsletter and a forum.

In the ‘Farms’ tab I searched for Honesdale in Pennsylvania and found 16 entries, which included growers of a range of fruits, vegetables, nuts and mushrooms, plus a wheatgrass grower, an alpaca farm and a flower market.

 

An Easy Way to Find Local Food Producers (UK)

local food advisor red

Just as my year of veg box deliveries came to an end, the south of England was hit with the heaviest snowfall we’ve seen for at least 10 years.

Looking at the dwindling supplies of veggies in the local shop, I wondered what would have been in the boxes if they had continued – and whether the milkman’s float would have even made it around these icy roads.

Snuggled up warm in my home, I turned my attentions to the internet and discovered Local Food Advisor, an excellent website for sourcing locally produced food.

Finding Local Food Suppliers on the Internet

local food advisorThe Local Food Advisor strapline is ‘find the best of the best’ and the best in this case are ‘the top 3500 award winning regional producers and suppliers in the UK and Ireland’. Every supplier listed has either won an award, been recommend by a famous chef or has organic certification.

So whether you are looking for farmers markets, farm shops, rare breed suppliers or veg box schemes, the chances are you’ll find it here.

Search by Town, Postcode, Award or Foodstuff

I did a search by simply typing in my home town and found 18 suppliers within 10 miles, 85 within 20 miles and the list went on. Within the results are suppliers of local meat, fish, fruit and veg, poultry, game and dairy, plus bakeries, delis and restaurants.

You can search in many different ways, which makes it easy, for example, for a cheese fan to discover gems such as the multi-award-winning Caws Cenarth Cheese company, a small family enterprise in Wales who make and sell the most amazing sounding cheeses – and you can buy them online!

Discover the UK’s Regional Specialities

As well as being a very handy food directory, the Local Food Advisor website also has great features such as a regional specialities tool, recipes, a book club and a map of native breeds.

If you’re interested in buying local or organic, or discovering more about the nation’s native and regional foods, try it out. It’s a mine of information.