Autumn is a time when seasonal produce is celebrated, pumpkins and apples are picked, and root vegetables are ready to be harvested. Many of us enjoy eating seasonal produce, whether it’s berries in summer or sprouts in winter – but this doesn’t necessarily mean we’re eating with the seasons. If you walk into a supermarket, you’ll see the same produce, no matter the season – and often the only way of telling the time of year is by the Easter, Halloween, or Christmas decorations!
While being able to buy whatever food we like throughout the year may seem like a positive, it does come with problems. Many of us don’t think about how far our pineapple or broccoli may have travelled to be on the shelf, or what it might have been treated with to arrive looking in perfect condition. And that’s without considering the environmental cost.
One of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to eat with the seasons. Plus, seasonal produce tastes better, contains more nutrients, and costs less.
If you’re interested in eating seasonally but don’t know where to start, here’s everything you need to know.
The benefits of eating with the seasons
With the cost of living rising and the issue of sustainability looming ever larger, there’s never been a better time to start eating with the seasons.
We’ll look at some of the benefits of eating seasonally next. But it’s important to know that seasonal eating isn’t some health fad or green trend – it just means eating the way nature intended and the way we’ve eaten throughout human evolution.
Seasonal eating is also a great way to reconnect with nature and restore balance to your body. You’re eating what’s meant to be eaten, after all, and eating only produce that’s naturally ready allows you to feel more aware of where your food is coming from. It’s a gentle way to get back to nature, eat locally and sustainably, and feel truly in tune with the seasons.
So, what are some of the other main benefits of eating seasonally?
1. It’s better for the environment
Everything we eat has a carbon footprint – though food that’s travelled a long way to be on our plate has a much bigger one. We all know that flying is bad for the environment, and while the focus might be on human air miles and private jets, it’s easy to forget that so much of the food we eat is flown in too. Food that’s flown creates 100 times more carbon emissions than food that’s shipped – and since 1992, plane transportation has increased by 140%.
When pretty much every fruit and vegetable you can think of is available throughout the year, it means it’s probably been flown in. Eating locally doesn’t only mean you eat more seasonally, it also means you’re cutting down on your food miles, helping protect lands and wildlife from mass agriculture, and reducing the amount of fertilisers and pesticides that are going into the water, air, and soil.
2. It tastes better
Seasonal produce always tastes better. If you’ve ever eaten strawberries grown in winter, for example, you’ll know that they can’t compare to the sweet, juicy strawberries grown in summer, no matter where they may have come from. And there’s a reason for this.
Seasonal produce tastes better because it’s been harvested at the perfect time, and eaten when it’s supposed to be eaten. When food has to travel to get on your plate, it needs to be picked before it’s ripe, to make sure it doesn’t spoil on the journey, and so it will never taste as sweet, fresh, or flavoursome as food that’s in season.
3. It’s better for you
Seasonal produce doesn’t only taste better, it also comes with health benefits. Many vitamins and minerals in fruit and veg deteriorate over time, whereas seasonal food contains all its nutrients.
When crops are out of season, they need to be modified to grow in bulk and withstand disease, but this can destroy some of their natural nutrients – whereas seasonal produce thrives without any harmful additives.
Eating seasonal produce also usually means eating a far more balanced and varied diet. It’s easy to become used to eating the same fruits and veggies all year round. But when you eat seasonally you tend to try different foods, and can benefit from all the different vitamins and minerals they contain.
Plus, eating seasonally supports our body’s natural nutritional needs. The incredible thing about seasonal produce (and nature as a whole!) is that it’s in perfect harmony. Produce that’s seasonal in winter, like hardy root vegetables and leafy greens, are perfect for the warming, hearty nourishment we need at this time – whereas, in summer, berries and stone fruits contain plenty of beta-carotene and carotenoids that protect us from sun damage.
One of the key principles of the ancient Indian medical system Ayurveda is that our bodies exist in harmony with the natural world, and that being in touch with nature, the elements, and the seasons is crucial for staying healthy. One of the best ways to do this, according to Ayurvedic practice, is to eat with the seasons and adapt our eating patterns as the year progresses.
4. It costs less
With the cost of living rising, many of us are feeling understandably worried – so it’s worth mentioning that seasonal produce is cheaper than out-of-season produce, or produce that’s imported. Seasonal produce is in abundance and cheaper to harvest, and that’s reflected in the cost.
Plus, if it’s in season, it’s more likely to be local, which also reduces the cost, as there’s no need for expensive transport or storage costs.
What’s in season – by season
So, now we know the benefits of eating seasonally, how can we go about doing so? Supermarkets are so well stocked with all kinds of produce that it can be difficult to know what’s actually in season and what’s been imported or grown artificially.
Below, we’ll take a look at which foods are in season throughout the year, and once you know, you can make an effort to buy these when food shopping.
Autumn is the time of year to eat plenty of root vegetables, like parsnips, potatoes, swedes, and beetroot – and of course, squashes like pumpkin. Leafy greens like rocket, watercress, swiss chard and cavolo nero also ripen during this time.
It’s the perfect time of year to make a fruit crumble too, as apples, blackberries, pears, and plums come into their own.
- Sloe berries
In winter it’s more important than ever to eat plenty of fresh fruit and veg – and luckily there are many delicious, healthy fruits and veggies that are still in season.
Christmas dinner staples like sprouts, carrots, and parsnips are delicious during winter, and apples and pears are still tasty and ripe.
- Brussels sprouts
- Curly kale
- Red cabbage
- Sweet potatoes
Spring is the season of new life, and this applies to fruit and vegetables, which begin to bloom after the cold winter! There are all kinds of delicious, fresh vegetables in season throughout this time, like asparagus, spinach, spring onion, and broccoli.
- Curly kale
- Purple sprouting broccoli
- Savoy cabbage
- Spring greens
- Spring onion
There’s a wealth of delicious seasonal produce available in summer – and many delicious summer fruits can be foraged or picked, which is a lovely way to make the most of the warmer weather.
Strawberries, gooseberries, elderflower, and raspberries are incredibly juicy and sweet in the summer, and vegetables like courgettes, runner beans, peas, and broad beans reach their peak.
- Broad beans
- Fresh Peas
- Green beans
- New potatoes
- Runner beans
- Salad leaves
Download and print a seasonal food chart
What you can grow at home
Another excellent way you can eat more seasonally is to grow your own food. At Rest Less, we’re big advocates of growing your own produce.
Not only does home-grown fruit and veg just taste better than shop-bought produce, but it’s cheaper, more sustainable, and avoids unnecessary pesticides and chemicals. Plus, there’s something deeply rewarding about cooking and eating produce you’ve grown yourself – and it’s a great way to get plenty of fresh air and stay active too.
If you don’t have a garden, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. You don’t even need a balcony or patio to grow your own fruit and veg, because plenty of delicious produce can be grown indoors or on window sills – including strawberries, tomatoes, spinach, radishes, spring onions, and fresh herbs.
If you’d like to grow your own produce, take a look at what you can do month by month.
Early autumn is a great time to enjoy seasonal fruit before it dies – and if you have a glut, you can make your own jams and chutneys (which also make lovely Christmas gifts!).
You can pick the last beans, and enjoy seasonal produce like pumpkin, squash, and leafy greens. Potatoes, red cabbage, carrots, and cauliflower are in season throughout autumn too.
Autumn is a great time to sow certain seeds outside, like sweet peas and broad beans. Not only will this save you time come spring, but it also means your seedlings can take advantage of the extra growing time – meaning they’ll be bigger and tougher by the time spring rolls around.
During the depths of winter, there isn’t much outdoor gardening to be done. Though, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables that you can sow indoors or in a greenhouse.
Hardy produce like garlic and rhubarb can be planted in the soil outside in January and Brussels sprouts, leeks, and parsnips can still be harvested during this time.
February is often the coldest month, but spring is just around the corner, so it’s a good time to plan a crop rotation system if you have a vegetable patch.
Veggies like broad beans, leeks, cabbages, peas, spinach, radishes, and parsnips can be sown outside, while garlic, onions, rhubarb, and shallots can be planted. Indoors you can sow aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, chillies, celeriac, and cauliflower.
March brings the first signs of spring, and you can start planting out vegetables like potatoes, broad beans, beetroot, artichokes and asparagus, provided your soil is warm enough.
By April, spring should be in full swing, and you can gather the first crops of the season, including unforced rhubarb.
By May, it should be warm enough to plant many vegetables directly in the soil outside, without a protective covering. These include beetroot, broad beans, carrots, chard, fennel, kale, lettuce, parsnips, peas, spinach, and rocket. The first asparagus should be ready for harvesting too, so you can make plenty of delicious springtime meals.
June is one of the best months for seasonal produce. The first spring-sown crops are ready for harvesting, and strawberries, cucumber, spinach, and courgettes are in season.
By July, summer is in full bloom, and the fruit bushes and trees are laden with delicious fresh produce. Beetroots, cabbages, tomatoes, gooseberries, and raspberries should be ready now too.
July is the last month to sow veggies like French beans and carrots if you want to enjoy another crop, and it’s also one of the best months to plant winter cabbages and sow spring cabbages. By late summer, chillies and aubergines are in season, and it’s also a good time to plant radishes and spinach one last time, as well as plant your winter cabbages.
To find out more about growing your own seasonal produce throughout the year, you might want to check out our planting calendar – what to sow and plant month by month.
Eating seasonally has a whole multitude of benefits. It’s cheaper, greener, and healthier – and far tastier, too. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to feel more connected to nature and the environment.
It’s easy to buy and eat food without a second thought. Though, when you make an effort to eat what’s in season, you’re becoming more conscious – not only in terms of how your food got to your plate but of nature’s natural cycles.
A great way to begin eating more seasonally is to head to a local farmer’s market. Here, you’ll be able to buy fresh, delicious seasonal produce and support local farmers.
For more information, head over to Eat the Seasons, where you can find out about UK seasonal food and get new seasonal recipes every week.
Or, you might want to try the Seasonal Food app, which is another basic but helpful app that allows you to search by month to see what is in season – and you can search by country too, so you can even use it when you’re abroad!
And last but not least, on The Deliciously Ella app, you can search by ingredient and discover a whole host of delicious and nutritious seasonal recipes.
Do you try to eat seasonally – or has this article inspired you to give it a go? We’d love to hear your thoughts on seasonal eating in the comments below.