Have you ever craved a ripe, succulent peach…in the middle of March? Or maybe stalks of green asparagus, but spring has already come and gone. A bountiful harvest occurs year-round for many fruits and vegetables, especially those that are grown in warmer climates, but still, there are those that are only at their best during the peaks of their harvesting seasons.
When many people bake, they choose to include seasonal produce. In the blink of an eye, we can miss the finest strawberries or elusive morels only to have to wait until the following year before we can enjoy our favorites again. So many of us are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and that almost always includes adding a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, particularly those grown locally, and supporting farmers.
Never again miss an opportunity to partake in seasonal offerings by creating your own produce calendar as a reminder of what is currently in season and what you have to look forward to regarding menu planning for every month of the year.
Creating Your Calendar
First, make a list of your favorite fruits and vegetables. You are going to eat what you know you like so this is the best place to start. Have your family make their lists too so you can then categorize by month and season. If you have the space, use a large wall calendar which will allow for lots of entries every month for each person’s favorites.
Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall
Your next step will be to do some research about which fruits and vegetables are harvested during what month or in which part of each season. You might be surprised to find out that strawberries peak in the spring but other berries peak during the summer months. Create your season lists and add them to your calendar. It is always good to have this written reminder, so you never learn that harvesting seasons have passed you by. Winter might be a little challenging because many plants can’t handle extremely low temperatures. But some plants can handle lower temperatures like beets. Beets can handle sustained temperatures of 30° F. To make your life a little easier, here is a sample calendar we created to give you a place to start.
- Citrus fruits like grapefruit, lemons, oranges, and tangerines
- Leeks, radishes, brussels sprouts, and cabbage
- Beets, turnips, parsnips, and carrots
- Kale, endive, radicchio, and celery
- Potatoes, asparagus, fennel, and artichokes
- Apricots, avocados, mangoes, pineapple, and strawberries
- Broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and fava beans
- Lettuce and arugula
- Berries including blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries
- Stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries
- Corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers
- Rhubarb, sweet onions, and peas
- Apples, grapes, and cranberries
- Pumpkins and melons
- Chard, eggplant, okra, and sweet peppers
- Butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and winter squash
Some Family Fun
Once you have all of your favorite fruits and vegetables and maybe some never before eaten selections, you can turn your produce calendar into fun activities for the whole family.
Creative ways to enjoy your calendar and the anticipation it will bring can include:
- A perfect way for little ones to improve their vocabulary is by learning to spell all the fruits and veggies. Once they have mastered a few words allow them to write their choices on the calendar.
- Purchase ready-made stickers or make your own artistic fruits and veggies and place those on the calendar instead of writing each selection.
- Make menu plans using all the seasonal produce associated with each month and season. Let each family member include a favorite or something new with every meal. When children are involved in the choices they are invested in the result. And mom and dad can be assured that their kids are eating a wide range of fresh items.
Visit your local farmers’ markets and support your local farmers. Their livelihood depends on the local community purchasing what they have worked so hard to produce- and they are proud of it. Local markets are also incredible sources of additional products as well like herbs, honey, and artisan cheeses. You might just discover your meal planning is one-stop shopping with the freshest, healthiest foods around.
Eating healthy by including seasonal fruits and vegetables has never been easier and with a little planning can turn into a family activity based on a healthy, nutritious lifestyle. And it can turn your baking to the next level! Between a healthy wheat-free flour alternative and some fresh fruits and vegetables, your healthy foods will have some extra delicious flavor!
It’s about to be summer so are your favorites ready to pick?