Looking for an inexpensive way to get more nutritious fruits and vegetables onto your table? Here’s a secret: check your calendar.
Fruits and vegetables in season are not only fresher, but often cheaper.
Stores have a greater supply (a large local harvest) and urgency (they need to sell them quickly before they spoil), and these factors drive the prices down.
And in-season vegetables and fruits taste better than their off-season counterparts. They are more likely to be harvested locally at a fuller stage of ripeness because they don’t have so far to travel. (Produce shipped over long distances is often picked prematurely so it won’t spoil en route, and the taste and even nutritional value can suffer.)
Local farmer’s markets are a great place to find fruits and vegetables in season. But even at the grocery store, these items shouldn’t be hard to find—there’s probably a display of them because the store has a lot to sell quickly!
Plan your week’s menu based on current harvests, and take full advantage of the great flavors going cheap. Summer is a great time to get into this habit, because there’s such a great variety to choose from.
Here are just some of the in-season vegetables and fruits available this summer in Pennsylvania.
Fruits and vegetables in season all summer long (May-August)
Blueberries: Blueberries are often cited as one of the healthiest fruits because of their significant antioxidant and natural anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies have also linked blueberry consumption to eye health, brain health, better blood pressure regulation, and cancer prevention.
Summer squash: Squash, beans, and corn (the “Three Sisters”) were the primary crop sources of nutrition for many Native American societies, from the East Coast to the Southwest to Mexico. “Summer squash” refers to varieties that are eaten when the skins are still soft. For a quick and tasty side dish, sauté zucchini and yellow squash with an onion.
Cabbage: Cabbage can be a great snack!
Other fruits and vegetables in season all summer long:
- Snap beans
Early Summer (May & June)
Asparagus: Asparagus is a great source of Vitamin K, Vitamin A, and several B vitamins, among others. It’s also a source of inulin, with probiotic qualities that help maintain the healthy bacteria in your gut. It’s also high in antioxidants, which counteract the cell-damaging free radicals in your body.
Peas: Peas, actually a legume, are high in low-fat protein, meaning they’ll fill you up better than most vegetables do. They have significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties with benefits for your heart, immune system and even blood sugar levels. And they’re so much healthier fresh than canned!
Other early summer fruits and vegetables:
- Cherries (through July)
Mid- to Late Summer (July-August)
Cantaloupe: Cantaloupe, also called muskmelon or even rockmelon, is the sweeter cousin of another great summer crop, the cucumber. A serving of cantaloupe provides about 100% of your daily values of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Be aware that cut cantaloupe should not be left out at room temperature for more than one hour.
Tomatoes: Does anything say summer like a sun-ripened tomato—especially if it’s from your own garden? Tomatoes are among the most popular produce in the U.S., and studies link the intake of tomato products with heart and bone health. They’re useful for all kinds of dishes, but they’re also good just by themselves or with a sprinkle of salt.
Other fruits and vegetables in season during late summer:
The following have extended growing seasons and are available through October:
- Lima beans
And if you have any specific questions about nutrition or health in general, be sure to ask Dr. Robert Fiss or Dr. Ryan Fiss during your next appointment—they’ll be glad to give you personalized recommendations!