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How important is using seasonal produce to you, as chowhound?

It's so easy these days to get produce out of season. I saw a produce manager explaining to a couple of customers yesterday how to pick good honeydew--what are they doing buying honeydew in January if they're looking for good honeydew? I also read suggestions like that here on the board--melon and prosciutto, berries, in winter, tarte tatin in the summer, etc. I do use canned/boxed tomatoes in the winter but for the most part, I buy produce that are in season, and not shipped in from far away. How about you? Do you normally buy seasonal produce, does it not matter to you (or do you not know/care about the difference?)?

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  1. chowser, yes it matters. I shop seasonal produce and buy fresh every day. I'm suspect of melons in January because they are hard enuf to come by (in NJ) at 4.00 each in July! I'd rather buy off a farmers truck, roadside stand than a market and certainly prefer over a grocery chain. Chains refrig & freeze produce, over water the greens..makes me crazy.

    But shopping smart I can find great buys and terrific fresh seasonal produce year round. Give me real produce with the roots and a bit of dirt and I'm good to go!

    1. I'm very picky about my tomatoes - when you're used to the good ole juicy Big Boys or Better Boys during a hot Indiana summer - a dry, grainy hothouse tomato will not do. so I just do without for several months - if the hubby wants a tomato, he's on his own.
      However, I was in Florida after the holidays and bought some outstanding Big Boys at a roadside market. That just might get me through until July...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Spoonula

        Exactly. I live in DC and just refuse to buy tomatoes right now. I'll wait till the season starts.

      2. Scoring local, seasonal produce feels like a religious experience crossed w/ a successful athletic endeavor. The harder to come by, the bigger the thrill. Catching those apricots during the two-week growing season in SC is a major score, and those Italian plums (prunes), the Russian lady w/ the tent outside the grocery store and that gorgeous lettuce, the toothless lady with the rapini that I never saw at the market again.

        Of course, like any thrill seeker, there is always something even more exciting to chase. Every few years, I can catch wild blueberries, at peak ripeness, growning on the top of an almost barren, East Coast Slickrock mountain. Apparently the granite soil and strong sunshine make those berries special. And once you've had giant, glowing-red, trail-side raspberries in Pisgah Forest, even the ones at the farm stand look pedestrian. (the other mountain bikers think I'm psycho)

        1 Reply
        1. re: danna

          Danna, this thread is two years old, but your post caught my eye. When is the apricot growing season in SC? And where do you find them? I didn't even know anyone grew them around here. For that matter, I didn't realize you could find wild blueberries and raspberries in our corner of the country either, though it makes sense that you should be able to.

        2. Seasonal and local is ALWAYS the best, no question. There are several frozen or canned vegetables that work wonderfully in my opinion. Frozen peas, canned beans just to name a couple. I can usually find reasonably good tomatoes in my grocery store year 'round in the plastic container and labeled as "campari" or something similar. They're not grape tomatoes, but usually about 2.5, maybe 3 inches in diameter - not bad. Of course when summer hits, it's only heirlooms for me ;-)

          1. Pretty important, but I live in Boston so I can't get entirely precious about it or I wouldn't be eating any vegetables but rutabagas and parsnips from Thanksgiving through Memorial Day. Like Spoonula above, I forgo tomatoes (and corn) out of season, although since they introduced those grape tomatoes in the supermarkets I'll get a box every once in a while when the craving gets unbearable - they're not too bad.

            There's a lot of different growing seasons represented on these boards, though - I try to keep it in mind when someone's talking about some lovely veggie that I haven't seen locally in five or six months, that they may well live in California, or outside the US in an entirely different climate. Sigh. Someone posted just recently about some contents of their CSA share box - my CSA runs 17 or 18 weeks a year!

            A couple of months back the cookbook of the month was a Mexican cookbook, and after I got it from the library and gave it a quick read-through I realized that I couldn't find a single recipe that appealed to me that didn't involve some fresh ingredient that would only be available in very poor, shipped-from-a-couple-thousand-miles-or-more-away condition. I do the best I can, because I do care a lot both about eating with the seasons and about supporting local farmers (not to mention caring about tasty food!), but I'm conscious that I don't live in the most amenable location.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Allstonian

              I too lice in the Boston area, and agree with you 100%. I buy my produce at Wilson FArm, so always have great seasonal fruits and vegatables. In the winter, I buy the grape tomatoes, and lots of time I serve them roasted. But- sometimes I do crave a taste of summer. On my last visit to Wilson Farms, they had some summer squash. I had to buy it. Have not had it yet- though I will say their butternut had been over the top delicioius this year.

              1. re: Allstonian

                I can't go without my corn. I buy corn at a local farm early in the morning - I try to get it within 2 hours of picking (if it were my own, I'd have the water boiling while picking...)
                I cut the corn off the cob - I do absolutely nothing to it but put it into a freezer bag and then immediately stick it in the freezer.
                On a cold Feb. night, I can pull out a bag and you could swear it was fresh.
                I've tried freezing on the cob, but it gets too mushy. This is the best method I've found and allows me to bask in July and August for just a little while...

                1. re: Allstonian

                  I am in Boston too and hate winter tomatoes. I was talking to a friend the other day who has an industrial Cryovac machine. He insists that you can cryovac tomatoes at thier peak and freeze them and then enjoy then in jan. I had never heard of such a thing, have you?? He said he did it with corn too.

                2. It's a tough one. There are certain things I'll never touch if they're out of season (tomatoes, especially), and I'm wary with foreign/exotic produce- I had a heartbreaking experience with a mangosteen once that almost sent me straight to the travel agent for a remedy.

                  But it's hard- I'm in a major centre where we have access to nearly everything, all the time. The city is littered with small mom-and-pop shops that sell fruit, which is often put outside in the winter. So even if I were to stick to markets and buying off farmers, it's still out there in the streets all the time. A couple weeks ago, raspberries were on sale for ridiculously low prices. I had to buy them, even knowing full well that it's not exactly the season and, after preparing myself for full disappointment, they turned out fabulous. So I do end up buying many things out of season, especially if the prices are decent. It really depends what it is, and I'm less inclined to do so with fruit (probably b/c I eat it raw more than veggies, which get cooked, so the difference in flavour is very noticeable).

                  On the same note, I'm beginning to notice that I'm likely one of the last generations to understand that fruit/veg have seasons. On more than one occasion I've commented on the lack of availability of things like oranges and grapefruits outside of winter when I was younger, only to recieve shocked looks from people. And I'm still in my 20s (barely, LOL). Most people don't seem to realize there are seasons, and that flavour varies and is affected directly by seasonality.

                  - Lea

                  1. i live in SF, and am rather blessed in regards to seasonal produce. however, i will buy many fruits or vegetables out of season if i have a craving, with the exception of tomatoes. i strongly dislike out of season tomatoes, and will pluck them out of salads, burgers, or anything else bearing them. come summer, however, i will eat them out of hand like an apple. and apples i will eat year round regardless of seasonality.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: augustiner

                      Apples are different, though, because they last for months. They can be picked domestically and stored. I don't love them but I don't go out of my way to avoid them. I'm more leary of produce that's been grown in a country far away and shipped here--quality suffers. A strawberry in December? No thanks.

                      It does make a big difference where you live--people who live near California and Yuma, Arizona can get great produce almost all year round.

                      1. re: chowser

                        So much depends on where you are. In Chicago, I get great apples from very local sources at the farmers market from late August into October, and they make the apples at the grocery pale in comparison. But as the person from Boston said, if I only shopped and ate local stuff, in midwinter I don't know what I would eat. And I'd never be able to have oranges and limes or pineapples. For me it is more of a practical question-- when I can get good local in season produce, I do, and I like to support local farmers; but when I can't get the local stuff, I buy what I want to eat, knowing that the quality won't be what it could be. For some things, the difference is enough that I don't buy-- there aren't many tomatoes worth eating out of season; I grew up in the corn belt and think it is weird to eat corn on the cob in winter; and I picked so many blackberries off the bushes in British Columbia this summer for free that I can't bring myself to buy those overpriced things in the stores (but next year, I probably will). I buy three times as many apples when they are local, because they are so good I can't stop eating them, but I certainly buy apples from New Zealand if that's all there is to be had.

                        1. re: chowser

                          Where you live matters a lot. I visited northern Mexico in November and learned that the regions I visited exported a lot of produce because they have up to 3 growing seasons. I live in California so it changed my perspective quite a bit. The tomatoes from there are so-so because it is largely desert and they are hot house/hydroponically grown. Though not seasonally driven, the coffee we had was locally grown and roasted and was very good.

                      2. Just to be picky...my apple trees start producing in July, so I think your "tarte tatin in summer" comment is a little off base.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: danna

                          Okay, I'm talking about where I am right now. If someone were in Chile (and there are posters from South America), the berries in winter comment would be off base for them. Point taken, though, that the produce could be in season where the poster lives.

                        2. I'm a vegetarian. Don't get me started on vegetable quality out of season!

                          Why are there "fresh" tomato dishes on menus right now? I live in DC! Trust me, none of my tomato plants are still alive. And those babies don't survive shipping/storage the way the produce industry would like to make us believe.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: odkaty

                            I'm in the DC area, too, and I've made the same comment at restaurants--why are there tomato salads on the menu? A tomato that survives shipping, trains, trucks over weeks to get here is probably not worth eating!

                          2. This time of year? In the upper midwest where the ground has been frozen for a month or two and will stay that way for several more? Not that important. I'd rather have a vegetable that was appropriately frozen or canned at the peak of freshness, than one that was picked prematurely in some warm climate and transported here.

                            Now, in summer and fall when the local, seasonal produce is abundant? Bring it on.


                            1. Let me clarify--I'm talking about fresh produce, not frozen at the peak of freshness (at the risk of sounding like a commercial). Berries frozen from your garden in the middle of winter. Yum. Berries shipped in from overseas at an enormous cost? No.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: chowser

                                Absolutely I agree. That's what I'm talking about, too. Berries shipped in from "afar", even domestically (i.e., California), even affordably, whether "fresh" or "frozen" are less desirable than ones picked locally at the height of their season and canned or frozen...


                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  SO right. I had some of the best Maine blueberries this season- small and just bursting with flavor. Enjoyed them plain, and made an awesome lemon/blueberry cake ( I think it was a Barefoot Contessa recipe). I wish I had bought more and frozen them. Now I will have to wait until August!

                                  1. re: macca

                                    Which reminds me...one of our local greengrocers had wild Maine blueberries for an unusually long stretch last summer, and I did in fact buy a couple of spare quarts which went into the freezer. I think it's time to get some out. Blueberry cake? Pancakes? Something festive for the long weekend for sure!

                                    1. re: Allstonian

                                      I f ound the post with the recipe for the blueberry cake. It was not the Barefoot Contessa, but Cooking Light. It was really good. I think I doubled the amounts for the glaze, as we are lemon lovers in my house. You may want to give it a try. It was originally posted by EllenMM

                                      BLUEBERRY POUND CAKE

                                      2 c. granulated sugar
                                      1/3 c. butter or stick marg., softened
                                      1/2 c. (4 oz) l/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
                                      3 large eggs
                                      1 large egg white
                                      2 tsps. vanilla extract
                                      3 c. all-purpose flour, divided
                                      2 c. fresh of frozen blueberries
                                      1 tsp. baking powder
                                      1/2 tsp. baking soda
                                      1/2 tsp. salt
                                      1 (8 oz.) carton lemon low-fat yogurt
                                      Cooking spray
                                      1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
                                      4 tsp. lemon juice

                                      1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
                                      2. Beat gran. sugar, butter and cr. cheese until
                                      well-blended. Add eggs and egg white, 1 at a time, beating
                                      after each addition. Mix in vanilla extract.
                                      3.Coat blueberrries w/ 2 tbs. flour in a small bowl. Combine remaining dry ingred. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture
                                      alternately with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix in blueberry mixture.
                                      4. Pour batter into a 10-inch tube pan with removable bottom, coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees
                                      for 1 hour and 15 min. or until a cake tester in ctr. comes out clean.
                                      5. Cool cake in pan 10 min. on a wire rack; remove sides of pan. Cool 15 more min.; remove cake from bottom of pan. Combine
                                      powdered sugar and lemon juice; drizzle over warm cake. Yield: 16 servings.


                                    2. re: macca

                                      This reminds me of when I found sour cherries at the farmer's market in my old town. They were ridiculously cheap and fresh. I'd never bought them before so I just got a little bit, went home and made the most amazing maple cherry cake. I tried to go back and get more but the ladies who had them weren't there the next week. Here in Chicago, where it seems that everyone at the markets has the same things, there is one person who has sour cherries and they sell them frozen and smashed up ready for pie only, and they're $8 for a quart bag. It's absurd. I hate the farmer's markets here. I need to figure out a better way to get produce.

                                      1. re: annimal

                                        In the early fall, I bought a piece of butternut squash at my usual farm place. It was so good- the next day I went back and bought about a dozen more, and stored them in my basement. Just ran out about a week ago, and bought some more last Saturday. I was so happy to find they were just as good. MAde me happy!

                                        1. re: annimal

                                          Ooooh, I'm in Chicago, too, and in the same boat. I totally
                                          agree that the farmer's markets leave much to be desired. There's little variety, plus they seem to be designed for people with more money than sense. I mean, it's one thing to pay for quality, another to be gouged. I moved back here relatively recently, and am still trying to figure out how to balance my wish for local, organic, seasonal food against the reality of being in a northern climate in an area with farmland either rapidly disappearing or dedicated to corn.

                                          1. re: optimal forager

                                            Yes, in Chicago, the Farmers Markets are not the best. I thought it was just me who noticed all of the vendors have the same stuff. I walk there every weekend they are open and try to buy local, though. It just seems wrong to get in the car in search of better FM's in the suburbs!

                                  2. I would say 90% of the produce is both local and in season. Our vegetable intake shifts across a huge spectrum during the year and I enjoy the process. I aslo freeze or can goodies in season so that we can enjoy them year round.

                                    I live in Los Angeles and it is a lot easier here than elsewhere.

                                    1. I do buy mostly seasonal fruits and vegetables, but I don't make a fetish about it. I definitely won't make dishes that focus on out of season produce. I might buy some crap tomatoes for use in a recipe in December, but I'm not about to make a caprese salad. I wouldn't make a berry pavlova in January, and I'm probably not going to roast parsnips in July. Trying to convince my husband that buying blueberries in February is perhaps not the wisest thing is another matter.

                                      1. "It just ain't right."
                                        That's an old Southern expression that everyone understands to mean that there's just too many reasons to go into and we all get them anyway, so why bother discussing it. There's something weird about fresh asparagus for Christmas dinner or strawberry shorcake in January. Just as brussel sprouts for the Fourth of July: Just Ain't Right.
                                        Seasonal foods go with the weather, climate and the temperature as well as the local culture. We have to make exceptions of course for Florida and California, etc. but for most of the US, we've come to expect a seasonless kitchen and have lost the joy of the appearance of the first citrus of Fall or early Spring produce, Summer melons and real tomatoes. We settle for crap or produce with more frequent flyer miles than we have. Worse, we now have produce bred for shelf life and shipping endurance rather than taste. Ick!
                                        Part of American foodways heritage are products which our ancestors preserved by salting, drying, canning and then freezing which are wonderful on winter tables. They can be great additions to spice up the cold months in temperate climate when there is little local produce in markets or in our gardens. Why bother with poor quality fresh stuff out of season? It just ain't right.
                                        The arrival of each season brings new pleasures to my kitchen and I welcome then with greater joy for having missed them for a few months.

                                        1. I definitely prefer seasonal produce in season - it tastes so much better. But I live in Minnesota and can't handle eating only cabbage, onions, potatoes, and apples all winter, so I can't go overboard. I need lettuce, broccoli, onions, and apples all year round.

                                          As the years go by and I spend more effort to search out food that tastes wonderful, I find myself craving the "seasonally-appropriate" produce during the correct season. These days, I'm eating lots of braised cabbage, onions, apples, and squash. In the spring, I want asparagus and peas - tomatoes don't even appeal. Late summer is when I want nothing but peaches, corn, and tomatoes.

                                          My pet peeve is asparagus in the fall and winter - I'm baffled that the "better" restaurants in town have all started to serve it, even though they should know better. It just doesn't sound good to me, even though I adore asparagus in season.

                                          And, although I eat grapefruit all year, I definitely notice a drop in quality in the spring and a dramatic improvement in October/November. There's nothing better than fresh, in-season grapefruit in February - I eat the stuff every day, at every meal, until it comes out of my ears. I can't wait until the local Boy Scout Troup comes around selling boxes of Texas grapefruit as their annual winter fundraiser - I think they deliver the fruit a mere 2 or 3 days after it's picked, and it's the best stuff I've ever had!

                                          Yup, seasonal produce is worth the wait.


                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: AnneInMpls

                                            Some places might import asparagus from the southern hemisphere in fall/winter. They're seasonal but not local.

                                          2. I am officially on my annual Ruby Red grapefruit diet! I can't get enough of the stuff. They are at the peak of perfection right now, and although grapefruit is available in the produce aisle for much of the year, there's NOTHING like the ones that come available in mid-January. I've got a basketful sitting on my kitchen counter, because I think they taste best at room temp. and not chilled from the fridge. Grapefruit, to me, is nature's way of apologizing for the miserable winters we generally have here in PA.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: CindyJ

                                              I'll with you CindyJ...hi from NJ and loving the grapefruits!

                                            2. I know exactly what CindyJ is saying. Even if certain produce is available year round, it still is seasonal and tastes better in certain times of the year and in certain areas.
                                              I grew up before produce was trucked all over the country and certainly before it was imported from abroad.
                                              Growing up in the very deep South where apples don't grow, the only ones we ever had were stored and shipped from far away. They were mealy and pretty tasteless and I didn't understand the glowing stories of them in the books I read. I still don't care about them very much but can't wait for the first citrus in the Autumn. I can tell the difference over the dry and sorry oranges of the Summer.
                                              Because so many things are in stores year round, people have lost track of the seasons. Even storage vegetables such as onions, garlic, potatoes, etc. start to show their age after awhile. Spring lamb was called that for a reason. Even egg production was seasonal. Modern agriculture and shipping have moved us further away from the pleasures of the earth and its changes.
                                              Paying more attention to local production is a comforting way of reconnecting.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                It also seems like it's only been recently (though "recently" seems to be longer as I get older) that you've been able to find so many products that are out of season. I'm always surprised now when I see asparagus, honeydew, all berries on the shelves on conventional stores now. I recently saw peaches at the store. I don't remember seeing peaches in the middle of winter before.

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  Our local stores have had them the past several years - from Chile I think.
                                                  The only products I use like this in the winter are ones that are tradionally "put up" like brandied or pickled peaches which would have been done with an abundant crop and used as accompaniments in winter meals. Same with berries and fruits that were made into jams or already cooked to be used in winter pies. Just like our grandmothers would have done. Canned tomatoes, absolutely - that's part of the reason for growing them.
                                                  But the idea of serving fresh berries or asparagus just doesn't ring true. I'd prefer to wait until the season brings them to me.
                                                  The worst part of this is restaurants, food writers, magazines and the Food Network leading the way on emphasizing these non-seasonal products instead of encouraging the exploration of what's there at hand as the seasons change.

                                                2. re: MakingSense

                                                  Definitely eggs - my free-range egg man says that his chickens don't lay as much during the winter, and the egg yolks are paler because the chickens aren't eating bugs. (Clarification: The chickens range free, not the man - although he's not caged either.)

                                                  And this thread made me recall something I read in a French gourmet-food magazine a while back, pointing out that CHEESE is seasonal, too. The cows (or goats, or sheep) have a preferred plant or pasture that is often seasonal. Factoring in the length of time needed to make and age the cheese is complicated, so this magazine had a chart to help you know the best time to buy which cheese. I wish I had saved that chart, but I'm sure it's all different for North American cheeses.


                                                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                                                    My father used to tell us that when he was a child the milk would taste funny - even terrible - if their cows got into the wrong pasture. And that the color of the cream and butter differed throughout the year depending on what the cows grazed. You are what you eat and produce what you eat.
                                                    The price of eggs used to fluctuate because the chickens laid heavier during some seasons and, as your egg man reports, not so much in winter. They didn't start again until near Easter when eggs were still expensive. Everyone used to swear that the stores charged more because we all wanted them to dye but it was really because of seasonal laying patterns.
                                                    Now commercial egg production evens out the supply. Same with milk, orange juice, pretty much everything. Fooling Mother Nature.

                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                      Oh, yeah - butter, too! I remember reading in "Little House on the Prairie" about how they would dye the winter milk for butter with something yellow (dried flower petals?), because it was so much paler than summer butter.

                                                      Nowadays, I think the commercial producers use tumeric or Yellow Dye #666.


                                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                                        has anyone seen napoleon dynamite? there was a scene where napoleon was taking a test for the future farmers of america where he had to taste milk and say what the different flavors meant. the line went, 'this cow must have wandered into an onion patch.' 'correct.' 'yes!' ohmigod so funny.

                                                  2. It's important, but I do sometimes buy out of season. Here in the Midwest, all fresh produce is shipped from CA or somewhere else equally remote part of the year. I'm one of those who keeps going to the farmer's market trhough October, but it's a losing prospect. I have to give in to shipped produce during some months, or I'd be produce deprived.

                                                    I would love more info on the seasonality of other items like cheeses and seafoods. Anyone know of good reads?

                                                    ETA: I should add, to me, "out of season" means out of the growing season for this region.

                                                    1. It is funny that my husband and I were talking about this very thing as we unpacked the groceries. In the spring/summer/fall the produce section of my grocery list is longer than any other part. I don't always buy what is exactly in season, but apparently it is close. Today, for produce I bought cilantro, jalepenos, celery, carrots, and that's all. We eat far fewer veggies (and fruits too, but now I am going to get some ruby red grapefruit!) in the winter.

                                                      1. I almost never buy local, seasonal produce. Perhaps the closest would be Yakima Valley cherries, but still, those come from half way across the state (Washington). In late summer I pick local salal berries and blackberries, but certainly don't survive on them. If I were willing to pay an arm and a leg for parking I could drive down to Pikes Place Market (Seattle), and buy stuff from local vendors. But there is not guarantee that it is local. It doesn't bother me that my vegetables travel many more miles than I do.

                                                        I am quite happy to buy BC Hothouse bell peppers and English cucumbers, even if they are as likely to come from a hothouse in Mexico as from one in nearby Vancouver. Who knows where my carrots and onions come from, probably California.

                                                        Avocado, papaya, poblanos, mushrooms (various types), fennel, water chestnuts are other items that I buy when the quality and price look right, regardless of their source or some abstract notion of seasonality.


                                                        1. Very important to me, as vegetables aren't worth eating except at their peak of season. No asparagus after Memorial Day.

                                                          Of course it's easier since I live in California and have local produce all year-round. Also because I'm familiar with Asian greens, as the Chinese brassicas (gai lan, ching choi, gai choi, yu choi, choi sum, etc.), pea shoots, winter melon and many others are at their best in the cold, rainy winter time and I look forward to this time of year to enjoy them in abundance.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                            I loved exploring the farmers markets in California. I tried so many different types of vegetables, sometimes I didn't know what they were (knew some in the cooked forms but not the raw forms), but it was great. I learned how much work it was to make pea sprouts! I really miss Japanese sweet potatoes, most of all.

                                                          2. I like to use local seasonal produce, but it's not a deal breaker for me if I can't. In the summer when the local farm stand and farm markets are open, I visit them before I visit the grocery stores -- and I visit my garden before I visit the farm stands. Winter time... I'm not that driven to seek out local cold storage potatoes, etc.

                                                            What I do have is a price guideline for fresh vegetables - I refuse to pay more then 1.25-1.50 a lb for veggies. This keeps my budget where I want it, and has the side effect of "seasonalizing" my diet -- if something is out of season, it's usually not in my budget. And if something drops below a dollar a lb, I can lay in a store of it, preserved or cellared, or what not.

                                                            Fruits I give myself a loose leash on -- I refuse to tell my kid that she can't have an apple for her treat at the grocery instead of a candy bar or something because I don't want to pay too much for it in January. I try to stay away from anything over 2.00 a lb fruitwise, and frequently end up making exceptions.

                                                            1. Important yes, and I live in Southern California where the growing season is long and a bit skewed from other parts of the country - we almost have two springs here, as fall, early winter is a good time for green leafy things that one would expect exclusive to spring. Our proximity to 'trade routes' ; South American fruit in January and February too tempting - I bought a lb. of fresh cherries 3 days ago and they are already eaten! And they inspired a poem!

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: OCEllen

                                                                Yeah, I must say it's a benefit to live here. The produce season is amazing.

                                                                1. re: hotteacher1976

                                                                  My sister lives in South Florida which almost surprisingly has less fresh seasonal 'food' than one might expect - and the tomatoes, as an example are just lousy, primarily because of poor hort. practices. It's been done at least a little better in California.

                                                              2. After moving from the US to Jerusalem - doing regular open market shopping makes buying in season so much easier. If produce is in season, it's there - and if it's not, it's either not local and expensive or it's just not there. However, I also am just getting used to figuring out what the seasons are for produce and I do suspect that our tomatoes come in waves (still it's just over a dollar here for about a kilo of tomatoes most of the year...).

                                                                A month or so ago the strawberry season started, and it was amazing to have strawberries that smelled so strongly of strawberry. Now broccoli has come in season, and it's amazing.

                                                                1. Here on Long Island, I grow some of my own vegetables and buy a lot of local, seasonal produce from farmstands. In winter I buy whatever I feel like eating from the markets, seasonal or not, local or not.

                                                                  1. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we're really lucky because there's always a good variety of fresh seasonal produce. The seasonal stuff is generally relatively inexpensive and just looks better, so we tend to buy it. I also get the feeling it's really spring when there's strawberries and asparagus, summer when there's corn, winter when there's an abundance of butternut squash. And tomatoes are basically inedible out of season, and around here, along with zucchini, everyone is giving them away.

                                                                    Lately I've decided to really pay attention on the general theory that we're all part of the system and it's probably healthier to eat seasonally and locally. Not really a behavior change but a different kind of consciousness. I did, however, buy asparagus from Peru for a dinner on New Year's Eve. So I guess the answer to your questions is yes I do and yes I care, increasingly so.

                                                                    1. I buy plenty of produce that's out of season, but only if it's been "put up." Canned tomatoes, frozen peas, dried apples - it's all good. But asparagus flown in from Chile or tomatoes grown in a hothouse? Not so much.

                                                                      1. I generally eat seasonal produce at least 3 seasons of the year, but in the winter I quickly get bored with just squash and kale. Then I buy whatever's in the grocery store that looks good and is priced right. This pretty much never includes tomatoes, but there's something delightfully luxurious about eating a pint of raspberries in December.

                                                                        1. it'll be great but there's only so much you can get in Canada and (and a somewhat poor and lazy student)

                                                                          1. Not at all in Toronto. We get fresh produce from all over the world.