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The Seasons of Fruits and Vegetables

I started reading the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver.  I am only to the third chapter and I already HIGHLY recommend this book! 

The book is about a family that moves to the Appalachia area and lives solely on food grown from within their county (either by themselves or through local farmers) for one year.

One of the biggest tasks when attempting something such as this is having the ability to plan for when fruits and vegetables are in season.

Some of you may be thinking, there is a season?  I can get tomatoes all year at the grocery store!  Well, if you are eating a tomato anytime outside of July through September, you are not definitely not eating a locally grown, “farm fresh” tomato.  More than likely, that tomato was commercially grown in Mexico using a ton of pesticides and preservative methods to allow it to travel the 1,500 miles to your plate.

This same tomato scenario is true for all fruits and vegetables.  Each one has a season.  Now, obviously seasons will fluctuate depending on the area of the country you are in (I am focused on the US here) and some fruits will grow in areas such as Florida whereas they would not survive well in areas such as Wisconsin (i.e. oranges). 

Since I live in Wisconsin, my experiences will be based around the seasons and weather I live in.  But, in general, the seasons should be relatively close wherever you call home!

A great website, that I now frequent quite often is Pick Your Own (PYO).  I will refer to this website often (because it is that awesome), but for this particular blog post, I have a couple of places on this website I would love to show you!

On PYO, not only can you find local farms in your area (in all US states) where you can go buy fresh, in season produce, it also gives you a helpful guide as to what would be available to pick at any given time!

If you would like to see the general seaons for different fruits, click here.  Or, if you are interested in vegetables, visit their page here

HOWEVER, (and remember how I mentioned how awesome this site is?),  you can even find an area on their website where it will give you the produce that is commonly grown (and their seasonality) for your particular area.

For instance, to get to the area on the website that references produce seasons in my area of Wisconsin, I clicked on the link for “Start here to find a farm near you” on the website’s homepage.  Then, of course, I clicked on the link for Wisconsin.

On this page you can find many “Pick your Own Farms” in the area — I will be blogging about tips for a visit to one of these very soon.  However, if you scroll down towards the bottom of the page, you will find “Harvest Dates in Southern Wisconsin”.  This is the chart from their website that I now reference almost daily:

Harvest Dates in Southern Wisconsin

Crop Average Harvest Dates
Asparagus April
Beans, snap July 4 – September 8
Beans, lima August 20 – October. 10
Beets June 24 – Frost3
Broccoli June 21 – September 8
Cabbage June 21 – September 8
Carrots June 25 – August 10
Cauliflower June 4 – August 14
Cucumbers August 1 – Frost
Eggplant August 10 – Frost
Kohlrabi June 4 – September 10
Lettuce, leaf May 25 – Frost
Lettuce, head, romaine June 24 – Frost
Muskmelon Aug. 8 – Frost
Onions, storage July 4 – August 13
Onions, sweet Spanish July 24 – August 28
Peas, snap June 4 – July 20
Peas, snow June 24
Peppers, green July 19 – Frost
Peppers, jalapeno Aug. 4 – September 15
Potatoes, red June 24 – October. 8
Pumpkins August 18 – Frost
Spinach May 15 – June 1
Squash, summer July 4 – Frost
Squash, winter August 18 – Frost
Sweet corn June 30 – September 15
Tomatoes July 25 – Frost
Turnip Greens May 20 – Frost
Watermelon August 3 – Frost
     1Dates are for southern Wisconsin.  Add 7-14 days for northern locations

Now, there are some things missing from this list (like raspberries or blueberries).  BUT this chart is an amazing reference for those “staple” items grown in my area. 

However, Pick Your Own does not ignore the items that are not already on this list!  At the top of the page for “Wisconsin”, they have notes for the month.  For instance, the note for September 2010 reads “Blueberries are in, almost everywhere.”

There are then links to recipes and such for what is currently in season (more blog posts to come!) and there is a wealth of information on this website for preserving the bounty of produce that is inevitably available.

Going back to the book I am reading, the author provides this very clever pictorial that gives you a very creative way to remember when produce is in season.  It is called the “Vegetannual”. 

In the book it describes how to view and think about this creation — it outlines the fact that the more complicated the growth of the item, the later on in the season it matures and is ready to be harvested.  Here is the picture of the vegetannual:

Now that you are armed with the seasonality of your food, decide what you are ready to get your hands on and keep an eye out on my blog — hopefully we can learn how to preserve all this food for the upcoming winter months together!

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