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Healthy Tips

Reap the Benefits of Seasonal Local Eating

Maple Syrup, lobster, potatoes, and wheat are a few iconic Canadian foods, but there are so many more. Read our guide to find out what’s in season in Canada to help you find the freshest and nutritious local produce possible.

Canada boasts a wide variety of agricultural crops from coast to coast that produce a bounty of fruits and vegetables throughout the entire year.

Summer ripens bright, berries bursting with colourful, juicy freshness that are perfect for a sweltering day. Winter offers dense root crops like parsnips that sweeten in the frosty soil and can be cooked into a hearty, nourishing hot stew.

Each season produces fruits and vegetables at their peak of flavour and nutrition, and filling your plate with what nature is presently offering means you get to enjoy these benefits. Here’s your seasonal guide to Canadian produce.

Benefits of Eating Seasonally

Eating seasonally is the best – and simplest – way to get the most flavourful, nutritious food, but also has a host of other benefits! Some other important reasons why your food choices matter, include:

  • Supporting Local Economy. Buying food from local producers keeps the money circulating in your region, helping to support farmers, create jobs and support restaurants and food production facilities.
  • Investing in Sustainable Agriculture. Smaller farms tend to use methods and techniques that uphold organic and sustainable agriculture, intended to reduce pollution, water waste, and improve soil quality and health.
  • Reducing Environmental Impacts. Local food purchases reduce the miles your food travels to get to you, meaning less greenhouse gas emissions and fresher food. Shopping for whole, fresh foods also helps to reduce food waste and food packaging.
  • Better Nutrition. Studies have found that some fruits and vegetables have more nutritional value when they’re consumed in season [1,2]. Broccoli that’s consumed when it’s grown in the fall—when it’s in season—has higher vitamin C bioavailability compared to consuming it in the spring, after it has travelled far distances to your local store. [2]
  • It Tastes Better. Fruits and vegetables harvested at its peak season always tastes better. A study showed that bananas that are naturally ripened instead of chemically treated to ripen faster, tend to taste better and are more nutritious [1].
  • It’s Cheaper. Saving money on food is top of mind for everyone, and the best way to eat healthy while staying on budget is to purchase produce when it’s in season. Crops are grown and harvested in abundance when it’s at its peak, making it cheaper and more accessible.

Purchasing from local producers also engages you with the food system and connects you to those who grow your food!

Year-Round Canadian Produce

There are also ways to support Canadian farmers year-round. Farmers are equipped with innovative growing equipment and storage conditions to extend growing seasons for certain veggies for a later harvest. Some farms work with cold storage systems that allow them to sell heartier produce for an extended period of time, such as apples, pears, winter squash and potatoes. Certain crops like mushrooms and greenhouse-grown or hydroponic sprouts, tomatoes, peppers, and greens are available throughout the year for a welcome taste of the warmer months in the Canadian winter.

Canadian pastured meats, dairy products, fresh eggs and dry goods, like grains and flours can also be purchased year-round. Look for locally-produced products wherever possible, or those that bear a “made/grown/raised in Canada” seal.

Winter Seasonal Produce (December – March)

Soups, stews, roasted veggies and baked goods are all delicious, nourishing comfort foods that see us through the colder months in Canada.

Winter produce: Pears, Brussels Sprouts, Rutabagas, Turnips, Beets, Carrots, Cabbage, Red Onions, Garlic, Leeks, Potatoes, Squash, and Sweet Potatoes.

Winter recipe inspiration: Organic Maple Glazed Sweet Potato Donuts

Spring Seasonal Produce (April – June)

Fresh flavours and the return of green, young plant foods are the herald of spring, with a growing season that starts in the west and makes its way east when the weather warms up.

Spring produce: Asparagus, Radishes, Fiddleheads, Spinach, Fava Beans,  Rhubarb, Peppers (greenhouse), Tomatoes (greenhouse), Kale, Salad Greens, Morel Mushrooms, Arugula, Swiss Chard, Green Onions, Peas, Cherries, Beets, Lettuce, Green Onions, Gooseberries, Saskatoon Berries, Strawberries, Broccoli, Celery, Swiss Chard, Garlic (Fresh), Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Turnips, Zucchini and Fennel

Spring flavour inspiration: Sprout for Your Health

Summer Seasonal Produce (July – August)

Summertime, and the living is easy – with farm stands, markets and grocery stores teeming with fresh produce grown nearby. Husking sweet corn, strawberry U-picks and plucking cherries from trees are what summer memories are made of.

Summer produce: Gooseberries, Saskatoon Berries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Currants, Cherries, Blackberries, Apricots, Nectarines, Green Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower,  Celery, Swiss Chard, Cucumber, Garlic (Fresh), Leeks, Lettuce, Green Onions, Peas, Peppers, Potatoes (New), Radishes, Rhubarb, Salad Greens, Spinach, Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Turnips,  Zucchini, Beets, Peaches, Crab Apples, Blueberries, Melons, Nectarines, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Artichokes, Green Beans, Broccoli, Cabbage, Corn, Parsnips, Rutabagas, Shallots, Eggplants, Grapes, Peaches, Watermelon and Kale.

Summer recipe inspiration: Kimchi and Zucchini Pad Thai

Autumn Seasonal Produce (September – November)

The annual fall harvest brings a bounty of delicious foods to the table. For many, this is their favorite time of year to visit farms and country markets to stock up for the colder months ahead.

Autumn produce: Cranberries, Apples, Crab Apples, Blueberries, Grapes, Melons, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Artichokes, Green Beans, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower,  Celery, Swiss Chard, Corn, Cucumber, Garlic (Fresh),  Leeks, Lettuce, Green Onions, Onions, Parsnips,  Peppers,  Potatoes (New), Pumpkin, Radishes, Rutabagas, Salad Greens, Spinach, Tomatoes, Turnips, Zucchini, Beets, Eggplants, Nectarines, Watermelon, Kale, Quince, and Potatoes.

Autumn recipe inspiration: Pumpkin Pie Bites

Look for local, seasonal foods at your grocery store, or visit a neighbourhood farmers market or local CHFA member retailer to get the freshest and best foods for you and your family.


References

  1. Maduwanthi, S., & Marapana, R. (2019). Induced Ripening Agents and Their Effect on Fruit Quality of Banana. International journal of food science2019, 2520179. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/2520179
  2. Wunderlich, S. M., Feldman, C., Kane, S., & Hazhin, T. (2008). Nutritional quality of organic, conventional, and seasonally grown broccoli using vitamin C as a marker. International journal of food sciences and nutrition59(1), 34–45. Retrieved From: https://doi.org/10.1080/09637480701453637
  3. Eat Local, Eat Canadian. Retrieved from http://www.eatcanadian.ca/
  4. What’s in Season? Your Ultimate Guide to Canadian Fruits and Vegetables. Bessie McDonald-Gussack (2018). Retrieved from https://www.foodnetwork.ca/in-season/blog/whats-in-season-in-canada/

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