There are a lot of reasons to shop for seasonal produce. When we choose what’s in season locally, we supporting our community, and here in the Waterloo area that usually means lots of our nearby farming regions. We also tend to get higher quality taste and nutrition in produce that comes right from our backyard. This is because the fruits and vegetables are harvested at optimum ripeness. While it can be nice to have certain produce available year round, like California strawberries in January, we compromise on flavour and nutrition when food has to travel from far away. Food that has to travel is typically harvested earlier, temperature regulated and treated to maintain quality and extend shelf life. Not to mention the long distance also has a significant impact on the environment.
Lucky for us in Southern Ontario, there are actually seasonal varieties of fruits and vegetables available year-round! Here at UW Food Services we make the effort to source as many local fruits and vegetables as we can, and even preserve some of our own local produce to use in the winter months. You can do the same with a little knowledge about what’s in season, and a few trips to the local Farmer’s Market.
Here are some great local options you can look for throughout the calendar year:
Spring is the time of year when we start to see some of the first signs of a new growing season! Fruits and vegetables grown in Ontario at this time may vary depending on warm or cool of a spring we have, but you’ll be sure to find at least a few local Spring options (and perhaps some remaining winter finds) at your local market. Check out some of our favourite Spring produce finds.
Summer is peak season for lots of more delicate fruits and vegetables that love to soak up the sun. The growing seasons for some varieties of berries and other fruits tend to be shorter, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the first pint of strawberries or raspberries from Ontario. Vegetables like cucumbers and zucchini have longer growing season so you can likely find these all summer long! Be sure to look for our top summer fruit and veggie finds.
Fall is one of the most colourful seasons for Ontario farms. From bright orange squash, to red and green apples, and yellow corn, the fall harvest is quite simple a rainbow of nutrition! Many of these local options are hearty and have a good shelf life in the fridge, making it easy to stock up on all of your fall favourites. Check out our produce shelf life guide for more tips.
Many people think that once the snow hits, we run out of local options in Ontario. This isn’t the case at all, lots of local growers will still have hearty fall produce finds like squash, potatoes and carrots available throughout the cold and snow. Check out some of the best local Winter finds.
Another great option is to capitalize on some of the local summer and fall produce and preserve it for use later on in the year. One easy way to preserve local is by freezing. You can freeze lots of local fruits like berries or sliced peaches, and vegetables like grated zucchini, fresh herbs, or homemade tomato sauce. Even try your hand at making your own jam or salsa and canning it. Be sure to follow food safe practices when preserving produce, especially if you’re using jars.
Check out our full seasonal produce guide for more great local food options. If you have more questions about choosing local and seasonal foods, contact our UW dietitian Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org.