Last week, I wrote to you to share nine easy ways to eat more healthfully for both our bodies and the planet—nine mottos to live by. But here’s the thing: Repeating these mottos is helpful, but it’s not enough. For example, I can’t say “avoid wasting food” without offering strategies to use our spare food better, just as it’s not enough to only talk about supporting BIPOC, Asian, and women-owned businesses without actually taking action. This week, I’m circling back to another of the mottos—”Seasonal food just tastes better”—to share a list of global and local guides to help you learn what crops are in season, where you can find them, and how you can support small farmers in the process.
In some regions of the world, it’s possible to walk into a grocery store and see crops from around the world, all year-round, regardless of when they’re typically harvested. And yet, even in those same cities and towns, some folks are unable to access or afford the fruits, vegetables, and grains their grandparents traditionally grew on that land. Eating seasonally is not a magic solution to this injustice, but it certainly can be more nutritious, fresh, and economically vibrant for everyone.
Here are 16 educational guides so you can start or deepen your commitment to eating seasonally, wherever you live in the world: The Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) Crop Calendar (International); Cuerpomente Seasonal Calendar (Spain); Das Bundeszentrum für Ernährung (BZfE) — Germany’s Seasonal Calendar (Central and Northern Europe); Eat Seasonably UK (United Kingdom); FAO Ethiopia Crop Calendar (Ethiopia); FAO’s Searchable Crop Calendar Database (International); The FoodPrint Seasonal Food Guide (U.S.); Harvest: Select the Best Produce (U.S.); El Libro Sabio de Las Frutas y Las Verduras (Spain); LocalHarvest’s Community Supported Agriculture Farms, and Farmers Markets National Directory (U.S.); “Por Precio y Sabor, Prefiera Frutas y Verduras de Estación” Campaign by the Chilean Government (Chile); SeasonEats (U.S. and U.K.); South Africa Seasonal Calendar (South Africa); Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) Seasonal Produce Guide (U.S.); Union Fresh’s Seasonal Charts (Thailand); and U.S. Department of Agriculture National Farmers Market Directory (U.S.).
Eating produce with the seasons can help consumers access fresher, more nutritious while directly supporting their local farmers and economies.
Eating seasonally often coincides with eating locally, Jerusha Klemperer, FoodPrint director, tells Food Tank. “Local shopping and eating is more likely to be seasonal shopping and eating.”
This also comes with a number of benefits. According to FoodPrint, seasonal foods can be fresher, tastier, and more nutritious than out of season produce because it is likely picked at its nutrient-dense peak, rather than harvested early and transported elsewhere.
Buying locally also helps lower consumers’ carbon footprint, because there are fewer carbon emissions associated with transporting that food shorter distances.
Money spent on local food also supports local farmers and farmland and contributes to the local economy. Through farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), consumers can help local farmers.
To help everyone eat with the seasons and access local distributors, Food Tank is highlighting educational guides for consumers.
1. The Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) Crop Calendar
First published by the Mexican Agri-food and Fishery Information Service in collaboration with AMIS, this online resource provides an in-depth report of wheat, rice, maize, and soybeans around the world. For each crop, the report provides a table for the seasonality of planting and harvesting across two years. The report includes information on each crop as well and has a secondary resource formatted in a table.
2. Cuerpomente Seasonal Calendar (Spain)
Cuerpomente is a Spain-based health and wellness community with a website and magazine. The seasonal calendar shows what fruits and vegetables are in season by each month, and even differentiates produce that is generally in season and produce that is at its peak The calendar comes with illustrated digital graphics and a user-friendly table. Users can also visit web pages for each month that provide more information about the in-season produce and its health benefits.
3. Das Bundeszentrum für Ernährung (BZfE) – Germany’s Seasonal Calendar (Central and Northern Europe)
BZfE, the Federal Center for Nutrition in Germany, provides a Seasonal Calendar of produce that can also be downloaded as a mobile application. The information of the foods provided also applies to most of central and northern Europe. While the website is available in German, English speakers can also find an illustrated version with translations in a drawing series here.
4. Eat Seasonably UK (United Kingdom)
The Eat Seasonably campaign, based in the United Kingdom (U.K.), is a nationwide campaign to promote the consumption of seasonal food. They offer an interactive, online calendar and free, downloadable calendar poster that contains all the seasonal information of produce in the U.K. The Eat Seasonable campaign also has online profiles of the current in-season produce and tips to help growers determine what plant that month.
5. FAO Ethiopia Crop Calendar for (Ethiopia)
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO) country profile on Ethiopia’s agriculture system also features a crop calendar. It includes the major types of cereals and Meher crops — those grown during the main crop season. The full agricultural profile on Ethiopia also includes data on vegetation and precipitation indicators and threats to crops. Users can search the website’s country profiles for any country’s agricultural data.
6. FAO’s Searchable Crop Calendar Database (International)
The FAO’s information tool for seed security acts as a searchable database for different crops and countries around the world. Users can search the database by crop, category of crop, or country. The results even differentiate between agro-ecological zones. The database incorporates information on 44 countries and more than 130 different types of crops. It also provides information on the sowing rates of seed and planting material and the main agricultural practices.
7. The FoodPrint Seasonal Food Guide (U.S.)
FoodPrint’s Seasonal Food Guide draws from a database of more than 140 types of fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, and herbs. The Guide allows users to search for produce by location in the United States time of year or food item. It also includes information about each produce item including its nutritional value, environmental impact, appearance when most ripe, and length of peak freshness. Access the Seasonal Food Guide online or via a phone app.
8. Harvest – Select the Best Produce (U.S.)
Harvest is an iPhone application that allows users to see what produce is currently in-season by inputting a location and month. It then provides a guide for selecting the freshest, ripest, healthiest, and best-tasting produce using visual, touch- or feel-based cues. Harvest also provides tips on how to best store the produce and how long it will stay fresh. Finally, the application provides estimated pesticide levels in popular fruits and vegetables.
9. El Libro Sabio de Las Frutas y Las Verduras (Spain)
The Spanish Government ‘s Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca, y Alimentación, created El Libro Sabio de Las Frutas y Las Verduras, which translates to “The Wise Book of Fruits and Vegetables.” This resource provides a look into 24 fruits and 29 vegetables in an easy-to-read, family-friendly format. The book provides information about the produce, its production in Spain, its nutrition, and its seasonality.
10. LocalHarvest’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), Farms, and Farmers Markets National Directory (U.S.)
LocalHarvest provides online tools to connect people looking for local food with the farmers who produce it. Their National Directory provides a search tool that allows users to search for CSAs, local farms, farmers markets, farm stands, U-Picks, grocery co-ops, and more, by inputting their zip code. The directory contains over 40,000 entries and is used by over 7 million people each year.
11. “Por Precio y Sabor, Prefiera Frutas y Verduras de Estación” Campaign by the Chilean Government (Chile)
This health campaign translated to “For Price and Flavour, Choose Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables,” was promoted by the Ministerio de Agricultura for World Food Day. The campaign includes four graphs of of seasonal produce by geographical area of Chile: Norte Grande (Arica-Parinacota, Tarapacá and Antofagasta), Norte Chico (Atacama and Coquimbo), Central (from Valparaíso to Maule) and South (from Biobío to Magallanes).
12. SeasonEats (U.S. and U.K.)
SeasonEats is a mobile application providing seasonal data for more than 130 items of produce in all 50 U.S. states and the United Kingdom. Its design allows users to search by location and month, sort by location or produce, or view by the whole year. It is iOS supported and also has an Apple Watch App for searching on the go.
13. South Africa Seasonal Calendar (South Africa)
EatOut provides a visual infographic calendar of the seasonality of produce in South Africa. The printable calendar is beautifully illustrated and provides a month-by-month look at what produce is in season, in addition to a section dedicated to a list of produce that is in-season year-round. The guide contains 54 different types of produce grown in South Africa.
14. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) Seasonal Produce Guide (U.S.)
SNAP-Ed is a national grant program aimed at increasing nutrition education, social marketing, and policy, systems, and environmental change, and it can help people stretch their SNAP dollars further. The SNAP-Ed Seasonal Produce Guide provides an overview of the more commonly eaten produce sorted by season. The website allows the viewer to explore the different major fruits and vegetables through nutrition fact labels and external links to recipes, and other educational resources.
15. Union Fresh’s Seasonal Charts (Thailand)
Based in the Chiang Mai Province of Thailand, Union Fresh sources and distributes traditional Thai vegetables and tropical fruits. They provide a seasonal chart for both Thai Vegetables and Tropical Fruit for viewers all over the world. The color-coded chart features produce like carambola, mangosteen, rambutan, and durian.
16. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Farmers Market Directory (U.S.)
Maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, the USDA National Farmers Market Directory is designed to provide customers with updated listings of farmers markets across the U.S. The directory can be searched within an adjustable radius around the user’s zip code. The directory provides farmer’s market information like market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, and accepted forms of payment. Each listing has an external link to the website.
(Danielle Nierenberg is President, Food Tank and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)