Eating fruits and vegetables in season: They’re fresher and probably local

Potatoes, winter squash, winter greens and onions are fresh in the winter in Kentucky

Eating seasonally means consuming produce that is purchased around the time it is harvested.

Why include seasonal produce in your weekly meal plan? Seasonal produce is fresher, tastier and more nutritious than food consumed out of season. Take strawberries for example: The best time to eat them is summer, when they are growing locally and in most parts of the country. Strawberries bought out of season are shipped from other parts of the world. They are picked slightly under-ripe to ensure that they don’t turn to mush during transport. Strawberries do not ripen after being picked, so imported strawberries are often hard and bland. Therefore, when eating strawberries out of season, you’ll probably do better to buy frozen.

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Eating seasonally also often means eating locally. Including local foods in your diet is great because many (although not all) small-scale, local farms nourish plants with cover crops and other sustainable methods that put nutrients back in the soil. Since the produce doesn’t have to travel far before you buy it, it’s allowed to grow until it is fully ripened, meaning nutrient content and flavor are enhanced.

There’s a lot to be said for a shorter journey from farm to table. Researchers at Montclair State University in New Jersey revealed that the vitamin C content of broccoli was cut in half when it was shipped from out of the country compared with when it was sourced locally.

What’s in season during the winter months in Kentucky? Plenty! Look for a variety of potatoes, winter squash, winter greens and onions.

Erin Weidmar is a clinical nutritionist with Norton Healthcare.

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