Colorado Guide to Eating Seasonally

I was at the farmer’s market this week, buying some lettuces and strawberries. It’s early in the market season, and the produce selection is pretty thin. I wondered what was ACTUALLY in season in Colorado right now. So I decided to investigate.

The Colorado Growing Season
Mostly, our fruits and veggies grow from May through October, with the most robust months being July & August.
Here is what actually grows in Colorado during our growing season. This list reflects when an item begins picking season and may last several months.
May:  Asparagus & Rhubarb

June:  Cherries, Lettuces & Strawberries

July:  Apricot, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Celery, Cucumber, Green beans, Corn & Tomato

August: Bell pepper, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Chili peppers, Eggplant, Honeydew, Onions, Peaches, Plums, Raspberries & Squash

September: Grapes, Pears, Pumpkin & Watermelon

The actual research on the WHY to eat seasonally & locally is quite scarce, but I did find a great article by Kathleen Frith, published in the Harvard T.H. Chan’s School of Public Health’s website that is very well sourced. Frith lays out, in detail, HOW & WHY our local food is more nutritious. The entire article can be linked to here, but in summary, Frith found there are important reasons to eat seasonally & locally, so that you’re eating the most nutritious food possible. Her reasons include:  1) local food maybe produced differently & with more variety, 2) Local impacts how & when it is picked, and 3) local impacts how it is handled, processed and packaged which helps to determine food’s nutrient density. If food is grown closer to home, on smaller environmentally-friendly farms, it is more likely to be produced, picked and handled properly and provides the best nutrition.

Reasons to buy seasonally & locally
Nutrient Density
According to Frith “Farmers producing for a local and direct market (farmers’ market, community supported agriculture (CSA) members, or a local restaurant or grocer, for example), are more likely to prioritize taste and nutritional quality over durability when making varietal decisions.
You are more likely to eat an increased amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants if you eat locally because farmer’s choose a greater variety of veggies instead of choosing for greatest yield & durability.

Increased Vitamin Content
Frith found that “Total vitamin C content of red peppers, tomatoes, apricots, peaches and papayas has been shown to be higher when these crops are picked ripe from the plant which, in the case of tomatoes, is attributable to increased sun exposure while attached to the mother plant. While the vitamin C content of tomatoes, for example, will increase to some degree after picking, it will not reach levels found in those allowed to vine ripen.”
Fruits & veggies that stay on the vine longer, will have increased nutrient content.

Post Harvest Handling Impacts Nutrient Quality
Frith found that “Careful handling preserves plant integrity and quality and careless handling chemically alters plant structure, often diminishing nutritional quality.” Further, “Bruising from handling is one of the most common problems. Mechanical harvesting methods like those used in mass production have the potential to be most damaging and can result in accelerated nutrient losses.”
Large farm handling, and bruising I particular, negatively impacts nutrient quality of fruits & veggies.

CO crop_calendar

Turns out, there is evidence to choose local food in order to increased nutrient density & higher quality fruits & veggies on your plate.

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