I love eating locally, which means buying fruit and vegetables in season whenever possible. But I’m perplexed when the monthly guide frequently differs to what I find on the shelves.
Why we’re confused about seasonal food
Big supermarkets further confuse us, by shipping produce from around the country from a thousand kilometres away, or prolongs the post-harvest life of fruit and vegetables in cool stores. While price is traditionally a good guide to what is in season, supermarkets can discount produce, by making tight deals with cash strapped farmers.
My neighbourhood organic co-op, in Sydney’s Inner West, tries to source local food and pay a fair price to the growers. In early September, the new season sugar snap peas and green beans snuggle beside Brussels sprouts and three varieties of mushrooms. Fruit is still a little sparse, but the crispy apples are the best. At home the last of the passionfruit has finally ripened on the vine and I’ve picked the first ripe strawberry from my community garden plot.
Okra, which usually peaks in summer and autumn in New South Wales, is bountiful at my local Italian grocer, along with crimson speckled fresh borlotti beans. The conventionally grown grapefruits that are supposedly in season cost over $1 a pop.
Our changing climate, along with floods, cyclones and drought can impact availability and price. My tip is to use the seasonal produce guide as suggestion rather than a hard and fast rule.
Spring is when produce tends to overlap with winter, summer and autumnal vegetables all being available at the same time. Let your senses and price be your true guide – don’t be afraid to be adventurous and buy something that looks good that you mightn’t have cooked before.
Organic Schools in season guide for September
Apples, Asian greens, asparagus, beans, beetroot, berries, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, grapefruit, lemons, lettuce, mandarins, onions, oranges, paw paw, peas, pineapples, potatoes, rockmelon, silverbeet and spinach.
The reality? While new season asparagus and garlic are coming in, they’re still very expensive. Buy as a treat, or wait a few weeks before they’re truly in season.