Flip through a food magazine or turn on an episode of your favorite cooking show and you’ll likely hear the term “in season” tossed around when the merits of a particular produce item or the inspiration behind a certain dish are discussed. To the average viewer and typical home cook however, the concept of seasonality may all seem a bit mysterious! What does this mean and how do restaurant chefs always seem to know what produce is in season at any given time?
It’s all actually quite simple, it’s just a matter of knowing what information to attune your senses to and what details to keep an eye on when shopping and cooking! Once you have a basic understanding of what fruits grow at different times of year, you’ll understand how to select seasonal produce each and every time.
What is Seasonal Food?
Simply put, seasonal food items–whether fruit, vegetables, or other agricultural products–are those which are most readily grown under different temperature and weather conditions as they fluctuate throughout the year. Even regions that we think of as reasonably climate stable do experience some changes which influence crop growth and harvestability.
Your first clue towards seasonal eating lies in the seasonal food associations that you are likely already well aware of. Think of existing food relationships which may be in the form of strong memories or traditions, such as munching on watermelon slices at the 4th of July barbecue, apple picking during the autumn, and carving jack-o-lantern pumpkins in October.
Each of these connections is a demonstration of seasonality, exemplifying the fact that we humans have a long history of celebrating and enjoying the arrival of each fruit’s availability year after year.
A Guide to Fruit in Season Now
In the next section, we’re walking you through the 4 seasons, discussing the general availability and seasonal associations of some fruits for each. Keep in mind that this is in general for most areas of North America, but it will certainly vary between regions. Fruits grown in the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest will have a different window of availability as compared to those of sunny Southern Florida!
You’ll notice that there are plenty of instances of overlap here as many types of fruit in season towards the tail end of summer also carry on into early fall and fruits that love the mild temperatures of spring also fare well in the slightly cool weather of mid-autumn!
Spring: March 20th to June 21st
In most areas of the country, the spring season is widely recognized as one of the most bountiful, with new life quite literally “springing” up and plenty of green green green everywhere!
Temperatures hover between 50℉ to 70℉ across this three month period while precipitation-wise, spring is a decidedly wet season. The ongoing collision of cool and warm air in the layers of the atmosphere frequently triggers clouds to release their moisture, as well as lays the framework for the occurrence of severe weather. In addition, there also tends to be an excess of ground water during this time of year in most regions, as snowmelt and runoff find their way to lower ground.
Thankfully, plenty of fruits thrive in this unpredictable, completely soggy time of year! Some of spring’s seasonal fruits are:
- Apricots: will start becoming available in late May or early June.
- Avocados: California-grown avocados are plentiful and approaching peak during the spring months! Grab a few and try your hand at one of these stuffed avocado recipes.
- Bananas: in season all-year round!
- Cherries: there are a ton of different cherry varieties, and you may start to see a few appear in the months of May or June.
- Citrus fruits: not all varieties though! Look for grapefruit, kumquats, and lemons–especially those super fragrant Meyer lemons.
- Kiwis: peak season for kiwis grown in the US ends in May, while imported fruits from New Zealand are available after that.
- Pineapples: though grown throughout the year, it is said that the best pineapples are grown in Hawaii from March to July!
- Rhubarb: is one of the first fruits to appear in April, as winter turns slowly to spring, and remains at its peak until the July heat takes over.
- Strawberries: strawberry season is one of the most fleeting, beginning in early June for many regions.
Summer: June 22nd to September 21st
The season of summer essentially boils down to two words: hot and sunny! Depending on the region, this heat can be either exceptionally dry or intensely humid, featuring dramatic storms and sudden flooding events as standard events.
Higher latitudinal areas of the northern hemisphere will experience a marked increase in daylight hours as compared to more equatorial areas whose sunlight hours remain relatively constant. This means that plants get plenty of sunlight, which may be too intense for some fruit producing plants while others simply soak up as much as possible! A few fruits that come into their prime during summer are:
- Apricots: wrapping up their season in July in most areas, but some varieties continue through August and September! Some people even swear by August apricots, claiming them to be the sweetest and juiciest.
- Avocadoes: the avocado season in California winds down in September (don’t worry though, like bananas, avocados are grown year round and imported from Mexico and regions of South America).
- Bananas: available all through the summer!
- Berries: all kinds of berries come into season during the summer months, from strawberries and raspberries to blackberries and blueberries. Strawberries finish up in most areas by early July while raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries love the heat that late July brings.
- Currants: here we’re referring to the fresh red, pink, black, or white currants rather than dried currants, which are actually tiny grapes!
- Mangos: peak months are July & August for this sweet, yellow fruit.
- Melons: juicy melons of all sorts have long been associated with summertime, including watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew varieties!
- Pineapple: your chances of scoring the best, fresh pineapples start to go downhill in July so get ’em while you can!
- Stone Fruits: in late June you should begin finding varieties of peaches, plums, nectarines.
- Tomatoes: tomato season is readily welcomed by home gardeners and farmers alike! These acidic fruits (or are they a vegetable?) love the heat and humidity and are peaking in August and September.
Fall: September 22nd to December 20th
Dwindling daylight hours, rapidly cooling temperatures, unpredictable bluster, and chances of wintery weather–or at the very least, overnight frost events–make the fall season a tough one for many plants! Not only must they be protected against the increasingly brutal conditions, but they also face the challenges posed by animal life as well, as all kinds of critters are busy filling up and storing up for the cold yet to come.
While such harsh conditions are a death sentence for most fruits, especially those fairer varieties like tender berries and soft stone fruits, other fruits are well suited to survive a couple cold snaps as they come into their harvest season. After all, the season of autumn is well known as harvest season for many reasons, the fruits below being a contributing factor:
- Apples: one of the quintessential fruits of autumn, with most varieties coming into peak at this time. Try one of these tasty ways to make use of your fall apple haul!
- Bananas: still in season!
- Chestnuts: September-November are the months for harvesting chestnuts, which are well protected by their shells and easy to store for up to a month! And yes, chestnuts are indeed fruits.
- Cranberries: this tiny yet tart New England native peaks each year between October and December.
- Figs: Northern regions will experience peak fig season during October, while warmer areas of the country will be pushed a bit earlier–and may even get 2 harvests!
- Grapes: most varieties in most locations will be harvestable in the months of September and October.
- Guavas: technically a year-round tropical fruit, guavas are best enjoyed at their peak which starts in November.
- Kiwis: kiwifruits grow happily in both spring and fall, as these two seasons share many of the same characteristics.
- Melons: despite their summertime association, melons are extremely hardy and continue growing well into October depending on the region.
- Passion Fruit: of the two main varieties, purple passion fruits lead the season with yellow passion fruit coming into peak a bit later.
- Pears: some early varieties may ripen at the tail end of summer, but most pears are fully fall fruits.
- Quinces: with a flavor resembling a cross between a crunchy apple and a tart pear, trees full of quinces turn golden-yellow and ripe each and every autumn.
Winter: December 21st to March 19th
When considering the winter season, your first thought might be “what fruit could possibly be in season then?”. Rest assured, however, there are certain fruits which reach their prime during the chilly months! After all, there’s a reason why those delights such as pomegranates, chestnuts, and citrus are associated with winter holiday meals.
As many regions become snow and ice laden, a majority of fruit crop production is consolidated in warmer areas of North America. Some fruits peak in these areas at this time of year, while others fare surprisingly well in the colder conditions. Some fruits in season during winter are:
- Bananas: always and forever, in season.
- Cranberries: it may start in fall, but cranberry season lingers well into December!
- Chestnuts: those prolific chestnut trees will continue dropping their fruit through December in many areas.
- Citrus Fruits: the winter season citrus options go well beyond your basic oranges– keep an eye out for limes, mandarin oranges, clementines, tangerines, tangelos, and blood oranges.
- Pears: several varieties of pears are known as winter pears, producing fruit in cold conditions and actually requiring cold storage in order to ripen.
- Persimmons: persimmons start popping up in late fall, but by early winter they are in full swing.
- Pomegranates: best to pick up one of these ruby-red superfood fruits during late December or January, and toss the arils (those juicy, jewel-like seeds inside!) on a salad or simply eat them out of hand.
FAQs About Fruits in Season
Why is Seasonal Produce Important?
It’s completely true that in this day and age of super-stores and globalization, you can get a box of blueberries in the depths of winter and probably even get your hands on some pears in the springtime. With all of this availability, it’s important to understand some key reasons for paying attention to seasonality in the first place. Shopping for seasonal fruits will help you to:
Reduce Your Environmental Impact
By shopping for fruits that are in season in your area, you are reducing the carbon footprint! Seasonal produce is more likely to have come from surrounding area farms, as compared to purchasing fruits that are in season in far off regions of the world–which then must make a long journey before finally arriving at your local market.
Get the Best Flavor & Quality
Since in season fruits generally don’t have as far to travel, they tend to be picked at peak ripeness, meaning you’re more likely to experience the most flavor and best texture that particular fruit has to offer. Produce which needs to survive a long transport journey is often picked when it remains under ripe so that it will not be spoiled by the time it arrives at its destination, meaning the out of season fruit is often subpar in terms of taste and quality.
Get the Lowest Price
Seasonal produce items are generally more affordable as there is a surplus of them, as well as the fact that you aren’t picking up the tab for lengthy shipping journeys.
Support Your Local Economy
We definitely agree that farmers and fruit producers all over the world need income too! But the fact is, most local farmers are likely struggling to keep their business sustainable and profitable as well. Buying seasonally available fruits means more likely to be supporting local businesses and agriculture with your money, which in turn helps to ensure more and more food is produced in your immediate area.
How Can You Buy Seasonal Produce?
So, now that you know which fruits are in season throughout the different times of the year–and the importance of supporting seasonal food–how and where do you shop for these items? Here are a few places and tips for seasonal shopping!
Go to a Farmer’s Market
Most communities have one, or at least have ties to the market of a neighboring community. If not, do some digging and find the farms in your area, then ask them how you can get your hands on their goods!. See if they have a farm stand or open hours. Ask about their relationship with other farms in the nearby area as a means to familiarize yourself with other local farms you can shop. When it comes to the local farm community, once you’re in, you’re in!
Check Out Specialty Stores and Independent Grocers
Think of these like farmer’s distribution hubs. These types of stores are popping up everywhere and tend to source and sell products directly from the local farm community. These places will be more expensive than your average supermarket, but visiting one of these shops will indeed save you the leg work of tracking down the farms on your own.
Look Carefully at Your Local Grocery Store
Go into the produce department with eyes wide open instead of simply grabbing your usual items as fast as you can. You might notice signage indicating certain products as locally sourced and if they are local, you can bet they’re seasonal as well. Some big grocery stores are more closed up about their sources, but more and more of them are beginning to include clearly labeled local and seasonal fruits as well.
But Wait, Aren’t There Other Fruits to Talk About?
As you may already know, distinguishing between fruits and vegetables is often a bit of a gray area. Some items which folks generally consider to be vegetables (think peas, summer, squash, and avocados) are actually fruits botanically speaking and similarly, there are some fruits, such as tomatoes, that many people categorize with vegetables, even though we have chosen to include them as a fruit here!
Therefore, your best bet for compiling a full list of in season produce is to consult our guide to seasonal vegetables where we cover everything from brussels sprouts through green beans all the way to sweet potatoes too!
Answering the Question: What Fruits are in Season?
Now that you understand the seasonality of many different fruits, you can go about your produce shopping with ease. Check for signage at your grocery store or visit some farmers markets in order to find the most seasonally available fruits your area has to offer.
Bottom line, when it comes to the question “What fruit is in season?”, the answer of course, depends entirely on where you live and what season it is! Unless of course, we’re talking about bananas. In that case the answer is anywhere and always.