Shop windows emerge placarded with bright orange lettering and clip art of fall foliage well before the air turns crisp or the leaves on the trees actually transition hues. Consumers are eager to get shopping, knowing the autumnal products advertised will soon be replaced by gingerbread house kits and eggnog.

Many have come to anticipate, and even prefer, these highly processed and commercialized seasonal goods. Yet, in our excitement for purchasing these products, we often neglect to appreciate that fruits and vegetables are just as seasonal—and can actually be even more exciting. Some produce is only available during these times of the year, just finding its peak flavor in the cooler months. Here's why we should all be taking advantage.

Jasmine Chan

Why Should You Care?

When choosing to buy local, shopping with the seasons can be as exciting and limited edition as the seasonally inspired products lining the shelves. While we all love a Trader Joe's Best Fall Products round up, I encourage us to match our desire for commercial seasonal goods with enthusiasm for fresh, local, in-season produce.

Yes, pumpkin spice freezer waffles are tasty and nostalgic. However, buying seasonal local produce comes with a multitude of benefits including reduced price, richer flavor, support for sustainable agriculture, and a closer connection between you and your food.

broccoli, carrot, vegetable, farmer's market, shop local, local farm, local vegetables, fresh vegetables, organic vegetables, swiss chard, kale
Sam Jesner

Knowing What to Buy

At large grocery store chains within the United States, the produce available changes minimally as the majority is imported from global networks. To know what is in season in my region, I like to use Seasonal Food Guide.

After selecting your location and the current month, the guide generates a list of in-season produce, along with a short description of the fruit or vegetable. Some of my favorite local fall goods are apples, pears, and Winter Squash, all of which are undeniably at their most flavorful when purchased at the peak of their season.

sweet, vegetable, pumpkin, squash
Helena Lin

Best Places to Go

My top choice for shopping seasonally is to head to a local farmers market. There are a multitude of farmers markets in New York City featuring a large variety of locally grown produce as well as pastries, flowers, and artisanal goods. Unlike grocery stores where your produce endured a long journey to the shelf, an added benefit of shopping at a farmer’s market is that many of the vendors were directly involved in production and would be more than happy to answer your questions. 

vegetable, lettuce, spinach, radish, organic vegetables, farmer's market
Sam Jesner

If you wish to take one step closer to the source, head upstate to an apple orchard or farm outside NYC, a quick ride on the Metro North. I understand that this may not appeal to everyone, especially the devoted Manhattanites. If you’re among the fast-paced crowd who is happy to never see nature again and prefers to stick with pre-made fall goodies, you can always combine your trip to check out the collection of pumpkin goods at Whole Foods with a quick browse through their local fresh produce offerings. In most locations you need to walk through the produce section to get to the packaged goods, so keep an eye out for signs indicating which goods are local before you make it to the pumpkin aisle.

I will admit I’m eager to pick up a box of Pumpkin Joe Joe’s. What will be even sweeter, though, is my first bite into a honey crisp apple, personally plucked from the tree.