Local Fruit in Season
Now that spring has arrived, many are wondering what local fruits are in season. In Florida, it’s berry season. This is different from the northern states whose berry season is in the summer. Strawberry season comes to an end in April. Whereas, blueberries and peaches are ready for harvest in April and May. There are not many local blackberries, but they are ready in May.
It’s great to buy fruit in season. They tend to be cheaper and it’s a great way to add variety into your diet. Eating a variety of fruit can provide many nutrients that are vital for the health and maintenance of our bodies. Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories. They do not contain cholesterol.
Fruits are great sources of fiber. Dietary fiber from fruits helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation. Fiber-containing foods such as fruits help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories. Whole or cut-up fruit contain sources of dietary fiber whereas fruit juices contain little or no fiber.
People who eat fruits and vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet have a reduced risk of developing some chronic diseases and cancers. This is due to the antioxidants found in fruit. Throughout our life, our body produce free radicals which can result in cellular damage. Many forms of cancer are thought to be a result of interactions between free radicals and DNA, this causes mutations. Antioxidants found in the food we consume can help to remove free radicals from our bodies.
According to the Department of Agriculture analysis from 2010 on the antioxidant values found in fruits and vegetables, blueberry was a top performer. The report showed that blueberries had some of the highest antioxidant values of commonly consumed fresh fruits. In addition, blueberries are a great source of vitamin C, iron, potassium and folic acid. Best of all, blueberries contain only 80 calories per cup.
Most fruits are available all year long, but there are many benefits to eating local fruit in season. The crops are picked at their peak so they tend to be fresher and tastier. The shorter time between farms and consumers, means less nutrients are lost. It allows the consumers to get to know the farmers and gain insight into the production of the crops. Eating local means more money stays within the local community, which helps to strengthen the economic base of the community.
Lake County is home to a lot of farms that allow visitors to buy and pick their own locally grown produce. Visit https://www.visitlakefl.com/pdfs/brochures/upick_brochure.pdf to find a list of U-pick operations.
If you would like to know more, join Extension Agents Dr. Juanita Popenoe and Mia Wilchcombe on April 21 for the Local Fruit in Season Program at the Lake County Extension Center. Come learn about growing techniques for berries and peaches, harvesting, and healthy nutritional practices. The preregistration cost is $10 to attend. Register online by April 18 at http://UFRootsUp.eventbrite.com or call 352-343-4101 ext. 2721. The class will cost $15 at the door.