We’ve grown accustomed to being able to buy almost any kind of food at any time of year. Intensive agricultural practices and worldwide imports have meant that supermarkets can stock ingredients that are well out of season, allowing us to enjoy strawberries in February or blackberries in April.

However, it can be easy to forget that it wasn’t always like this. Before advancements in modern farming and the rapid overseas exports came along, most people only ate foods once they were available to harvest in their local area — in other words, they ate seasonally.

Eating seasonally is quite a simple concept: it means eating produce that has been grown and harvested naturally in your local area, at the same time of year that you are eating it. And, there are a lot of benefits to doing so. But, how can you tell which foods are in season and when?

Below, we’ve put together a calendar showing when certain veg, fruit, meat, seafood, and herbs are naturally at their best in Ireland, so you can start eating more seasonal produce all year round.

Why should you eat food that’s in season?

Buying and eating seasonal food offers a host of benefits: it’s better for the environment, tastier, healthier, and cheaper. Plus, buying local produce can help to support Irish growers in your community, too .

It’s better for the environment

The reason we can have summer crops in winter (and vice versa) in the Republic of Ireland is because shops are able to source those foods from countries with warmer climates. But, this means that your food has to travel much further to reach your plate, increasing the carbon footprint of your dinner. Imported food is also more likely to require lots of plastic wrap or packaging to keep it safe and fresh in transit, increasing waste.

Growers may also need to use much higher quantities of artificial pesticides and fertilisers or even electrically heated greenhouses to force crops that wouldn’t otherwise grow in winter, all of which can be harmful to the environment.

So, eating locally grown, seasonal produce helps to reduce the distance your food needs to travel, and it’s more likely to have been grown in an environmentally friendly way, too.

It’s tastier

As we’ve mentioned, foods grown in foreign countries often need to travel long distances before they end up in Irish supermarkets. That often means they’re not all that fresh by the time they actually reach your plate. Growers will also sometimes harvest foods a bit early in order to make sure they’re in a decent condition by the time they arrive in Ireland, meaning they aren’t completely ripe when picked. This can have a detrimental effect on the flavour of our foods, which is why they often don’t taste nearly as good when grown out of season.

Buying seasonal, local produce reduces the distance your food needs to travel, meaning it’s more likely to be fresh when you come to eat it. Foods that are in season are also more likely to have been grown and harvested at the optimal time, which helps to maximise their natural favours.

It’s healthier

For much the same reason that it tastes better, seasonal produce is often better for you, too. Imported foods can be locked away in cargo holds for several days, meaning they are less fresh and therefore less nutritious by the time they reach the supermarket shelf. Local, seasonal produce has less far to travel and so is more likely to be fresh and full of nutrients when you come to eat it.

It helps to support Irish growers

When you buy local produce, you’ll be helping to support Irish growers. This ensures the money stays in Ireland rather than going overseas, helping to boost the economy and support jobs in your local community.

Additionally, buying seasonal produce from local growers may help to support more ecologically friendly farming practices here in Ireland. Biological or regenerative agriculture involves using holistic soil management techniques to help nurture the local ecosystem. So, by shopping with smallholder farmers who grow seasonal crops in this way, you’ll be helping to support beneficial farming practices across Ireland.

It’s cheaper

Buying home-grown Irish food when it’s in season is often cheaper. This is because produce is much more abundant when it is in season, which reduces the prices. The cost of growing and transporting food locally is also much cheaper than importing it, further reducing the price you pay in shops.

With all these benefits, it’s no surprise that eating seasonally has become such a big trend in the catering industry.

John Girvan, Manager at Alliance Online Ireland, said:

“Seasonality is a major buzzword in the hospitality industry right now, and with good reason. Produce that is in season is tastier, more eco-friendly, and affordable for restaurants to source.

Using seasonal ingredients allows chefs to create dishes that complement the weather outside and helps ensure their menus are nicely varied across the year. Lots of top restaurants and renowned chefs draw a lot of inspiration from whatever is in season, with daily specials based on ingredients they can buy locally at short notice. So, for restaurant-quality meals at home, eat foods as they come into season and shop as locally as possible.
“If you’d like to start eating more seasonal produce but don’t know where to begin, visiting farm shops, local markets, and roadside sellers is a great place to start. Doing so will also help to support small businesses in your community, too.

Here in Ireland, we’re fortunate to have a long, cool growing season, meaning that certain produce — including cabbage, cauliflower, and beetroot — is in season nearly all year round. That means there’s nearly always a local food option available at any time of year.”

Ideas for eating seasonally: A dish for every month of the year

Looking for some inspiration to help you cook and eat more seasonal foods? Below, we’ve suggested some classic dishes you can make using the ingredients that are seasonal during that month.

After the decadence and indulgence of Christmas, many of us are craving fresh vegetables come January — and, luckily, there’s plenty of winter veg around at this time of year. Celeriac and Jerusalem artichokes are especially abundant, and they make soups that are comforting without being too heavy. Turnips are also delicious in January, especially when blended with mashed potatoes and cabbage for a wintry take on classic colcannon.

February isn’t just about Valentine’s chocolates: it’s also the month when the first rhubarb comes into season. Bake into a hearty rhubarb crumble that will satisfy your sweet tooth and warm you up on chilly days. Or, make a rhubarb cordial that tastes great in a gin and tonic — Dry January was last month, after all.

Saint Patrick’s Day is the traditional start of the growing season, as potato crops are planted around this date. But, most spring produce won’t be ready to harvest until later in the season.
While there might not be a lot of fresh veg on offer at this time, it’s a great month for seafood, particularly oysters, mussels, cockles, and clams. Toss with linguine and white wine sauce for a luxurious shellfish supper that lets the flavours do the talking.

April brings longer days, warmer weather, and all sorts of fresh produce, so there’s lots to work with. For Sunday lunch with the family, it’s hard to beat roast lamb, new potatoes, and spring greens, all of which are at their best right now. For a showstopping dessert, serve up a rose and lavender–flavoured sponge cake decorated with edible spring flowers.

Asparagus is at its best in May, so rustle up a risotto primavera filled with broad beans, shallots, and grilled asparagus. Be sure to garnish with wild garlic, which is abundant in mid to late spring.

County Wexford strawberries are a summer delight — especially when purchased right from the roadside. Serve yours simply with a dash of fresh cream to let the natural flavours shine or bake into a Victoria sponge or cheesecake for a more decadent dessert. Don’t forget to wash it all down with an ice-cold glass of Pimms garnished with fresh summer fruits, too.

By July, summer is in full swing and fresh produce is everywhere you look. Courgettes are just coming into season during this month, and they’re so versatile that you can use them to make hundreds of dishes, from soups and risottos to pasta dishes. For a tasty seasonal dessert, finish off with a summer berry pavlova.

Beat the heat in August with a salad made using fresh piccolo tomatoes. Scallops are also in season this month — try wrapping them in some pancetta for an easy but impressive hot starter.

September is traditionally the time of harvest, and it’s when countless fruit and veg are at their best. Celebrate the start of the autumn with a tasty butternut squash soup or go all out with a chickpea and squash curry. Now is also a great time to go blackberry-picking for a tasty homemade crumble.

Fresh pumpkin ravioli offers a more high-end take on the traditional pumpkin soup — if possible, source one that’s been grown specifically for eating from a farm shop, as this will be much more flavourful than the carving varieties sold in supermarkets.

Cold days and dark nights call for some serious comfort food, so take your Sunday lunch to the next level with some fresh game, like roast pheasant or partridge served with parsnips, rainbow carrots, and chard. Home-grown apples are at their best in autumn, so make the most of it while you can with an apple pie or tarte tatin.

There’s more to December than Christmas dinner, although the festive meal does include a few of the best seasonal ingredients found around this time, such as turkey and parsnips. For something a little different, warm up with a hearty cauliflower cheese or keep things light with a spiced parsnip soup. You can also never have too many sprouts in December — add them to a creamy bacon and cheese pasta bake for a dish that will convert even the staunchest sprout-haters.


What's in season this month? A guide to seasonal Irish produce
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What's in season this month? A guide to seasonal Irish produce
Alliance Online has enjoyed having our Ireland branch educate us to food seasonality on the emerald isle this past week. Hear what our general manager John Girvan has had to say.
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Alliance Online
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