Eating with the seasons ensures you get the freshest, most local, produce, while still enjoying plenty of variety.
It’s also better for the planet, helping to cut down on food miles and ensuring the season’s best produce doesn’t go to waste.
But navigating the supermarket or local market to find the best seasonal fruit and vegetables, and other foodstuffs, is easier said than done. Even if the label says something is produced within the region, it could have been sitting in cold storage for months or grown in an unsustainable way. So how can you ensure you actually are eating seasonally?
DO look at a food calendar. While Luxembourg imports most of its fresh produce, these Luxembourg-specific examples give a guide to what's fresh locally - here and here. You could also check for what's seasonal in our neighbouring countries.
As a rough overview, in spring, vegetables like spinach, asparagus and radishes are in season, while for fruits from May onwards apricots, cherries, nectarines and strawberries are available.
Fresh strawberries are available from as early as May. / © Unsplash
In summer, there’s a wide range of vegetables, including favourites such as tomatoes and bell peppers, courgettes and aubergines. Fruit-wise, bilberries, plums, persimmons and peaches are in abundance. While from September, Luxembourg apples and pears are in season.
As for autumn, think mushrooms, pumpkins and squash, carrots, leek, celeriac and cauliflower. Fruits include pomegranate, quince, apples and pears.
During winter, there’s still some fresh fruit and vegetables available. Potatoes, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, for instance. While in southern parts of Europe, oranges, tangerines and grapes are all in season.
DON’T assume a nearby country on a label means it’s seasonal. Watch out for products that are grown in heated greenhouses, a classic example being tomatoes. Hint: tomatoes don’t grow in northern Europe outside the summer months. The only way that’s possible is through energy-intensive production in greenhouses.
This doesn’t mean you have to skip tomatoes in winter though. Tinned or bottled tomatoes are a viable alternative, as are tomatoes grown in warmer climes like Spain and Italy. Yes, it means more food miles, but as Mike Berner’s Lee sets out in his book How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon footprint of everything, it also means fewer carbon emissions when compared to locally grown greenhouse tomatoes.
Celeriac can be a sensible, seasonal swap for sweet potatoes. / © Unsplash
DO be creative in your cooking. If a recipe calls for a specific herb or vegetable that is unavailable or out of season, switch it up! Think groups of vegetables. If it calls for a leafy vegetable like spinach, swap for chard or cabbage or kale. A root vegetable like sweet potato could be swapped for potatoes, parsnips or celeriac. Tomatoes could be swapped for courgettes or mushrooms.
DON’T fret if it’s not from Luxembourg. Less than 5% of vegetables sold in Luxembourg are grown here, while for fruit it’s under 1%. Buying local produce from farmer’s markets is fantastic, but unlikely to be feasible for your whole shop.
DO still use local producers when you can, though. Producers are often small-scale, and able to provide useful advice on how best to cook and eat their produce. They provide a personal aspect to food shopping that you just can’t get in the big shops. A guide to Luxembourg producers is available here, in French or German.
DO consider a veg box. This is the easy option to being seasonal – all your fruit and vegetables delivered to your door, each week. For instance, the Co-labor cooperative offers a range of organic options, such as its Basket “Famile”: a selection of organic salads, vegetables and fruits for 3-4 people. Vegetable importer Grosbusch also has a veg box service, which they say includes seasonal produce.
DO think beyond fruit and vegetables. Luxembourg has a long tradition of livestock farming, for instance – with local beef, poultry, pork, goat and rabbit meat all on offer. While most meat is available year-round, seasonal options include goose, available fresh from around early October, or wild fowl and game meat such as duck and deer, available from October through to February.
DON’T forget about fish and seafood. In spring, natural-caught trout are in season. If you buy trout the rest of the year, it’s likely from a fish farm. In summer, fresh European catch includes tuna, lobster, and plaice. Autumn is time for haddock, mussels and scallops, while in winter look for salmon, sea bass and herring. Look for fish that have been sustainably fished – such as those with an ‘MSC’ blue label on them.
DO also go organic where choice and affordability allows. Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, in their book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxicity of Everyday Life Affects our Health, claim that organic food has at least a 30 percent lower risk of containing pesticides than conventional produce, and it’s also produced in a way which is usually more sustainable for the land. Combining local, seasonal and organic when you can helps tick all the boxes.
DO enjoy supercharging your seasonal consumption. Eating fresh, delicious food while supporting local and regional producers is a real win-win. Tuck in!