One of the keys to successfully eating fruits and vegetables is to know how to select what is good and cheap. Learn what grows regionally and what season it grows in. Don’t decide what vegetables you will buy ahead of time; instead look at what is fresh or on sale once you get to the store. Instead of writing “broccoli” on your shopping list, write “something green,” or “vegetables to go with chicken.” Suddenly your choices will quadruple, your grocery bill will go down, and the flavour of your food will go up. Feel your vegetables before putting them in your basket. Most vegetables should be firm when you squeeze them gently. Look for blemishes – are they damage from harvest, spots of developing mould, or are they purely cosmetic? Damage or mould should be avoided, but surface scratches won’t affect the taste, and they may be the reason an item is on sale. Don’t buy anything that looks limp or is dull in colour. Remember that nutrients break down as vegetables sit on grocery store shelves, your taste buds and your immune system will thank you for buying fresher.
The same goes for fruit. Region and seasonality become even more important for fruit because it is, as a general rule, more delicate and susceptible to damage than vegetables. Pick your fruit up, does it feel heavy? Especially for citrus fruits this means it is more likely to be juicy and flavourful. Take a sniff, can you tell what piece of fruit is in hand even with your eyes closed? If you can’t smell what it is supposed to be, chances are you won’t be able to taste it either.
Produce that is in season in the winter often lends itself to being cooked slowly for long periods of time and served warm. Root vegetables that have been roasted until almost caramelized will be sublime on a January evening with the wind howling outside in a way that the perfect salad of lightly dressed greens and baby tomatoes could never be. But change the day to a sticky July evening and you’ll find you crave the exact opposite. Let your body eat and change with the seasons along with the weather; try to eat warm and cooked foods in the cold months, slowly transitioning to more raw and chilled dishes in the summer.