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Buy or By-pass: Tools for Knowing What Produce is in Season

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Artichokes are always in! Photo by Renee Rendler-Kaplan via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

Artichokes are always in! Photo by Renee Rendler-Kaplan via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
Whether it was your New Year's resolution or just something you've been meaning to try, knowing what produce is in season when can help you plan and shop for healthier meals. There are some helpful tools available online and as mobile apps that can help familiarize you with local (and, yes, import) produce and when it should be in stores and at its freshest. Knowing what's in season can also help you make decisions when dining out at restaurants that may not cook with an emphasis on locally-sourced produce, and might tip you off to their use of imported or frozen items.

You can use the charts for produce grown in Southern California found via the Seasonal Chef website [Fruit] [Vegetables] to look at the year in local harvesting. You can see that in January we're able to enjoy year-long veggies like lettuce, artichokes, and potatoes, that brussel sprouts are still in, and asparagus season starts next month. With that in mind you can dig up suitable recipes and plan your meals knowing what you'll find at the grocery store or farmers' market.

Another way to keep tabs is to purchase a mobile app, like the Seasons iPhone app ($1.99), which provides data for 170 varieties of fruits, vegetables, lettuces, herbs, fungi and nuts with photos and descriptions, and includes information about local as well as import seasons.

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Of course, probably the best way to keep up with seasonal produce is to engage when possible with the growers who sell at your favorite farmers' markets. If they aren't too busy they can easily tell you what's on its way out and what's coming up.