Our planet would benefit if people would eat more fruit and vegetables, especially if it’s seasonal produce, fresh from the fields. It can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the food supply chain and at the same time reconnect people with food and the land in which it’s produced. If you’re wondering when is your favourite fruit or veggie is in season, check out this interactive map to explore your options and follow a more sustainable diet.
After the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) declared 2021 the International Year of Fruit and Vegetables, the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) developed the first-ever Europe-wide fruit and vegetables seasonality interactive map that will help you to see which fruits and vegetables are in season in your country. The map is very simple to use. It combines data from established national sources and features over 200 seasonal fruits and vegetables, covers 24 countries and includes the six European climate regions. You can filter per country, season and month to identify sustainable food options.
The climate in most of Central and Eastern Europe is continental. If you live in Poland you can see that in this part of the year there are already a great variety of 21 vegetables from beetroot to carrots and cucumber you can put on your plate, right from the fields. In Bulgaria, you can already it cherries in April according to the interactive map.
Season diets are key for food sustainability
“In Europe we are used to having a very large selection of foods at our disposal all along the year, often detaching us from the origins of the produce,” said Laura Fernández Celemín, EUFIC’s Director-General.
Fruit and vegetables are dietary essentials across cultures, and a minimum amount of 400 grams per day or five portions of fruits and vegetables is beneficial for health. A recent survey conducted by the European Consumers Organisation (BEUC) found that two-thirds of consumers are open to changing their eating habits for environmental reasons, with many willing to waste less food at home, buy more seasonal fruit and vegetables and eat more plant-based foods. Yet, two main obstacles people face are the lack of information and the difficulty of identifying sustainable food options.
That’s when the map can come in handy. It helps consumers to fill these information gaps to follow a diversified, balanced, healthy and sustainable diet. The map serves as a guide to choosing locally produced fruit and vegetables across the year so that people can try new recipes with more sustainable alternatives.
Local is better
Local food is fresher and more nutritious, especially considering that most of the vitamins and minerals contained in fruits and vegetables are normally lost within 24 hours after being picked. Moreover, many studies revealed that it drastically reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions linked to the supply chain. Fruit and vegetables with the lowest GHG emissions are those grown outside during their natural season without much use of additional energy and consumed in the same country of origin.
That’s the basis of the concept of food miles which means the journey of your food from the fields to your kitchen. If you are putting out-of-season strawberries in your smoothie you’re probably piling up food miles due to the big distance between production and consumption, which can have a heavy carbon footprint.
Of course, if you’re trying to eat as sustainably as possible, there are lots of other things that can affect a product’s carbon footprint besides choosing locally produced and in-season fruit and vegetables.
In general, fruit and vegetables have lower GHG emissions compared to animal products such as beef and dairy, in fact as much as 10-50 times lower. Therefore, increasing plant-based foods such as fruit and vegetables in the diet, reducing animal-based foods such as beef and dairy are equally important to maintain a sustainable and planet-friendly diet.