New App Helps Find Local Seasonal Produce

image by Melanie Tromp Hoover

It’s looking a lot like strawberry season around here.

I spied the first signs of the berries to come three Saturdays ago while nosing into neighbourhood gardens to see how my peas and beans were measuring up. Strawberry blossoms—like translucent legs, sunburned necks and Birkenstocked feet—mark the first real sign of not-quite summer on Vancouver Island for me; they embody the turning point between imported roughage and the luxury of buying local, in-season fruit en masse.

Shopping in season goes hand in hand with supporting local BC farmers and fishers. It means reducing the food miles travelled, increasing nutritional value and re-learning an incomparably better flavour for previously loved and hated veggies alike.


In my kitchen, it also means trying ingredients and recipes that have never been a regular part of the dinner plate rotation.

So when I started to ponder all the culinary places I would go with berries this summer I realised that I was missing pieces, that I couldn’t quite place the sweet spot in July for blackberries or the right week to make raspberry jam. Then it hit me: my in-season consumer clock is entirely based in nostalgia or muscle memory or misadventures in a backyard garden, not the trusty almanac that farmers and Mother Nature have perfected over time on the coast.

In a word, my system is hyper-personalized. I know that asparagus is at its best when my thick winter tights get pushed to the back of the drawer. Spot prawns find their way into my car at the same time that sunglasses return to a comfortably regular appearance in my glove compartment. Rhubarb crisp is the dessert I always bring to the first few barbecues of the year and cherries make it onto the camping packing list every BC Day long weekend.

Whimsy aside, this system is hardly practical. And so began my formal in-season food education last month, starting with weekly tours of the Moss Street and James Bay Markets—two perfect venues for a rough look at what produce is in vogue at the moment plus the opportunity to buy it direct from farmers. Bolstered by an ample chart from the Island Farm Fresh online guide, this field of local food is fairly simple to keep on top of.

But on Vancouver Island, ‘in season’ means more than just fruit and vegetables. That, and I find it infinitely more convenient to have this kind of information in hand at the supermarket—so I hit jackpot with the discovery of the Seasons smart phone application. With a few taps and scrolls it returns location-specific seasonal information for fruits, vegetables, lettuces, herbs, fungi and nuts and you can compare import and local seasons with a convenient little graph.

My one picky objection is that it’s missing a seafood option, but perhaps that’s too localized for an app that is supposed to be relevant across North America, Europe and Australia (and, besides, the BC Seafood Guide has it covered online already).

The application is simple, informative and it doesn’t get bogged down in trying to be all things to everyone with food news feeds and shopping lists and recipe options (for which there are a billion other resources, app and otherwise). It does, however, point you to nearby markets using your GPS coordinates.

So, for example, if you perhaps read this entire post looking for information on where to buy strawberries right now and are disappointed that you’re nearing the end and still don’t know where to get them, you could just download the app and know where to go in two or three quick taps. Or you can take a look through Island Fresh Farm’s detailed list of who’s growing and selling strawberries around the peninsula. Plus I’ve seen pints at the Root Cellar this week and Spud and Share Organics both have them in stock if you typically go the home-delivered produce box route.

However you want to find them, buy your strawberries (and lettuces and fruits and vegetables and nuts) in season and from a BC farmer this summer—even if you only know they’re fresh right now because it’s your grandma’s favourite birthday snack, the school year’s over or Durrance Lake is finally warm enough to swim in.

– by Melanie Tromp Hoover

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