Every time I ask my kids what they want me to bring home from the supermarket, the answer is always the same- strawberries. My foreign (non-Israeli)-born kids are still ensconced in that high-speed microchip mentality; all you have to do is want it and it can appear in seconds. They haven't learned that fruits and vegetables are produced only in certain times of the year, and that it is expensive enough to purchase them in season, much less have them imported from far away and pay even more out of season. They count the days until the start of strawberry season and I purchase several packages every week until the last morsel is gone from the store.
Of course, if you are a frugal shopper you don't buy them the instant they appear in the supermarket- they are at their most expensive. You wait until the season is more established- then the price drops.
To help you (and my kids) understand what produce can be found in the market each month, I found some great charts from Agrexco that are too big to reprint here but you can get a copy from their web site. They have five versions that apply to Israel: FRUIT, CITRUS, VEGETABLES,FRESH HERBS, AND GENERAL and you can find Seasonality Charts for the USA Here. Post them in your kitchen and then nobody can complain because you didn't bring home mango in March or strawberries in September.
I thought it would be very interesting to discuss the differences and/or similarities between the agricultural seasons in the Tanach and today but the information I found was either not from appropriate sources or required a PhD to understand. In the meantime, I found a great chart for planting all types of seeds in Israel- what season, how deep, how far apart, and so on. We haven't got the garden we used to have in chutz l'aretz, but my husband is slowly expanding our agricultural repertoire. Ours is strictly a leftover garden-we have pineapple from planting the tops, passiflora from leftover seeds, potatoes that sat too long and more.
One of my fellow Israeli bloggers, Bishul Bezol, wrote up a great post about eating according to season. You can read about it here in Hebrew if you like but she has graciously allowed me to translate it to English. If your Hebrew is strong, I highly recommend her blog. She has great recipes for frugal shoppers with beautiful pictures.
Here is a loose translation of her post- any mistakes are mine, any jokes are hers :)
It is easy to say "buy fruits and vegetables in season"; it isn't so easy to do. Stores don't come with a sign that says, "here are the cheap in-season produce"- just the opposite. Plus, just because it is in season, doesn't mean it is cheap. Produce with a short season or is imported will be more expensive than the alternative. For example fresh pineapple, even when in season, will still be more expensive. When should you buy produce? The same as if you buy clothing- the end of the season will be the cheapest, but you can also buy in the middle of the season. Like clothing, if you see the sign that says "New Collection"- just translate it to "These are the products you pay more for."
Where do you buy your produce? If for example you go to the local grocer with perfect looking pyramids of produce who peels your lichi fruit and seeds your pomegranate for you, you will pay more, no matter what the season.
So how do you shop? Firstly, LOOK AT THE PRICES. Try to figure out how much those three pitaya will actually cost. Don't pick recipes unless you know what the prices are in the market. Be flexible. If you have your heart set on a cherry pie and you find that they cost 35 shekels a kilo, change your fruit or change your recipe. As previous stated, don't buy the "first fruits"- they are the most expensive and since the producers are in competition to be the first in the stores, the taste is not always ideal.