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Do You Eat Fruits and Vegetables In Season Only?

fruits and vegetables in season

Do You Eat Fruits and Vegetables In Season Only?

Today I’m turning things around a bit to ask for your insight on the issue of whether or not to eat only fruits and vegetables in season. (Don’t you love this picture of our summer berries?)

I recently received this email from my friend, Jeanne:

I have just started reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Although I have been on the path of whole foods for a long time I still consider myself a “rookie” on many levels. I try to set goals for myself and concentrate on one change at a time for my family.
My new goal is to eat produce in season. In the past I have had the disposable income to by organic produce no matter what the season and I never thought about where it was grown or how far it traveled to get to my market. Luckily I have canned and froze some produce this past season.
My question for you is, do you have a list of in-season fruits and veggies for the mid-west area? I would love a detailed list of what is in season each month. I think realistically I should start thinking about this in the early spring, and this winter focus on not buying out of season veggies.

Another reader sent this to me a while back (sorry, I forgot to note who it was):

I am having the debate in my head right now about local and fresh versus just eating produce. My kids are big veggie and fruit eaters and I’d hate to stop buying things they love and will happily eat as snacks (Cukes, red peppers, red cabbage, spinach in salads, etc.). But I want to try and eat more nutritiously dense foods and avoid the foods shipped from far away. Maybe the answer is just eating USA grown foods in the winter when I can find it.

When grappling with the question of whether or not to eat produce in season only, I’ve narrowed it down to the 4 options available to us:

1. Do what Jeanne did (and what I have generally done in the past): buy organic produce shipped from who-knows-where.

Advantages: We’re at least getting some fruits and veggies into our diets. This happens to be the “politically correct” way of eating. How often have you heard that we need to eat more vegetables and be sure to have a variety of colors on our plates? (I’m not saying I disagree, but it’s just frustrating that “they” don’t say anything about the importance of the fat-soluble vitamins found in animal fats.)

Disadvantages: Not only is this bad for the environment, it is also not a traditional way of eating. Obviously our ancestors weren’t able to have produce shipped in when it wasn’t available to them locally. Generally the produce is low in nutrients after having traveled from so far away anyway. What makes this the most difficult choice for myself recently is that I don’t know my farmer or how my food was grown. I like buying from farmers who I know are knowledgeable about the importance of nutrient-rich soil and not just after the “organic” label.

2. Don’t eat any out-of-season produce.

Advantages: This feels like a more traditional way to eat and we’d be avoiding the environmental concerns with shipping organic foods.

Disadvantages: For those who live in regions with short growing seasons like we do, and who don’t use the methods you’ll read about below, this means little or no produce all winter. As much as I know that getting in the protein and healthy fats are most important, not eating any fruits and veggies (or very little) all winter can’t be good either. Especially since I’m trying to eat a more low-carb diet all the time, which would leave me with only meats. That would get very expensive and would also get very boring and difficult to maintain for long.

3. Can or freeze your produce when it IS in-season.

Advantages: You can enjoy food from your own back yard or from your favorite farmer in the middle of the winter, and you know how it was grown and that you canned or froze it yourself (a great feeling to be sure).

Disadvantages: A. With either freezing or canning some nutrients are lost. (But it’s better than not eating any produce at all over the winter, or buying blah-tasting, low-nutrient food from China.) B. The time involved to get enough food put up for the winter can be overwhelming for some. (Like myself!)

4. Use traditional methods of lacto-fermentation to preserve foods for winter.

Advantages: This is the most traditional and nutrient-dense choice of all. As Scott from Zukay said when he spoke at the conference last weekend, “Traditional cultures didn’t lacto-ferment their foods because they knew it provided beneficial bacteria to improve their health. They did it because they didn’t want to starve over the winter.” Another quote from Scott (who I thoroughly enjoyed meeting in person, by the way!): “We all know veggies are good for us, but the fermentation process turns them into something INSANELY healthy.”

Disadvantages: In my experience, these veggies are not easy to get by the kids, who are not used to the taste of fermented foods. However, I firmly plan to keep trying. Also, in some cases this is not an easy process to learn how to do. Thankfully there are many good sites to help with this (see below for some good links), and I’ll be going over them all again myself soon, OR you can see my resources page for where you can buy fermented vegetables.

So what do you think?

Which option do you choose and why? Help!

More on my plans for canning/freezing in-season produce

There are some foods that I won’t can or freeze because I can get almost-as-good (nutritionally) and sometimes less expensive when I buy it. Other foods I definitely plan to start canning or freezing. I imagine this list will be changing all the time as I figure out how to do more.

  • My friend, Lyn, priced homemade spaghetti sauce once and found that the organic came out to be cheaper. The kind I buy comes in glass jars (no BPA worries) and we all love it, so I’ll continue to buy this.
  • We shop at a local farm store who get their frozen fruits and vegetables from a company called Coloma Foods. I called to find out if any of their produce is genetically modified, and the answer was no. Also, he said most of their produce comes from the U.S. (Some from close by us: corn from Wisconsin, blueberries from Michigan.) They are not organic, but they claim it is “minimally sprayed, usually just enough to get it going”. Granted, this is not ideal. I don’t know my farmer, and not all of their produce is local. But especially for the blueberries (since they’re from Michigan), we’ll continue to buy these frozen, and we go through a lot over the winter. (Blueberries & cream, blueberry pancakes, etc.) Update: Here’s a new, updated version of the “Clean 15” and “Dirty Dozen” so you know which produce you really should buy organic, and which ones are OK to buy conventional.
  • I’d like to try getting more raw applesauce frozen this year than I have in previous years. There is nothing like pulling out a jar from the freezer in the middle of February for a treat…
  • We need to start planning now and definitely will plant more tomatoes next year to can ourselves and avoid the BPA that is in the lining of even the organic canned tomato products. (Which I just found out and it drives me crazy.) If I have jars of tomatoes to throw in chili, soups, etc., and don’t have to open a can of tomato sauce with BPA, I’ll be thrilled. When we’re at Kent’s Mom’s and she just goes downstairs to her stash of veggies to make dinner, I’m always jealous.
  • I’m thankful that I already have some zucchini frozen for this winter when I want to make frittatas or zucchini chocolate chip cookies.
  • We (Kent & I, not the kids) loved the sauerkraut I made last summer, and plan to do that again next year and freeze it in small amounts. (Fermented vegetables are good in small amounts with each meal to help with digestion.)
  • I’d love more ideas for which produce you choose to put up for winter. I’m just not sure what else we’ll use enough of in the off-season to make it worth the trouble.
  • What else have you chosen to continue to buy, knowing that the nutrient value and expense is the same (or close) as canning or freezing?

More helpful links:


  1. I just had to be the first to comment, ahem, with the name of my site and all;-) I am pretty die-hard about eating in season…including my cooking classes which exclaim the lack of necessity consuming tomatoes in January. I do freeze fresh produce during farmers’ market season – berries,peaches – even kale to put in my smoothie year-round. To me it’s a matter of supporting clean, local farming and preserving the integrity of my fruits and vegetables. Not to mention the superior fresh flavors…but I will:)
    Great information, too, from the WAPF conference. Thank you!!

  2. Kelly, here is something you might find interesting. It comes from The Doctrine and Covenants, which is a set of scriptures from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I quote,

    “. . . the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days

  3. I don’t LIKE to be politically correct, but in this case I must admit that we are. (I don’t know if I could ever NOT buy pomegranates when they’re in the store, either!)

    Aren’t root cellars an option, too? I know things like apples, pears, beets, potatoes, cabbage, carrots would last almost all winter (she says they DID last all winter) when my wife stored them in hers, in Ukraine. This sounds like something good to post about. I think I’ll be interviewing her and making that the next Real Food Wednesday post from Psychic Lunch 😉

  4. I feel very sheepish indeed, in that I do encourage people to eat local and in season, and I don’t always practice what I preach. I know there are good ways to do this, with canning, freezing, and lacto-fermenting, but I haven’t gotten there yet. I’m still very much a rookie as well when it comes to the processes of many traditional foods, but instinctively, I have a very good idea of what is healthy and what is not. I do try to buy in season and I always support local farmers in my area, but I admit that sometimes I really want a tomato, cucumber, or even a pineapple (which is definitely not local nor seasonal here)…and so I’ll buy some of those things when they are not actually available to my region.

    I think when you are just starting to take all of this in and learn about traditional, real foods, there is a lot to learn and it takes time and stages. I have just completed my first most successful season with my garden in my backyard, have been drinking raw milk and eating raw dairy for nearly two years, and have started soaking grains this year. I think I need time to build upon the knowledge and skills that I acquire through all the wonderful people, experiences, and web sites that I am blessed to have access to – I know I’ll get there. I may not be an expert or as accomplished as some – I don’t have all the technical, traditional recipes on my site with all the gourmet touches, but my sentiment, activism, and efforts are still there. I still care, and I will get there some day. One day at a time. :)

  5. This is the first year that I preserved food for winter. I have not canned yet, but plan to learn… can’t wait to see a good guest post!

    Our CSA had a sale on organic, heirloom tomatoes this past summer, for a dollar per pound (above and beyond the bounty we received in our share). I found an online tutorial on how to freeze tomatoes, then purchased 40 pounds. These tomatoes are beautiful (yellow, orange, green, burgundy and red), and SO GOOD!!! I froze them diced, in two cup quantities. As a bonus, I got about 4 quarts of juice as well. I think I have enough to get through the winter. However, I do purchase organic canned sauce and paste, so I would love to expand the tomato processing next summer.

    I also purchased a bushel of local, organic corn (about 60 ears). My wonderful husband helped me shuck it all. I blanched it, cut it off the cob, and froze it too. Finally, I purchased 20 pounds (I think) of local, organic green beans. Again, I blanched and froze them. Oh yeah, I almost forgot I was able to get 5 pounds of organic blueberries, and froze them for winter. I wanted more, but I got the last they had.

    It’s a start, but I’d love to do better next year. I still purchase produce through my organic delivery service that is out of season, and will continue to do so for now. It is an excellent, local company that supports an orphanage in the Phillipines, so I feel that my dollars are still going to a good cause. My goal is to get better and better at preserving foods in season though.

    Great post… it really got me thinking! :)

  6. Kel,

    Great questions/thoughts!

    It’s funny, when I was at the grocery store today I saw that you could buy a “spring salad mix” in the middle of November! That sort of epitomizes the crux of the issue here!

    I have been trying to eat in season. I have purchased lots of storable winter squash and onions, and froze a lot of my garden’s harvest of tomatoes. I planted my own winter garden and have chard, beets, turnip, and salad greens growing, as well as kohlrabi and cauliflower. We also joined a winter CSA, which is awesome because I get a box of local produce every two weeks!

    Since we are grain-free, we eat LOTS of produce, so unfortunately even our small garden and our CSA, plus my stored stash isn’t always quite enough, BUT when I do have to get veggies from the store I usually tend to buy what’s in season. We have a great local HFS and several great co-ops that list exactly where the produce is grown, and I tend to only buy Oregon and Washington-grown stuff. I’m lucky to be close to a very fertile growing region, albiet a very cold and wet one. I’ve been trying to figure out what a reasonable seasonal cuisine for the winter is here in the Northwest; and for the fall/winter I’ve settled on a locally-grown meat portion (frozen in our freezer), a leafy green, and a orange squash dish. Rounded out, of course, with lacto-fermented veggies (preserved from the summer, or made from cabbages and broccoli stalks).

    Anyway, I digress…I hope that helps!

    Great post!


  7. We eat tons of fresh fruits and veggies year round…I definitely believe in the benefits of eating seasonally, but I’m just not there yet. I do can and freeze as much as possible over the summer, but I just can’t imagine months and months without apples or avacados…and we live in an area that’s too wet for a root cellar to be much of an option. One thing that I could do and haven’t yet is grow greens over the winter because it doesn’t get very cold here.

    I’d like to do more lacto-fermented things to last over the winter but storage is an issue for those too. I’d need to get another fridge.

  8. I’ve pondered this as well. A lot of it depends upon what part of the world one lives in. Some of us would starve if we only ate what was in season because there is no season during the winter!

    Currently, we try to eat fresh fruit and veggies in season, but I do can, freeze, dehydrate, and am learning to lacto-ferment as well.

    I think food nutrition should be our primary goal, not food tradition. When the two go hand in hand, yay! If they don’t, nutrition should make the choice for us.

  9. Dan mentioned something that I was thinking while reading this post. I intend to dig a small root cellar this spring so that I can preserve cabbages and root vegetables for the winter. I have been interested in this for some time and have read of many different options including one as simple as a buried barrel. My Real Food Wednesday post today is about fermenting veggies, so it seems Kelly and I were on the same wavelength. Carrie mentioned planting a winter garden which I have been wanting to do since I read Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman. I really want a dehydrator and grain mill one day, too. As for now, I can’t limit myself to produce in season here since there is very little organic produce available and very little selection even including the chemically grown. (I’ll be moving back to Jackson, MS soon and can’t wait for the farmer’s market and Kroger – here in
    Alabama, the Walmart has the only organic produce in town and there is no farmer’s market in a two hour radius).


  10. This was a growing season of BIG change for our house. I really dove head first into putting up large qts of food for this winter. Kelly, I’d be happy to help you with some canning next year. I find that working in groups makes for an easier job and bigger output in less time.

    Here are a few of our plans for this winter to last us until next spring.
    – Canned Tomatoes. I don’t can sauce. Instead, I make up one big batch at time for a meal and then freeze the leftovers into meal size portions. My husband is from NJ and I learned early on that store bought sauce wasn’t going to fly with him!

    – Canned Applesauce & peaches.

    – Froze kale purees which are great for throwing into everything, sweet corn, peas (I buy them already shelled), green beans, pumpkin purees, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, pesto sauce, freezer jam

    – Fermented sauerkraut and pickles. My 18mos old actually ate the small amt of this that I’ve put on her plate!

    In my garage I have stockpiled some large amts of white potatoes, sweet potatoes, various squash, onions and apples (still need to do up another batch of sauce).

    I’ve been trying not to buy much at the store now, but when I do I’m using my money to buy things that are not grown locally that we have not tasted since last winter like bananas, avocados, oranges. I did buy a head of cauliflower yesterday too because my kids have not been thrilled with the squash and I feel like they need some veggies. Luckily the kale puree has found its way into many things and they are both huge meat and egg eaters so I feel OK. It just feels so weird leaving the grocery store with no “real” food. Honestly, I’m not sure why I even am still going? Once we have finished our preserved foods, I’ll plan to buy frozen like you or organic.

  11. This is an issue we struggle with every time we go to the grocery store. There are always three things to take into consideration when you don’t grow your own food (which would be ideal for me):
    1–Organic or non-organic
    2–Local or not local

    We have yet to be able to buy a cart full of groceries that meet all three of those criteria. Even at the Farmer’s Markets. So we always try to have at least two things from the list.

    As a general rule, if the prices are similar, I will take a local item over an organic item from further away. My thinking is that the process a grower has to go through to be “certified organic” can be a long and tedious one. Sometimes, *I* know that I am buying something organic (because I’ve been to the farm and have seen the grower’s respect for the product), even though it is not labeled as such. Also, in the markets, buying the local item re-enforces the importance of carrying food from local sources to the stores management. And if they are inclined to attract more growers to sell there, in all likelihood, many of them will be organic.

    My husband struggles with this a little more than I do, I think, because he can’t decide which is the “right” thing to do. My top priority, however, is getting nutritious food into myself and my kids, so I’m not quite as adverse to taking whatever I can get.

  12. I was thinking the same thing over the conference. Because as much as I would love to eat everything in season, I just don’t have that option yet. This year I canned and froze as much as I could afford to buy ahead. Next year, I’d like to do more! I’d also like to do a ‘cellar’ of types next year for apples and pears so I don’t have to cook all the nutrients out of them while canning. Or I might have my husband build me a ‘cellar’ out int he barn that I can put a small heat lamp in to keep things from freezing. We’ll see what we can come up with! Because my main goal is going to be not to buy produce from the store at all!
    But did you know that even home canned produce has the possibility of having BPA in it? It’s in the lining of the canning lids. :-( I still haven’t found an economical option as all the companies that produce them for regular mason jars use BPA.
    My other goal next year is to ferment things like sauerkraut and salsa among others.

  13. There’s a sneaky option, too, Kelly. You can grow many foods off-season in your basement under grow lights. I have a stash of kitchen herbs, leafy greens, bell peppers and tomatoes going all winter. It’s not a lot, not nearly enough to feed us as often as we’d like these treats, but once a month there will be enough cherry tomatoes to toss in a salad.

    One thing I learned when I studied organics-from-afar, it is less impacting of the environment to fly organic red bell peppers from Holland to Michigan than it is to truck them from California. I had NO idea. Now, that doesn’t mean they are fresh, tasty or a good investment, just that there’s more to the issue than meets the eye.

    My argument with lactofermentation is space. Everyone starts out saying “Here’s how people stored food before refrigerators!!” and end their recipes saying, “Store in the refrigerator.” What’s THAT all about? I don’t have room to freeze and don’t like the nutrient loss of canning (or long-distance travel) so we tend to eat only what’s in season, which this time of year runs the gamut from leafy greens to leafy greens. Thank goodness winter squash like my garage!

  14. I ended last year reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and made an effort to eat in season. I live in Zone 9, SW Louisiana, so it’s easy for me to eat in season. Heck, they still have summer squash & peppers @ the farmer’s market!

    That being said, cabbage, cauliflower, and lettuce still aren’t in because of bad rains in Aug/Sept. Sweet apples aren’t local, but citrus is coming into it’s own right about now. How weird I thought I was when I was EXCITED over buying satsumas, the 1st of the season LOL.

    I will buy stuff @ the store because it’s just not in season here and I need it, like onions. I’m not exactly sure when onions are in season, but the next time I see them @ the Farmer’s market, I’m stocking up. I stocked up on butternut squash & sweet potatoes. Hopefully they’ll last through the summer, but they are taking up major space in my pantry. When the cauliflower does come to the market, I’m going to buy enough to last me the whole year. I’ll blanch it and freeze it for future use. The cabbage is a bit trickier since sauerkraut is eaten every so often and a jar of it seems to last forever! Did I read you right when you said you can freeze sauerkraut? Does it lose any of it’s pro biotic goodness?

    My goal next year is to can enough tomatoes for a years worth of meals. Not so much sauce, but chopped or whole tomatoes. I use about 2 15oz cans per week, so I need to plan accordingly. I can also ease back on pickle relish. I have so much of that.

  15. Actually, ferments don’t have to be stored in the refrigerator, it’s just that most people don’t have a root cellar anymore and they don’t make barrels of sauerkraut to keep in the basement, either. Keeping it in the refrigerator will slow down the fermentation process but ferments will keep perfectly well in the pantry. By storing it in the fridge, you can have several different varieties in mason jars and enjoy all of them before they get “too” sour.

  16. I’m with Raine on the rookie tip, because I’m still there myself and admit I probably don’t eat nearly enough produce. I do try to eat foods in season though, and thankfully the local farmer’s market is still doing decently on that score. It’s tough though!

    One of my hopes for next year is to do better on that front and start fermenting my own veggies. But I’m lucky–there’s a company in MA called Real Pickles that sells fermented veggies (and now hot sauce) and blatantly states their WAP influence.

    Now if I could just find a place to live where I could have a garden I’d be thrilled.

  17. We struggle with this issue too. Every summer when the bounty if plentiful and we are getting our fill of veggies fresh from the CSA, Farmers market and our own small garden, it seems like you won’t ever want for these things, but of course fall and winter roll around and you really begin to miss the variety of fresh veges and fruits. I try to buy and freeze in season, but every year DH complains about how much I buy and the cost. Well he is seeing that it doesn’t get us as far as it used to and we do need more. However, we are mostly limited by our freezer space. I hope by next year we can get a small chest freezer to round out our freezer storage to get more in season saved.

    Currently we can get a great supply of local apples so we are juicing, making applesauce and eating them with abandon. We try to have frozen applesauce in the freezer all year, but last year we ran out before we could get more local apples so we did without as my kids will no longer eat the commercial stuff.

    I did freeze 30 pounds of local organic blueberries this summer. I also seem to feel we really have good sources all year for things in our region (SE Michigan). A farm in MI that grows organic cranberries also does blueberries and they have them available frozen right now (I don’t need more or have room, but they are available for a cheaper price than we paid for fresh this summer). I did get 4 pounds of cranberries and put them in the freezer. We also freeze some veggies, but I do need to do more next year, I am just learning about blanching and freezing. I did do a bit of corn this year. I find my main problem in the summer months is the time to prep all this food and preserve it. I mean to but just never find the time!!

    We make sauerkraut and Kim Chi and our kids will eat it, so that helps in the winter as we have a good amount. We also make pickles and those also last all winter for the most part, the kids love them, this year we did pickled green beans and kohlrabi too.

    Our CSA has a hoop house so we will get greens and maybe a few other things we can purchase over the winter. Several of the farmers market vendors also sell most of the winter as they have hoophouses too.

    We eat a lot of soups and stews in which the veges go farther and the meat is sort of the star of the show. We get our local side of beef in the late fall early winter usually and we just got 30 chickens in October, so that will be good till summer.

    We can usually find things that will store like winter squash, onions and potatoes when we use up our CSA share.

    Lisa Imerman

  18. I did forget to mention that as much as I try and prefer to eat in season, we do buy things like bananas and pineapple year round (bananas are a staple at our house and pineapple is once in a while mostly). I also buy some frozen organic vegetables at the store when needed in the winter as I just don’t have freezer space to do all my own in the summer to last long enough till available again.

    I also buy citrus when it is in season from the US as it isn’t grown locally but I do like to get it from the US when it is the right time of year (winter here), it is a treat and we miss it all summer, so even though it is brought into MI, I buy some organic oranges, etc.

    I do tend to buy lemons all year as since I can’t have dairy I soak my grains with a bit of lemon juice as I prefer the taste to the ACV.

  19. I agree that in an ideal world one would eat only in-season veggies. But my ideals are always tempered with reality. I know I need fruits and veggies all year long. Sometimes extreme ideals don’t work. I’m in Texas so we have a longer growing season but, still, there’s no way I could preserve enough food for all winter long and still lead a somewhat normal life. For me, balance is important and making progress instead of trying to do it perfectly.

    Great post – I really appreciate the pros and cons on each point.

  20. I’m a part of a local produce coop so we get locally grown organic in season produce when they have it, and they supplement with out of season organic produce. Especially in the colder months, we get probably 1/2 and 1/2. In the warmer months and summer, it’s more 75/25, sometimes more than that favoring the local in season. But, we live in Texas, and have a long growing season, so that helps.

  21. How long do fermented vegies/fruits (?) keep? In refridgerator? Out? In root cellar? Do they need to be kept cool at least somewhat? I just made some homemade pickles according to the recipe in Nourishing Traditions and they turned to absolute mush. They looked okay in the jar and the taste was okay, but they melted as soon as you tried to pick one up and put it in your mouth. I was very disappointed. I did slice them to fit them in my jar. Help anyone??

  22. Growing up we always put away fruits and veggies for the winter. My mom (and I) did canning, both hot water bath and pressure canner, and we froze produce too. My mom only bought fruit and veggies from the grocery store that were “in season”, but this included oranges and grapefruits during the winter months. I think to her “in season” is more about when items are the most plentiful and cost effective to purchase. I have to say that the thought of going forever without eating a great orange or clementine because they don’t grow around here is too much for me.

    Sometimes all this talk of eating as our ancestors did sort of bugs me. I get the idea of eating nutrient dense, unprocessed foods. I’ve read Nina Planck, Michael Pollen, Mary Enig, Sally Fallon, and Diana Schwarzbein and probably more that I’m not thinking of right now. I have a basic understanding of why traditional farming methods are healthier for our food and earth and so on. But sometimes, I want to scream out my front door that I’m not living 100 years ago — I’m living NOW! Somehow I feel as though I have to find a balance and a way to live healthy in this century and enjoy some modern conveniences too. While I plan to can tomatoes next summer and freeze some berries, I don’t think I want to spend my whole summer gathering and putting up food for the winter. A hundred years ago a woman’s role was very centered around feeding her family. It took a lot of effort to do things that come easily for us today. I don’t want to go back. I like driving to Meijer and buying a bag of oranges.

    I’m not totally sure what I’m trying to say here, I just feel overwhelmed by the very idea of trying to cook like Caroline Ingalls and live in the Jetson’s world. :-)

  23. I’m surprised no one has mentioned sprouts! Just grow them on your countertop all winter. They make a great supplement to cellared vegetables.

  24. JoAnna, try adding an oak leaf or a grape leaf to the jar that you do the lacto-fermented pickles. Mine are almost too sour right now (last jar) but they are still crisp and lovely.

    I have been working with freezing. I know I haven’t put enough away though. We are working to get a space in our garage where we can have boxes of fruits and vegetables. I have heard filled with sand for some autumn harvest fruits and vegetables and without for others. I do some lacto-fermenting but not as much as I should.

    I grow lettuce in our window sill. Some years I do okay and other years not so much. Fortunately about the year I plan to give up, I get some good lettuce leaves again.

    The first year I moved here, I found myself frustrated with the limited winter selection of our local coop. While they do bring in some foods from California (we’re in Washington), they try to remain fairly local, which limits selection. I am trying to visit there regularly for our vegetables because I know their choices are as close as mine would be given the constraints of not having frozen enough this summer.

  25. We try to eat in season, partly because things just taste better. And we’re lucky living in southern CA that we have long seasons. I just finished planting my winter garden and because our winters are mild I can grow greens – lettuce, spinach, chard, etc – all winter long.

    And Barbara, great point! We make sprouts too and the kids love them, especially lentil sprouts. They are a great way to have fresh veggies all winter.

  26. Kelly, What a great post! This is exactly what I stand for!! So exciting to me 😉 To Jeanne, I am from the midwest and spend most of my summer gardening, shopping at local farmers markets and canning and preserving. I have a section on my blog for organic gardening and canning and preserving using natural sweeteners, freezing and fermentation methods. I know it can be difficult but to me, I think the best thing one can do to start learning how to eat in season is starting a garden, even if it needs to be small, (container gardens) and of course shopping at your local farmers market. Once you start small and can successfully harvest some produce, you’ll be so giddy and excited, you’ll naturally want to do more the next season. On my blog I even have a pretty sweet post on urban u-pick farms. Scoping out your neighbors trees who do not harvest apples, peaches or pears. Great way to get free fruit to can or freeze for the winter! Love this subject, if you ever need a guest post, I would be thrilled!! Thanks Kelly, I love your site!

  27. Great post! I’m lucky to live in Southern California where we have year-round fresh local produce. But you know what, I think if I lived in the northern states, I wouldn’t miss it that much.

    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being able to make a fresh green salad with local greens and tomatoes in the dead of winter, but salads have always been my least favorite part of the meal. I’d much rather eat meat, fish, cheese, beans, rice– so many other things than a salad. A salad is not very nutrient-dense anyway so I’d rather focus on foods that have more nutrition.

    I always think about the Native American Indians who subsisted primarily on bison or salmon. They ate very little fruits and vegetables — maybe some berries here and there when they could find them. They grew corn and other vegetables too but those things were not the mainstay of their diet. Same with the Massai tribe from Africa. They lived almost entirely on meat, milk, and blood. So I really don’t think we need to worry about vegetables to be healthy. They are not necessary. Enzymes ARE necesasry — but you can get those from raw dairy and raw (rare) meat.

    If I lived in the north I would probably freeze more vegetables, and can some. Although freezing retains more of the nutrition — and frozen vegetables taste better. One thing you can do with fresh or canned tomatoes is make lacto-fermented salsa. It keeps in the fridge for a loooong time.

  28. I forgot to mention that like Ann Marie, I live in the West – Napa, CA – where a variety of fresh produce is abundant year round. And as many have mentioned, the best way to ensure you receive the most seasonal selections is to support your local CSAs. They need us as much as we need them to keep biodiversity alive and variety in our diets. Great post!

  29. Eating in season and local is a conversation my husband and I have been having lately. We know that we would like to eat in season and locally but we don’t. Living in Wyoming we have a shorter growing season and since we just moved here at the beginning of summer I didn’t have much of a garden. We are hoping for better results next year. I did lacto-ferment about a dozen jars of produce that I got at the farmers market or from friends. And another friend taught me to can peaches so I have those too. I use this list of in season produce that I use to help me but I do stray from it a little.

  30. I also try to only eat ‘seasonally’. I only buy my fruist and vegetables from farmers markets, farms, or the organic wholesaler. This past winter (we’re going into summer now) it was a winter without many fruits and vegetables indeed. It was my first winter of eating seasonally, and I had not planned for it! I ate alot of root vegetables, such as pumpkin, potato, beetroot etc and a few winter greens like kale. I did not eat any green salads or the likes. For fruit, I was mainly eating apples and kiwifruit. However there is one fruit I buy thats imported, and that’s bananas. Bananas are a staple for me, for smoothies, cakes and the likes, and I’ve chosen to keep that fruit in my diet. However things like grapes, pineapples, pomegrants, I don’t buy those, unless they’re grown in the country (which they’re not!)
    Now that we’re going into summer, green salads, summer fruit, is all coming back in! Having been without it for quite a few months, I find I appreciate it SO MUCH more, it feels like such a treat! And I’m making the most of it for sure. My meals are changing so much, mainly because of the vegetables and fruit available to me now.
    This summer I plan to prepare for the winter ahead- I’m finding a good dehydrator to purchase, and I plan to dehydrate some summer fruits and veggies, and possibly freeze a few bagfuls too. I’m not going to go crazy into preserving for winter, just going to have a few summer goodies to indulge in through the winter.
    I believe in eating seasonally. Right now asparagus is in season and I’m absolutely loving it!!


  31. WOW does this make me happy this post generated so much excitement! I have spent the summer putting up food that we grew or bought from local farmers in order to keep our food costs down. I used a combination of canning (esp things like tomatoes, ketsup, bbq sauce, salsa) and yes canning lids do have BPA in them but if everyone phoned the canning companies and complained that would help.

    As much stuff as I could I dehydrated so that the nutrients would stay intact and it wouldn’t require freezer space because we also had a pastured pig & grass fed cow butchered and contracted with a local farmer to grow us meat chickens not fed corn or soy so the freezers are full of MEAT.

    There are a great many traditional things you can do that aren’t sour. The beet and carrot kvass are actually becoming family favorites, the apple cider will keep all winter under refrigeration or can be fermented into hard cider and bottled shelf stable. I turned my applesauce and other fruits into fruit leather so they will retain nutrients and last and the kids think they are getting a treat.

    In addition to sprouts which are brilliant and fun I have lettuce and some other things growing in my living room. I got a CFL grow bulb and put it in a floor lamp so it lights the room and grows our food with no extra electric output.

    In many climates you can garden year round (even in Seattle under some snow). I have metal stakes that I tuck into my raised beds then cover with plastic and knock the snow of the top. This protects most leafy greens like kale, cabbage, mache, arrugula, dandelion greens. The carrots & parsnips stay inthe snowy ground and are harvested all winter as needed.

    The beets are inthe garage in moist sand, the potatoes are in a cardboard box covered to protect from light, the onions, garlic and squash are in the garage as well. These will last all winter that way.

    We have more than enough seasonal food to last us until the spring crops start in April, using only 1/4 of our 1/4 acre lot. I’m with Cheeselave – salads are nice but not your main source of nutrients.

    In the winter we will eat kimchee, saurkraut, braised hearty greens and stews with dried tomatoes, carrots and nutrient dense tubers grown in healthy nutrient dense soil.

    I will, however, supplement these with some in season citrus which I will make into marmalades using SF whey/fridge technique. I did this last winter and it was perfect. They lasted until just recently and could be used in any recipe since they were low salt & sugar. I feel strongly I need to make a few exceptions since I am responsible for my family’s entire nutrient intake now that we only eat foods I prepare. I don’t want anyone getting scurvy in my house!

    This is such a great post, Kelly. I’m so glad I just finally found your RSS feed!

  32. I’m really impressed by all the buzz the post inspired. Sadly, we do not yet eat a lot of local produce yet – but that is a big YET because I do plan on heading down that road soon. I just haven’t taken the plunge yet. :)

    It is very exciting to know that there are so many people who do this (at least some of the time) with so much success and passion! I know I will be happy to be there soon, too!

  33. There is so much good food for thought here. But no one has mentioned division of labor.

    Let’s say I want to grow my own food but can’t because (A) disability and (B) location: the Sonoran Desert. (Those who do grow food here must consider the environmental impact and energy costs of irrigation, but that’s another posting.) By purchasing my produce from other growers in other regions (CA and Mex. are nearest) I am able to invest time and energy in writing about nutrition and teaching cooking skills – or perhaps quilting or tailoring – which I would not have time to do if I were growing and preserving my own produce.

    By thoughtfully and joyfully expanding our awareness beyond our immediate families to the community, as evident by farmers’ markets and co-ops, the entire community benefits from the specialized skills of each community member.

  34. I definitely TRY to eat in season. We are part of a summer and winter CSA, and we get enough stuff in each that we don’t HAVE to eat out of season if we don’t want to. While we do like our bananas, oranges, pomegranates and avocados, I try not to buy imported fruit (we live in Southern Ontario) in the summer when there is an abundance of fresh, local stuff. And some things, like asparagus, peaches and tomatoes, I refuse to buy out of season because they taste terrible.

    One drawback I’ve noticed though, is that my three-year-old (who is going through a picky stage) won’t eat some things he happily scarfed down last year. Asparagus for example. And his favourite breakfast last fall was pomegranate seeds in yogurt, but this year he refuses to eat it. I don’t know if it’s because he doesn’t remember eating these things a year ago or what, but it’s frustrating!

  35. We do eat foods out of season, because my kids have food allergies and it’s hard enough just getting them fed at all! Things are much better now on GAPS, but I will confess to buying frozen berries all winter, for example. At some point, I hope to be growing nearly all our veggies and some fruits, and we will utilize cold frames for greens all winter and a root cellar for many other things.

    Two very good books on the subject are Root Cellaring, and Preserving Without Canning or Freezing.

  36. I highly recommend the Preserving w/o Canning or Freezing Book and the book Four Season Harvest by Elliot Cole. He grow food year round in the NE States somewhere frigid using cold frames or grow houses but the book has just about every option for winter growing you could want, along with crop suggestions and planting schedules.

  37. Yes I do, except for bananas and the occasional odd canned tomatoes which I only occasionally buy. Other than that, all my produce comes from local farms. It kind of feels like cheating though since I live in California and we have fresh produce year round. I find that I don’t really miss eating things year round though. For example, I love tomatoes, gorge myself on the wonderful things when they are in season but find myself quite ready to move onto squash come fall.

  38. I keep wanting to build a cold frame so I can have garden veggies in winter, but haven’t gotten there yet. I love the idea of getting all of our food locally, but we aren’t there yet. We do preserve some, but not as much as I’d like; it’s hard being a working mom with a baby to find time to do all of the preserving I’d like.

    One dilemma I always have is with apples. We can’t get local organic apples, so do we buy organics from New Zealand or Oregon, or local pesticide apples?

  39. You mentioned eating more low carb but are concerned about getting enough fruits and veggies. Fruits, veggies and grains are not essential to health. Fruits are high in fructose and carbs that offer very little in the way of nutrients except maybe berries. Grains are absolutely nonessential to health and cause a good many problems like celiac disease, wheat allergies, irritable bowel, etc. We can live quite nicely on a low carb diet rich in protein and saturated fats. Look to for his ideas on no grains and read some of Steffansson’s work with the native indians of Canada. I have been low carbing it for 8 months and feel terrific. My blood sugar is under control, I have lost a good amount of weight, my mind is clearer without all the carbs and sugar to poison my body.

  40. Kelly,
    Thanks for posting my questions. The comments have been very interesting. I have canned for atleast the last 14 years. I always put up tomatoes, salsas, pickles, jams. Freeze fruit when it is in season, and shop all summer long. I cook and bake almost everything from scratch. I allocate my dollars for healthy dairy and farm fresh eggs, and I buy antibiotic, hormone free meat. After much contemplation, I have decided to purchase veggies that are shipped the least amount of distance to supplement what I already have. But I can’t imagine going for 6+ months without a salad, or fresh peppers or fresh fruit. I am very fortunate that my children (teenagers) love vegetables. And will gladly eat carrots, cukes, red peppers etc. as a snack after school and will ask for a salad with their dinners if I haven’t made any. So that being said, I think this is a decision based on what works for your family. Liz said it very well, it can be overwhelming trying to live like the Ingalls, but living in the Jetson’s world!

  41. Eating seasonally is more of an art than a science. We all want to try to preserve produce to help with the winter shortage, but we might not really be doing our bodies

  42. In that I am (by some standards) a “seasoned citizen,” I am able to relate many experiences regarding canning but have no idea how to “guest post.” So, I’ll briefly try to inspire some idea generation here.

    The one piece of equipment that is ABSOLUTELY necessary is a pressure canner (Google it.) This is different from a pressure cooker in that it is much larger (5- to 6-gallons) in order to hold a larger number of jars. The principle, though, is the same: Temperatures higher than the 212F degrees (100C) reached at boiling can be obtained. These higher temps are necessary for the killing off of all the baddies that spoiling food can attract like Botulism, Salmonella and all that.

    A temp of 240F is minimal for the proper sterilization of the liners, lids if used, jars and contents therein. (Liner – the disc put on top of the jar. Lid – the ring used to clamp the liner down.) Some old-timers still pour liquid parrafin on top of their jars. While good for short-term use, this can break if not stored well. Liners at least, and lids to secure them are highly recommended.

    Ball and Mason jars are great, inexpensive and available danged near everywhere – I see them at my local hardware store. They get traded amongst the canning community and are never returned, except when filled with another batch of something. A jar lifter, (example) which is a contraption that you use to reach into the hot water to extract your jars, is a must (also easy to find.) If you plan on doing jellies or jams you’ll need cheesecloth and a strainer. Towels and some pain reliever, because you will burn yourself at least once (called “Paying your dues”) and whatever spices your recipes call for will round out the list. Remember, people did this when fancy-schmancy equipment was unheard-of; it has to be basic by nature.

    The most basic element to consider is the acidity of the contents of your jars. Tomatoes and high-acid foods are more forgiving while greens and low-acid foods must be thoroughly sterilized and cooked. The object is to avoid contamination; do this by creating a pressurized environment inside the jars that then forms a negative-pressure, airtight seal when they cool. “Vaccum-packing” is the closest analogy, except that canning uses temperature and not air pumps.

    This leads nicely to the “Can or Freeze” question, which is easily answered by “That depends.” What you find in commercial cans will resemble what you make yourself. The difference between a fresh peach and a canned one is good evidence. The thing is that extreme temps in either direction will affect the constitution of whatever you’re using . . . blueberries are fresh only once; cooking or freezing will change them. It all depends on what you plan on doing when you open or thaw what you’ve canned or frozen.

    In any event, to pretend to stay with my promise of brevity, canning is NOT scary if basic common sense is employed. It is time consuming, to be sure, but also quite fun and it’s very satisfying to look at rows of jars of YOUR OWN STUFF cooling around the kitchen. Instructions in packets of Ball Pectin (used in jams and jellies – organic versions are available in bulk as well) are complete and easy to understand. Practice with basics first; use store-bought beans or tomatoes and put up a dozen jars to see what you need to learn-by-doing.

    Once you’ve done a couple of dozen jars, you’ll be an old hand.

  43. Wow – busy post. Wannabee Caroline Ingalls here, at least in some respects. We live in WI, zone 4-5, so it can be challenging to eat seasonally, but I’m working on it. My best advice would be to take things in small steps concentrating on the foods you enjoy most – these are the things you’re likely to accomplish most easily and stick with over time.

    I use a variety of methods of season extension and food preservation. We have about an acre of garden and I grow over 100 varieties of fruits, veggies and herbs. I don’t grow a lot of each (for instance, I usually grow 1 plant of over 20 different varieties of tomatoes), but have found that growing more varieties offers insurance for the big swings in weather we’ve been having in recent years. Currently in the garden I am still harvesting kale, broccoli, parsley, mache and root vegetables including carrots, beets, rutabagas, sunchokes and parsnips. The mache will hold all winter in the garden and still be fit to harvest in spring. I’ll freeze some kale for winter use. The sunchokes and parsnips will stay in the ground all winter, dug until the ground freezes hard and then dug again in spring. Carrots, beets, rutabagas, potatoes and onions all share space in the root cellar. The potatoes and onions sit in open bins, the others get packed in leaves.

    Celery and parsley move into the greenhouse, until deep cold when they move inside to a window sill. Fresh herbs grow year round in a kitchen window.

    I can a lot of tomato products – sauce, salsa, stewed tomatoes, “V-8” juice, tomato juice. I also can jellies, fruits and green beans.

    Squash and cabbage will hold for months in our “cool storage” room.

    I freeze most other produce – we prefer the taste. We are close to being able to cover our use year round on veggies, but I have canned and froze local fruit in season. Corn, peas, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, zucchini, applesauce (some apples will hold a long time in cool storage), winter squash (when it will no longer hold in cool storage)…uh…trying to remember.

    I dry mostly herbs for cooking and medical use, some fruit and fruit leathers, some tomatoes. I raise and use dry shell beans – super easy.

    We’ll be getting a quarter of grassfed beef next week (they were all baffled when I asked for beef tallow), and I’ve gotten local chicken, eggs, duck and other meats. We now have two freezers to cope with harvest time.

    I’ve experimented with sprouts and lacto-fermentation, but it’s not a big part of our diets yet.

    I highly recommend the books mentioned above (Root Cellaring, Four Season Harvest) as well as Stocking Up, Wild Fermentation, the Ball Blue Book and Mary Bell’s Dehydrator Cookbook. I’ve started talking about some of what we do on my blog, but it all takes time so there is much I would like to share but simply haven’t gotten the chance.

  44. Wow, I knew you guys were smart, but I can’t believe all the great info you’ve shared and how much I’m learning from all of you! :)

    I thought of a couple more questions…

    1. A couple of you mentioned the BPA in the lining of the canning lids, but that won’t actually touch the food will it???

    2. I like to freeze my applesauce (since I make a *raw* applesauce recipe, I don’t want to cook it for canning), but the ONLY freezable canning jars I’ve found are Ball jars in the 8oz. size (those beveled glass jars). I suppose I could use baggies and just make sure it’s totally cool when I spoon it in, and that would store better in the freezer anyway, but I like spooning it out of a jar better than a baggie. Does anyone know where I could find bigger freezable glass jars?

    Thanks again for all your help, everyone, please keep your great tips and ideas coming!


  45. Hi Kelly,

    BPA leaches into things whether it physically touches the food or not. The more you process it the more likely it is to leach so water bath canning would be preferable to pressure canning for instance. I personally freeze regular canning jars all the time whether they are special freezer ones or not. Just be sure to allow enough headspace for expansion. If you are not going to process the jar you can buy plastic lids that are BPA free and fit all standard canning jars. I get mine from because they have the cheapest prices I’ve found. If you are going to make apple & tomato sauce you may want to look at a roma strainer. It makes grape juice, applesauce & tomato sauce a snap. You don’t even have to peel the apples! Just steam them lightly and run them through the strainer and it takes out all the seeds and peels for you. HUGE timesaver. I try to put up about 200# a year because the kids eat so much and it makes awesome fruit leather. You can even do 50/50 applesauce/yogurt which is fine at room temp and the kids think they are getting a candy bar. MWAH HA HA. Applesauce fruit leather is a great way to use up any jam you might still have too, just add it in to flavor it.

  46. I’ve been pretty fanatical myself about buying local produce in season ever since reading about the concept in a 2001 LaLeche League magazine article.

    I must say, locally grown produce has taste, whether conventionally grown or not. A friend occasionally gives me well traveled certified organic produce and it, compared to anything local, is tasteless.

    If you want to extend your own growing season, get a copy of Four Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman and learn how. While we are down here in Tennessee and are able to grow things year round (January is a bit lean), you can do the same in the northern tier states with a cold frame, small greenhouse, or even some row cover and careful variety selection.

    I try hard not to can and prefer traditional methods myself. I suspect only dried and fermented fruits (i.e. wines) were consumed out of season. But I must tell you, if you eat strawberries only when they are in season, they are heavenly when you have them after a 10 or 11 month strawberry fast!

    The most difficult thing for us (I’m a transplant originally from NYS) is to learn to eat what grows here. For us that means things like okra, beans, cushaw, summer squashes and not so much winter squash like pumpkins and butternut (both of which I LOVE!).

    Enjoy the local eating journey!

  47. I only purchase things when they are in season, but the majority of our produce comes from our own garden. I purchase almost all of my fruit, as our trees are not yet old enough to produce large yields. I do purchase extra from local farmers at the height of the season and can, freeze or lacto-ferment, depending on the item. I use tomatoes at least once a week, and I figure my home-grown, home-canned, organic tomatoes are far superior to anything I could get in a can at the store. Plus, having the home-canned excess from your garden keeps you from spending money at the store if you wind up having crop failure as happened to us this year, we only got about 3 months of tomatoes off of 38 plants due to the severe amount of rain we had. We always put up all that we grow in case the next year doesn’t do as well.

    Right now isn’t really the time to learn canning because there aren’t many things in season and the supplies needed aren’t as easily found. Since last frost has passed for the majority of the country, the majority of things you’d be buying are coming from storage so they aren’t at the height of freshness. If you do wish to learn to can right now, apples, winter squash and potatoes are good candidates.

  48. We do can some products, figuring that by living in a modern world, there are trade-offs. There are toxins all around us. Our answer has been to grow almost all our own food, including dairy and meats and to eat from our stores. Many foods don’t require processing. The idea that everything needs to be canned or frozen is a fallacy. Potatoes, winter squash, and apples mentioned above do not need to be canned or frozen to keep. We harvest from our gardens year-round, they do not grow during the winter months but are harvestable. It requires a huge amount of time to grow our food but it is worth it. But for us seasonal eating means eating what is available to us now, with some supplementation from our frozen and canned goods. But that also means I have to grow varieties that can withstand our growing conditions, which for us while is doesn’t freeze severely for long periods of time, we receive between 75″ to 100″ of rain during the rainy season. Not all vegetables do well, they rot, so like most things worth doing, it is a time consuming task to bring a decent meal to the table 3 times a day from scratch, from our land. But I wouldn’t change a thing!

  49. I try to eat in season when I can. I usually get my fruit and veg from the health food shop…the produce there is all australian (mostly) so it is a pretty good way to get local food, albeit it is a bit more expensive.

    Otherwise I can get vegies from the supermarket. They do have ‘local’ produce meaning from australia, but compared to the health food shop it is likely to be from another state (or another country).

  50. Another Michigander here :-) I’ve been on a huge learning curve since reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I read a lot about freezing, dehydrating, canning, etc. last winter and took a canning class. Unfortunately, summer was SO busy for me at work that I had no time. But I still eat locally-grown, in season produce. How? CSAs are wonderful! My summer CSA was awesome, and I was able to freeze a bit of kale, etc. I joined a winter CSA so I’ll get root crops, cellared stuff all winter. We also have a local food co-op that offers locally grown/stored produce such as raw applesauce, frozen blueberries, peaches, hydroponic lettuce, etc. I feel that I don’t *need* to preserve things in order to eat healthfully and locally. Would I like to? Of course. Just like I”d love to grow my own food and live out in the country with my own chickens and cows. But realistically, with my demanding job, and living on a very shady suburban plot, I know it’s not feasible. Luckily there are options, I think because people are aware of these issues so enough people want it to support local farmers and co-ops.

  51. Wendy, where are you in Michigan? I’d love to know more about this, “We also have a local food co-op that offers locally grown/stored produce such as raw applesauce, frozen blueberries, peaches, hydroponic lettuce, etc.”!!!


  52. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I had to do a little research when I decided to start planting a garden. I didn’t have a clue when our first and last frost dates were, when to start seedlings, or when to direct-sow. Nor did I have a clue when I would be harvesting. Then, when I decided to start eating more locally, I had to do more research to determine what was local here and when the foods were in season. It just goes to show how out-of-touch we have become with nature and our food, and quite frankly that’s scary.

    My grandmother and aunt spent every summer growing huge gardens and canning the food. I remember days of snapping beans and shelling peas from a 5-gallon bucket, thinking the day would never end. My mother grows hundreds of tomato plants to make and can salsa every summer. I decided to grow my own garden, stock up at the farmers market, and can as much as possible for winter. I have tomatoes, salsa, sauces, pumpkin pickles, fruit butters, jams, jellies, and vegetables hiding in almost every corner of my apartment. This year I even have a dry storage of butternut squash and some pumpkins. I can’t wait until we have a home with land, so my garden can explode and I build a root cellar.

    I do some fermenting, but most of it hasn’t gone well or my husband turned his nose up at it. He loves the pickled jalapenos, though!

    I do also freeze some things. I have loads of zucchini frozen. Mostly I freeze berries and other fruit.

    That said, I will compromise some times and buy something out of season. Those times are few and far between, mostly because I don’t need to. Besides, once you’ve tasted a homegrown tomato it’s like murder to drop money for a mealy, tasteless tomato from the store….any time of year.

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