Always in season: Here’s what’s available year round in California!
These California commodities are always in season, and never go out of style.
We’re big fans of eating seasonally. Here in California, it’s easier than you think! A variety of California Grown commodities are grown – or available- all year round. Dried fruit, canned tomatoes and nuts might seem obvious, but did you realize that fresh strawberries and even artichokes are grown year-round in the Golden State? Let’s take a look at a few of the commodities that are always in season, and share some delicious ways to enjoy them!
Did you know that California is America’s leading producer of high-quality cut flowers and greens? Our state supplies over 75% of all domestically grown cut flowers in the United States. Sure, those gorgeous blooms can be used for bouquets, wreaths or crafts – but we also love using edible flowers to spruce up our favorite wine cocktails, desserts or even spreads!
People from across the globe travel to California to visit our picturesque vineyards and world class wineries. The Golden State’s diverse terroir means there’s a perfect place to grow nearly every kind of grape. In fact, you’ll find more than 100 varieties across the state, giving our winemakers the latitude to create complex varietals and unique, expressive blends. Whether you’re a seasoned oenophile or new to the wine scene, there’s always something new to discover.
Honey bees collect nectar and store it as honey in their hives. This provides a source of energy to the bees…and to humans, too. Honey is harvested from mid-summer to fall but is shelf stable for around 12 months, which it’s always in season in California.
Beans are a pantry staple, boasting a shelf life of a year or more so beans are always in season in California. California bean farmers grow many different types of beans (including some small scale heirloom varieties) and provide virtually all of the nation’s dried lima beans.
Wild Rice + Sweet Rice
Ready to have your minds blown? Check this out: California wild rice isn’t actually rice – it’s a semi-aquatic grass! California farmers have been growing wild rice since the 1970’s and today, they provide the majority of the nation’s wild rice.California also leads the nation in sweet rice production. Sweet rice is sometimes called sticky rice or glutinous rice. It’s a medium grain rice with a slightly sweeter taste and a stickier texture. This makes it perfect for sushi rolls and dessert recipes!
When you ask California prune growers to share their favorite way to enjoy California Prunes, most say they like snacking on them. We don’t disagree, but let’s not overlook the benefits of baking with this nutritional powerhouse. Swapping prune purée for some of the oil or eggs in your favorite baked goods is a great way to reduce processed sugars and fat – all while adding moisture and nutrients.
California is responsible for 98% of the country’s fresh fig crop, and 100% of the nation’s dried figs. Figs are considered one of the first domesticated crops and are mentioned in texts from every major religion as symbols of prosperity, fertility, and peace. Some biblical scholars even believe that Eve was tempted by a fig rather than an apple! If you think about it, it sure makes a lot of sense. Their smooth, graceful curves and seductive sweetness make them pretty hard to resist.
Nowadays, the Coachella Valley is famous for its eponymous music festival. You might not realize that not far from the revelry – high up in fields of palm trees – over 90% of the nation’s dates are grown.
There are many different varieties of dates grown worldwide. The two most popular varieties, Medjool and Deglet Noor, are both sundried (meaning they dry on the tree).
Fresh apricots are a spring treat, but you can enjoy dried apricots all year long! The majority of American dried apricots are made in California. They differ from their Turkish cousins in that they are pitted and halved before they are dried – which enhances the tangy tartness that makes them an incredibly appealing snack.
If you grew up in California during the 80s, you remember The California Raisins and their iconic take on “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. But did you know that Central Valley farmers grow 100% of the nation’s raisins? Traditionally, raisins were primarily sundried on the ground, but dried-on-the-vine, or DOV raisins are quickly gaining popularity.
Canned/Jarred Fruits & Vegetables
Cling Peaches, Pears, Fruit Cocktail + More
California Grown fruits are picked when they’re perfectly ripe, and then packed in cans, jars, and cups within 48 hours. Not only does this preserve peak freshness, it also means you can enjoy this fabulous fruit 365 days out of the year!
Tomatoes: Processed and Fresh Cherry
Canned tomatoes and cherry tomatoes are in season year round due to California’s diverse climate and the use of hot houses during the cooler months. During the height of the season, California tomato growers produce 2,000,000,000 pounds of tomatoes per week! Put a few of those to use in these delicious recipes:
Peppers: Canned, Jarred or Dried
Did you know that California Grown peppers are canned (or jarred) within 24 hours of harvest? Canned, jarred and dried peppers (think chipotle, wax and banana peppers) are always in season. Fresh peppers, like bell peppers, mini peppers, and jalapenos are in season from April-November.
California is responsible for 95% of the nation’s olive crop, so you might assume that California Ripe Olives are all big business. Nothing could be further from the truth. California Ripe Olives are grown on hundreds of family owned farms, most of which are located in California’s Central Valley. They are then sent to one of two family owned, multi-generational processing plants where they are cured and canned.
There is truly a California extra virgin olive oil for every palate. California’s incredibly varied climate allows our olive farmers to grow over 75 different varieties of olives. That means that they’re able to create a selection of blends that are uniquely Californian.
With our cool, wet winters and hot dry summers, California is one of only five places on earth with a climate well suited to growing almonds. In fact, California supplies 80 percent of the world’s almonds! Almonds are full of protein and heart healthy fats, so it’s no surprise that they are hugely popular.
Did you know that walnuts are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber? It’s true! They’re a simple and delicious snack, but also a welcome addition to your favorite sweet AND savory recipes. Be sure to add CA GROWN walnuts to your next grocery order.
CA GROWN Pistachios are a complete protein – meaning they provide all of the nine amino acids that our bodies don’t naturally produce. Other examples of complete proteins include meat, fish, eggs and dairy – which makes pistachios an excellent addition to a vegan or vegetarian diet.
California is home to over 13,000 cattle ranches, many of which have been around for four or more generations! California’s fertile valley, foothill and even desert rangelands offer an ideal place for cattle to graze, allowing the Golden State’s cattle ranches to thrive.
California’s Central Valley is famously one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. It also happens to host the majority of the state’s poultry farms. Fun fact: chickens, turkeys and hens are all considered “poultry”.
Chickens lay eggs year round. Their egg production is tied to the length of the days, so during the fall and winter months, California egg farmers will supplement with artificial light to keep egg production at peak levels – which means you can enjoy fresh California eggs all year round.
California leads the nation in sustainable dairy production – so it’s always easy to find Real California milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream + more on the shelves of your favorite grocer. Bonus: 99% of California dairy farms are family owned. When you buy products with the Real California Dairy label, you’re supporting locally owned small businesses!
Seafood: Crabs, Sardines, Oysters, Kelp
The California coastline is 840 miles long. This means plenty of sandy beaches, countless surf breaks and, most importantly, super fresh seafood! Both fresh and canned seafood are available year-round in California. While certain types of fish, like Dungeness crab, have a “season”, most seafood is readily available and harvested off of the California coast all year long.
When Italian immigrants began to settle California, they discovered that Gilroy was an ideal place to grow many familiar vegetables, like garlic. Before long, Gilroy had gained fame as “the garlic capital of the world”. In recent years, Fresno County has overtaken Gilroy in terms of production, but the pungent aroma of garlic still greets travelers as they pass through the small town.
Beets are harvested throughout the summer and fall months, but like many root vegetables, they enjoy an extended shelf life and can be enjoyed all year long!
California’s sunshine and warm, dry climate mean our sweetpotato vines are lush and fast-growing, with a longer growing season. This also allows our sweetpotatoes to cure on the vine, which extends their shelf life and allows for a year-round supply.
Fun fact: Not all sweetpotatoes are orange! Sweetpotatoes can be orange, white or purple – and all have subtle differences in flavor.
Extra fun fact: Sweetpotato is one word. Google it!
There’s a lot to love about CA Grown potatoes. They’re arguably one of the most versatile vegetables in existence. Any way you fry, slice dice or mash them, they’re equally delicious. California may not lead the nation in potato production (hats off to our friends in Idaho) but we are the only state in the US that can grow potatoes year round.
Carrots are grown year round in California in various parts of the state. Because they’re a cool weather crop, they enjoy a longer growing season near the Salinas Valley where the temperatures are more consistent but are also grown in the Central Valley, Santa Barbara coast and Southern California’s high and low desert regions.
Radishes are always in season in California – but some more delicate varieties, like watermelon radishes, are only in season during the spring months.
Turnips are in season year round in California – although there are only about 400 acres planted to the crop. The majority of California’s turnips are grown in Kern and Imperial Counties, but there are smaller plantings dotted throughout the state.
Did you know onions are one of the most popular vegetables in the nation? By staggering plantings of fresh and storage onions throughout the state, California onion farmers are able to provide a year round supply of this versatile vegetable.
Mushrooms have garnered a lot of attention recently as a nutraceutical. They’re grown year round in Northern California, with Santa Clara County leading the state’s commercial production.
Fun fact: Northern California is well known for its edible wild mushrooms, which grow year round. Foraging might sound fun, but it’s always best to have an expert on hand to make sure the mushrooms that you find aren’t poisonous!
This cruciferous vegetable thrives in California’s coastal regions, where it is grown year round. Good thing, since the Golden State grows over 90% of the Nation’s broccoli!
Leafy Greens: Spinach/Lettuce/Kale/Cabbage
Lettuce and leafy greens are typically thought of as a cool season crop, but certain varieties, like cabbage and kale, can be grown year round in parts of the state.
Castroville, California is the self-proclaimed artichoke capital of the world. This small town, with a population of only around 6000, produces millions of artichokes a year, growing a whopping 70% of California’s entire crop!
Over 90 percent of the nation’s celery is grown in the Golden State, primarily along the Central and Southern coast. It is often grown in rotation with strawberries and other cool season crops.
There are many different varieties of squash, but they are all categorized as either summer squash or winter squash. Summer squash, like zucchini or yellow squash, have thinner skin and are in season from May through October. Winter squash, like honey nut squash or butternut squash are characterized by their tough exterior and are in season from October through April!
Herbs are in season year round in California, and during cooler months they can be grown in greenhouses. California Grown herbs are a great way to finish your favorite dishes, and make incredible pestos and salad dressings!
Most of us think of strawberries as a summer fruit. While peak season is April through August, strawberries are grown year round throughout different regions of the state. In winter, strawberries ship from Southern California; production moves north with the warming spring temperatures.
California lemon growers are responsible for over 90% of all lemons grown in the United States. The coastal areas from Santa Barbara to San Bernardino counties account for the majority of California’s crop. Fun fact: Lemon trees can produce fruit year round!
A tangerine is a mandarin, but not all mandarins are tangerines. Confused? Mandarins are a type of orange that are characterized by their smaller size and sweeter taste. Tangerines are a type of mandarin that boast a brighter orange hue and a more tart flavor. We appreciate the subtle differences between the two, though in a pinch, they can definitely be used interchangeably.
California’s first orange groves were planted in the early 1800s by Spanish Missionaries. Within 100 years of the first planting, California experienced the “Second Gold Rush” – fueled by Navel Oranges.
Oranges are in season year-round in California. Different varieties come into season at different times, allowing for a constant supply.
Now that you know what’s always in season in California, let’s learn a little more about how some of your favorite commodities are grown or made!
Article by Hilary Rance.