The time of year we go on holiday is usually contingent upon three factors - the weather at our chosen destination, the time slot we can get off work and the most reasonable month to travel in. Food seasons are generally not given much thought.
In a globalised world where we can get Southeast Asia's rambutan fruit at specialist UK supermarkets and oysters all year round, we're losing the novelty of eating abroad. But fortunately, there is still some magic to be experienced in seasonal food travel.
From blink-and-you'll-miss them vegetables such as ramps, which New Yorkers covet like the latest tech gadget every April, to whitebait fritters in New Zealand, these are dishes worth shaping your travel calendar for. And if you're lucky enough to be visiting one of these countries at the right time, here's what should hit the top of your to-do list...
Words: Sejal Kapadia, Images:Getty and Rex features
Ice wine in Niagara, Canada
There are only a few places on the planet that can make ice wine. On frigid nights in January, the wine estates in the Niagara region in Canada monitor their grapes. Once the temperature has dropped to -8ºC and the grapes are perfectly frozen on the vine, they are hand-picked and immediately pressed. Only a single drop is squeezed out of each frozen grape, creating a miraculous wine that tastes like liquid sugar. Even though you can buy a bottle all year round, the Icewine Festival allows you to sample the pricey drink plentifully, try Icewine-inspired culinary creations and witness the rather special frozen vines yourself.
Runeberg cake in Finland
Taller than your average cupcake and drizzled with rum syrup, the Finnish have a lot of pride for their Runeberg cake on 5 February. Homes and bakeries are filled with these little round cakes for one day to celebrate the birth date of their beloved national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg, who is said to have had taken a special liking to them.
Daoyu fish in Beijing
The only time to visit Beijing is in the Spring when the capital's eateries are awash with the tastiest seafood fresh from the Yangtze River. Daoyu is one of the area's greatest specialities and should only be eaten two weeks before the Qingming Festival (5 April 2014), when the fish is particularly tender and the bones are soft. Due to its scarcity the price of this thin long fish can infamously rack up to 1,000 Yuan (£105) for a 20 cm specimen. But thankfully you can still get a taste for it by trying more reasonably priced Daoyu noodles and wontons. The most well-known Daoyu destination is Noblehouse Restaurant in Shanghai. Just don't forget to book in advance.
Wild food in Hokitika, West Coast New Zealand
Every second Saturday of March the town of Hokitika lets you try some of its wild foods and drinks. The Wildfoods Festival started with a local woman, Claire Bryant, instigating the very first celebration of local food by sharing her home brew of West Coast gorse flower wine. Today's specialities included Seagull eggs, huhu beetle grubs and mountain oysters. Tickets go on sale in December.
Ramps in New York City
There's a green vegetable that makes New Yorkers go crazy once a year, like clockwork. They wait for them like tech fans wait in line for the latest gadget. They're known as ramps, a type of wild leek with an onion-garlic flavour. Not only is its harvesting season very short – we're talking mere weeks – it's a lucrative market where ramps make it to the top of menus in top restaurants. You can also try your luck at getting your hands on a ramp dish from South Carolina to Quebec. Get all the latest ramp sighting news and restaurant menu updates online.
Fiddleheads in Northeastern America
On the same gourmet vegetable level as ramps, Fiddleheads are foraged for a short window of time in the Great Lakes states in Northeastern America and Canada. Each spring when the snow melts, the ferns push their way up through the forest floor, slowly uncurling. In that exact moment, before they uncurl, they are harvested. With a taste that is reminiscent of green bean, asparagus, young spinach and even mushroom, they have a cult following of their own. Search Opentable.com to find restaurants that serve Fiddleheads.
White Asparagus in Germany
The Germans call it many things: the royal vegetable, edible ivory, white gold and even vegetable of the kings. During Spargelsaison or Spargelzeit (German for asparagus season which runs from April to 24 June), scores of people queue at open air markets and restaurants for the seasonal vegetable. Unlike their green counterparts, they are tender and sweet.
Bluff oysters in New Zealand
Bluff oysters are said to be the most flavoursome in the world because they are slowly grown in the cold, clean waters of Foveaux Strait until they are large, plump and juicy. This is when Bluff, the southern-most point of New Zealand holds a special festival to celebrate the seasonal harvest.
Yubari King melon in Hokkaido, Japan
The Japanese city of Hokkaido has become famous for its sweet Yubari King melons, a type of cantaloupe. The melons must be grown in Yubari to bear that name, and the small town produces only a limited number of these cult items every year. They are often sold in perfectly matched pairs and are highly regarded as we would fine wine or a designer handbag. The choicest melon pairs have been auctioned in Japan for as much as $26,000, but a standard Yubari melon costs between $50 and $100 in Japanese department stores.
Lobster in Maine
In Maine, lobsters are on license plates, you can buy lobsters at gas stations and lobster prices are reported on like stocks and shares. Even their basketball team's mascot is a crustacean. Maine lives and breathes lobster and there is no better time to visit and try their local produce than in the summer months when the shells are soft and there is more meat. The end of July also marks the start of the Maine Lobster Festival.
Hatch Chile in Hatch Valley, New Mexico
Hatch in New Mexico is known as the chili capital of the world so if you're planning to be in the area, it's one worth visiting. The Hatch Chile Festival (from August 31 to Sept 1) celebrates the chili season, attracting over 30,000 visitors from all over the United States for its famed seasonal recipes and tastings. We hear the smell of roasting chilli is incredible. If you can't get yourself to New Mexico, Texas hosts its very own version of the festival by importing the freshest harvest from a farmer in Hatch.
Whitebait Fritters in New Zealand
Whitebait is a small fish with a very large reputation amongst Kiwis. As one of the country's most prized delicacies, it's notoriously difficult to catch and since the season is limited (mid-August until late November) there's intense competition for the best fishing spots. The most popular way to eat waitbait is in a fritter; a dish that will crop up on most menus across the country.
Mussels in Belgium
Belgium's national dish is only in season from September to February. Eat them the traditional way in a large steaming pot of broth with a side of frites and homemade mayonnaise. The best place to try them is Chez Léon, a restaurant that's been running since 1893 and supposedly serves half a tonne of mussels every day.
Hairy crab in Shanghai
In autumn, Shanghai is somewhat taken over by the buzz of the hairy crab. Everyone is talking about it and there's no shortage of this delicacy from the Yangcheng Lake, between September when the female crabs are harvested and October when the male crabs are. They are served in every way you can imagine, from whole, to chopped and stir-fried, to steamed in Shanghai's most famous dumplings. The thrill is in finding your favourite way to eat them.
Galway Oysters in Ireland
In the 19th Century, there was such an abundance of oysters in Ireland that they were a source of free food during the Great Irish Famine. Now the native seafood, which is conisdered to be one of the best oysters in the world, can mostly be found in the city of Galway. Every September, Ireland celebrates the new season with the Galway International Oyster Festival, the world's oldest oyster festival. It's the place to gleefully down oyster after oyster...
Chestnuts in Tuscia area, Italy
If you're planning a trip to Italy in Autumn, you can not miss out on chestnuts. While they are distributed across Italy, the finest come from the Tuscia area, which hold chestnuts festivals for the duration of its season, where visitors can taste an abundance of chestnut recipes.
White Truffle in Italy
There's probably not a chef who doesn't like white truffle. The mushrooms are the stuff of gastronomic dreams and are only available from October to December, almost exclusively from regions in Italy. They must be foraged by special pigs and are sold at The Alba International White Truffle Fair. This year's festival runs from 12 October to 17 November.
Eggnog in America
If you're lucky enough to be in America around Christmas do one thing - find the closest supermarket, walk to the chilled aisle and find a carton of eggnog. The thick, creamy, sweet drink has become an endearing American tradition we wish would pick up in the UK. Once January comes around the festive drinks are cleared off shelves until the next Christmas season.