Today, it is likely that you can get all types of produce, all year long. In a sense we have been spoiled. When you want blueberries in February...no problem...somewhere in the world, they are growing blueberries and they can be shipped to your local grocery. Although we like this convenience, there are many reasons to stick with locally grown, in-season produce. Here's why:
- Taste: The fresher the produce, the better it will taste. If a fruit or vegetable isn't in season, it is shipped from across the country, or even worse, across the world. To do so, farmers harvest their crops early and refrigerate them so that they don't go bad during shipping. As a result, they aren't ripe when picked and don't always ripen to their full flavor as they would in their natural growing environment. During chilling and shipping, produce loses freshness and flavor with each step of the process: when chilled, when transported and when held in warehouses prior to distribution.
- Nutrition: Vanishing flavor from fruits and vegetables also means vanishing nutrition. As mentioned, when farmers ship to far off areas, they harvest early. In doing so, the fruit or vegetable doesn't have as many nutrients as it would have if it was picked when it was fully grown and fully ripe. Further, because of the transportation process, produce is irradiated to kill germs and layered with preservatives, such as wax on cucumbers.
- Variety: Eating produce that is in-season means that you eat a wide variety of foods throughout the year.
- Cost: Buying locally grown, in-season produce means that the cost for that produce is lower. Why? Because in season produce is abundant, making supply high.
- Environment: Eating locally grown, in-season produce means that you are supporting the health of the environment. Shipping from great distances requires using tons of resources and expelling tons of pollution.
A great resource for finding in-season produce, local to your area is the Seasonal Ingredient Map at Epicurious.com.
Do you buy local, in-season produce? Do you grow your own veggies or fruit? Can you taste the difference in quality and taste?