If you’re not eating locally grown produce, you’re missing a tasty gourmet secret. Vine-ripened, just-picked produce is more flavorful, nutritious, and economical than imported vegetables and artificially ripened fruits (even organic). Here’s why:
1. Most supermarket produce (organic or conventional) travels 1,500 miles from farm to table. During that trek it can lose 50 percent of its carotene and 60 percent of its vitamin C within three days of harvest.
2. Mass-market produce may be grown with high-nitrogen fertilizers to accelerate growth, so fruits and vegetables reach marketable size before they reach full nutritional quality.
3. Large-scale farms (organic or conventional) tend to grow produce selected for productivity, appearance, and shipping durability —not flavor or nutritional value. In contrast, small local growers often sell heirloom varieties too fragile to survive mass transit.
4. When you purchase directly from a farmer, you usually pay less—even for organic—because you don’t have to pay a middleman for refrigeration, handling, or transport.
Fortunately, farmer’s markets and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) projects are springing up all over the nation. Find them at www.FoodRoutes.com or AMS.USDA.gov/farmersmarkets/map.htm.
Adapted from The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook (Planetary Press, 2004) by Rachel Albert-Matesz, a Phoenix-based healthy cooking teacher/coach and personal chef.