Spring Produce is Here!Published 6:39pm Saturday, April 12, 2014
Now that the spring season is here, we can take advantage of its benefits like warm weather, blooming flowers and homegrown fresh produce! Produce is a word used when discussing fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and products that are grown and sold at a market. The spring season is also longed-for because our farmers’ markets open up for the season!
A farmers’ market is a public gathering of farmers who sell their produce directly from their soil to the consumer (us). Farmers’ markets are growing in popularity due to the price of their products, the nutrient quality of their products and the overall experience of visiting the market. Local farmers set their own prices for their produce, which not only allows them to bring home a profit, but allows the consumer to buy produce at a cheaper price than at grocery stores.
I visited my local famers’ market this past weekend and was able to purchase double the quantity of beets for the same price as the grocery store. Local produce has also been viewed as “better” due to the availability of nutrients that the consumer can receive when eating it.
Local produce is normally sold soon after it is harvested which can mean the amount of nutrients present in the product is at its peak. Because grocery store produce is harvested weeks prior to purchase and it has to travel many miles before it reaches your table it may have lost many nutrients. However, proper storage of produce at grocery stores can prevent this breakdown of nutrients from occurring and grocery stores attempt to provide the consumers with produce in the quickest delivery method possible to provide us with the best quality produce.
Lastly, shopping at a farmers’ market is a unique experience. Walking up to a table full of produce and having the opportunity to speak to the farmer who grew the produce is a great way to not only get to know your fellow community members but to also learn about how your food was grown. I recently took a tour of Snow Hill’s Nooherooka (a local meat farm) and learned a great amount about how my meat was processed and handled.
Why should we purchase produce in the first place? The “2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans” is the nation’s “manual” on how to eat for better health. It stresses the importance of consuming a more “plant–based diet” for many health reasons. Plant foods are naturally low in calories, which can be consumed without a worry for weight gain (unless they are cooked in fat). Plant foods also contain fiber which is helpful in relieving constipation, providing a feeling of ‘fullness’ after a meal and helpful in lowering cholesterol which can decrease our risk for heart disease. Plant foods contain ‘antioxidants’ which are compounds that play a role in preventing heart disease and cancer. Along with antioxidants, plant foods contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. Each color of the produce displayed in the grocery store or on a table at a farmer’s market represents specific vitamins and minerals that are provided to us when we eat these foods.
If we were to eat more “colors of produce” each day, we may not need to take a multivitamin! One statement written by nutrition author, Michael Pollan, simplifies the nutrition recommendations for Americans with “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Here is some of the local produce available for April and May:
Sugar snap peas
Here are some of our local farmers’ markets:
Leggett Farm Organics – 1520 Leggett Road, Washington – 252-917-2396
Petals & Produce – 1101 John Small Ave., Washington – 252-940-0012
Farmer’s Market on the Waterfront – April through October, Every Saturday from 8 a.m. – Noon. For more information: 252-946-3969
Southside Farms – 320 Harding Lane, Chocowinity – 252-946-7092
Ashley Corbett, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian with Vidant Wellness Center and Vidant Beaufort Hospital.