“You are what you eat.” If the fruits and vegetables you eat were grown with chemicals, you are consuming those chemicals when eating that produce. When it comes to making sure I feed the BEST fruits and vegetables to those I love, I think of it as investing in my health and enjoyment of food, rather than spending money on food.
Besides organic vs. conventional, how far has your produce traveled? A local conventionally grown apple still may have more flavor and nutrition than a piece of fruit that has traveled several miles to reach the grocery store.
Flavor is at its peak when the RIPE fruit or vegetable is fresh-picked. This is true for both organic and conventionally grown produce. Once picked, the sugars and starches change chemically, so a fresh-picked snap pea or ear of corn will taste sweet, but if it is eaten days later, it will taste starchy.
Produce sold as “fresh” in many supermarkets is picked before it ripens; this impacts the flavor and the nutritional value, even if the fruit or vegetable looks physically appealing.
If you work a full-time job, your only option might be to purchase commercially grown food from a supermarket. But if you have time, locally-grown produce will give you the best flavor and nutritional value.
Most of what you pay for at the supermarket is transportation costs, store expenses and packaging associated with the produce you buy. If your only option is frozen, canned or dried produce, find out how the company harvests, prepares and preserves the foods they sell.
I’m a big fan of consumer supported agriculture farms, or CSAs, where you pay the farmer in advance for a share of the harvest. You pay more if you do not work on the farm, less if you do work. The difference in my food bill this past year was over $300 a month SAVED since June.
I worked 3 hours a week, April through Thanksgiving. It is now mid-January and I still have produce from the farm in cold storage. My 5-cubic-foot freezer is filled with cultivated and wild fruits and vegetables that I helped grow, harvest and preserve.
Most species of vegetable and fruit produces abundantly for a few weeks during the growing season, yielding more than anyone can eat fresh-picked. Most produce can be preserved by freezing, canning or dehydrating. Regardless of the method you choose, the sooner you preserve after picking, the more flavorful the produce will be.
Yes, it’s time consuming. One way to determine if this is for you is to figure out how much time you spend driving to the store, shopping, driving home and making meals.
My CSA is an organic, biodynamic farm; I was also raised on a farm. Songwriter Cheryl Wheeler wrote, “There’s two things money can’t buy true love and home-grown tomatoes.” She’s right. I will not eat raw tomatoes, except in season.
I just finished a delightful meal made with tomatoes I froze last summer. Clearly, I have to sacrifice the sun-warmed feel and texture of fresh tomatoes, but the fresh-picked flavor was there – blended with the purple basil, garlic, peppers and onions I picked and cooked on the same August day.
Whether you choose organically or conventionally grown produce depends on your priorities. Fresh-picked provides the best flavor, with fresh-frozen a close second. Organically grown vegetables have better nutritional value because they are not grown using chemicals and pesticides. If you have the option to purchase locally grown organic food, you’re investing in your community’s economic health as well as the health of your family.