Organic food has become popular, these days, and nutritionists have been hugely successful in getting the word out about the dangers of chemicals in our food supply, and the importance of buying local. News reports about the potential dangers of pesticides and GMO’s, or plants or animals whose DNA has been altered, have increased awareness about food safety, and furthered the cause.
However, it’s difficult to determine when walking through the produce aisle what is actually in season, which items are organic, and if spending the extra money on certain organics are really worth it.
Danvers Patch has asked local nutrition experts Augusta Barstow and Lori Johnson of in Danvers to give us their tips.
Ask The Expert: What’s local and in season, and where can folks find fresh, local produce?
- Buy Produce that is in Season. Fall is the peak time for broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Broccoli thrives in the cool weather and is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid. Fall is also a good time to enjoy many New England fruits such as grapes, pears, and apples.
- Avoid Pesticides. The MOST heavily pesticided produce is apples. ALWAYS buy organic apples. Also high on the list for fall produce: celery, spinach, grapes, sweet bell peppers, lettuce, kale and collard greens. The LEAST pesticided produce is onions. You can buy these conventional! Also low on the list for fall produce: sweet corn, asparagus, eggplant, cabbage, sweet potatoes and mushrooms.
- Check the labels. When you pick up produce at the supermarket, look at the tiny sticker tag attached (plu code). Stickers hold information that is valuable, not just the brand name. First look at WHERE the produce originated – and if possible, choose local or grown in the USA. Next, look at the PLU code. If the are 4 digits beginning with a 3 or 4, the produce you are holding is conventionally grown, not organic. Meaning it was treated with pesticides and weed killers. If instead you see 5 digits on the produce, beginnin gwith the #‘9, this produce was grown organically. Does it begin with a #8? If so, then it has been altered genetically – or GM (genetically modified), which means that the genes were maneuvered to produce a better color or size, and likely was treated chemically.
- Choose frozen organic when in doubt If you are unable to find local or organic, purchase frozen organic or frozen local as the process does lock in the nutrients. Many local stores and farms will sell their organically grown produce frozen. Organic means not only having your food free from harmful and synthetic chemicals, but also farmers consider conservation as well as the health of the soil, water and feed and make efficient use of renewable resources.
- Buy Local as most local farms do not need to use dangerous chemicals that would be required if shipping produce overseas.
Local Spots for Fresh Produce
- (pick your own apples and pumpkins through October)
- – pumpkins, squash, apples, hardy winter squash, fall decorations such as cornstalks
- – Certified Organic fruits and vegetables available for sale and pre-order. Grass-Fed, Biodynamic Yogurts available for resale.
- - fresh produce as well as prepared foods. Organics limited, but many local varieties stocked daily.
- – farmstand selling pumpkins and gourds as well as locally grown and currently in-season – tomato (late season hardy mix), corn, squash, cucumber, cauliflower, carrots, parsnip, cabbage, zucchini, summer squash, romaine lettuce and peppers.
Visit http://www.localharvest.org/ for the best organic, local to you. Plug in your zip code for farmstands, markets and farmers markets.