At the request of my smart, beautiful, talented sister-in-law, Candy (follow her blog at candysbrain.com and see for yourself), I am providing a couple of ideas on where and how to buy fresh produce. Note that not all of these options are year round in some places so make sure to read the details at all sites/markets.
Option 1 – Find a Farm Co-op near you:
This option is a great way to explore what is in season and what fruits and vegetables grow around where you live. In most situations you pay upfront for a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly box of fruits and/or vegetables from a local grower. Some farms will let you pay per box but this is harder for the farmer as they need the money upfront to pay for the seeding and growing of the plants. Depending on where you live you may be able to buy a full year. I know by me (Midwest region) you can only get three seasons at the most, but it is sooooo worth it! This can be a pricy option upfront but compare what you normally pay for produce in the same time line and you will see that it may be very comparable. If you feel that this might be an option for you I highly recommend http://www.localharvest.org/ to help find an organic farm near year. I have to warn you that most of the time you do not get to choose what’s in the box, it is whatever is ready to be picked at that time and you may not recognize everything in the box. If it is an unusual vegetable or fruit most farmers will provide a description of that item as well as how to eat/use it.
Option 2 – Supermarkets
Every supermarket has the potential to have great produce, you just have to be willing to take the time to find it. As a rule of thumb buy what is in season. For one it will be less expensive and two you will be more likely to find better quality items. If you need help knowing what is in season the Eat Local app (as I mentioned before in Eat the Rainbow) is a great way to find what is in or you can go to http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/what-fruits-and-vegetables-are-in-season and search by season before trekking out, they even provide some great recipes to try! Also, make sure to check your produce before putting it in your cart as well. I’ve listed below some guidelines on how to pick ready to eat fruit and vegetables.
Every region has a different set of grocery stores so I don’t think I can accurately suggest the best store to buy from but if you have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods near you these are your best options. Not to say there are not other great stores, I just know these two to have a great variety and provide great organic produce.
Option 3 – Online
There are probably more options online than I can even begin to think of but I know only know of a couple and I personally have only tried one, PeaPod. I am a big fan of PeaPod, especially in the summer and fall when they offer a box of locally grown vegetables that I can order along with everything else that I need from the grocer. They also offer a year round “what’s in season” fruit box where they pick 8-10 in season fruits for you. It’s fun not knowing what you are going to get and finding new recipes or trying something you’ve never had before. I have had a couple of family members be disappointed in PeaPod’s produce but it has never let me down (yet)! Another option is again http://www.localharvest.org/. They have an option to search for an online store for items that you may be looking for!
Whatever option you decide is best for you here are a couple of tips for picking the best produce.
1. The following should always be organic: potatoes, apples, pears, nectarines/peaches, any berry (i.e. strawberries, blueberries, etc), spinach, celery, and bell peppers. Anything that has a skin that is removed before eating is not as much of a concern of containing high amounts of pesticides as the above.
2. Look for non-blemished, bright colored fruits/vegetables. Not all fruits/vegetables should be squeezed. Most ripe fruits will smell like that fruit (I know this sounds funny but an unripe peach will not smell like a peach, check it out the next time you go to the store). Melons should be heavy for their size; cantaloupe, mangoes and avocado should have a little give when you push into them; and most vegetables your eyes and nose are the best way to know if they are ready to be used.
3. Don’t panic if you realize when you get home that you didn’t see the blemish on that apple or two of the strawberries are mushy. You can still eat that apple (do not throw it out because of one bruise) just cut that section off. Those strawberries can still be eaten, just throw out the ones that are over ripe to prevent them from ruining the rest of the batch. Use your best judgement, though, if it smells rotten or you see mold toss it!
If there is something here that I did not cover and you would like information about or more information about any of the above please ask! I love inquiries and comments!