Have you ever taken a bite out of a strawberry in the middle of winter? Were you disappointed hoping for that burst of juicy flavor you get from strawberries during the summer? Ever wonder why they look so mouthwatering but don’t taste like the strawberries that you are hoping for?
Although many fruits and vegetables are now available in our grocery stores year round, there is nothing quite like taking a bite out of a piece of fruit that was just picked. The reason these fresh picked fruits taste so delicious is because they have not had to travel long distances, preserved in cold storage, to make it to your mouth. They may have been picked only a few hours before. They are also chock full of nutrition because they are picked at peak ripeness.
When a fruit or vegetable is picked to be sent overseas or across the country, it is often picked before it is ripe. This is because it has a long way to travel and maybe have to last a few weeks or months before making it to your plate. As the fruit ripens, in order to slow the “breathing” or ripening process, it may be placed in cold storage. The longer it is in cold storage the less taste it will have.
How does this affect the nutritional quality of the fruits and vegetables you eat? Evidence suggests that the longer your fruit or vegetable is in storage, the fewer nutrients, such as antioxidants, it will have when you eat it. That is why it is best to buy produce in season to get the most bang for your buck! You will get great taste along with more of the nutritional benefits.
Now that spring is finally here, it is the perfect time to take advantage of all the benefits of locally grown, fresh produce. There are several ways to start. Try going to your local farmer’s market, a local farm by your house, or take part in your local community supported agriculture (CSA). For information on where to find local farms or farmer’s markets click here and type in your zip code. Happy produce hunting!
Written by Inmay MacNeil, MS, RD, LDN