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Seasonal Produce

May 22, 2013

Something happened about fifty years ago that was amazing.  At first it was a bit costly, but over a couple of decades, as more and more consumers wanted it, the price came down.  In fact, very few of us may remember the difference in the way things used to be and because of that lack of memory, people think it always was the way it is now. But this is a pretty new thing in the scheme of eating…..

I’m talking about having produce available the entire year.

With a wide spread rail system crossing the United States by the end of the 1800s, some produce from Florida and southern California made it to eastern markets, but it really wasn’t until air travel became more common in the late 1950s and early 1960s that green grocers and then the new supermarkets started stocking fruits and vegetables out of season. Air travel was fast, getting the produce to the densely populated parts of the nation quickly and with little spoilage. Soon we became used to eating produce from other countries.

In reality, the United States is not the only nation that imports most of its fruits and vegetables. The European Union and Asia does as well. Basically, any area with more income receives produce from the less wealthy areas of the Southern Hemisphere who are eager to sell us what they easily grow in their warmer climates.  The United States also exports a lot of the produce it grows.

International trade in fruits and vegetables has expanded more rapidly than
trade in other agricultural commodities, especially since the 1980s.

If you’d like to read more, this report issued by the USDA is interesting.

Today we typically don’t even think about where the bell peppers come from when we purchase them at the supermarket, or the grapes, or the apples. While the major grocery store chains are making efforts to source more of the produce “locally” much of what is available in our area is from outside the U.S. even when we are in the middle of our growing season.

If you want to eat fresh produce that was harvested when ripe and hours before you eat it, you have to shop at a farmers’ market. Not only will you enjoy the flavor more, but you probably will pay less AND the farmer will be paid more.

veg in season

Check this out….and enjoy local food!!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2013 9:33 pm

    Excellent post. We need to have a better understand of what the hidden costs are of shipping food such vast distances.

    • May 24, 2013 1:16 am

      1. Produce picked 100s and 1000s of miles away are picked a bit green and so have not developed full flavor. You know how green bananas are when they arrive in the store? and you know the taste of a banana is different when brown spots appear? That is when it is ripe. Every piece of produce you eat that is grown far away you are used to eating without full flavor.
      2. Many people do not think nor really care about the environmental cost of the longer transportation, but if you don’t want to think of it in terms of pollution, you might consider that it costs more to drive further so the costs of the same piece of fruit or vegetable that is grown near you is less. That makes sense, right?
      3. Fruit and vegetables picked from massive factory farms generally cost less per piece than those grown on small farms. The corporate owner of the factory farm likes having his crop purchased early, and most likely pays a low wage to his workers, many of whom are migrant here if here in the US.


      • May 24, 2013 1:28 am

        For me it’s mainly about taste and nutritional value. I think tomatoes were the first I decided weren’t worth eating when they were shipped from god-knows-where and were totally lacking in any flavor. If we paid the full cost of industrial farming… that is what’s called the ‘externalities’… such as the true cost of shipping (the pollution that’s ruining our health) and the chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides and now GMOs), we wouldn’t be able to afford factory farm produce. Instead we pay it through taxes or subsidies and through medical bills. That’s never noticed in the price for goods shipped halfway across the globe.

        I don’t eat bananas anymore because they’re not grown in this country, much less locally. I indulge in some veggies grown in California (a neighboring state) because we have very little choice in winter, but I think this is improving as more and more folks vote with their forks and dollars.

      • May 24, 2013 1:30 am

        I will be looking at the high tunnels when I get there. On the web it seems that most don;t get used through the winter and that is not the way it is here.

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