We all know that eating more vegetables and less junk is better for us. We all know that choosing an apple over potato chips is better for us. The dilemma is when we face the question of which apple. Can one apple be better for us than another? The answer is yes. Local produce has more nutrients than store bought produce. Nutrients in food depends on several factors and it begins from the time the seed is chosen. Let’s take a closer look at just 2 of these factors:
- Variety: Most varieties of fruits and vegetables found in supermarkets today were chosen first and foremost for yield (how many pounds, pecks, bushels, etc. are harvested per acre), growth rate, and ability to withstand long-distance transport. Unfortunately, these traits which benefit national and international produce distribution often come at a cost: nutritional quality. (From study at Harvard)
- Ripeness: Most produce harvested for commercial consumption is picked weeks before reaching ripeness. For example, a red tomato will be picked while still green so that is doesn’t have the chance to go bad before hitting the supermarket, or while it sits on the shelves. While it does ripen off the vine, the amount of nutrients such as Vitamin C are drastically lower than those allowed to ripen on the vine. According to Penn State food scientists, by eight days after being harvested, spinach for example has lost about half of its nutrient content. (reference)
Choosing to buy your food from a local Farmers’ Market has several advantages when looking at nutrients. Farmers growing for a local market are able to choose seeds for taste, nutrition and diversity over shipability. By creating greater crop diversity , the consumers gets greater nutritional diversity. By buying local we can be sure that produce is sold within 24 hours after harvest, at its peak freshness and ripeness. And finally, by minimizing transportation and processing the produce is likely handled by fewer people, decreasing potential for damage, and typically not harvested with industrial machinery to ensure freshness and flavor, and nutrient retention. An apple therefore is not just an apple. Buy local- buy seasonal- buy nutritious.