Local Produce vs. Store Bought: Is One Really Better than the Other?

Have you ever given much thought to the produce you purchase? Does it come from the grocery store or do you shop at a local fruit stand or farmer’s market? We all know how healthy fruits and veggies are for us, but is there really a difference between local produce vs. store bought? What you may not know is that you could be missing out on vital nutrients.

strawberries

What is the difference between local and store bought produce?

Notice I didn’t say the benefits of ‘organic’ produce vs. store-bought as many stores are now beginning to carry organic fruits and vegetables as well. To clarify, locally-grown and farm fresh produce doesn’t necessarily mean organic. In fact, there is much hype over organic farming vs. conventional. There really isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove or disprove that organic is more nutritious than non organic foods. Basically, organic just means that farmers use different methods of farming and cultivating their crops.

According to a recent study about healthy and sustainable food, it was found that various factors can contribute to the nutritional quality of local produce vs. store bought:

  • Growing methods
  • Variety chosen
  • Ripeness when picked
  • Processing
  • Transporting

With fruits and vegetables that are picked for selling in retail stores, the produce is selected accordingly to how well it can hold up during shipping and it gets picked before it is fully ripened. Produce sold locally whether at a fruit stand, farmer’s market, or even out of someone’s back yard, is usually picked close to the peak of ripeness. Foods that are allowed to reach ripeness prior to picking contain a higher nutrient content than those that are picked early for retail distribution. In addition, the selection isn’t based on how well it transports.

Our local grocery store doesn’t even carry some fruits and vegetables that I would like to buy such as sweet potatoes or pineapple. I never asked why but I figure it has something to do with having it transported from where they get it from especially since they carry yams instead of sweet potatoes since those are available locally. I prefer sweet potatoes over yams (yes there is a difference; in fact, they aren’t even botanically related.)

Environmental Impact of Local and Store-Bought Produce

If your concern is which option is better for the environment, it’s pretty obvious that locally produced fruits and vegetables are more sustainable for several reasons. The ideal choice for ultimate sustainability is buying local produce that is grown within 100 miles from where it is sold and consumed.

If I were to go further into detail on sustainable produce, organic varieties favor environmental preservation even more-so by means of natural fertilization and minimal processing. An even better option in terms of local produce vs. store bought is to grow your own. You know for a fact how they are tended to, what is used for fertilization and protecting against parasites, and is much more economical.

Green Tips For Growing Your Own Produce

cantaloupeGrowing your own produce takes patience and some are easier to harvest than others, especially depending on the region you live in. I have tried growing some of my own varieties as well as my father-in-law who has a splendid garden that he graciously provides us from some of his plants. Here are a few tips for growing your own fruits and vegetables.

1.)   Before purchasing fruit and vegetable plants or seeds you should find out what zone you live in and which types of produce is more favorable for your area.
2.)   Learn what times are best for planting and growing your plants. Certain produce are best harvested during certain seasons.
3.)   If growing in the ground, prepare your soil prior to planting. Some plants must be planted in soil of a certain pH level in order to thrive.
4.)   Determine where to plant or place containers of your plants based on their sunlight requirement as some need full sun while others need partial.
5.)   Choose varieties that are easy to grow at first, such as these listed below, to avoid frustration and then you can branch out further once you become comfortable with gardening.

Vegetables
• Carrots
• Cucumbers
• Tomatoes
• Bell peppers
• Summer Squash
Fruits
• Apples
• Strawberries
• Melons (watermelon and cantaloupe)
• Citrus trees
• Figs

 

Growing your own fruits and vegetables is not ideal for everyone. Perhaps it’s not an option where you live or you simply don’t have a green thumb. Also, not everyone has access to a local fruit stand or farmer’s market. Regardless of where you get your produce from, fresh fruits and vegetables are still a healthier option over the canned varieties and processed foods. As the old adage goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away!

Reference:

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=FOOD_NUTRITION&navtype=SU&edeployment_action=changenav 

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