There is no question – fresh, locally grown produce is more nutrient rich and tastes better than most fruits and vegetables found at your local grocery store.
This is simply due to the number of days it takes for the produce to make it from the vine to your grocery basket. For example, in some cases, a 5 to 10 day lag between production and consumption can cause a 50 percent decrease in an item’s nutritional value, such as a deterioration in its antioxidant, vitamin and mineral content. Moreover, when produce is given time to ripen-on the plant-its nutrient value is maximized. But, in the case of supermarket-destined produce, the fruit or vegetable is likely harvested prior to reaching full maturity or ripeness. Therefore, not only is the fruit or vegetable starting out nutritionally disadvantaged, it is ending up even more inferior due to nutrient loses as it travels to the grocer. Produce processing, packing, transportation, and storage all serve as outlets for nutritional losses. And pre-cut, sliced, or chopped items are even at a further disadvantage because they are left without intact skins for protection and prevention of nutrient losses, increasing their susceptibility to spoilage and preventing maximum nutrient retention.
Is there a difference in the nutrients in garden fresh produce?
Simply put, freshly harvested produce is better for you nutrient wise, plus it tastes better! And when something tastes better, people are more likely to eat it. This is a good thing for low calorie, nutrient heavy, and fiber filled fruits and vegetables, since eating more fruits and vegetables, in combination with a healthy diet, lowers the risk of many chronic diseases, including stroke, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
How can you start growing your own?
Now that you’ve heard about the benefits of freshly harvested produce, you may want to start growing your own. You may not be able to grow every fruit and vegetable in your own backyard, but consider starting a small gardening plot and plant some of your favorite veggies. Vegetables are easier to grow than most fruits. If you are a novice gardener, start with your favorite vegetable! And soon you will find that your kids will “want in” on the growing process, which will not only create some family time, but will also provide them with Vitamin D-fulfilling sun exposure, and fun exercise. And it will make your kids more eager to be loading the veggies on their plates. You simply cannot go wrong!
Simple steps to start an herb garden.
But, if right now is not the best time to start a fruit and vegetable garden, start small with an herb garden! Fresh herbs taste delicious, offer an alternative to salt, and will get you and your family in the gardening mind frame. Three great herbs to start with are rosemary, basil, and thyme. And they each have many health benefits!
- stimulates the immune system, increases circulation, and contains anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Add to frittatas, use to season lamb or chicken, or purée fresh rosemary leaves with olive oil and use as a dipping sauce for whole grain bread.
- helps protects our cells and bodies’ from environmental damage (e.g. free radicals) and disease with the help of flavonoids and has anti-inflammatory effects.
- Add to veggie-based pizzas, tomato soup, or healthy stir-fries.
- contains antimicrobial properties and provides antioxidants to help strengthen the body’s defenses.
- Add thyme to bean dishes, season soups and stocks with fresh thyme, and add to scrambled eggs or frittatas.
Discover how to start your own family garden.