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Season’s eatings in your neighborhood

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Now is a great time of year to enjoy fresh produce in Illinois. Local farm stands and markets are overflowing with tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, etc. Soon the apples, pumpkins, and squash will be out as well.

There are many reasons to enjoy locally grown produce while it is in season. For one, fresh fruits and vegetables taste best at their peak. When you choose locally grown fruits and vegetables, they have been picked when ripe and ready to eat and have not spent days or weeks crossing the country in a truck. They also tend to be less expensive because the supply is greater and there are no shipping costs attached. 

When you shop at the farm stand or farmers market in your town, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting a locally owned business and that your money stays right here in the community. Sometimes you even get a chance to speak directly to the person who planted, cared for, and harvested the vegetables you are buying. Some of the grocery stores in our area buy produce from local growers as well, so don’t be afraid to ask your produce manager where the products came from if they don’t already have it posted.

A farm stand or farmers market can have a greater variety of produce. Heirloom varieties of tomatoes are just one example although I have also bought things like lemon cucumbers, purple string beans, and baby squash. Go with an open mind and don’t be afraid to try something different.  

By consuming local seasonal foods you will become part of a growing trend in the food industry. The farm to table movement in the restaurant world focuses on using fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients as much as possible. Some restaurants even grow their own produce and raise their own animals. The term “locavore” refers to people who eat only products grown or produced within a few miles of where they live. For an entertaining look at what it might be like to eat like a locavore, I would recommend reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”.

Illinois has a shorter growing season than many states, so it might be difficult to practice this particular lifestyle year round, but you can still enjoy fresh, local produce for several months each year.

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