“Seasonal” and “Local” For Best Tasting Veggies/ Fruits

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Berries, Ripe for the Picking

Over the holiday weekend, we visited my husband’s family farm in Pennsylvania, and came home with a bounty of goodies: hand-picked strawberries, fresh cut asparagus and loads of stalks of fresh rhubarb. By the end of the day, my kids were a mess of sampled strawberries, mud and dirt as they enjoyed every moment of the harvesting. The only thing they liked better was tasting those strawberries again on their morning cereal, the asparagus off the grill, and cooked rhubarb over ice cream.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, “fresh” and “local” and “better tasting” go hand-in-hand. So if you want your kids to grow up loving fruits and vegetables, there is a lot to be said for keeping them emphasis on seasonality, and serving them products that are from your local area. Take a trip to the farmer’s market and you’ll see what I mean.

As I discuss in the book My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything, “the tastiness of foods that we often eat raw (like fruits and vegetables) comes from the freshness, where it was grown. (This is opposed to how it is grown, like organic versus conventionally.) The closer you are to the source of production, the less distance the fruit or veggie has to travel to get to your table, the better it will taste.”

This is especially true of the season’s first produce, like asparagus and strawberries. These foods are too delicate to travel well and, once picked, they start to decompose at a very rapid rate. Think about this: Strawberries that are grown and picked in California have to travel thousands of miles to reach a grocery store in, say, New Jersey. Even in the best-case scenario, it will take several days to get them from the field to the processing plant to the truck to the warehouse to the grocery store to your table. That’s too long for a strawberry to exist in top form. So the berries that are grown and sold for mass distribution across the country have to be picked before they are ripe and ready, which further halts the flavor development.

If you want your kids to grow up loving the taste of vegetables (and fruits, too, although those are usually less of a hard sell), remember the words “seasonal” and “local,” and try to serve the freshest, best-tasting produce possible. This isn’t as hard to do as you might think, and it’s actually sort of fun once you really get into it. Part of the reason we’re going so crazy over strawberries, asparagus and rhubarb now is that we know that once they’re gone, we won’t be eating them for another year.

But of course, they will be replaced by blueberries and then peaches, apples and root vegetables, which gives us something to look forward to!

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