The Case Against Fresh Fruit and Veggies

I guess I’m a flip-flopper. Appropriate since people are already campaigning.

I’ve discussed my dislike of fruit cups because of added sugar and the syrup. But I might be coming around to fruit and veggie preservation. Taking on the CSA box of veggies every other week has made me more aware of the seasonality of fruits and veggies. I have been pretty oblivious to what’s in season when. Aside from getting pumpkins in the fall, I never really thought about what might be coming out of the ground at a particular time of year.

Like most of the veggies I’ve gotten from our CSA and especially the fruit I’m buying at the farmer’s market, it’s the best I’ve ever eaten. The strawberries my son and I picked the last day of the season? The best I have ever eaten. The dark and light cherries I bought at the farmer’s market? The best I have ever eaten. Just a couple weekends ago there are no more cherries at the farmer’s market. The trees are no longer bearing fruit.

I mentioned that to my husband and he said, “Well, we can buy more at the store.” Really? Because the other weekend when cherries were in season, my husband bought a bag at the grocery store. Since we were enjoying the one from the farmer’s market, we figured they would be similar. Sorry, but they got nothing on the farmer’s market cherries. Don’t know why, but it’s true.

And should we be buying fruit out of season? My son loves apples, but to get them organic and year round they have to be flown in from New Zealand. Is that the best use of my money? To be spent on airline fuel to get an apple halfway around the world just so my son can nibble on it?

What about school lunch? Is it unreasonable to demand year round fresh fruit? Probably. Is the expense of flying in oranges from Florida or California worth it? Not if they are just getting tossed in the trash because kids don’t have enough time to eat them or peel them independently.

We need to go retro. Go back to the old ways. Natural preserving and canning isn’t bad. That’s how our ancestors made it through the winter. It just has to be done using natural, pure ingredients in glass jars, plastic containers, or cans without linings that contain BPA. Let’s teach kids through their lunch experience about which foods are in season when. That’s good knowledge to have and most kids aren’t getting that at home, including me.

I went to the farmer’s market last weekend and the weekend before. Ok, I’m going every weekend we’re in town. I’ve gone more this summer than any previous summer combined. That stand that was selling cherries is now selling something else. Peaches. I reached out for a slimy sample and gave it to my son. He gobbled it down. The best we’ve ever eaten.

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39 Responses to The Case Against Fresh Fruit and Veggies

  1. Lyn @ Life Lyn Style August 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    we have 2 CSAs and love getting to know all of the inseason fruits and veggies.  we’ve also been to out to Pick your own farms over 15 times this summer so far.  I’ve frozen and canned and made jam with honey so I could control the sweetness.  I hope my kids are learning as much as I am.

    • Anonymous August 29, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

      I still haven’t been intrepid enough to learn how to can yet. But that’s so awesome that you have those skills! Next summer for me! Two CSAs? Wow!! 🙂

      • kimmaroo August 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

        Canning is ridiculously easy, Mrs. Q.  I highly recommend learning how to do it.  During winter, it’s tremendously satisfying to use food you canned yourself while local produce was in season.  It tastes better, too.

  2. Lisa August 29, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    I grew up on a farm which grows mostly grapes, but also some apples, strawberries, peaches and pears, so I had extensive knowledge of what is in season when.  I always assumed that everyone else at least knew that most fruits, other than berries, aren’t ripe until late summer or early fall.  I learned that my assumption was way off a year after college when I was asked out on a date by a really nice guy.  It was March or early April in New Jersey… and he suggested apple picking.  We had a good laugh and went to a concert instead. 

    • Anonymous August 29, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

      Seasonal knowledge is actually not something too many people possess! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. Amanda August 29, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    I think this is a great idea! My grandparents had a garden and froze/canned everything they could. I froze wild blueberries last year and ate off of them for awhile. I would think if you had a deep freezer, and REALLY wanted your year-round fruits/veggies, you could easily stock up to eat through winter. In fact, I’m getting ready to process a bushel of peaches for our freezer right now:)

  4. Kate August 29, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Mrs. Q, I don’t think you should wait until next year to learn how to can. It really is such an easy thing to do, particularly with high acid fruits that you can hot water bath. Get the Ball Blue Book from your local library and page through it. Apple Sauce is one of the easiest things to can and tastes so much better than the store. Go apple picking and cook down the apples into sauce, put into hot sterilized jars and process for the length of time the Book says. Even if you don’t have the “true” canning supplies, there are lots of ways to improvise. Use a deep stockpot for the water bath canner, and put canning rings or a steam basket in the bottom, set the filled jars on that and make sure the tops of the jars are covered with at least 2 inches of water and boil away. 

    • kimmaroo August 29, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

      Homemade applesauce–YUM!!!

      There are lots of online resources for canning, too.  The equipment and supplies aren’t expensive.  No pressure, Mrs. Q!

  5. Annie August 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    We have a huge upright freezer and it’s not large enough to freeze enough fruits and veggies for our family- and that’s with only 2 of our kids still living at home.  We use a pound of fruit daily to make smoothies and with our long Illinois winters, we can’t even put up enough strawberries/blueberries/peaches to get us through the coldest months.  
    Veggies are much the same. Freezing locally grown cut/creamed corn for the year, zipper peas, peppers, zucchini, broccoli,green beans, asparagus, and a few other veggies that freeze well….not enough space to get us through until the crops come in again. Many of those don’t can well and even those that do, we don’t enjoy canned. 
    We fill our freezer every summer but it doesn’t last through our winters. 

  6. Mrswalkup August 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    I’ve always found the nicest looking, freshest, most delicious fruit at the farmer’s market. Even the health food stores don’t really compare. We got some peaches last week and they were so sweet and juicy, not at all like the hard little things at the store. We’re trying to stocking up on fruits and veggies for the winter but the kids want to eat them all the time so I keep running out!

  7. Sara August 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    We eat in season produce from the farmers markets during summer months, and then during the off season months I buy frozen fruits and veggies from Costco. I’m not into canning yet, so this works well for us!

  8. Catherine Harris August 29, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    Unfortunately the things that have to be done to the plants, trees and soil to enable fruits and vegetables to be produced in large quantities and transported long distances significantly affects the flavor. It wasn’t until I lived abroad for three years in a small country with more of a protected agriculture market that I discovered this, unfortunately. Strawberries that tasted amazing. Bell peppers with lots of sweet flavor. And, I freaked out when I cracked open an egg to find an orange yolk, only to discover—after Googling—that they are normally that color when the chickens are allowed to forage. 

    • Uly August 29, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

      That’s not because we “do things” to the plants, or trees, or soil.

      It has to do with what variety of plant is being grown, and whether the produce is picked when ripe or prior to ripening.

  9. Alyse August 29, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Here in Eastern Kentucky, canning is just something you do. It’s not something that’s thought about. Nearly everyone has a garden and you can regularly see people filling their carts with canning jars. And it’s significantly less difficult than it’s made out to be. You can freeze too, that’s not hard, surely everyone can do that?

  10. Rebecca ~ Sweet Baby Yams August 29, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    I agree with you that produce from local sources taste much better than store bought produce. I have been thinking about subscribing to a CSA. It would be a challenge to only eat what is in season, but well worth it.

  11. Liz August 29, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    I think this is all a great idea. In theory. I would love to eat only seasonal fruits and veggies, but in our area it is cheaper to buy produce at the grocery store. Our farmer’s market is outrageously expensive (for example, I can’t afford to pay seven dollars for a pound of grapes no matter how fresh they are.) And the CSAs in our area would break the bank for us.
    I’m not going to knock it for people who can afford it. All I’m saying is that for those of us who don’t have that kind of money or live in an area where that kind of stuff is affordable, this sort of thing doesn’t necessarily help.

    • kimmaroo August 29, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

      Apples, pears, peaches, plums, and tomatoes have typically been cheaper at farm stands than they are at the supermarkets in my area for many years.  Last year, we finally started seeing the same for peppers, squash, eggplant, and green beans for the very first time.  This year (at least before Irene), nearly everything has been cheaper at the farm stands than it has been in the supermarket.  The one big exception seems to be corn.  We can buy corn picked the same day in my area and I think the demand for that keeps the price up plus the fact that at the supermarket, you can’t get corn that was picked the same day or even the same week in some instances.  
      Keep checking the farm stands in your area, Liz, because their prices may eventually go down like they have here.  The locally-grown stuff lasts longer, too, which helps me tremendously because I typically cook for only one or two people and sometimes, it’s hard to use up a big head of lettuce or a whole melon before they go bad.

  12. Abbey August 29, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    I have to agree. I do go to the supermarket usually out of convenience, and ease of getting all my shopping home in a car… but when i can get fresh fruits and veg from a local market they taste amazing! 

  13. kimmaroo August 29, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    Mrs. Q, another thought about preserving fruit….have you ever considered trying your hand at drying your own fruit?  I have not but it’s on my bucket list.  This might be less intimidating for an inexperienced cook than canning.

    Because of Irene, the farmers in my area had to pick the remainder of their peach crop (my absolute favorite) whether the fruit was ripe or not.  Apparently, if the wind is strong enough, the fruit can become projectiles.  The orchard nearest me (less than 1/2 mi.) also picked the apples (not yet mature) on the trees near their house and covered the remaining trees with netting staked to the ground.  I haven’t been out yet, so I’m not sure whether this worked.

  14. Rachel Tayse August 29, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    Dehydrating is also an easy option to preserve fruit in season. An electric dehydrator is easiest but you can use a oven on very low if you watch carefully. It is so easy to throw apple rings, dried peaches, and dried plums into lunch bags!

    • Uly August 29, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

      Heck, you can dry things out in the sun if you have nice warm weather!

  15. Meatball Jones August 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Have you looked in to a company called Aramark that provides school
    lunches? I work for the schools in our area and I’ve seen some wonderful
    changes in how school food is prepared. We DO cut fresh fruit daily and
    cup it in addition to the so called “fruit cups” that come prepared
    already. We offer pineapple, grapes, strawberries ( when in season) and bananas as well as kiwi and melons.
    We also make all of our food from scratch that is sent out to
    the Elementary schools in our area, right down to the pizza sauce. We
    offer homemade hummus and pitas daily, as well as mini salad bars (even
    in the elementary levels) as well as turkey wraps made on while grain
    wraps. I believe that at least SOMEONE out there is trying. I think
    Aramark is on the right path.

  16. Uly August 29, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    In our area we can get local apples all year round at the farmer’s market. The variety changes, but the apples are always available. Apples, like root vegetables, keep pretty well.

  17. Packers23 August 29, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    I found this book on food preserving  the beginners guide to preserving food at home janet chadwick.

    we have a big garden every year, normally we give away half of what we grow, freeze some for the winter. This year the heat was brutal on it. 

    The fresh fruit we can find hasn’t the same taste as it has been.      we don’t have a lot of farmers markets and most of them sell vegies. 

  18. Ruth August 29, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    I buy all my fresh produce at the farmer’s market in New York. In the winter I buy frozen fruit for my smoothies (it would cost more to preserve enough from the market to last me, and I wouldn’t have enough space in the freezer!). But apples I can get year round. It’s my impression that harder fruits and vegetables, like apples, store fine in the winter. They also have lettuce all year. I know lettuce prefers cool weather, but they may need to grow them in hoop houses — like a green house — but I think that still beats the cost of flying salad in from somewhere where its warm. Maybe this is part of why people eat soup in the winter — you can make it when the vegetables are ripe and then freeze it for the winter.

  19. Nessa Mar August 29, 2011 at 11:57 pm #

    This so ironic, I just read an article about how Europeans in the 1500s/1600s survived just fine without fruit for much of the year, and we are better off eating more veggies year-round.  You are right, nothing beats farmer’s market food!

    -Nessa
    TheOtherFreshman15.blogspot.com 

  20. Kat Hinson August 30, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    Thank you so much for this post! I haven’t really thought about eating in season, because I have such a hard time getting food at all. (I have Celiac’s, which makes eating on campus difficult.) Because of this post I looked up the on-campus farmer’s market we have. Hopefully this year I’ll be able to eat better, for me and the environment. 

    ~Kat

  21. Kaitake August 30, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    If you happen to come across a glut of passionfruit as I did earlier this year, just scoop each one into an ice-cube tray and freeze. No sugar added! Sweet enough to eat straight from the freezer. Difficult to only eat one though! 😛

  22. Ash August 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    I love to eat seasonally.   Peaches are local where I live right now and that is the only way I will even eat at peach.  I have been going to the Farmer’s Market for a few years now and it has really taught me what is in season when.  Now I know what to expect and what is coming up.  Although kind of sad, it is neat eat strawberries for a few weeks and then go to get them one week and they are gone.  It helps you look forward to what is coming up next.  We have enjoyed berries all summer long and now we are about in apple, pear, and grape season. 

    Winter is the hardest though because it is too cold to grow anything here; so I do buy some stuff out of season.  But I also tend to buy more frozen fruit, or stuff that never grows in the USA like bananas, or produce that is at least grown in the USA. 

  23. Stacy August 30, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    you absolutetly can find good natural frozen or canned vaggies/fruits. are they as good as fresh? not even close. I grew up on a farm and we NEVER purchased canned items. we went to the basement, and there was my mothers “pride” wall full of green beans, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, sauce, peaches, jellys, jams and my favorite, applesauce. I just wish I had resources so I can preserve veggies. My mother had a garden however that is not available to me living in the city. Someone told me you can go to local farms and purchase large amounts (bushels?) of produce to preserve. the real questions is, am I really that busy? or lazy? convenience is a big deal. Keep up the good work Mrs Q. cant wait to see how the new school year is regarding the lunches/breakfasts. Also, I was meaning to ask you. When I was in school (prek and k) each student took their turn bringing in snacks for the end of the day. What do you notice parents are sending in for snacks?

  24. Sharon August 30, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    Hey I’m with you on being reluctant to can stuff at home.  For several years I’d been thinking about trying it, but was, well, a bit scared to take it on.  But this summer, I finally took the plunge.  About a month ago, when the local peaches were plentiful and cheap, I put up 6 jars of peach jam.  Last night I raided a crab apple tree, and I’ll be making apple jelly tonight.  Canning isn’t impossible, but it is a bit of a chore, at least for a rookie.  Maybe if you grew up watching and helping your parents can, it’s not a big deal, but for the rest of us it is a bit daunting….

    I’ve been trying to eat locally/ seasonally for a long time.  But I’m not a fanatic about it– citrus doesn’t grow here, but I do buy it some in the winter, when I’m getting sick of apples. 

    Hint for getting good deals at the farmer’s market:  wear a shortish skirt.  Guys were giving me great deals last week!!!  Also, a lot of stands have bins of less-than-perfect fruit and veg, at bargain prices.  If you’re cooking (or canning) it anyway, it’s a great option.  The peaches that became jam were half-price; I had to cut out some bruises, but so what.  It still tastes great.

  25. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship September 7, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    My dear Mrs. Q,
    Since you mentioned apples and they’re one of my favorite U-pick items and just about to be in season, I hope you don’t mind me sharing a link with 5 different ways for preserving apples. Your little guy will love applesauce rolls and dried apples I bet, and you can do them in the oven. 🙂 Wish we could have a canning date for tomatoes or applesauce, but methinks the drive would be prohibitive. 😉 Katie

  26. chris October 5, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    Not to be hissy, but a LA Times story I read a while back pretty much blew away the myth that farmers market fruit and vegetables were “all that”. Significant numbers of the “farmers” at the Farmer’s Markets aren’t even farmers and even a lot of those that are purchase fruit on the open market. Personally, I think a lot of the pleasure people get from the markets is little more than a placebo effect. In short, if you don’t pick it from a tre or a plant yourself you have no clue where it actually come from on its way to your “farmers” market..

  27. chris October 5, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    I wish I could edit my previous post but can’t so here is my curriculum vitae on the topic.

    I grew up on a small hobby farm. We, literally, raised in some fashion or another almost all of our food including meats. We raised and slaughtered our own chickens and beef. Kids chased and caught the chickens. The fathers beheaded and scalded the carcasses. Larger kids and moms plucked and gutted. Other kids cleaned the giblets (yes there are rocks in chicken gizzars). We generally slaughtered beef in the winter so we could hang it prior to cutting. Have you ever hand ground hamburger in a freezing garage for 2 families? Not fun I can tell you. We raised our own pork but had a butcher slaughter it for us as my father said we didn’t have the tools and expertise for bacon and/or sausages. We also fished and hunted and ate what we took.

    We had a huge garden where we raised predominately beans, corn, tomatoes, potatoes and carrots. These were the easiest to raise, harvest and preserve. We didn’t have canning parties we had canning weekends involving a dozen or more people. There would be about a half dozen kids snapping beans while the moms canned in pressure canners. We had a stove on one house that was basically used only during canning. Our farm had loads of blackberry bushes and we kids picked them. Our cousins had grape vines. We made and preserved jelly from the fruit. My mother worked in fall picking apples. She could buy seconds for a song and we would eat apple sauce, fried apples, apple pies or anything else made from apples for over a month. She canned pie filling and apple sauce for the winter.

    Today, I and my wife still do some preserving and make our own wines. We make jelly and wine from 2 cherry trees and grape vines in our yard and or from juice we buy from local orchards. She has a food dehydrator and makes ground pepper from several varieties our neighbor raises. We make dried fruit strips from the leavings of our jelly making. She makes spaghetti sauce from tomatoes the neighbor grows. We used to have our own garden but the past couple of extremely dry summers and our schedule made it virtually impossible to keep one up so we haven’t put one in for about 2 years. The neighbor don’t mind as he raises more than he needs and takes preserved foods back for his fresh produce.

    In short, we are by no means anti fresh produce kind of people. However, neither are we people who think you just have to go to a farmers market to get quality produce. Farmers markets are often just a good way to separate you from your hard earned money. Some of our best produce comes from Aldis and chain stores also put out quality product. I would also like to point out how much can be done in a small garden or even a couple of large pots. Two years ago my wife planted 4 tomato plants in two large pots on our back deck. She had enough tomatoes to provide fresh fruit during the growing season and still can spaghetti sauce. You can plant tabasco peper plants right in your flower garden. They are very ornamental with a short, compact bush that produces scads of showy peppers that can be dried to use as pepper in a variety of recipes. You would be amazed how many string beans can be grown in a 20×20 plot and they can be frozen for stir fry with anything, kids love them stir fried on the side of their main course.

  28. Xenobio October 6, 2011 at 3:07 am #

    I’m so glad I live in a tropical country that has fresh fruit and veg all year round. Always felt a bit guilty buying fruit and veg in the winter when I studied in Wisconsin. Unfortunately people here too have gotten used to eating foreign things like apples and strawberries too, the full bus wrap ads for “Korean Strawberries!” and “Dole Bananas!” (from the Philippines, geez, what’s wrong with Malaysian bananas?) disgust me. It’s insane that a raw unprocessed plant product gets branded in that way.

    Singapore is a really small country but has a number of veggie and poultry farms. Some organic veg come from Malaysia by truck, but some from Western countries or Australia. Concur with you that flying in organic veg basically defeats the purpose.

    • chris October 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

      There is nothing wrong with eating imported food. Millions eat it every day without harm and actually benefit from the nutrition. Millions of people in famine areas survive entirely on imported food. Disregarding modern technology is kind of ridiculous

  29. DAN SORRELLS October 6, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    the reason your cherries taste better from the farmers market is that they were picked ripe, instead of being picked green and shipped. Fruit that is picked ripe not only taste better but the nutritional value far exceeds that of a fruit that was picked green. one other thing i would like to mention is that glass is the only thing that should ever be used to preserve anything. plastic and metal of any kind will leach toxins into the food.

    • chris October 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

      Metal is only bad if the metal used is toxic. Early in canning history lead would often be used to seal the cans. That, of course, was a tragedy in the making. There has been research into canned foods stored properly for decades and an analysis found the contents to be notitious and safe for consumption. Remember, most class containers use metal lids so if metal cans are bad so would the metal lids. It is really a moot point anyway, very few people want to acquire the equipment to can using cans. Plastic is best used for freezing. The literature you see about the problems with plastic concern cooking in it not preserving in it.

  30. ksl October 17, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    Actually, instead of canning and preserving fruits and veggies to get the fruit you like year round, you should stick to locally grown, seasonal fruits and veggies. There are many fruits and veggies available for each of the four seasons. They’re all different and your favorite may not be in season in winter or in the summer, but that doesn’t mean you HAVE to eat that particular fruit or veggie. A part of having a nutritious and healthy lifestyle is to try many different kinds of produce. You may discover that there is a fruit during the winter season that you now enjoy. I honestly don’t see the need for preserving seasonal fruits with only the purpose of being able to eat it in another season. I do like fruit preserves, jams, and pickled vegetables but I like them for their own reason, and it’s certainly not my way of coping with the fact that strawberries are out of season.
    Support your local farmers- it saves the environment, plus you will be getting the peak of nutrients from the seasonal produce. And it’s always a pleasure to be excited for the next fruit/veggie of the season. Just do some research on what fruits and veggies are in season in your area.

    If all else fails, buy your fruit while it’s nearing the end of the season and freeze in your freezer and defrost later. Just don’t keep it too long in the freezer as eventually, the longer it is kept in the freezer, the more nutrients leaks from the fruit.

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