Producing Choices in These Seasons of Change

Producing Choices in These Seasons of Change

by: Betsy Peirce, Produce Manager

We’ve received questions lately about our decision to carry conventional produce items. It’s become apparent to us that in today’s economic climate it may not be feasible for all families to afford to purchase food as they had before. In response, we are offering a choice to our customers as well as convenience. We want to make the Oneota Co-op your one stop for groceries.

In short, our aim is to offer a cheaper option when organic prices seem out of reach.

The greatest concern has been our carrying imported conventional grapes. We know that many families consider grapes to be a staple item on their shopping lists. Organic grapes are only available for a very short window in the winter, and since they are imported from South Africa they tend to be extremely high priced. At $6.49/lb they are out of reach for many whose children can eat a pound in one sitting! Although imported conventional grapes are known to be in the “dirty dozen” of the most heavily sprayed with pesticides, many customers still feel grapes are something they don’t want to go without.

So, we offer a choice, and we label our produce clearly so you know whether an item is conventional or organic and where it’s from. In the winter we will carry organic when available and also conventional, which are always available. We will carry local and California organic grapes when they are available in season, too. And the good news is the price of local grapes is more reasonable.

Also, we have a color coding system for our signage that can tell you which items are conventional at a glance. Conventional price cards have a gold border, organic a green border, and local a red border. If an item is local and conventional (Stone Creek Farm) we include the word “Conventional” on the card, but use a card with a red border.

With family budgets in mind we will also be stocking some other conventional items to offer customers more options. Look for these values in the coming weeks: asparagus, bananas, squash, new potatoes, snow peas, yams, sweet onions, bagged russet potatoes, vine-on tomatoes, 4# navel oranges and more! If you have specific requests please direct them to our produce team, or fill out a request form at the customer service desk.

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If you are on a tight budget and feel the temptation to skimp on your fresh produce purchases as a way to save money, think again. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is absolutely essential for optimum health.

Investing in your body by eating a diet rich in fiber and nutrient-dense foods is one of the most important ways to stay healthy and, consequently, to avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor, now or in later years.

If you are determining which items to buy organic, think about where you can get the most nutritional bang for your buck. In many studies, organic produce has been shown to be more nutrient-dense than conventional, and if it has lots of pigment it’s even more nutritious. Think about purple cauliflower as opposed to white; or a head of red leaf lettuce instead of iceberg; or an orange yam instead of a white potato. Additionally, buying produce in season often means that you’ll be purchasing a more economically priced item and it will have traveled fewer miles (and with a smaller carbon footprint) to get to your plate.

BEST BUYS THIS SPRING!

Blood Oranges: If I mentioned them in the last newsletter, forgive me, because I have to keep talking about these flavor-packed, nutrient-dense, fantastic citrus gems! They eat like candy.

Blood oranges, or Moros, are a late winter citrus fruit, usually January through April. Moros are small to medium sized with a thin skin and few or no seeds. Slice open a Moro and you’ll see a dramatic and beautiful bright red to deep maroon interior. Take a bite for the intense orange taste that hints of fresh raspberry. The coolest thing besides the flavor of the blood orange is the fact that they are so darn good for you. All oranges contain carotene — that’s what makes them orange. Moros get their red color from high concentrations of a pigment called anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are the agents believed to be responsible for cancer, aging and other health ailments. Moros are a perfect example of a colorful, nutrient-dense food.

Lettuce Blend and Spinach from Stone Creek Farm in Cresco.  Have you noticed all the amazingly  fresh local produce we’ve had in our department this winter? If you haven’t tried their greens, they are certainly worth the extra 50 cents! They taste great, and they are fresher than anything you can get this time of year from California–which by the time it gets to Iowa is at least a week old. Greens that are local and harvested the same day they’re delivered mean that fewer nutrients have been lost (in transit) and therefore your salad has more value for your health. Also from Stone Creek Farm: Tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, red peppers and more to come.

Asparagus! It’s not local season yet but California’s asparagus season is just coming into full swing. Don’t be fooled by its mild flavor. Asparagus is a very nutrient dense food. Asparagus root contains compounds called steroidal glycosides, which may help reduce inflammation. In fact, some Chinese herbalists have used it to treat arthritis. Asparagus also contains useful amounts of calcium, magnesium and iodine and is an excellent source of folic acid. It’s also packed with vitamins A, C and E. Just a ½ cup of cooked asparagus provides about 25% of the RDA for folic acid and more than 80% of the RDA for vitamin C.

Leafy Greens.  Some of us start to crave greens as soon as the weather turns warmer. Greens are another great nutritional powerhouse. Dark leafy greens (collards, kale, mustard greens, spinach or chard) boast an impressive nutritional profile. Rich in Vitamin A (from beta-carotene) and Vitamin C, they are also a good source of calcium, iron, folate and magnesium. Greens also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are believed to help protect against cataracts and macular degeneration. Stop in and ask a produce team member what to do with these mysterious greens if you are unsure how to prepare them. We can offer some easy delicious ideas.

Below is a recipe ideas to get your taste buds ready for all these yummy spring veggies and fruits.