Charlotte’s TOP 20+ FARMERS MARKETS:
Spring is finally here! And with it, fresh, locally grown produce is starting to return to farmers markets!! Don’t you find it more interesting to shop at farmers markets than the same old grocery store? It is also a fun thing to do with the family on the weekends. Don’t forget about the fresh flowers, herbs, and yummy local honey!
Is it worth it to buy fresh from a farmers market? Here are some surprising facts I learned about our produce in the U.S.
by Mary Jane Brown, PhD, RD.
Most fresh fruits and vegetables are picked before they are ripe. This allows them time to fully ripen during transportation.
It also gives them less time to develop a full range of vitamins, minerals and natural antioxidants.
In the US, fruits and vegetables may spend anywhere from 3 days to several weeks in transit before arriving at a distribution center.
However, the USDA states that some produce, such as apples and pears, can be stored for up to 12 months under controlled conditions before being sold.
During transportation, fresh produce is generally stored in a chilled, controlled atmosphere and treated with chemicals to prevent spoiling.
Once they reach the supermarket, fruits and vegetables may spend an additional 1–3 days on display. They’re then stored in people’s homes for up to 7 days before being eaten.
BOTTOM LINE: Fresh fruit and vegetables are often picked before they are fully ripe. Transportation and storage can take anywhere from 3 days and up to 12 months for some types of produce.
Shortly after harvesting, fresh fruits and vegetables start to lose moisture, have a greater risk of spoiling and drop in nutrient value.
One study found a decline in nutrients after 3 days of refrigeration, when values fell to levels below those of frozen varieties. This is most common in soft fruits.
The vitamin C in fresh vegetables begins to decline immediately after harvesting and continues to do so during storage.
For example, green peas have been shown to lose up to 51% of their vitamin C during the first 24–48 hours after harvesting.
In vegetables stored chilled or at room temperature, antioxidant activity declined.
However, although vitamin C can be easily lost during storage, antioxidants like carotenoids and phenolics may actually increase.
This is possibly due to continued ripening and is seen in some fruits.
BOTTOM LINE: Certain vitamins and antioxidants begin to decline immediately after harvesting. Therefore, it’s best to eat fresh fruits and vegetables as soon as possible.
Preserving the Vitamins
by Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.
Vitamins in food are easily destroyed by heat, exposure to air, oxygen and water and changes in pH balances. Here are some ways to maintain the vitamins in the fresh or frozen veggies you cook:
- Use as little water as possible when cooking: Steaming and stir-frying are two great methods.
- Cook quickly over low heat: Cook veggies until just tender and avoid overcooking.
- Never add baking soda: It brightens the green color in veggies, but destroys thiamine and vitamin C.
- Cut and cook veggies in large chunks: The smaller the pieces, the more exposure to air. This tends to destroy vitamins A, D, E, K and the Bs.
- Cook veggies as soon as possible after cutting: This will minimize the time exposed to air.