Everything you need to know about getting organic produce during the winter months
There is nothing better than the endless supply of fruits and vegetables that are available during the winter months. It makes us feel as though we can have any kind of produce that we want. There are farmers markets and supermarkets on every corner that are full of fresh produce. In addition, a lot of people are beginning to grow fruits and vegetables in their own backyards. Unfortunately, summer is not all year long and obtaining these fresh fruits and vegetables can prove to be difficult in the winter. It can also be more expensive. Fear not! I never said it was impossible to do so. Below are some tips that will help you in finding organic produce during the cold, winter months.
When is it best to buy organic?
You do not always have to buy organic fruits and vegetables. There is an annual list produced by The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide that will show which fruits and veggies have the highest pesticide residues. These are known as “The Dirty Dozen”. Included on the list are items such as: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, and blueberries. This is just to name a few. There is also a list called “The Clean 15” which includes items that have low levels of pesticide residue. Items on this list include: avocados, pineapples, kiwi, and onions, etc.
How you use the produce is a big factor on if you should buy organic or not. When you wash and peel the produce you decrease the chance of ingesting pesticide residue. Naturally this is something you may not always have time to worry about. You may buy produce that has been grown without pesticides. There is more information on shopping for organic produce available on the Internet.
Purchasing produce in the Supermarket
Supermarkets generally have a nice selection of produce throughout the year. However, the prices of organic produce are often higher during the winter months. The same is true of the prices for local produce. In order to get the most for your money, it is best to buy food that is in season. There are fruits and vegetables that have their peak season in the fall and winter. In-season vegetables include: potatoes, beets, leafy greens, artichokes, cauliflower, broccoli, etc. Winter fruits include: dates, pears, clementines, kiwi, mandarin oranges, papayas, etc. You should avoid foods that are not in season because they are probably imported and treated with pesticides when they enter the country.
Winter Farmers Markets
Just because it’s cold outside, that doesn’t mean that all the farmers markets disappear. There are many winter farmers markets, even in really cold areas of the country like Chicago, Iowa and New York. Check to see if there is a winter farmers market near you.
Join a CSA
If you cannot find a winter farmers market near you, consider joining a CSA. CSAs, or community supported agriculture, are like buying a subscription to a local farm. Members pay a fee and then receive a share of the produce grown. Many CSAs offer winter produce to their members. By joining a CSA, you get local, organic produce and you may even get a few fruits or vegetables you have never tried before.
Grow Your Own
If you enjoyed growing your own fruits and veggies all summer, don’t put away your gardening tools just yet. Why not make a winter garden? There are many vegetables that love the cold weather such as kale, spinach and beets. Even if you don’t have a backyard, you can grow produce in containers or consider growing a few veggies indoors. See 8 Edibles You Can Grow Indoors in the Winter and 7 Fruits and Vegetables that You Can Grow in an Apartment to help you have a green thumb even with your mittens on.
Store Your Food Properly
Organic produce tends to be pricier so it is important that it is stored properly in order to avoid wasting it. Greens should be stored in bags with damp paper towels. Veggies should be kept in the crisper drawer. Potatoes, onions, shallots, and garlic should be kept in paper bags and out of bright light.
Winter may not be the greenest season. In fact, it is often cold and dreary. However, this does not mean you cannot enjoy fresh, organic produce during the cold months. When you know what’s important to buy in organic form, where to find it, and how to store it correctly, you will have so much produce in your kitchen that you will feel like it is summer again. That is, of course, until you go outside.