What you eat is definitely worth a little extra effort. Even though we have a long way to go to truly understand nutrition, more and more experts agree that the quality of the food you eat can make you healthier and happier.
Quality in food, however, is ill-defined. As Michael Pollan stated, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pollan and other prominent food experts give guidance on what constitutes real food, focusing mostly on fresh fruits and vegetables. However not all food is created equally. Just as french fries and ketchup are not the same as two servings of vegetables, a store-bought head of broccoli isn’t the same as one that is locally and organically grown. If we look at produce - fruits and vegetables - it is clear that the quality greatly varies, not only from a nutrition standpoint, but also in terms of pure enjoyment.
This explains why the store-bought flavor is so different from fresh and why farmers’ markets and farm-to-table restaurants have become so popular. No produce in a supermarket can rival the taste of produce grown for flavor rather than ship-ability.
This is further complicated by the fact that we still don’t really understand the relationship between all of the elements in our food. The classic example is carrots. We know they reduce the risk of certain cancers, but if people are given beta-carotene in supplement form instead of the carrot, their cancer risk actually increases.
We know that the health properties of a given food are greater than the sum of its parts, but we don’t have easy ways of understanding nutritional differences between varieties or harvest time frames. Fortunately we do have directional studies and some analysis that back up the idea that flavor is one of the best indicators of peak nutrition.
Nutrition and flavor are both temperamental. Plants grown for the best flavor tend to lose it the quickest. Therefore, in order to optimize the flavor, nutrition, and enjoyment, we need ways to get our produce from the plant to the plate as quickly as possible. Anyone who has grown their own food knows the difference that eating something within minutes of harvest makes. That short time period makes it easy to guarantee the best tasting veggie you’ve ever had.
So, as consumers, what choices do you have with regards to time from harvest? Below we’ve laid out the different options that are commonly available, along with some newer companies focused on this problem.
Weeks from Harvest
- Supermarkets selling produce grown in other states or countries
Days from Harvest
- Organic delivery services (Good Eggs)
- Organic focus meal-kit providers
- CSAs / regular farm deliveries
- Markets selling produce from growers within 30 miles
Hours from Harvest
- Farmer’s markets (over 8,600 registered with the USDA)
- Localized hydroponic farms like Square Roots & Plenty
Minutes from Harvest
- Sustainably grown in your own yard - Avalow (That's us!)
All of these methods offer unprecedented convenience and access to locally grown food. There are many differences in approach and models, but it is encouraging to see the growth in highly nutritious and delicious produce and the decreasing time from harvest to your kitchen. All of these far surpass the days or weeks it takes to get produce to most markets today. It will continue to become much easier for all of us to eat real, healthy, and tasty food without living on a farm.