5 foods to buy locally
You probably know there are advantages to buying locally grown food: It’s fresher because it hasn’t been transported from thousands of miles away, it can taste better and be more nutritious, and you’re helping support your community.
But what exactly should you buy? Hildegarde Selig, an instructor in the environmental science program at the University of Phoenix Detroit Campus, maintains a list of what’s best to buy locally, and why.
Here are her top five items:
These days, Selig says, 88 percent of all corn is genetically modified. “It’s a big deal,” she insists, “because corn is the No. 1 source of feed for every source of meat we eat: pork, chicken, beef. We eat corn every time we eat those meats, and we want to make sure we’re getting organic corn-fed meat, as well as organic corn for our own use.”
Locally grown, organic corn means it has no pesticides and that it is not genetically modified. Absent being able to buy corn from a roadside stand or farmer’s market, Selig suggests organic corn from your favorite grocer if the store carries it.
If you can buy local apples, you’ll have a choice of a wider variety, Selig says. “Grocers carry the same two or three varieties year-round,” she notes, “but when you try local apples, you are eating the varieties that are in season.” That also usually means the apples haven’t been coated with wax to look fresh and inhibit bruising when they’re transported, she explains, and haven’t been genetically modified.
Consumers tend to eat lettuce that is out of season because it’s readily available. “You’ll get lots more variety of flavors if you buy lettuce that’s locally grown, because it’s in season,” Selig says. That may mean buying salad greens from a farmer’s market if your grocery store doesn’t carry local lettuce. It’s worth paying a little extra if you can afford it, she believes, for better-tasting food.
Lettuce also is more likely to have been treated with pesticides, Selig adds. “Particularly in colder climates, lettuce is being shipped in from far away, so it needs more protection from insect infestation,” she points out. That protection, she notes, often comes from pesticides that must be properly washed off.
“I buy cage-free eggs,” Selig says, “although I really can’t tell the difference in flavor. But I like the idea of letting hens have time to be hens, instead of being caged all their lives and made to produce like little machines.” You can buy cage-free eggs at the grocery store, but if you can get them from a local farmer, they likely will be fresher.
Once you’ve had a locally produced tomato, “you won’t buy grocery store tomatoes ever again,” Selig asserts. For these fruits to be safely transported from a distance, she explains, they must be picked before they’re fully ripened. “Their nutrients and flavor have not been fully developed yet,” she points out. “Buy locally, and you’re getting a tomato that’s done ripening and will taste really great.”