In search of the best veggies

June 25, 2012 Matthew Devick

We know veggies are good for us and that half of our plate should be composed of fruits and veggies. We are also acutely aware that most Americans don't get the recommended amount of vegetables each day. Empowered with this knowledge, you may decide to set out on a quest to eat more healthy leaves and tubers and roots and so forth. But what's the best source of vegetables? The answer depends on the season of the year. Let's focus on the current season: sweet, sweet summer.

Nothing compares to a ripe vegetable picked from your own sunny backyard garden in the summer. The taste and nutrient value are at their highest. Yet most of us can't pick anything from our garden right now because most of us did not start growing our plants indoors months ago. We're going to have to wait awhile for tomato plants to yield their juicy goodness, for our pepper plants to provide the colorful array of crunchiness that comes from those delicious green and red bell peppers. On the other hand, not all of us have a green thumb, or the time, energy or patience — let alone the desire — to acquire one. What's the next best thing for non-gardener types?

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One of the neatest approaches, in my opinion, is to get to know your local farmers by buying a share in Community Supported Agriculture, often referred to as a CSA. CSAs are small farms, usually run by a single family, that charge a fixed price for a "share" in the season's produce. They are gardeners par excellence who plant, cultivate and harvest the food. They will often transport the crops to an agreed-upon pick-up location where you and other shareholders pick up your fresh vegetables weekly throughout the summer. In fact, the CSA farmers did start planting some vegetables indoors when the rest of us were thinking about what to do over spring break. The quality and taste of veggies from my CSA has always been superb. You get fresh-from-the-garden taste and nutrition without fresh-from-the-garden dirty fingernails. And you're supporting the local economy and local families — another win-win for everyone.

Wherever you live, there's bound to be a CSA that will deliver to your nearest metro area. A good place to start your search is www.localharvest.org. Contact a CSA and see if you can still get in on this season's crop. If not, maybe you can reserve a share for next summer. Some CSAs offer other options, such as a "fall storage" share comprised of crops such as potatoes, carrots and squash that are stored and eaten over the winter.

Be well … and enjoy!