Shopping Farmer’s Market’s – A Guide to Freshness

By Kaitlin Mackay

We need food to live. We need the nutrients in food to live even more so. So it is of great importance to maximize nutrient retention in the food we consume. From farm to fork, there’s plenty of room for nutrient loss. Fruits and veggies begin their nutritional composition loss journey the second they are harvested due to oxidation, enzymatic reactions, browning and pigment degradation.

Facts:
Ripeness affects the nutritional quality of fruits and vegetables
The stage of ripeness determines the levels of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals
Fruits and vegetables are often harvested before they’re ripe, to extend their shelf life and make up for transit time to the consumer

Compared to being picked at its peak of maturity, produce picked before it’s ripe suffers from major Vitamin C* loss

Unfortunately…

In the U.S., fruits and veggies on average spend up to 5 days in transit after they have been harvested.

In the winter and spring, produce grown elsewhere can spend up to several weeks in transit to the U.S.

At the grocery store, produce may be on display for a couple more days before we take it home…where we store it until the next day. Or until next week. Or two more weeks?

So when I said “plenty of room for nutrient loss”, what I really meant was all the room in the world for nutrient loss.

To get the most out of our food, we should be conscientious about where it’s coming from. One of the best (and most convenient, in my opinion) ways to do this is to shop at your local farmers market!

Here’s why:

- Produce is picked when it’s ripe and ready to be eaten, instead of early before it’s reached its prime in regards to nutritional value

- Vendors often practice organic farming but regardless, overall contact with harmful pesticides and chemicals is far less than you’d find in the produce at your local supermarket

- Minimal transit time = minimal nutrient loss

- In-season produce can often be found for cheap…if it’s ripe-they gotta get rid of it!

Not to mention how great of a person you are for supporting your local farmers! And how friendly and nice local vendors can be.

Shopping at a farmers market near you is a win-win situation. You get foods with peak nutrient content, having gone through minimal processing, endured little to no chemical contact, and that you can buy straight from the hands of the producer. It’s a good feeling knowing where the food you’re putting into your body comes from. So check out what’s in season and make a shopping list for the next farmers market near you! Here are some in the Phoenix area that are still open during the summer:

LINK:Arizona Farmer’s Market Locations

Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market
Vaseo Moon Valley Farmers Market
Ahwatukee Farmers Market
Mesa Community Farmers Market
Twilight Farmers Market
Roadrunner Farmers Market
Old Town Farmers Market

* Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is the vitamin most widely known as being associated with fruits and vegetables. Research has focused on measuring and tracking Vitamin C content in food studies, as it is believed to be the best sign of food quality in terms of nutrient composition and other nutrients have comparable losses.

Processing Effects on Safety and Quality of Foods. Enrique Ortega-Rivas. CRC Press 2009.
Barrett, D. M. and Lloyd, B. (2012), Advanced preservation methods and nutrient retention in fruits and vegetables. J. Sci. Food Agric., 92: 7–22. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.4718