Preparing Local Foods

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Did you know that there are numerous benefits associated with eating local foods? A wide variety of produce can be provided through both home gardens and local farms. Not only do local foods support the health of the local economy and sense of community, but they also can help in promoting your personal health!

Research suggests that those who purchase and/or grow local produce are more likely to eat a great variety of fruits and vegetables. Have you heard the saying, “eat a rainbow?” Eating a rainbow may result in a beautiful picture-worthy meal, but the different colors also represent the variety and type of nutrients available in each item. For example, bright red, orange, and yellow produce contain carotenoids. Carotenoids are plant pigments. When these plant pigments are consumed the body converts them to vitamin A, which then helps to promote eye health. When we eat a variety of produce, and more specifically a variety of colors of produce, our bodies then receive the vast amount of nutrients and phytochemicals needed to keep us feeling our best!

Here are some tips to help with the preparation of local foods:

  • Store produce appropriately. For instance, some foods such as garlic, onions, winter squash, and tomatoes maintain their best quality when stored at room temperature. However, other foods such as collards, kale, lettuce and sprout are kept best when refrigerated to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • Find recipes that are flexible. I highly suggest searching for recipes where vegetables can be substituted with what is in season. For example, recipes for frittata, pasta sauce, or fresh salsas can be adapted to include produce that is currently in season and available locally.
  • Be prepared to preserve food if needed. If you have a surplus of fresh produce, you may want to come up with a plan to preserve it and prevent food waste. Canning, freezing, and drying are all great options! Need evidence-based resources related to home food preservation? Visit: Home Food Preservation

Are you interested in incorporating more local foods into your meals? Whether you are an expert in the kitchen or just starting to learn the basics of cooking, you may find yourself with questions related to the preparation of local foods. As the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension Lee County, I am available to help answer those questions and build your confidence in increasing your use of local produce.

The N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN at 919-775-5624.