One of my family's many joys of the summer and fall season is shopping at farmers' markets. For us, going to the market is more than just stocking up on our favorite fruits and veggies, but is a pleasant outing where we feel more connected to nature and the community. I always felt like there was something special about the produce sold at the farmers' market, which is why I was so excited when I saw the documentary Food Fight (available now on Netflix,) which tells why local produce is worth the trip to get it. With help from the likes of Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Wolfgang Puck (who really doesn’t need an introduction,) Food Fight makes the case that aside from supporting your local economy, buying local produce is beneficial in that it actually tastes better than what you can buy at the grocery store.
Intrigued, the documentary inspired me to take a taste test of local produce and their supermarket counterparts, to see which produce tasted best. So I bought peaches, tomatoes and corn that were all grown from local farmers in Long Island, and the same types of produce from a nearby New York City supermarket chain.
After my family's taste test, the difference in the corn was noticeable, but not mind blowing. Although the local corn was a bit more tender and sweeter than the store-bought brand, we thought that the taste of the supermarket corn had not been entirely ruined for us. The difference, however, in both the peach and tomato was incredible. While their conventional counterparts were bland and firm (as my fiance said, not worth eating!), the local produce was incredibly ripe, flavorful and so sweet! Every bite was truly a joy to eat!
So what gives? Why does local produce taste better? Food Fight highlights a few reasons. Fruits and vegetables you find at a grocery store are mass produced for convenience, and premature harvesting, transport over far distances and storage all contribute to their lack of flavor. Because local produce is generally more plentiful in nutritional quality, the intensity of aroma and flavors tends to be stronger than their mass produced alternatives.
As Wolfgang Puck says, “supermarkets need their things to look the same way completely, have everything the same size, the same color, this one [tomato] is like eating cotton – it has no flavor at all. Why eat it and why pay your money? Why spend your hard earned money on something that has no flavor?”
Sometimes our lives get too busy to always ensure that all our produce comes from local sources, but after experiencing the comparative quality, we are inspired to buy local more than ever before. With all of the beautiful fall produce on its way, this is a great time to start shopping locally! A quick Google search can help in finding the farmers' markets around your area, and when you go, farmers are more than happy to tell you what crops are, or will be, in season.