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Forums: Main Kickstart Forum: International Produce Question
Created on: 03/31/13 08:38 PM Views: 1529 Replies: 8
International Produce Question
Posted Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 8:38 PM

What is the general consensus of conventional produce? I have been limiting myself to only that of U.S. origin, first choice organic. But it seems like the markets are flooded with international produce. I remember when we had to wait until March or April for (U.S.)asparagus, now they are frequent in the market even in Nov.-Dec. and from Mexico. I don't buy them, but why is so hard to find U. S. grown asparagus? I shop in Wegman's, NJ and have been wondering about this for a while.
Does anyone here have an opinion on whether to eat international produce or not?

RE: International Produce Question
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013 at 9:40 AM

cloudschange wrote:

What is the general consensus of conventional produce? I have been limiting myself to only that of U.S. origin, first choice organic. But it seems like the markets are flooded with international produce. I remember when we had to wait until March or April for (U.S.)asparagus, now they are frequent in the market even in Nov.-Dec. and from Mexico. I don't buy them, but why is so hard to find U. S. grown asparagus? I shop in Wegman's, NJ and have been wondering about this for a while.
Does anyone here have an opinion on whether to eat international produce or not?

It's really easy to find US grown - if you wait until it's in season (we've got a farm up the street from us that sells fresh asparagus grown right there). But, if you want asparagus in January, you'll have to get it from someplace where it's warm enough to grow in January.

It really depends on the produce - if you limit yourself to US grown bananas, pretty rare. Strawberries, however, plenty of US grown organic varieties year round (California for instance). And it's not just the produce aisle either - wheat, plenty from the US; quinoa, not so much.

One of the reasons there's so much international produce is that US consumers want what they want when they want it and will pay for it - if I want to eat asparagus in January, that's what I want and I'll get it from somewhere. So, markets bring it in from other countries where it is in season at different times of year (since spring in NJ is fall in Australia, it's apple season for them but NJ doesn't even have blossoms on the apple trees yet - I grew up in northern NJ BTW).

As we (my family) have moved from SAD to plant based eating, we've also moved toward more seasonal eating generally. We'll eat more frozen green veggies (broccoli, kale, etc) in the winter and lots of root veggies but as the days get longer, we'll eat more fresh lettuces and greens and very little in the way of root veggies (onions are year round, and the occasional potato salad). Yeah, there are out of season or imported things as well, but since seasonal, locally produced items tend to be less expensive, we tend to go with that and base a lot of our meals around whatever is locally abundant.

--DebR

RE: International Produce Question
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Thanks for the lengthy reply. I too have bought only in season, however, I distinctly remember that asparagus, American grown, is usually in season in March. In March, what I saw was asparagus from Mexico.

Kale, collards and broccoli are cold weather resistant, and if you grow your own, the first bit of frost renders a very sweet leafy green!

I guess I'm wondering about the trend here. Americans want what they want, but, if it didn't exist in the first place (imported produce) we wouldn't want it. Seems like a more political-economic decision rather than what we "want".

Another part of my question (probably not made clear) is the emphasis on 'how good it is for you' as it is flown in, trucked in, and shipped in. Years ago, we had limited access, and people were generally healthier- that is my conundrum.

Does a diverse diet mean we need to eat foods imported from all over? Why do populations that have limited access have better health?

I could go on here, but I guess this is really food politics/economics at play

RE: International Produce Question
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013 at 12:39 PM

This isn't a new phenomenome. My great grandfather's birthday was March 21. He always wanted fresh strawberries on his birthday. He grew up in New Jersey. He lived to be 98, although he passed away when I was in high school. (I graduated high school in 1976.) Locally grown strawberries generally aren't available in New Jersey on the first day of Spring!

Jennifer

RE: International Produce Question
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013 at 12:46 PM

cloudschange wrote:

Thanks for the lengthy reply. I too have bought only in season, however, I distinctly remember that asparagus, American grown, is usually in season in March. In March, what I saw was asparagus from Mexico.

Kale, collards and broccoli are cold weather resistant, and if you grow your own, the first bit of frost renders a very sweet leafy green!

I guess I'm wondering about the trend here. Americans want what they want, but, if it didn't exist in the first place (imported produce) we wouldn't want it. Seems like a more political-economic decision rather than what we "want".

Another part of my question (probably not made clear) is the emphasis on 'how good it is for you' as it is flown in, trucked in, and shipped in. Years ago, we had limited access, and people were generally healthier- that is my conundrum.

Does a diverse diet mean we need to eat foods imported from all over? Why do populations that have limited access have better health?

I could go on here, but I guess this is really food politics/economics at play

In March, this year, it was still really cold - even more than usual. I think the asparagus up here is just now (in the last week) showing up (locally/US grown).

There is a lot more than limited access involved in "healthier" - more people worked in physical jobs (farming, construction, etc) instead of office type jobs and walked everywhere instead of riding in cars, busses, trains; more people are living longer these days so that skews things as well - years ago, people with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, would die a lot sooner so the remaining population was 'healthier'.

"How good is it for you" is very relative. Is an imported organic apple better than a local conventionally grown apple? Is an imported inexpensive apple better than not getting apples at all because they're $3/lb for the local/US varieties but only $1.59/lb for the imports? If the price for local organic apples is about equal to the price for imported organic apples (comparing apples to apples lol), then I go for the local ones.

Once transportation made it possible to have oranges in January in NJ, people started wanting them. Once ocean travel and then air travel became possible, people started dreaming of doing that, seeing other places, and now most people have been to more places than their great great grands ever considered going. And, that's excluding all the exotic places - a few generations ago, if you moved to another state, that was a BIG thing. I've lived in 4 states and visited a bunch more, and my hubby (as an Air Force kid growing up) has been to even more.

Not sure what you mean by a 'diverse diet' exactly. Eating from a variety of foods is important, but whether it's kale or spinach or chard doesn't matter nearly as much whether you have dark greens or not.

--DebR

RE: International Produce Question
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013 at 5:18 PM

Well, thanks for helping me get to the root(ha ha) of my question. I think I have it now. Would I be missing some important vitamin or mineral if I indeed stayed "local" as far as
produce is concerned. If bok choy can grow near me, that's great, and any other "exotic" that is able to be raised locally- and by that, well, I really don't know what that means these days, given the price of gas for trucks versus the volume that planes can deliver. I question starfruit, passionfruit, and even blackberries that are "so full of antioxidants". Is it okay to wait to have them when they are in season here, or are we doing ourselves a terrible injustice if we do. I know that buying frozen is an option, but is it necessary? This is what I mean by diverse- a wide variety of food. Does it mean wide in what grows in our zone, or should we scout the earth for the next most amazing plant, regardless of the cost to ourselves and our planet?

RE: International Produce Question
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013 at 9:15 PM

Let's consider this. 1)If there weren't a demand for the out-of-season fruits & vegetables the stores wouldn't carry them. 2)Is it more wasteful to transport these items to the stores, or to throw out spoiled produce that isn't purchased? 3)Is it possible that some of the out-of-season produce was grown locally in greenhouses? And frankly, I see nothing wrong with buying frozen fruit & veggies, although lettuce doesn't freeze and remain usable!

Jennifer

Edited 04/02/13 7:58 AM
RE: International Produce Question
Posted Monday, April 1, 2013 at 10:40 PM

Sometimes I truly wonder who creates demand - we have been targeted as a buying population via marketing - for those of us who have been around long enough to remember the amount of airplay a recording artist got before they hit the top ten (on and on ad nauseum) or more recently, cell phones with a camera. I really don't think that people demanded this feature, but once it was offered, and marketed, everyone wanted one. I also remember pet rocks - no one that I knew of demanded one, yet they were marketed and were sold at Bloomingdale's. Currently, we have seen a deluge of yogurts on the market- probiotics if you will - did we also demand this as an afterthought of the milk surplus created from cows being injected with chemicals to produce more milk?

I started this thread to get feedback, and I'm grateful to you all for putting your thoughts out here. I think I have been quite the curmudgeon on this topic, and wish the best to everyone on the current matter that brings us together.

Peace to all!

RE: International Produce Question
Posted Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 8:25 AM

I think it goes both ways. Way back when, getting tangerines at Christmas was a treat, because for most areas of the US, they were only rarely available at all, much less in winter. When grocers saw that these items would sell like hot cakes (what do hot cakes sell like? lol), they'd get more of them. And so on, so demand drove supply and as supply rose, prices dropped so more people could afford them and demand rose.

Odds are that -someone- wanted a camera on their cell phone. Heck, cell phones were invented because someone didn't want to have to get up and go into the house from the patio to answer the phone. It's often a chicken-and-egg type thing - did it get produced and then demand happened or did demand exist and someone filled that niche. "See a need, fill a need" (bonus points if you get that movie reference lol).

The key, as far as produce goes, is variety - getting all sorts of colors into the mix gives a range of nutrients and switching things out occasionally keeps things from getting too boring. But, seasonality will provide that variation through the year. The difficult part is that to stay seasonal AND local in some areas can mean that there are some things one cannot get - green leafies in a northern winter (unless they are hot house grown) for example. As with many things, there's a balance to it - if the only local lettuce I can find is conventionally produced, do I get that or do I buy the organic lettuce that is shipped in from 500 miles away? (and, yes, lettuce can be grown in a garden but not everyone has the time or space for that, not to mention the quantities that one might need for a family).

--DebR


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