Going Loco for Locally Grown
To prepare for long shipping and holding times, massive produce farms that distribute nationally often pick fruits and vegetables before they fully ripen to avoid having them spoil in transit. You’ve seen these fruits before—they’re the mangoes that never fully ripen or the avocadoes that go bad before they get soft enough to eat.
The longer a fruit or vegetable sits after it has been picked, the more its nutrient value decreases. As produce is stored, oxidation occurs and chemical structure is broken down, leaving potatoes soft, apples wrinkly and berries moldy. Seasonally picked fruits and vegetables are full of essential vitamins and minerals, and provide maximum quality and taste.
Shipping foods around the world also leaves an unmistakable footprint on our environment. Consider the air pollution caused by truck and cargo ship emissions, chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-depleting gases released from refrigeration and the amount of pesticides and chemicals used on conventional crops.
Buying local does support local farmers, a worthy cause, but it also supports the consumer and planet Earth. Farmers’ market produce is sweeter, crispier and tastier than its counterparts that have been shipped cross-country—or around the world.
A great way to try out local produce is to grow your own. In order to see success with gardening, you need to know your soil and work with the environment. Georgia’s challenge is the long, blisteringly hot summer, but even with our impressively hot temperatures, there are plenty of vegetables and fruit that grow beautifully with the right treatment. Four common and easy-to-grow vegetables for the Southeast are summer squash, zucchini, eggplant and watermelon.
Summer squash and zucchini grow well in summer heat as long as they are watered properly. Make sure to pick squash when they are young and tender for the best taste. Picking squash frequently will also help to promote more fruits. Early prolific straightneck yellow squash, black beauty zucchini and sunburst patty pan squash are all excellent choices for the Southeast vegetable garden.
When most other vegetables are wilting and suffering from the crazy southern heat, okra is just starting to fire up. This heat-loving plant originates from West Africa and performs better when the soil is allowed to dry out between watering. Nothing produces better in the dog days of summer than okra. Clemson spineless and Burgundy are choices for okra that can’t go wrong.
Eggplant is in the same plant family as tomatoes and potatoes, and performs well in hot temperatures. They can be very prolific producers and will need frequent watering during the very hot days, as well as a thick layer of mulch around the plants.
Watermelons have long been a symbol of the Southern summertime, as they grow beautifully in the heat. They require a lot of space, with vines that can easily reach up to 15 feet in diameter. The Georgia rattlesnake, crimson sweet, and moon and stars are all perfect watermelons for warm climates.
July also gives gardeners their last chance of the season to plant tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, pole and lima and snap beans, providing the plant enough time to mature before the first frost.
Marinated Summer Vegetables1 cup summer squash 1 cup eggplant 1 cup okra 1 cup sweet onion 1 cup tomatoes ¼ cup olive oil ½ cup fresh lemon juice 1 Tbsp minced garlic 2 tsp Himalayan salt ¼ tsp cayenne pepper 1 Tbsp dried oregano
Peel the eggplant first and chop all the vegetables. Combine with the oil, lemon juice garlic, salt, pepper and oregano and let marinate a few hours, then enjoy.
Brenda Cobb is author of The Living Foods Lifestyle and founder of The Living Foods Institute, an educational center and therapy spa in Atlanta, offering healthy lifestyle courses on nutrition, cleansing, healing, anti-aging, detoxification, relaxation and cleansing therapies. For more information, call 404-524-4488 or 1-800-844-9876 and visit LivingFoodsInstitute.com