Monday, September 28, 2009

Garden State Advantage

As the longer days of summer continue to shine in the rear view mirror and the shorter days of fall and winter loom ahead, I am reminded of one of the best reasons to live in the Garden State, our homegrown fruits and vegetables!  The "buy fresh and local" trend seems to be more popular than ever. There are plenty of good reasons for this. Many people site the positive impact on the local economy by keeping dollars circulating within the community. Also a belief in knowing the source of the food you serve your family enables you to choose food grown by farmers who avoid or reduce their use of chemicals and pesticides. Knowing that the produce you put on the table has not had to be transported far thus leaving a less heavy carbon imprint on our environment is important too.
There is no question that these are all good reasons to buy local, but the best reason is that locally grown food is fresher and tastes better.
I was introduced to Pete's Produce in Westtown, PA through an article I read in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  It focused on a special corn grown at Pete's called Mirai.  It was supposed to be sweeter and tastier than any corn the food editor had ever eaten.  No one else grew this corn so Pete's was the only place to get it.  The drive is nearly an hour from my house.  That's a long way to drive for corn.  I might also add at this time that tomatoes are my favorite fruit and sampling heirloom varieties is a passion.
Deciding to take the trek, I arrived and noticed a bin in front of the stand with about ten varieties of heirloom tomatoes, each one a different shape and size.  I was in heaven, but which should I choose?  In the end, I chose about 2 of each.  Keeping them straight after I got home was another issue.  Then I moved inside and found the corn.  It looked pretty much like any other corn.  How can you tell whether corn is tasty and sweet or not until you actually eat it?  You can't, so I had to take a chance.  I picked up about a dozen and a half of the mixed yellow/white variety called Mirai.  I found some other veggies, made my purchase, and went home.
Wow!  Instant corn nirvana!  It was the tastiest and sweetest corn I had ever eaten.  My mistake?  Not buying enough so that friends and family could all have some too.  The heirloom tomatoes were equally impressive although I have still not found the variety like my Pop Pop's of yore.  To this day the memories of taking two slices of white bread with slices of his delicious tomatoes, little mayo, and a pinch of salt, make my mouth water.
Go out and visit Pete's or find your own local produce market, buy a bunch of fresh veggies, take them home and eat them, and remember one of the best reasons to live here!
By the way, two excellent places to buy produce, and my favorite local markets are Camp's Produce and Lillian's Market, both on Rt.47 in Port Elizabeth just south of Millville.
Remember, the long days of summer are running out and it's time to get it while the getting's still good!

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