Spring is moving into the Valley of the Sun and with it comes new seasonal produce. Fruits and vegetables such as arugula, strawberries, zucchini blossoms, lemons, and radishes peak around this time of year. These orange, red, green, and yellow crops provide not only a colorful spectrum but various dietary benefits as well. Eating these seasonally ripe foods directly from local farms enhances the crops nutritional quality and offers our body optimum levels of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. This springtime, Arizona provides many opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy seasonal, local crops and reap the health benefits!
The Arizona Farm Bureau and Produce for Better Health Foundation describe spring produce as plants that are frost tolerant and germinate in cool soils. Consuming plants grown in local soils and harvested at their peak ripeness provides residents with higher quality food. Arizona spring crops include:
- The Greens: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, spinach, asparagus
- The Yellows: grapefruits, lemons, zucchini blossoms
- The Reds: beets, radishes, strawberries, turnips
- The Oranges: carrots, clementines, oranges, sweet potatoes, tangerines
- The Opaque: celery root, parsnips
The three main vitamins found in these fruits and vegetables are vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B9 (folate). The Harvard School of Public Health asserts these vitamins are important for regulating cell growth and division, the absorption of iron, DNA repair, collagen formation, and provide a good source of antioxidants. A few of the springtime vegetables also include iron, calcium, manganese, and potassium. These minerals and trace elements are important for building bones and muscle function. All the featured items also provide our bodies with fiber which promotes heart health and bowel regularity. Thus, the nutrients of the local spring harvest help heal, grow, cleanse, and fortify our bodies.
Obtaining seasonally ripe fruits and vegetables is not a challenge in the East Valley. Several markets, stores, and restaurants offer foods and produce from local Arizona farmers on a daily and weekly basis including:
- Bashas’, AJ’s, and Food City support the community by buying seasonal produce from Arizona farmers and makes it available to consumers every day.
- The Cutting Board Bakery and Café in Mesa offers a vegetarian and vegan menu that is all created from local produce.
- The Chandler Farmers Market brings together various local farm, coffee, and food vendors every Thursday to sell their goods. Market shoppers can also pick up or purchase a prearranged box of fresh local produce from Chow Locally (a community supported agriculture program).
- The Gilbert Farmers Market also offers East Valley residents and springtime visitors an opportunity for fresh, local produce on Saturday mornings.
- Pomegranate Café in Ahwatukee not only features fresh local produce on their daily menus, but they also sponsor a Farm Box program. Program members can come by weekly and pick up their box of fresh produce packaged and ready to go.
I encourage you to seek out and try these local fruits and veggies this spring, even if you think you may not care for most of them. Restaurants have a fantastic skill for hiding the bitter or unpleasant sides of these foods and chatting with a farmer or produce manager may shed some light on how to enjoy these springtime delights.