The following article was published in the Evening Sun, Hanover, PA, by Martin’s niece, the awesome Brigitte Brady and it is so informative that I asked if I could share it. The photo is Brigitte doing a school program on nutrition with her “lab assistant”, Beaker. Why weren’t such classes that much fun when I was in school?

We are especially proud of Brigitte because her Grandma, the equally awesome, Mrs. Anna Zartman Brady, wrote a weekly column for the Evening Sun for some 30 odd years and Brigitte is following right along in her footsteps. I would love to see the paper compile her articles into book or CD form so that I could enjoy each and every one. I am so very blessed to be part of this wonderful family! – Blissful Meals Yall, THF.

Family Living Focus: Taste the rainbow of fresh and local produce
By Brigitte Brady
Family and Consumer Science Assistant

POSTED: 06/13/2014 11:46:11 AM EDT0 COMMENTS

One of my favorite things to do during the spring and early summer in York County is to stroll through one of the many local farm markets and savor the sight and fragrance of the just-picked produce. Everything is so ripe, so fresh and, best of all, nearly everything is locally grown. There is an abundance of great produce in season right now that it is easy to leave the market with my bag teeming with fruits and vegetables of every color of the rainbow. It is such a treat to have fresh, off-the-stalk green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes, crisp butter lettuces and a tasty array of sweet-tart berries to incorporate into my diet.

Buying local produce is rewarding to both the community and the consumer. Purchasing local fruits and vegetables helps support York County farms and businesses. Local produce purchases shorten the amount of time it takes to get the food from the farm to our tables, ensuring the freshest product possible. You may not be aware of this fact, but the longer a fruit or vegetable sits uneaten the more nutrients it loses. That being said, how much Vitamin C is really in that asparagus being shipped to the grocery from Peru, South America by the time it gets to York County? Buying local produce is starting to look a lot smarter and healthier.

So what is the key to selecting the most garden-fresh produce? The appearance, color and texture of the fruit or vegetable are crucial to determining its freshness. Bright, vibrant colors without dark spots, bruising or discoloration generally indicate a good product. Produce such as berries should be dry, firm, not mushy or shriveled; strawberries should have bright green caps intact and seeds should not be hard or brown. Greens such as lettuces and spinach should be crisp and not limp or brown around the edges. Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers should be vivid in color, firm and juicy, and free from bruising or scars. Green beans, also called string beans locally, should be firm and snap easily when bent. Smell is also an important factor when considering the freshness of a fruit or vegetable. The produce should have a light aroma indicative of its flavor. A strong scent or off scent is a sign that the product is past is peak of freshness and is on its way to spoiling. Use your best judgment. If it looks good enough to eat, it probably is!

Now that you have picked the perfect produce, properly washing and storing it will provide the best guarantee that the valuable nutrients will be maintained as long as possible. To clean most fruits and vegetables you must simply rinse them thoroughly under cold, running water. They should be placed in a plastic bag or wrapped in a paper towel and stored in the crisper of your refrigerator. For items such as lettuce heads and other leafy greens, be sure to separate the leaves to remove all the dirt. They should be dried, either by use of a salad spinner or a colander and paper towels; they can then be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to five days. Tomatoes are the exception to the refrigeration rule. They taste best at room temperature and chilling them actually expedites the ripening process. You should only refrigerate tomatoes if you cannot use them before they spoil.

My favorite spring and summer treat, the fresh berries, generally have the shortest shelf life. Still, with proper handling, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries will keep in your refrigerator three to five days and blueberries will keep for up to two weeks. The key is to not wash the berries until you are ready to eat them as extra moisture accelerates the ripening and spoiling processes. Also be sure to take them out of their original container and place them on a single layer in a shallow dish or tray. If you have too many berries to utilize before they spoil, they are easily frozen. Simply arrange the clean, dry berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet, freeze for one hour then place them in air-tight bags and store up to three months in the freezer.

Purchasing fresh, local produce is a wonderful way to add variety and nutrition to your diet. For more information regarding the types of produce available during the various growing seasons, the USDA website (www.usda.gov) and York County’s Chapter of Buy Fresh, Buy Local (www.buyfreshbuylocalyork.com) are very helpful resources. These sites can provide additional information, nutritional values, and a multitude of recipes to complement the produce that is in season. Remember the more colorful your plate is, the more nutrients you are consuming. Don’t be afraid to try something new!

Brigitte Brady is a Family and Consumer Science Assistant at Penn State Extension in York County. Penn State Extension in York County is at 112 Pleasant Acres Road, York PA, 17402, call 717-840-7408 or email brb18@psu.edu.