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In the Produce Section

For pure sensory pleasure while grocery shopping, nothing beats the produce aisle. The colors, textures and sheer variety make it hard not to buy one of everything. Which isn't a bad idea—buying a wide variety of fruits and veggies helps you cover your nutritional needs and offers delicious flavors to boot. Here are some ideas to consider when shopping for produce.

Choose local

Selecting local produce supports small farmers and your community. At the same time, you'll receive premium flavor and freshness. Why? Because local produce is grown with an emphasis on quality, not quantity, and doesn’t have to withstand commercial harvesting and shipment. In addition, many local producers offer special heirloom varieties unique to your geographical area. Local produce is also easier to trace back to its source to find out what methods and materials were used in its cultivation.

Choose in-season

In-season produce, especially when it’s local, offers fresh, "just picked" flavor. Whether you’re eating apples from a nearby orchard or spinach from a community garden, seasonal produce is a delicious option.

Choose organic

Certified organic produce is grown using sustainable methods that produce delicious fruits and vegetables, build soil health, promote biodiversity and reduce the use of synthetic pesticides and chemicals that have a negative impact on human health and the environment.

If you want to avoid pesticides, the Environmental Working Group puts out a list known as the “dirty dozen,” which identifies conventional produce items with the highest concentration of pesticide residue. The list includes celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries, kale/collard greens, potatoes, and imported grapes. Look for organically grown alternatives for these items. The dirty dozen may change over time—you can find the list and additional information at www.foodnews.org.

Your co-op is the perfect place to find local, organic, and in-season produce, as are farmers' markets and CSAs. From artichokes to zucchini, fresh, high-quality fruits and veggies are a beautiful way to bring nutrition and flavor to your daily meals.