Spring is good time to increase/diversify fruit/vegetable intake


Now that it’s officially spring, I’m looking to add even more fresh fruits and vegetables into my diet. Which fruits and vegetables are in season now? Even though snow flurries are predicted this weekend throughout parts of Ohio, yes, it is indeed spring. And with soon-to-be-warming weather, now is a good time to seek out fresh fruits and vegetables that are even more abundant because they are in season in spring.

Rain and bright sunny days make spring a good time to indulge in a wide range of plentiful produce such as asparagus, cabbage, kale, spinach, and strawberries. Not only are these items extremely fresh and flavorful because they’re currently in season, but they’re also widely discounted because of the abundance of supply based on this time of year.

Because fruits and vegetables grow in cycles and ripen during certain seasons, produce typically is fresher and tastes best when ripe. And while most fruits and vegetables are available to consumers year-round thanks to agricultural innovations, seasonal fruits and vegetables are typically cheaper to buy because they are easier to produce than fruits and vegetables that are grown out of season.

For example, the top advertised items on sale in local grocery stores this week were fruits, comprising 52% of all ads, and vegetables, accounting for 41% of all supermarket sale ads, according to the March 25 edition of the National Retail Report, a weekly roundup of advertised retail pricing information compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“As weather warms across the country, stores are beginning to lure shoppers in with the promise of spring,” the report says. “Ads for strawberries, peaches, cantaloupes, and asparagus were plentiful. Lenten favorites like chayote, lemons, and poblano peppers were advertised for meat-free meals.” While this is not an all-inclusive list, generally speaking, the following produce (among others) is in season in Ohio during the spring, according to the Ohio Farm Bureau:

· Asparagus

· Cabbage

· Collard greens

· Kale

· Mustard greens

· Radishes

· Rhubarb

· Spinach

· Strawberries

· Turnip greens

While eating fruits and vegetables is an important part of a healthy diet, it’s also important to remember to incorporate food safety when preparing and eating them. This is because some raw fruits and vegetables can contain foodborne pathogens such as E. coli, listeria, and salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As such, nearly half of all foodborne diseases are caused by germs on fresh produce, the CDC says.

While cooking produce is one of the best ways to lessen the potential for developing a foodborne illness, here are some other tips from the CDC to keep in mind when choosing and consuming raw fruits and vegetables:

· Always choose produce that isn’t bruised or damaged.

· When shopping, choose precut fruits and vegetables that are refrigerated or are kept on ice.

· Keep fruits and vegetables separated from raw meat, poultry, and seafood in your shopping cart and in your grocery bags.

· Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water, even if you do not plan to eat the peel, so that dirt and germs on the surface do not get inside during slicing.

· Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.

· Refrigerate within two hours any fruits and vegetables that you have cut. Store them in a clean container at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

· Store fruits and vegetables away from, and not next to or below, raw meat, poultry, and seafood. These items can drip juices that might contain germs.

· Use a separate cutting board for fruits and vegetables than what is used for cutting or preparing raw meats, poultry, or seafood.

· Wash cutting boards, counter tops, and utensils with hot, soapy water before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or [email protected].

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