New Mexico Urban Homesteader

Hello, I am A 50 Something, Prepper ;-}; former 60's Flower Child, don't believe in taxpayer subsidized special interest groups (political parties), DO believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1st 10). Long time Independent & Informed Voter. Lover of the outdoors and firm believer that History Teaches - if only we will listen!

(No longer Urban or in NM. Now Rural in the mountains of Maine.)

This blog was started at the request of some dear friends that wish to become Preppers.

“No man who is not willing to help himself has any right to apply to his friends, or to the gods.”

Demosthenes (384–322 BC, Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Shopping for Fresh & Seasonal Foods

In order to have the best foods on our tables, in our refrigerators and for home food preservation we need the freshest food possible. This may seem like a simple task when we use terms like:

  • In Season
  • Fresh
  • Local
  • Organic
  • Natural

Now define and more importantly, quantify these terms. Oh-oh! Seems like we need a degree program to do this! So this little ‘note’ contains what I found out about these terms and how I go about trying to insure the best of the best for me and mine.

Follow the link below to find out:

  • What does “in season” mean?
  • Primary Cause of the Seasons
  • What are the seasons for North America?
  • Seasons of the United States
  • What is Fresh or Local Food?
  • What are Natural Foods?
  • What is Organic Food?
  • What are GMO foods?
  • How common are GMO foods?
  • The Non-GMO Project, Pledge and symbol
** Note that natural food and organic food are NOT interchangeable terms **

See Shopping for Fresh & Seasonal Foods for more details to the above questions.

What should we look for in terms of using the freshest food for our home food preservation?

Ok so “in season” depends not only on where you are on the North American continent and U.S. it also depends on where you are in just about each state. Use your farmer’s markets as guide of what is “in season” in your local.

Since “local food” can have just about any meaning one wants to put to it I often shop at Farmer’s Markets. These usually have only produce that was harvested in my state, and in many cases, just my region of my state.

When it comes to "organic food", well the U.S.D.A did come up with a half decent definition by law of organic. However it does contain some loop holes that have to date, NOT been closed by any Supreme Court cases. Yet it still pays to look for the “Certified Organic” stamp.

As for "Natural Foods", we are in even deeper doo-doo since the U.S. does NOT have any legal definition of this term although they do discourage companies from using the word in advertising. Of course we all know how well that is working!

Considering these factors I make a habit of asking what farm supplied what produce at the Farmer’s Market. Then I research that farm. I have even been known to call or visit the farm to get an idea of how they produce and process their products.

I also look for the “No GMO” pledge stamp which is a voluntary, non-governmental pledge that farmers can join to guarantee that the produce was not started from GMO seeds (I look for this when purchasing open pollinated seeds too). This pledge was started by the Organic Consumer Association (a nonprofit consumer group) as a result of those loop holes in the ‘organic’ law and the lack of legal definition of ‘natural’.

Here are some other tips to help you out:

Tip #1: Buy Organic

Certified organic products cannot intentionally include any GMO ingredients. Buy products labeled “100% organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic ingredients.” You can be doubly sure if the product also has a Non-GMO Project Verified Seal.

Tip #2: Look for Non-GMO Project Seals

Products that carry the Non-GMO Project Seal are independently verified to be in compliance with North America’s only third party standard for GMO avoidance, including testing of at-risk ingredients.

The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization committed to providing consumers with clearly labeled and independently verified non-GMO choices. Look for dairy products labeled "No rBGH or rBST,” or “artificial hormone-free.”

Tip #3: Avoid at-risk ingredients

If it’s not labeled organic or verified non-GMO: Avoid products made with ingredients that might be derived from GMOs. The eight GM food crops are Corn, Soybeans, Canola, Cottonseed, Sugar Beets, Hawaiian Papaya (most) and a small amount of Zucchini and Yellow Squash.

Sugar If a non-organic product made in North American lists “sugar” as an ingredient (and NOT pure cane sugar), then it is almost certainly a combination of sugar from both sugar cane and GM sugar beets.

Dairy Products may be from cows injected with GM bovine growth hormone. Look for labels stating No rBGH, rBST, or artificial hormones (Bovine Growth Hormone-rBGH/rBST).

Tip #4: Download a Shopping Guide

There is an entire page in the following guide to help you uncover hidden GM ingredients on food labels that often read more like a chemical periodic table. Non GMO Shopping Guide

Or go for the pocket guide: Non GMO Pocket Shopping Guide

How to find “In Season” foods in your area

Over the past year I have been researching this by state. I searched all the Farmer’s Markets, Local Foods and Pick Your Own sites I could find; even called a few to get specific answers. Once I had this cataloged in a spreadsheet I then went to the USDA site and researched “in season” as well as imports and exports on these same food items. Then I searched the U.S. Census site so I could how theses farms were cataloged in terms of “family owned”, “LLC Family Owned”, “Corporate” or “Conglomerate” and removed any that I found. Now Family Owned and LLC Family Owned are OK; however I found one corporate owned, but run by a family (probably the former owners), farm that was removed from database.

Keep in mind that the dates listed could be for a specific region of a state and or the best Pick Your Own dates. Most of the “shorter” timeframe dates are the Pick Your Own dates.

The Farmer's Markets and Local Food sites only list what these entities have reported as being crops they usually provide and when. The Pick You Own sites only list those states and crops that registered with said sites.

There are many more fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. via green houses or by big corporate farms that I tried my best NOT to include, however the farthest right column has the "general U.S. availability" information. Just remember that this column includes corporate farms and a few out of country imports may have slipped through.

I learned one interesting tidbit – the USDA will consider a food “in season” if it was harvested and shipped to point of sale while it was still “in season” in its place of origin. Humm, isn’t that splitting hairs?

The resulting database called U.S. Fruit & Vegetable In Season & Harvest Dates State by State can be found at:

This workbook will give you a sense of what to expect at farmers markets and grocery stores.

As well as what produce at grocery stores is more likely to be imported.

How to use the workbook

  1. Check your grocery items against your states availability in the workbook.
  2. If it is not in season for your state, then check your neighboring states for that item.
  3. If it is not in season for your neighboring states, then check the rest of the United States.
  4. If it is not in season for the United States then this item is either greenhouse grown or imported from out of country.

PS: Use the example tab to copy and paste your state and surrounding states column to make checking availability easier.

Today is the Tomorrow that we worried about Yesterday ;-}

TNT, a fifty something, ‘Homesteading’ Prepper

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