Have you ever got a chance to taste a local delicacy at your native village or while driving through a village on your vacation in any part of the world? If yes, then I believe you will agree with me when I say that, “we are left astonished by the amazing taste of dishes made from the simplest of ingredients”. What makes it taste so nice? It might be the atmosphere, recipe, or the method of cooking that makes it taste amazing. That being said let’s not forget the most important thing that is crucial for the dish, is the ingredients – freshly harvested & locally grown produce. The refreshing taste of this local and fresh harvest elevates the flavor of the dish.
One of the fondest memories of my childhood is of the lip-smacking food I ate at my native place whenever I visited my grandparents. They would serve us the sabji (vegetable stew), rice & handmade pickles. The pickles made from handpicked vegetables, be it lemon or mangoes grown in our farm were second to none. It was an absolute delight to eat them. My grandfather always admired the taste, flavor, and quality of their farm grown vegetables. He would encourage us to eat locally grown veggies. At that time I used to wonder, what is so exciting and unique about it? As vegetables can be grown anywhere, in any season. In the cities we have easy access and we can buy them from the market. So what makes it so very special? Did this question occur to you even once? Now when I think about it from a nutritionist perspective, I understand their perception way easier than ever before.
There are so many benefits of consuming locally grown fruits and vegetables. Some of the benefits are listed below:-
Locally grown fruits and vegetables are fresh as compared to the ones that have to be imported, as they travel more food miles, and freshness starts deteriorating. The nutrients start deteriorating the minute the product is picked. If you buy the veggies from a local shop, it is harvested and picked mostly within 24 hours of purchasing them and that is why it retains more nutrients. More the time gap between the harvesting and consumption, lesser would be the nutrients.
2. You get to try different varieties.
When you consume only local fruits and vegetables, you are automatically ingesting whatever is grown during a particular season in that geography. In this way, you are consuming diverse and different fruits & vegetables. For instance, the joy of eating mangoes on a summery afternoon is different from eating the canned mangoes or other mango varieties that are available throughout the year. Can you recollect yourself relishing the refreshing aam panna only in summers and not in the rainy season? Eating seasonal helps you to eat variety throughout the year. Seasonal eating is designed according to your body’s needs, based on region and location. It supports your health in the best possible way.
3. Free from Pesticides and Preservatives.
When a crop is grown in its season, it gets less diseases. Thus, use of pesticides is minimal for such a crop vis-à-vis a crop grown out of its season. Mostly local farmers choose to grow crops on a small scale so they try to avoid use of pesticides and preservatives by adapting organic farming.
4. Good nutritional value.
The nutritional value of locally grown produce, in general, is high since it’s not ingested with harmful chemicals that keeps the produce fresh for longer. Therefore, it is full of micronutrients and macronutrients. Studies have found that organic vegetables and fruits are rich in Vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and other micronutrients as compared to the conventional plants.
5. Provides food safety.
Locally grown foods are safe to consume, especially for the young and elderly population. Their immunity is low and therefore any amount of contamination can risk their gut health. The transportation from the farm to the consumer can also increase the chances of contamination which is comparatively very low when you consume locally grown produce.
6. Environmental friendly.
As it is grown locally, it helps to shorten the distribution chain from farm to consumer, less waste is produced in the procedure, helping to decrease pollution in the environment. It also saves on use of plastic packaging which is required to reduce the physical damage on produce while transportation and distribution. Organic farming helps to enrich the quality of the soil. In most cases, the produce is nutrient-dense only because of its soil quality.
7. Supports the local economy in the community.
The money expended by local farmers stays in the community or in that area and can be reinvested. In this way, the whole community gets monetary benefits as the money stays there itself.
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5 Things you can do to promote locally grown vegetables and fruits.
1. Buy from organic farms.
Nowadays there are so many organizations that follow organic food farming and sell their products. They follow the traditional way of using animal and plant remains and waste, convert them into manure and compost, and then use the same for farming. In organic farming, they don’t promote artificial ripening by giving injections or using synthetic fertilizers. You can be sure about the quality of products from such places. It includes natural ways of cultivating fruits and vegetables and also rearing the animals. Few farms are involved in planting, dairy, and poultry as well. It relies on agricultural principles like organic waste, crop rotation, biological pest control, etc.
2. Organic vegetable farming.
By practicing organic farming, nutrient management is prioritized automatically as the soil fertility is not only maintained but gets improvised. Farmers use only organic wastes like animal wastes, plant wastes, and farm waste as a fertilizer to upgrade the soil quality and in turn the food quality. Green manure makes the nitrogen from the atmosphere available for the vegetable which increases the nutrient value of the food. It also helps soil to remain fertile for longer durations.
3. Home garden.
Use your garden area to grow your vegetables. If you have an area where there is ample sunlight, utilize that area to grow your vegetable garden. Start with one plant at a time and the second the next time. Choose the plants which you can easily consume or your family will consume. Decide on the quantity. Use good quality seeds from a good source. You can also plant the vegetables according to the seasons. Vegetables like peas, beans, tomatoes, lemon, bell peppers, and carrots are easy options. Also, condiments like fresh coriander, chilies, mustard seeds, garlic, curry leaves can be grown easily. Growing condiments would be very fascinating as it is used in almost every meal we prepare. Using your house garden for growing vegetables can save you on cost as well as improve your health.
4. Kitchen garden or balcony.
Small window sills or balconies can be used to grow small tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, sweet peppers, etc. Make sure to choose a space that gets optimum sunlight. The most followed practice in the kitchen garden is reusing and recycling plastic bottles, buckets, bathtubs instead of fancy earthen pots. It’s the most cost-effective way to do it. For compost, use the remains of vegetables like cabbage, radish, onions, and those parts which we generally throw after cutting them. Don’t know how to start is not a problem at all; refer to the videos you can easily find on the internet.
5. Use organic agriculture products.
India is the perfect place to produce all varieties of organic products because of its agro-climatic conditions. This is one of the reasons why people are trying their hands on starting up a business in agricultural sectors. Organic agriculture products are also trending due to awareness about good quality and benefits of organic food, as it eliminates the usage of synthetic agricultural products such as synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, veterinary drugs, genetically modified (GMO) seeds and breeds, additives, and preservatives. The use of organic farming practice provides nourishment to the soil and enhances the quality of the produce. It helps in maintaining a healthy agro-ecosystem.
So now that we all are very much aware of the benefits of consuming organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables. Let’s start The FARM TO PLATE approach in our lives and enhance and nourish our lives.