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Farmer’s Tips For Buying Summer Produce

April 3, 2013 6:00 AM

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(credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(credit: Urban Homesteading)

(credit: Urban Homesteading)


In search for the best organic fruit and vegetables in the city or joining the most popular CSA, one tends to forget about the origin of where the produce actually comes from: a farmer. Living in Los Angeles, it’s hard not to imagine the Hollywood version of a weathered man and his family breaking their backs tending to acres and acres of land. But the fact is that farms come in all sizes, and true farmers can produce crops on any size plot of land, like in their backyard for an example.

Family owned and run, The Urban Homestead is an urban micro farm which sprouted up in 1995 and is located in the middle of the city of Pasadena. From this small but copious city plot of land, the family grows and sells a surprisingly varied selection of seasonal vegetables and fruits as well as herbs and edible flowers. Rare and heirloom varieties are its specialty. Although size restricts the amount of produce provided, it’s all about quality, not quantity as to what’s on the shelves. The Urban Homestead offers only the very best of what grows in its organic garden. In addition, the farm stand feature seasonal (organic) produce from other local farms, eggs, honey, cold-pressed olive oil, artisan bread, seeds, garden and homesteading supplies and more.

(credit: City Of Temecula)

(credit: City Of Temecula)


Tip 1: What To Spend
 
Climate irregularities like droughts and cold snaps don’t usually affect smaller farms as they would a commercial farm. Heat lamps, sprinklers and tarps can help save and protect a small crop from the elements, whereas a commercial farm is more vulnerable due to its size. However, prices will still fluctuate and can increase as a result of climate changes, but prices tend to be more stabilized which is another bonus to buying from a small and local farmer.

(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


Tip 2: What’s Hot
 
Right now is the season for salad greens, kale and assorted root crops like carrots, radishes and beets. Greens aren’t just for salad — you can use them in smoothies, and kale makes a great basil substitute in pesto. But as with anything that comes from the earth, it’s important to soak and wash everything thoroughly before eating it. Some insects just don’t know when to let go.

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(credit: Santa Monica Famers Market)

(credit: Santa Monica Famers Market)


Tip 3: What To Expect
 
Weather will directly influence what fruits and vegetables thrive, so every year is different. That’s part of the fun of buying from a local farm. The Internet makes it easy to find a delicious recipe for every kind of vegetable out there, so people shouldn’t be afraid to try something they’ve never seen before. If there’s a mild summer, people can hopefully expect a good tomato crop.

(credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


Tip 4: What’s Delicious
 
It’s a really good citrus year, thanks to the cold snap which really sweetened the fruit. Oranges are always a year-round favorite. Not only are they a fantastic source of vitamin C, but they make for easy and healthy snacks for people on the go. Hopefully, if we don’t get a too hard of a freeze before winter’s out, then we are hoping for a good stone fruit crop.

(credit: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)


Tip 5: How To Choose
 
When buying summer fruit, seek out LOCAL farmers. Fruits that are able to ripen on the tree and with less “food miles” on them are essentially more tasty and nutritious. When looking for ripe citrus, don’t worry about color. For the best flavor, look for firm, heavy fruits with a thin, smooth skin. Grapefruits, lemons and tangerines make great bases for salad dressings.

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Kristine G. Bottone is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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