Shopping for local produce can sometimes be a daunting task. Keeping up with what is in season, what is affordable and whether local farms had a good harvest is not easy. The best way to gather such information is to speak directly with the farms in your area, which is not always feasible. To make it easier, below are five tips from a local farmer that can help you navigate through the local produce of this coming summer. Find out what produce to buy, when to buy it and what to do with it once you have it.
Agriberry Farm and CSA
P.O. Box 242
Studley, VA 23162
Marjorie Simmons is one of the many hard-working employees of Agriberry Farm and CSA, which was founded in 2008 and has grown to become one of the area’s premier berry farms. Owners Chuck and Anne Geyer have been in the farming industry for 30+ years, and now finally have their own farm, which uses organic practices and focuses on sustainable agricultural methods. The produce from their farm is available at multiple farmers’ markets around the DC area from April until November, and they offer seven CSA pick-up locations. Members of the CSA receive a box of their fruits every week for 20 weeks for $600. See the Agriberry website for information on the CSA, where you can sample and purchase produce, as well as find more information about the farm, employment opportunities and recipes which utilize the delicious fruits. Simmons has generously provided five important tips for maximizing your success in purchasing the best local produce this summer.
Last year’s produce in Washington DC was greatly affected by the preceding harsh winter and a severe lack of rain. A late winter frost was also detrimental to many harvests. This year, there has been an adequate amount of rain and temperatures have not been too low throughout the winter, which means that DC residents can expect a hearty array of summer fruits and vegetables. Look forward to blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, asparagus, sugar snap peas, watermelon, tomatoes, cherries and more. These items will be available during the spring/summer/fall months, albeit at different times.
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To follow a local schedule of production, look for strawberries early on in April, followed by raspberries, then blackberries and peaches in July. Raspberries are actually in season twice in this area, early on in late May and June, and then again from September to November. Both times yield juicy and delicious raspberries. Apples and pears will come in season at the very end of summer.
When shopping, keep in mind that blackberries tend to be the most affordable, and strawberries are also a good deal. While it may seem overwhelming to buy one fruit in abundance when it is most in season, remember you can use the fruit in salads, pies, cakes, jams and sauces, as well as enjoy it raw. You can also freeze the fruit and enjoy it later in the year. Fruit baskets also make excellent hostess and housewarming gifts.
Related: Best Farmers Markets Around DC
The strawberries in DC are usually the most popular fruit because they emerge at the end of winter, when people are craving a sweet and summery fruit. They also happen to be exceptionally delicious. Don’t worry about markets running out of them because they are available in droves. You will find them in abundance, for a good price, and also sold in other forms, such as strawberry jam, strawberry pies and strawberry tarts.
If you need a reason to purchase local produce, all you need to do is sample some local, seasonal items and you will be convinced. What you buy in a store is pre-packaged and offered days and even weeks after being picked from the ground. Local produce offers a freshness, and it turn, a depth of flavor, which is unmatched due to the fact that it is not packaged for travel days in advance of when it will be sold or eaten. Every farm specializes in something different and can have success in a particular fruit each year, so be sure to ask each one of the vendors at your farmers’ market what item they recommend for the season.
Priya Konings is a freelance writer and restaurant critic in Washington D.C. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.