We're always advising you to buy your produce in season, it's the easiest way to ensure that you get the highest-quality fruit and vegetables that are as tasty as they can possibly be. Have you ever tried to buy strawberries in the middle of winter? Sometimes, you can't tell 'em from rubber erasers.
One of the best places to find what's in season in your area is at your farmers' market, of course. But it's not the only place. Increasingly, large grocery chains are going local, too.
I recently traveled home to New Orleans, which, lucky me, is deep in strawberry season. If you’ve never had a fresh Louisiana strawberry, do yourself a favor: They’re small, juicy, and unbelievably sweet, and they’re so deeply colored through and through, that they’re almost burgundy. Strawberries in Louisiana grow this way thanks to the state's sub-tropical climate and the mineral-rich alluvial soil found in the Mississippi delta. My schedule didn't allow for a trip to the farmers' market, but I was able to find Louisiana-grown strawberries at Rouses, a large local grocery chain. And it’s not just produce: Rouses also carries seasonal fish and shellfish caught in local waters.
Like Rouses, lots of other national grocery chains are offering locally grown produce as well as other foods. In 2010, Wal-Mart made a commitment to buy and sell more produce from local farmers. Safeway (and its brands Dominick's, Von's, Genuardi's, and Randall’s), Kroger (including its brands Ralph's, Fred Meyer, and Fry's), and Whole Foods all offer local produce to some degree.
Each store has a different definition of what "local" means. It can mean produced in the same state or in the same region of the U.S., or it can mean grown within an 8-hour drive. Curious about your neighborhood store's policy? Ask!
What's your favorite place to get fresh local produce? We'd love to know which supermarkets in your area carry locally grown foods!