by Schae Richards, community editor
It’s that time of year when people visit their local farmers’ market to find fresh produce to store or prepare for a family meal. Whatever the use, the process of growing produce to preparing and cooking it is important to understand to ensure food safety and good quality.
Braydon Johnson, of Johnson Family Farms in Benson, helps manage a fourth-generation farm in Cache Valley that raises vegetable crops among other things. They sell their products at different venues, such as Cache Valley Gardeners’ Market.
Johnson Family Farms’ mission is to provide individuals with great produce. “We responsibly use modern agricultural technology to bring you healthy, safe, high-quality produce,” their website states.
“Purchasing produce from local farmers allows people to support their local economy,” said Mateja Savoie Roskos, an adjunct faculty member in the Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Sciences Department at Utah State University.
In addition, Mateja said it gives people a chance to ask the farmers questions about their products, which she encourages because each farmer raises their crops differently. “It allows you to know exactly where your food is coming from,” she said.
For example, Johnson Family Farms takes a “common sense approach” to growing their crops, using crop selection, a pest management system and a rotation cycle. “We have tried a lot of varieties of everything we grow, trying to find a good variety that works well in our area and that our customers like,” Braydon said.
Mateja said when purchasing produce, look for any signs that a fruit or a vegetable was affected by a pest or insect. “I would recommend talking with the farmers and really getting information about when it was picked [and] looking for things like bruises and or dark spots , especially on fruits that are soft,” she said.
Once brought home, the produce should be stored according to its specific needs. “Basically, every type of fruit and vegetable is very different of what its needs are,” Mateja said. “Most items need to be kept in a cool place. Often times, things can be kept in the fridge or a basement.”
People can learn about food storage through different resources, such as farmers’ markets and USU Extension. “[USU Extension] has a ton of information on how to plant certain fruits and vegetables, how to store them and prepare and cook them,” Mateja said. “It’s specific to our harvest schedule and specific to our temperature and climate.”
For those who want to preserve their produce, they can use a few different techniques, such as freezing and canning. If frozen, some fruits and vegetables need to be blanched before, and if canned, a preservative is usually required.
When preparing to cook a fruit or vegetable, Mateja said it should be washed right before its cooking time. She also said the cooking method — baked, grilled, roasted, etc. — will play an important part in the preparation stage. “It varies so much on what type of fruit and vegetable, how much time you have, and what you’re cooking it with,” she said.
Mateja said all food should be stored in the fridge within 20 minutes after mealtime to prevent foodborne illness. “When it comes to leftovers, I would recommend that everything be stored in the fridge, especially if it has any kind of protein or dairy,” she said.
To learn more about fresh produce and its needs, visit extension.usu.edu/foodsense.