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Produce on the cheap: Locally grown food (Part 1)

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  May 29, 2012 10:31 AM

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Source:  National Gardening Association

The USDA recommends that we consume a minimum of 4½ cups of fruits and veggies daily.  Unfortunately, since food prices are expected to rise about 3 percent this year (ouch!), affording this much fresh produce daily could be a tad challenging for some of us. So where can you find produce on the cheap?

The answer: By eating locally. This is Part 1 of a 2-part series about obtaining locally grown food to stretch your produce food dollar.

This week’s blog focuses on eating as locally as you can physically get; namely, right out of your own backyard garden.  According to Bruce Butterfield, the research director at the National Gardening Association (NGA), 39 million households in America had a home garden in 2011, an increase from 2008. A major reason that more households are growing their own food, according to the NGA, is to save money on their food bill.  Research suggests that, on average, a well-maintained food garden yields about a $500 return, when taking into account the gardener’s investment and the market price of produce.

While price is an important consideration among gardeners, the number one motivator and driving force for home gardening is taste. Yup, taste. As most local gardeners already know, nothing tastes more delicious than a ripe, summer tomato plucked right out of your backyard garden. In fact, NGA research shows that tomatoes are grown by more than 85 percent of home gardeners. This doesn’t surprise Butterfield, as “tomatoes are popular among consumers because of their superior taste, their good yield, and more entertainingly, they allow dramatic bragging rights to the most robust crop among your neighbors."

For first time gardeners, the NGA provides easy, step-by-step instructions on growing tomatoes that will be “warm from the sun and heavy in the hand,” chuckles Butterfield.   Plant some basil and along with a smidgen of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, you will be abundantly slicing up a delicious tomato salad nightly.

If you want to make gardening a truly ambitious family affair, Dole Foods has a Garden Kit complete with 12 different varieties of seeds, trays, garden markers, nutrition information, and recipes.

Since kids love to eat what they grow, it is designed to entice and educate kids as to where their produce really comes from.   Click here for more information on the kit.

Do you have a vegetable garden?  Please post your gardening tips below.

Follow Joan on Twitter at: joansalgeblake

Next week's blog:  Produce on the Cheap:  Farmer's Markets (Part 2)

Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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