7 of Arizona’s Best Picks

By Kevann Jordan, ASU Communication Nutrition Student

According to the Arizona Farm Bureau and the United States Department of Agriculture, the following seven nutritional gems are specialty crops grown right here in Arizona: spinach, cantaloupe, watermelon, cabbage, Leaf Lettuce, Broccoli, and cauliflower. Which causes me to ask myself, why buy locally? I believe by the end of this article you will have all the supporting information to make you never want to buy these seven crops from anywhere but Arizona.

John Ikerd of the University of Missouri tells us why he thinks we should buy locally. First, eating locally cuts out the middle man. He points out that 25% of the total food cost profits the transportation, energy, packing and advertising of food grow. Plus, Michigan State University found that eating locally often tastes better, is more nutritious, supports your local economy, and local food suppliers can tell you how the food is grown.

While all of this sounds ideal, let’s talk about how eating locally benefits your family at home. Sure eating locally might take more time and preparation but the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. Research suggests that having dinner together as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on child development. Family dinners set a pattern for healthy eating and the importance of achieving successful goals as a family and individually in our children. The list of benefits to preparing wholesome locally grown food is extensive and I encourage you to look at a few on The Family Dinner Project https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/resources/faq/.

For Arizona families, you’re blessed to live in this sunny state that provides 300+plus days of sunny weather to grow these crops. And, while you and I celebrate local, we have to remember that our relatives in the Midwest and back east during winter need us to supply their vegetables.

And, that’s why the majority of the seven Arizona crops I’ll be featuring are mainly grown in winter (except for the melons) since they can’t be grown in the Midwest and east. Much of the crop production of these seven crops sends the matured crop across our borders to the rest of the United States.

In fact, these seven crops generated more than $500 million for Arizona in 2015, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Those are dollars that flow back to Arizona even if the crop is sent out of state.

With all this being said let’s talk about the seven power crops in Arizona and their benefits and the fun and different ways they can be prepared.  Watch for follow up articles from me on the seven crops I feature here.

For more about Arizona produce, what’s in season, and tasty recipes visit Fill Your Plate!

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