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Hey there Sugarbugs!  Let’s talk about fresh, local, seasonal produce!  Did you know, local, seasonal fruits and vegetables are more fresh, flavorful and nutritious because they are harvested at their peak and don’t need to travel far? Buying locally helps reduce food miles or the distance food travels from farm to market which helps our environment. (1)

Purchasing local produce also supports local farmers and the valuable farmland that surrounds our communities. How do you know if you’re buying locally? It’s easy! Look at the small label on your produce to find out where your fruit or vegetable came from. Did your orange travel a long distance from another county or state? Or did it travel a short distance from a local city?

How do you get locally grown produce? Try visiting a pick-your-own produce farm! This can be a fun family activity! Another way to get fresh, local fruits and vegetables on the family table is to visit one of the local farmer’s markets. And maybe even grab lunch while you’re there!

So, what is grown locally in Ventura County?

The climate in Ventura County is such that we receive moderate rainfall throughout the year or portions of the year with mild to warm summers and cool to cold winters. As Ventura County residents, we are fortunate this climate allows farmers to grow crops year-round! Pretty cool, right? Farmers involved in vegetable and berry production typically plant and harvest multiple crops each year. Orchard crops such as lemons and oranges are harvested for many months at a time. (2) Here is a chart to help you visualize the typical harvest seasons in Ventura County:

Other local crops include kale, cabbage, lettuce leaf, parsley, cilantro, cucumbers, artichokes, blueberries, radishes, spinach, mandarins and tangelos.

What can you do with these amazing fruits and vegetables?  Check out these recipes for some fun ways to add more local produce to family meals!

Family Breakfast Scramble
Servings: 4-5

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 cup cubed ham
  • ½ cup finely chopped bell pepper (red, green, or yellow)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Directions:

Warm oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ham and bell pepper and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and flavor with oregano and salt. Add the egg mixture to the skillet. As the eggs begin to set, gently move a heatproof spatula across the bottom and sides of the skillet. Cook until eggs are set. Serve immediately. Top egg scramble with slices of avocado and diced tomato for added nutrients and energy!

Recipe Options: Substitute 6 strips of turkey bacon or 14 ounces of soft tofu instead of the cubed ham.

Tips for Involving Children: Have the children select the color of bell pepper they would like to taste. Invite children to help wash the produce or whisk the eggs.

Crunchy Veggie Tuna & Pasta Salad
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 2 cans (5 ounces each) tuna in water
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ cup chopped cucumber
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise (or salad dressing of choice)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain the cooking liquid and cool.

Drain tuna. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill until ready to serve. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Recipe Options: Add thawed frozen peas for extra protein.

Tips for Involving Children: Have children select pasta of choice such as shells, bow tie (farfalle), or spiral (rotini).

Berry Good Spinach Salad
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch fresh spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries
  • ¼ cup raspberry vinaigrette dressing (or mild vinaigrette of choice)

Directions:

Remove the stems from the spinach. Tear or chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Place into a large salad bowl and gently toss with dressing. Wash and dry berries. Slice strawberries. Add the sliced strawberries and blueberries to the spinach and gently toss again before serving.

Recipe Options: For a complete meal, serve salad with your family’s favorite tacos such as fish tacos or chicken tacos.

Tips for Involving Children: Have your child sneak a strawberry or two!

Sources:

  1. Food Revolution Network. (2017). Why buy local food? It’s healthier for you and better for the environment. Retrieved from: https://foodrevolution.org
  2. County of Ventura. (2019). Crop and livestock report. Retrieved from: https://www.ventura.org/agricultural-commissioner/crop-reports/
  3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2021). Chefs in training: getting children involved in the kitchen. Retrieved from: https://healthyeating.nhlbi.nih.gov/chefTraining.aspx?linkId=3

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