Monster box of produce

"If it’s in season, then the prices will be right, and the produce will be super tasty."

Farmer’s market
  • Farmer’s market

My childhood summers in Connecticut meant a half-acre garden in the backyard and plucking string beans and cherry tomatoes right from the vine and then dashing off for another round of badminton. I remember rambling squash plants and mounds of rhubarb whipped into pies. Dad always planted more rhubarb then we could ever eat.

These days, my garden is a more modest size, providing a small crop and quieting my gardening bug. But I still buy most of our produce, and a recent tasteless tomato from a supermarket got me wondering about better places to get it.

“I buy produce at whatever store I’m in, because I have little desire to go driving all around town,” replied Julie. “Bottom line is, if it’s in season, then the prices will be right, and the produce will be super tasty.”

Organic CSA produce box

Organic CSA produce box

“I buy most of my produce at Sprouts,” offered Cherie, “but I buy tomatoes at Trader Joe’s, the Kumato variety.” ($3.49 for a pound at Trader Joe’s)

Bernice was another Kumato tomato fan. “I always buy the Kumato tomatoes at Sprouts. I’ve never had a bad one no matter what the season. They’re absolutely delicious, and you get about five medium tomatoes per package.”

Windmill Farms or Trader Joe’s are my go to places for produce,” offered Tracy. “They both have great prices on a consistent basis. When there is a sale or special price at Smart and Final for blueberries or something, I will stop in there too. I tried Farm Fresh To You, which was good produce, but having a large family makes using a service like that difficult to get the right quantities and variety at the best price.”

People’s Co-op has very good produce,” replied Kelly, “especially odd items like turmeric, organic purple sweet potatoes, kohlrabi. Sprouts is definitely the best for a local market. Farm Fresh to You is a great CSA [community supported agriculture]. You can customize and get good in-season produce delivered to your door for reasonable prices that frequently beat the local market prices.” ($58 for the Monster box size which feeds 6 to 8 people)

“I like the strawberries from the La Mesa Farmers Market,” said Sande. “I also like to get the produce box from Specialty Produce. They don’t deliver it, you pick it up at their store on Hancock. It’s only $20 and fun to try new things. And you can add on a pound of fresh fish from Catalina Offshore for $12. You don’t know what it will be, but it’s always good. My last box had four beets, one bunch of baby carrots, two ears of corn, four nectarines, one head of lettuce, two grapefuit, two onions, one fennel, and three apples. You don’t have to order on a regular basis. You can just order Thursday through Sunday to get the box that comes out the following Thursday.”

“I’ve tasted Jared’s fresh produce but haven’t signed up yet for the delivery service,” answered Katie. “It’s the next best alternative to growing your own food. I heard him speak at a... meeting explaining how he discovered the importance of real nutrition, gave up his career, and began a small farm using traditional farming practices. Nutrient dense, fresh food. He uses no pesticides or anything artificial. His bagged salads are pre-washed and rinsed, ready to eat and last a while in the fridge. He’s located in Lakeside, but he also delivers for a nominal fee.” (CSA program, $25 a week, delivery an extra $3.)

“We prefer organic produce,” said Faith, “but the only way we can afford it is at the farmers market or a subscription box as these offer significant savings over grocery stores for organic produce. The problem is getting to the market with our busy family schedule. We subscribed to JR Organics CSA box for many years, which you can pick up at the farmers market and customize and swap out there. Or you have the option of picking up as-is at numerous drop off locations throughout the county. They are a local farm from Escondido, and even provided treats like jams made from their strawberry harvest, herb wreaths during the holidays, and lots of fresh melons in the summer.” (Small Box for $23.50 each, Regular Box - $29.50 each.)

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I'm willing to drive a car all over town for locally-sourced kohlrabi, but since when is turmeric considered produce?

I recommend Chino's Family Farm in Rancho Santa Fe where the growing grounds are just beyond the farm-stand, everything that's sold is raised pesticide-free, harvested that morning and worth the price. It's also a three-generation operation owned and run by graying children and charming grandchildren of Japanese farmers who survived time in a U.S. internment camp.

Turmeric is a herbaceous flowering plant of the ginger family. Not likely it would be in the meat, dairy, bread, cereal or beer sections. ;-)

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