Sure, the produce section at grocery stores is packed with items like cucumbers and apples even when the ground has frozen over for the winter. But local farm stands and markets provide something those big chains often cannot match — freshness.
When you buy a fruit or veggie grown on Long Island, you know it hasn’t spent five to seven days in transit and the flavor is almost always more intense. And we’re supporting our local growers and farmers, which also helps the local economy.
Here are some nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables Long Island is famous for. Remember to look for signs saying “Grown on Long Island” when you’re shopping.
Available: In the cool spring and fall
Broccoli is a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, iron, fiber and folacin. It contains important phytochemicals that may help prevent heart disease and certain types of cancers.
Available: All year long
Greens are a good source of vitamins A, B6, C and K, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, iron, potassium, manganese and carotenoids. They may help prevent age-related macular degeneration. The darker the leaves, the more nutritious the greens.
Available: Late spring to early summer
While not technically a berry, strawberries are perennially one of the most sought-after North Fork fruits. The average strawberry has 200 tiny seeds on the outside and should be bright red when it’s ready to be picked. Strawberries are fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free and are a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber.
Beans, Summer Squash and Corn
Native Americans from this area grew The Three Sisters: beans, summer squash and corn. Green beans are a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, fiber, and vitamins A and C. Summer squash is a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, potassium, fiber, vitamins A, B6, and C, folate, magnesium, potassium and carotenoids. It also supports eye and heart health, with only 20 calories per half-cup. And corn is an excellent source of thiamin, niacin, folate, phosphorus, fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin and ferulic acid.
Available: In the hot summer
Cantaloupe is a melon (a fruit) that grows on a vine and, like watermelon and honeydew, is in the same family as squash and cucumbers. Add cantaloupe to fruit salads, fruit soups, or salsa. Serve as a dessert with some ice cream. Cantaloupes are fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free, and are a good source of vitamins A and C and potassium.
Available: Spring and fall
What is still one of Long Island’s largest crops is also a powerhouse of good nutrition. Potatoes are a good source of vitamins B6 and C, potassium, copper, manganese and dietary fiber. Many common types of potatoes may help lower blood pressure because they contain chemicals called kukoamines. Eat the skins for more nutrition.
Available: Year round
Originating over 2,000 years ago in the Mediterranean, cauliflowers are vegetables that grow as flowers on plants. Cauliflower, or “Cabbage Flower,” is a member of the cabbage family, which may help prevent certain types of cancer. It is available year round but is plentiful in the fall. They are fat free and cholesterol free, high in vitamin C, folate and fiber, and are a good source of complex carbohydrates.
Available: Late summer to early fall
The most popular fruit in the United States, apples have been growing in North America since the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620. Americans eat about 120 apples each per year and though there are 36 states in the U.S. that grow this spherical fruit, New York is one of the top producers. Choose apples that are firm with no soft spots. Wash under clean, running water before eating. Apples are fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free, and are a good source of fiber and vitamin C.
Source: Maryann Birmingham, community nutrition educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County