August is Pennsylvania Produce Month.
For the ninth year, the Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program and vegetable growers across the commonwealth will celebrate fresh, local vegetables during August.
For those interested in eating local foods, August is the perfect time of the year.
August is the peak season for many Pennsylvania vegetable crops, and all but the early spring and late fall vegetable crops are available in August.
There are potatoes, sweet corn, snap beans, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, cantaloupes, watermelon, zucchini and other squash, lima beans, lettuce, beets, carrots, onions, fresh herbs and more.
Roadside farm markets are a favorite place to pick-up fresh, locally grown vegetables.
Shopping at a community farmer's market also is an enjoyable way to buy fresh, local "PA Preferred" vegetables.
Here, farmers bring their fresh farm products to a neighborhood allowing folks to buy food directly from the farmer who produced it.
Pennsylvania has more than 1,000 farm markets and community farmers' markets - and many of them are participating in the PA Produce Month promotion.
To find a market nearby, visit www.paveggies.org and click on "Find PA Veggies."
Consumers also can call the state Department of Agriculture at 717-783-9948 to request a copy of "A Consumer's Guide to Pennsylvania Farm Markets."
The market list also is available at www.agriculture.state.pa.us under "Online Services" or at www.pameals.com.
Four other valuable resources are the "PA Preferred" website at www.papreferred.com; Penn State University's AgMap at agmap.psu.edu; the Pennsylvania Buy Fresh, Buy Local website at www.buylocalpa.org; and the Pennsylvania MarketMaker website at www.pamarketmaker.com.
People also can buy Pennsylvania produce in the supermarket along with other groceries. Local produce may be identified with the "PA Preferred" logo.
As more people are recognizing the freshness and quality of local produce, supermarkets are making a special effort to buy more of their fruit and vegetables from local growers in season.
Sweet corn is Pennsylvania's largest vegetable crop. Growers plant about 12,700 acres per year, ranking the state as the seventh largest producer of fresh market sweet corn.
Snap beans are the second largest vegetable crop, with about 10,700 acres being grown.
Most of the snap beans are grown for processing, ranking the state fifth in the nation in processing snap bean production. Potatoes are the state's third largest vegetable crop at about 8,700 acres.
Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the nation in the production of pumpkins, the state's fourth largest vegetable with 6,200 acres being grown.
Tomatoes are the state's fifth largest vegetable crop. Pennsylvania growers plant 1,700 acres of fresh market tomatoes, ranking Pennsylvania 13th in the nation, plus about 1,000 acres of processing tomatoes.
The other top 10 Pennsylvania vegetable crops are peppers at about 1,200 acres, cantaloupes at 1,100 (eighth in the nation), cabbage also at about 1,100 acres 13th in the nation), squash at 900 acres and watermelons at 800 acres.
Pennsylvania vegetables are not transported thousands of miles across the country in refrigerated trucks that use a tremendous amount of fossil fuels.
They're grown by nearby family farmers who may be just down the road. Area restaurants also may be serving local produce.
High-quality, farm-fresh produce is worth a premium price in terms of its superior taste and nutrition.
Local growers need to charge reasonable prices to cover their increasing costs of fuel, fertilizer, labor and other supplies, but consumers often are find real bargains on local produce in August when the season is at its peak.
For those who are worried about high food costs in the winter, consider freezing or canning some sweet corn, snap beans, tomatoes, peppers or beets.
The latest nutrition advice is that half of a plate should be vegetables and fruits.
Health experts recommend that the average American should:
Eat 2 to 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day.
Choose a variety of vegetables each day to get a good mix of vitamins and minerals.
Strive to eat the following amounts vegetables from each of the five groups of vegetables each week:
Broccoli, dark green leaf lettuce, kale, spinach, turnip greens - 3 cups.
Carrots, acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potato - 2 cups.
Dried beans and peas - 3 cups.
Corn, green peas, lima beans, potatoes - 3 to 6 cups.
Asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, peppers, lettuce, onions, tomatoes - 6 to 7 cups.
For prize-winning vegetable recipes, visit www.paveggies.org.