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There is nothing like summer and the bounty of fruits and vegetables that are available to us. It feels like we have access to pretty much any produce we can desire. There are dozens of farmers markets, the supermarkets are bursting with fresh produce and many of us are enjoying the beautiful fruits and veggies growing in our own gardens. Shopping for produce may be a little more challenging in the winter months. Produce, especially organic produce, can be much more expensive during the winter and perhaps, harder to find. But fear not, it is still possible to fill your fridge with fresh, organic produce even in the dead of winter. Here are some tips for obtaining organic produce during the winter.

1. Know When to Buy Organic

Not every fruit or vegetable you buy needs to be organic. The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides annually lists the fruits and veggies that have the highest pesticide residues. You may know these as “The Dirty Dozen.” The list includes apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, bell peppers, nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, hot peppers, kale, collards, snap peas, zucchini, lettuce, and blueberries.  They also put out a list called “The Clean 15” which includes items that have very low levels of pesticide residue and do not need to be bought in organic forms. These items are avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, onions, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

How you prepare the produce may also factor into the decision of whether to buy organic or not. Washing and peeling the produce would eliminate more chance of ingesting pesticide residue. Of course, you may not want to worry about this at all and only buy produce that has been grown without pesticides at all. For more info on shopping for organic produce, read 5 Crazy New Reasons Organic Produce Is Really Worth Your Money (and How to Afford It!) and 5 Tips For Buying Organic on a Budget.

2. Shopping at the Supermarket

The supermarkets seem to have a wide variety of produce year-round. However, the prices for organic produce may spike dramatically during the winter as do the prices for local produce. To get the most value for your money, buy food that is in season. There are so many fruits and vegetables that have their peak season in fall and winter. In-season veggies include potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, leafy greens, artichokes, cauliflower, broccoli, celery root, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, fennel, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, kohlrabi, pumpkins, winter squash and root veggies such as carrots and parsnips. Winter fruits include dates, pears, clementines, grapefruit, kiwi, Mandarin oranges, papayas, Passionfruit, persimmons, pomegranates and tangerines. Avoid foods that are not in season as they will most likely be imported and treated with pesticides when they enter the country. See Cook Perfect Fall and Winter Veggies With These Prep Tips for ideas on how to use winter’s seasonal produce.

2. Winter Farmers Markets

Just because it’s cold outside, that doesn’t mean that all the farmers markets disappear. There are many winter farmers markets, even in really cold areas of the country like Chicago, Iowa and New York. Check to see if there is a winter farmers market near you. Check out Shopping at the Farmers Market: Your Questions Answered for tips.

4. Join a CSA

If you cannot find a winter farmers market near you, consider joining a CSA. CSAs, or community supported agriculture, are like buying a subscription to a local farm. Members pay a fee and then receive a share of the produce grown. Many CSAs offer winter produce to their members. By joining a CSA, you get local, organic produce and you may even get a few fruits or vegetables you have never tried before. To learn more, read Community Supported Agriculture: What it is, and Why it’s Awesome.

5. Grow Your Own

If you enjoyed growing your own fruits and veggies all summer, don’t put away your gardening tools just yet. Why not make a winter garden? There are many vegetables that love the cold weather such as kale, spinach and beets. Even if you don’t have a backyard, you can grow produce in containers or consider growing a few veggies indoors. See 8 Must-Read Winter Gardening Tips and Winter Gardening in a Cold Climate to help you have a green thumb even with your mittens on.

5. Store Your Food Properly

Organic produce is pricier so be sure to store it properly to avoid waste. Keep fruit in the fridge. Store greens in bags with damp paper towels. Keep veggies in the crisper drawer. Potatoes, onions, shallots and garlic should be kept in paper bags and out of bright light. To learn the best way to keep your produce fresh, check out How to Properly Store Your Fruit and Vegetables for Maximum Freshness, Tips and Tricks: How to Preserve Fall Harvest Foods All Year Long and How to Store Your Raw Foods for Optimum Lasting Power.

Winter may not be the greenest of seasons but you can still enjoy organic fruits and vegetables during the cold seasons. Once you know what’s important to buy in organic form, where to find it and how to store it properly, your kitchen will be so filled with produce, you might just think it’s summer again.

Image Source: Charles Smith/Flickr

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