Fresh Produce Prices

In a recent study by Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation, they found that prices for healthy staple foods varied widely across the country. For example, 6 medium apples were priced at only $1.71 in Edmonton, but cost $5.02 in nearby Calgary. Although the methodology of the study seems questionable, a brief glance through it implies that in general, people in remote communities pay much more for fresh produce than those in large urban centres.

The Foundation is concerned that some people are going without nutritious food because of the cost (and in their study, junk food tended to cost less than real food). It seems obvious that many people need economical ways to supplement their supply of fresh food.

The first solution is to grow a garden (bet you didn't see that coming!). I never seem to save money gardening, but if 6 apples cost me $7.45 (Bearskin Lake, Ontario), I could probably save a lot (but I'd be gardening in zone 1a). A small garden can yield a continuous harvest of nutritious greens even during early spring and late fall by continuously planting cold-tolerant plants such as mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, orach, and corn salad. Simple cold frames or even a greenhouse could be cost-effective ways to extend the growing season even more. For a lot of good information on this topic, see Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest

Indoor gardening can also be a good option for those with short growing seasons. You could start by slicing the top off of a beet and placing it on a plate of water. It will sprout new greens for salads. Only slightly harder is forcing chicory roots to provide a winter delicacy. For more variety, build a growing shelf with fluorescent lights. Quick growing greens, scallions, beets and herbs are good candidates for growing under lights. If you are very serious, you might consider investigating hydroponics, which allows the plants to grow faster. Fruiting plants such as tomatoes and cucumbers will probably require special growing lights.

The gardening season doesn't have to begin with the last frost and end with the first; nutritious food can be inexpensively grown at home almost all year long, no matter what your climate is.

1 comment:

  1. That study was very illuminating, wasn't it? Yesterday the afternoon CBC radio show in Halifax had some apologist for the Grocers Association on, explaining his rationale for the variations even within a province. So. Much. BS! I often wonder how spindoctors can look themselves in the eyes in the mirror, but I've concluded that they're related to vampires. Just wrote my next column on starting veggie gardening, and on some easy veggies for beginners to grow. I think there will be a LOT of new veggie gardeners this year.

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