It wasn't all that long ago that our fruits and vegetables were only available for consumption based on the season. Today, when we go to the grocery we literally have a plethora of foods to choose from. Any time of the year, we can buy produce that was once available for only a few short weeks out of the year. Fresh berries or squash in December, and corn on the cob, green beans, or even watermelon in February!
How, you ask? Because much of our produce comes from other parts of the world where growing seasons are opposite of ours (or even year long). Places such as Mexico, Chile, India, and the Pacific Rim, ship enormous amounts of commodities to the U.S. While this allows the consumer to buy tomatoes in January, it doesn't necessarily translate into nutrition and certainly not to flavor or taste.
Produce is at its highest nutritional value when it is ripe. But the fruits and vegetables we now buy must first travel a very long distance to get to the store, which means they are picked before being truly "ready to eat". While the produce may gain color and appear to ripen on its journey to the supermarket, nutritional value, which is delivered through the living plant, is lessened. Once picked, a vegetable or fruit will cease to gain nutrition, and (here’s the real kick in the pants!) nutritional value will actually begin to decrease with each passing day!
Obviously, nutritional value and taste are not the real concerns for the large commercial fruit and vegetable farms. In the days when fruits and vegetables were locally grown all that really mattered was taste and everyone just knew they were good for you. But today, with harvesting handled by machines and the produce literally shipped worldwide, other factors take priority. Uniformity of size, ability to "hold up" during shipping and eye appeal are really all that matter. While these factors are important to the grower's bottom line (profits), they actually provide less of a health benefit to the consumer. In fact, there are some who will argue that unripened food can be a detriment to health.
So for your health's sake, go back to the future when you're shopping for produce. Find your local farmers market, or better yet, a farm stand on the road right in front of the farm where the fruits and vegetables are grown. You just won't believe the taste when you do!
If you live in the big city check your local listings or search the internet for farmers markets and health food stores that sell locally produced food in your community. And by all means, support your community fruit and vegetable growers by buying your produce ripe, locally grown, and freshly harvested. Your taste buds will thank you.