Jersey Fresh crops ready to hit their (delicious) peaks in July
Farm stands and open-air markets seem like the perfect places to shop in a socially distant fashion this summer, all while supporting New Jersey businesses, so the state Department of Agriculture is eager to let residents know when their favorite Jersey Fresh produce will be available.
Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher said July is a "spectacular" time to get out and buy food that's practically from right out of your backyard.
"This is the time when people are longing for the truly local, which is Jersey Fresh," he said. "July is one of the best months of the year to get all that you've been looking for."
Fisher said New Jersey ranks in the top 10 nationally in the production of many edible crops, including blueberries (No. 5), which are just starting to peak for this year, and cranberries (No. 6), which will come later.
And while there isn't much interstate travel going on these days, the freshest that Jersey has to offer does find its way to other areas of the country — and beyond.
"We go up and down the Eastern seaboard. Right now, blueberries are shipping into Canada. They're always waiting for the Jersey blues," Fisher said. "We ship as far west, in great supply, toward the Midwest, Chicago area, so the produce travels far and wide."
Along with blueberries, Jersey peaches are close to their peak right now, according to Fisher, as is sweet corn. Cucumbers, squash, eggplant, and cabbage are also plentiful at the moment, he said.
Several varieties of tomatoes are beginning to become more available and Fisher said those will peak in a few weeks.
Whether at a farmer's market or a supermarket, the secretary said the best course of action for a discerning shopper is to ask a grocer when each Jersey Fresh crop will hit its peaks of flavor and availability.
And in a year when so much focus has been put on thanking workers who keep their communities healthy, Fisher said farmers should be counted among those essential to the Garden State's survival.
"It's really important to make sure that we support these farmers by asking for Jersey Fresh product," he said. "It really means a lot."
To find out more about readily available crops in your area, visit findjerseyfresh.com.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.