URBANA, Ill.— Learn to eat healthy while supporting local growers. University of Illinois Extension is offering a monthly webinar series beginning April 21 to help you navigate the Illinois growing season. Each webinar starts at noon and lasts 30 minutes.

Community Supported Agriculture shares offer a unique opportunity to better understand how foods grow, how weather impacts crop success, and other ups and downs of growing produce on a farm. While CSA models are not new, many of today’s farms are adding value for their customers by increasing flexibility of what foods are offered, how foods are purchased, and even partnering with other farms and businesses to provide more than vegetables.

“Think of these foods like other ingredients you might buy from a farmers market or grocery store," says Caitlin Mellendorf, Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator. "Add them your favorite recipes, store in ways that extend their shelf life, and save any extras by canning, freezing, or drying.”

Getting the most from a CSA box is the focus of the webinar series. Learn to extend the life of produce with proper care and storage, preserve excess quantity for long-term storage, and prepare healthy recipes. "For example, fresh tomatoes and potatoes store best at room temperature, while lettuce lasts longer when refrigerated," Mellendorf says. "Since asparagus and green beans decay faster, use those vegetables in your CSA box first, before potatoes or onions."

The webinars begin at noon April 21 with an introduction to CSA services. May 19, learn what produce is in season, then explore new ways to cut and prepare fruits and vegetables for healthy dishes. Navigating a farmers market gets simpler after the June 16 webinar. Late in the season, the team will present preservation and storage tips on July 21 and Aug. 18. 

Register online at go.illinois.edu/EatFreshEatLocal. If you will need an accommodation in order to participate, please email Diane Reinhold, dreinhol@illinois.edu. Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time to meet your access needs.

Mellendorf recommends visiting the National Center for Home Food Preservation website for research-based information and tested recipes on canning, freezing, drying, and other preserving methods.

SOURCE: Caitlin Mellendorf, Nutrition and Wellness Educator, University of Illinois Extension

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