A Desert Farm to Table Guide

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If you’ve been to any trendy Southern California restaurant lately, you have surely encountered the phrase “farm to table.” The descriptor does more than connote pastoral images of eating at a country inn. It is actually a growing trend, among health-conscious consumers, of tracing the origins of the food on their plates. How did it get there? Where did it come from? How was it grown? Farm-to-table promoters advocate for locally-sourced food, arguing that it has health, environment and flavor benefits. Today, we’ll focus on the health benefits, and where to get local produce in the desert.

With the rise in obesity rates over the past twenty years, health experts have found that there is a value to being discerning not only about what and how much we eat, but on the quality of the food itself. And they have found that, the more processes a food travels to get to its consumer, including withstanding chemical fertilizers and being artificially preserved and homogenized to withstand long-distant travel, the less nutritional value it retains. In turn, many consumers eat more calories and absorb less nutrition. Instead, the farm-to-table option means eating seasonal, locally-grown produce, which is not only better for the environment, but better for our bodies as well.

Although the Coachella Valley may be a desert, Southern California is still a great place to adopt a farm-to-table lifestyle. In Palm Springs, opportunities abound for buying fresh produce that has traveled a day or less from the field to your plate. Check out our very own Famer in the Dale, who is onsite at Sky Valley every week during the season. The Coachella Valley Certified Farmers Market has winter locations in Palm Springs (Saturdays), La Quinta (Sundays) and Palm Desert (Wednesdays), where you can pick up seasonal citrus, dates, root vegetables and more. Many farm vendors offer recipe tips to help you cook with their seasonal offerings, too.

Or, you can ensure you’re eating high quality produce by planting it right in your backyard. As the warm February winds bring an end to seasonal overnight frosts, now is the time to plant (or transplant) your spring plants into the outdoor soil, according to the National Gardening Association. Their Palm Springs area planting guide helps residents perfect their green thumbs by planting what’s right for the weather and the climate.

Vegetables like onions, potatoes, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage can be direct-seeded in the outside garden, but you will want to start more fragile plants, like tomatoes and peppers, indoors first to allow the right lighting and heating conditions. Once the leafy plants have started to grow, you’ll have fresh salad-making material every day!

And of course, many lots in Caliente Springs already have citrus trees blooming. In the winter, fresh grapefruit makes a great breakfast, and pomelos and blood oranges are particularly ripe and juicy. Lemons, kumquats and tangerines also pack a vitamin C punch in a tasty way. Trees are maintained by the homeowner in residence, so make sure you ask your friend or neighbor first if you want to pick from a tree that is not on your lot.  

Choosing a diet of fresh, local produce this winter is just one more way that you can embrace the healthy, natural environment of the desert. Check the Events Calendar for the Farmer’s Market right down the road at Sky Valley Resort

Jen Hasselbeck