Additional Benefits of What Grows Close to Home: Recent Survey Reveals Consumer Interest in the Nutritional Properties of Ontario Asparagus
Jun 5th, 2008
SIMCOE, ON - Asparagus season is in high gear in Ontario, but what exactly do we know about these tasty green spears? And as the asparagus season in Ontario comes to an end, preparing our tables and palettes for a whole host of local foods to come, what other benefits do local foods, like Ontario asparagus, provide?
In a recent survey of 1,698 Canadians, 82% of respondents indicated that they were extremely or very likely to buy locally grown vegetables. The key reasons for buying local include ‘supporting local farmers’, ‘improved taste of local food over imports’ and ‘reduces environmental impact’.
Even when the price of local vegetables is higher than imports, over half of the respondents would choose local produce.
Roughly three-quarters of the vegetables purchased by the respondents were grown locally, and half (55%) of the respondents expected this amount to increase in the future.
When it comes to asparagus, 78% of respondents are likely to buy Ontario asparagus, the majority of which are even willing to pay a premium over imported asparagus. Locally grown asparagus was considered to be superior to imported asparagus, particularly because of the improved taste.
Virtually all respondents were familiar to some degree with the health benefits of anti-oxidants naturally found in food, such as vitamin C, beta-carotene and selenium, and this knowledge often influenced their choice of vegetables.
Only 15% of respondents were aware that Ontario asparagus is a natural source of rutin, an effective anti-oxidant comparable to lycopene or lutein; however, the majority of consumers surveyed (86%) were interested in learning more about rutin. These survey results highlight Canadians’ support of and interest in both the origin and the nutritional properties of the food they consume.
In the Journal Acta Horticulturae, Ontario asparagus is noted as the variety with the highest level of naturally occurring rutin, putting Ontario asparagus in the class with other functional foods such as blueberries and tomatoes.
Antioxidants are compounds that protect living cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are produced by our bodies in response to a number of stimuli, including pollution, overexposure to sun, toxic substances and tobacco smoke. By preventing oxidative damage, antioxidants my help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and degenerative diseases.
As science learns more about the health benefits of food, and consumers gain a better appreciation for the bountiful supply at our doorstep, support for locally grown food will continue to soar.
Remember the ‘taste of spring’ Ontario asparagus season draws to close at the end of this month.
The Ontario Asparagus Growers Marketing Board is a non-profit organization of producers of Ontario Millennium Asparagus who grow, harvest and sell tasty green spears. The Association supports research into new varieties of asparagus, new production methods and harvesting advances. More than 120 growers in the OAGMB have the largest production of Ontario Millennium asparagus in the world.
For more information, please contact:
Brenda Lammens, Chairman
Ontario Asparagus Growers’ Marketing Board
Phone: (519) 426-7529
For delicious asparagus recipes visit www.asparagus.on.ca