The following story was written by Heinen’s partner Elaine T. Cicora.
How does a red, ripe fresh-grown tomato sound, right about now? Or a crisp, crunchy cucumber? In the middle of a Midwest winter and spring, you could be forgiven for thinking we’re kidding.
Except, we aren’t.
Thanks to Heinen’s partnership with family-owned and operated Nature Fresh Farms, such summery treats are available year-round in Heinen’s Produce Department, making it that much easier to include fresh, healthful produce in your daily diet.
Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Ontario, Canada, Nature Fresh Farms is one of North America’s largest sources of greenhouse grown produce, with a focus on tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and berries. In addition to 130 acres of growing space in Ontario, the company launched a 90-acre greenhouse in Delta, Ohio, in the Northwestern part of the state, in 2015, bringing fresh, wholesome produce even closer to thousands of Midwestern consumers.
Combining time-tested techniques with state-of-the-art technology, Nature Fresh Farms employs a host of growing practices that emphasize both plant health and sustainability. Pollination services, for instance, are provided by crews of native bumblebees that live inside the greenhouses; and natural pest control comes by way of ladybugs. Meantime, heating is provided by waste wood that has been redirected from landfills; water is 90% recirculated; a barcode system provides complete product traceability; and a state-of-the-art climate control system ensures the plants always have exactly what they need to flourish.
You can add freshness, vibrancy and nutrition to all your meals year-round with some of our favorite Nature Fresh Farm’s offerings:
1. Nature Fresh Red Cherry Tomatoes On the Vine: As any Midwesterner will tell you, nothing beats a vine-ripened tomato for home-grown goodness. And with their candy-like sweetness and crisp pop of juiciness, these bite-sized beauties do not disappoint. Eat them right off the vine, or incorporate them into wraps, pasta dishes, or salads. No matter how you enjoy them, you’ll also get a big boost of nutrition: These little gems are an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, fiber, and antioxidants including lycopene, which might help protect cells from damage. Plus, they’re just plain fun to eat, whether you add them to a cheese plate in place of traditional grapes; thread them onto a skewer to accompany grilled shrimp; or toss them in a stir-fry for a bright burst of color.
2. Nature Fresh Red Grape Tomatoes: Distinguished by their oval, grape-like shape, these tiny toms are among the most versatile foods you can buy: Grilled, roasted, seared, raw, or in salads, the red grape tomato is a real performer. Sweet and meaty, they’re also ideal for oven drying; afterward, dice them and scatter them across your favorite pizza, or add them to pesto and toss with pasta. No matter how you use them, your body will thank you: These scarlet cuties are a great source of fiber, Vitamins A and C, lycopene and other antioxidants.
3. Nature Fresh Hiiros Tomatoes: Of the many plant-based foods that deliver umami – that rich, rounded, sweet-savory taste that makes your mouth water – tomatoes are tops on the list. And among tomatoes, it doesn’t get much better than these vine ripened Hiiros, with their showstopping balance of savory and sweet. Sure, pop these bite-sized beauties directly into your mouth: They make a wonderful pre- or post-workout pick-me-up, while serving up important nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. But they are just as remarkable when added to sandwiches, stir-fries, scrambles or salads, especially in the presence of ingredients like tofu, chickpeas, black beans or quinoa. If only everything that’s good for us could taste so good!
4. Nature Fresh Mini Cucumbers: Crazy about crunchy, but not so keen on cholesterol? Then toss away those chips: These refreshing little cucumbers could be just what you’re looking for. Crisp, hydrating and satisfying, they make a perfect low-calorie snack straight out of the bag, no peeling required. But these minis are also great on a veggie platter, along with hummus or other healthful dips; or as part of an appetizer plate, where their juicy goodness makes a wholesome foil for richer, saltier components. However you use them, you can expect them to provide fiber, promote hydration, and serve up important vitamins like A, C, and K, which helps promote healthy bones – all without a trace of cholesterol or fat.
Bonus Seasonal Item: Nature Fresh Farms Strawberries (Organic and Conventional)
Fragrant, fresh, and picked for sweetness, these plump red strawberries help chase away the gray skies of winter while adding beautiful eye-appeal to your menu. High in Vitamin C, manganese and antioxidants, they are pesticide-free and sustainably grown in Delta, Ohio, making them perfect on their own or in smoothies, salads, or desserts. Slice them, toss them in balsamic dressing, and set them on a bed of fresh arugula and feta, say; or use the balsamic-dressed berries as a zesty topping for grilled meats. And who ever said “no,” to a big bowl of lightly sweetened strawberries beneath a cloud of freshly whipped cream? Keep an eye out for these berries strawberries throughout the year, they go fast!