Additional benefits of what grows close to home: Recent survey reveals consumer interest in the nutritional properties of Ontario asparagus

    SIMCOE, ON, June 5 /CNW/ - 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
    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
    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 further information:

For further information: Brenda Lammens, Chairman, Ontario Asparagus
Growers' Marketing Board, Phone: (519) 426-7529, Email:;
For delicious asparagus recipes visit

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