Local Legends: Look For Local Restaurants Serving Dishes Based On Native Fruits

If you've been looking for a new restaurant to try in the Virginia Beach area, go a step further than just looking for someplace new. Find a restaurant that uses local and regional native foods in their dishes. These are more than just common fruits that happen to be grown in the area. Native fruits, for example, actually aren't that common in stores, so eating at a restaurant that uses them also gives you exposure to foods you might not have tried otherwise. And best of all, you might be able to reduce your exposure to pesticides.

Fewer Chemicals

Native fruit trees and shrubs, just like other native plants, are so well-suited to growing in the areas that they do that they don't require nearly as much fertilizer and pesticide treatment as non-native plants. Sometimes they don't require any treatments with fertilizer and pesticide. So if you are trying to avoid possible chemical residues in your food, native fruits will likely have fewer that you have to worry about. That doesn't mean they're organic foods, but you'd certainly have a better chance of being able to eat a bit "cleaner."

More Chances to Try

Native fruits sometimes have very dedicated local followings -- but that doesn't necessarily give them wide exposure within the community. For example, beach plums, which occur in sandy coastal areas on the East Coast down to about Virginia, are common foraging foods for families who have lived in the area for generations. If you moved into the area more recently, though, you might have never had a beach plum. But if you can find a restaurant serving native foods, you get a chance to try one (or another native food) without having to wander into a coastal marsh to get one.

Patience Needed

Note that dishes containing native foods will probably be only seasonally available in Virginia Beach. While beach plums can be preserved, other foods don't keep so well. The pawpaw, which is native to a large swathe of the eastern United States, is ready to eat after it has already gotten mushy. That's also the reason pawpaws aren't common in markets -- they just don't last. So unless your chosen restaurant has a lot of freezer storage space, the establishment won't be able to serve pawpaw-based dishes all year long.

Simple Search

Most restaurants have menus online now, so as you go through the list of restaurants in the area, scan each place's menu for names like pawpaw, beach plum, Virginia native strawberry, and American persimmon. If you can find these names, you've found a place that offers dishes with fruits native to the state of Virginia. Then it's just a matter of time before the fruits come into season and those dishes are actively offered.

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