Wash your produce.

We are taught this from a very young age, but it particularly holds true up here in the North.

Some of the things I’ve seen people to do in the fruits and veggies department is especially appalling.

They squeeze it, they sniff it, they caress it, they poke it, and they throw it from hand to hand as if it were a hot potato or baseball.

They hold it in the light, one eye closed as if it were a rare gem or possibly a nugget of gold.

They breathe on it, blow on it and shake it, too.

It makes sense though. Finding a fresh piece of produce is no easy task this time of year.

“Be careful, it’s like the Ukraine in there tonight!”

That’s how I was greeted the other evening as I entered one of the local grocery stores.

Not sure at first what he meant by the comment, it all came together once I got to the produce section – or at least where the produce section was supposed to be.

It was barren, aside from the odd misshaped yam and zucchini with a skin reminiscent of someone who had fallen asleep in the bathtub.

There were a few granny apples, or at least what I thought were granny apples but in actuality were tomatoes.

There were green and black bananas.

I did come across some avocados that will taste great in April when they eventually ripen.

But the peppers … were they green, yellow or red? Well, one would have been better off prospecting for gold in the aisles that night.

The worst part about my “lack of produce” ordeal is that for a brief moment I almost let it get the better of me.

For a minute or so I was actually mad.

I found myself acting like this no-produce thing was something new: that typically in early February in a remote part of northern Canada, I should expect an abundance of vegetables to be available.

I guess part of my unrealistic produce expectations that night stemmed from my trip home to the west coast a mere few weeks before, where Christmas morning consisted of sunshine and 12 degrees and plenty of fresh produce. Cheap, delicious fresh produce.

But of course it was fresh.

It’s not as if their produce is coming via 18-wheeler down the Alaska Highway, where the gamut of hazards can range at any given time between October and April from thick snow and black ice to frozen radiators and docile mountain sheep.

The sandwich I ate on Boxing Day in Victoria was made from veggies picked in the garden located just steps from the till, for Pete’s sake (and just who is Pete, anyway?).

I guess my point is before you storm out of the grocery store in a rage, as I almost did that night, think about the journey that produce has made.

In the worst-case scenario, the yams and avocado make great paper weights until springtime.