Monday, December 26, 2011

Pantry Raid Part 3: Produce

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Ahhh...after a fun filled weekend spent celebrating our Savior's birth with all the family, we are finally home.  I'm one of those people that enjoy traveling for 3-4 days max and, then, I'm ready for my cozy bed and all the comforts of home.  I was reminded last night about just how blessed I am to have "the comforts of home".  Our travels brought us past quite a few homeless people, and as I was enjoying my hot shower last night with my favorite soap, the shower head I love so much and the smell of a fresh, clean, sun-dried towel I was reminded of just how blessed I am.  Those people we passed don't have the "comforts of home".  They don't even have the privilege of a hot shower every night or something we take for granted as much as a clean towel.   They don't have the choice to grow a garden in their yard either.  What a blessing to have even a small yard that we can give a function to other than just looking pretty!

We spent the day today enjoying that very privilege.  We enjoyed the morning in our yard pulling weeds, harvesting and planting new seeds.  Then, took a trip over to the community garden to do the same.  The best part...all our work brought home a bunch of yummy, fresh produce.  What a beautiful way to enjoy the day! Here's what we got out of the front yard alone...

Check out this fun Candy Cane Beet.  It's an old, heirloom sweet and festive!  We even eat the leaves of the beet...tastes just like spinach.

For lunch, we enjoyed the fruits of our labor.  Just add soft-boiled eggs and some local, raw cheese.


We love salads around here...even the kids love them!


Oops...caught :)!

God created our bodies to need lots and lots of fruits and veggies.  The average American gets two and half servings total of fruits and vegetables a day where we should be eating five.  Even worse, most Americans get their daily intake from nutritionally depleted fruits and vegetables.   "What?!?!", you say.  "Well, I'm fine...I buy fresh fruits and veggies.  No cans and frozen stuff in my house."  Nope...sorry, still depleted.

Let me explain.  The vegetables and fruits that you buy at your grocery store are shipped from all over the country, or worse, the world.  I never quite understood this problem until we grew our first crop of tomatoes.  First off, they were bright red, but never mind that...the taste blew my socks off!   I found it strange though, that they would sit on my counter-top for a few days and would already be starting to go bad.  How did the grocery store tomatoes sit around for a week or sometimes longer?  Not to mention, why do they not taste anywhere near the same as what was coming from my front yard??  Well, it's simple.  The tomatoes are grown with hybrid seeds engineered to give a certain shape, size, yield, color, etc, etc..  They are sprayed with chemicals to keep the bugs off, and synthetic fertilizers are added for a speedy growth.` Then, they are picked from the plant before they get to turn red and gassed with ethylene—a colorless, flammable gas (C2H4) derived from petroleum.  Picking tomatoes green and ripening them artificially is what makes them taste bad, according to Brett Clement, managing editor of Tomato Magazine.  

"Why?", you ask.  So, that the grocery stores can offer you inexpensive tomatoes all year round.  You see, tomatoes are grown and harvested only once a year.  In Florida, we can sometimes squeeze in a second season with a Fall crop, but for the most part, tomatoes are planted in the Spring and harvested in the early Summer.   As demand grew (or maybe our patience shrunk) to have access to tomatoes all year long, growers learned to use science to accommodate us. 

It's not just the tomatoes.  Most of all "fresh" produce you get in the grocery store is not in it's most natural state.  Something has to be done to it in order for it to look perfect, ship across country and still have a shelf life.  The more we "mess" with our food, the more nutrients we lose.  The longer it spends in shipping and sitting on a shelf, the more nutrients we lose.  The more chemicals used in growing it, the more our bodies are poisoned and become dis-functional.  All of these things effect the taste as well.  As we experiment with more and more varieties of veggie in our garden, I realize that people would eat their five servings a day if they could just taste what God meant for us to taste.

Ok, so you don't have a garden right now.  What are your options?  Your local farmer's market is the best place to start.  Not only will you be supporting your local farmers, but you will be getting the MOST freshness available without growing it yourself.  Now, let me insert a warning here.  Just because you visit a stand or farmer's market does not mean you are getting local, fresh produce.  Nor, does it mean it won't be grown with chemicals.  Ask questions.  Where did the produce come from?  Is it organic or pesticide free?  When was it picked?  Some farms can't afford or don't want the hassle of being organic certified, but they grow organically.  Ask.  Most of the time, you will be able to talk directly with the farmer, because they will be the ones selling it.  If they are offering produce that is grown properly, they will be excited to talk about it with you.  Most of them are passionate about offering a sustainable product that they can feel safe eating themselves as well.    

The next best place to go is your local health food store.  Most of these stores are concerned about sustainability and offer the very same produce you will find at the market or the closest version of it they can supply.

And, lastly, the grocery store.  I know organic is more expensive, but try it.  You will see what I am talking tastes better!  Americans are a little funny.  We won't hesitate to go out to eat fast food and spend $20 on on meal for the family, but a dollar or two extra on a produce purchase makes us blow a gasket.  As you are making these changes to your pantry, you will find that eating out (especially fast food) will become less and less appealing.  Then, you will have more and more freed up $$ to spend on healthier groceries.

We eat a ton of salads in my house during the Fall.  Mostly because of the bountiful bed of lettuce we get each year.

I know salad is one of those things we like to eat in the summer when it's hot and we want something cold and refreshing, but lettuce is a cold weather crop.  Why?....cause God made it that way :).

Try and eat your veggies raw as much as possible.  Cooking them is altering them from their natural state, and that decreases nutrients too.  If you do want to cook them,  less is more.  The more you cook them, the more nutrients and enzymes are killed.  Aim for 50% raw.  You will want to eat them raw when you taste a "real" vegetable...I promise! 

The next Pantry Raid...salad dressings!  What are your favorites??

Happy Eating!

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