Do you get the “most” out of your fresh produce?

ProduceIt feels as if it’s been somewhere close to… oh, I don’t know… “forever”(?!) since I’ve been able to buy fresh, local produce.  I’ve paid ridiculous amounts of money for fruits and vegetables over the winter months because, in my opinion, it’s always worth it.

It will be a few months yet (for many of us) before it’s high time to enjoy our fabulous, local harvest.  But whether you’re shopping your local farmers market or buying the usual organics from your grocery store, you want to make sure you get the “most” out of everything you buy.

Sadly, the nutritional content of today’s conventionally-grown produce is believed to be dramatically decreased from 30 years ago. The vitamins, minerals and proteins are dwindling (due, in part, to the use of synthetic fertilizers that make them grow faster and inhibit the absorption of nutrients!) so this is another little testimonials for “going organic” too.

But whether your produce is conventionally-grown (afterall, the “Clean 15” is often considered) or you go 100% organic, there are a few helpful tips to get the “most” out of your produce:

  • “Fresher is better” – all produce begins to lose nutrients are soon as it’s harvested, so consume it as soon asfarmers produce possible after you buy it. The rule of thumb should be one week maximum (plus, you must consider where your produce “originated”), so plan for what you need and don’t overbuy, even if it will “keep”.
  • “Bigger isn’t better!” – choose smaller pieces of fruits and vegetables instead of the largest ones in the bunch.  Plants have limited amounts of nutrients to pass on, so if the produce is smaller the nutrients are more concentrated.
  • “Keep it together, people!” – while pre-washed, pre-cut, and pre-prepped fruits and veggies may sound appealing (and convenient!), skip them… this causes them to lose nutrients as well.  And don’t do a lot a prep, cleaning, chopping or cutting at home until you actually need to consumer them either… no need to set those nutrients loose!

My kids have always been great eaters when it comes to a variety of fruits and veggies but, whether for us or our kids, we all know every bit matters, so use these tips to make the “most” of every precious bite!

It’s not too soon to think “Summer CSA!”

CSA basketYes, I know the snow is still flying for some of us, but my friends, it is NOT too soon to think “summer CSA”.  It’s just the right time, in fact, because many CSAs have already opened up reservations for summer participation.

But first things first!… you know about CSAs, right?

If not, here’s a little bit of explanation:  CSAs, or community supported agriculture, are the best way to share in the bounty of the freshest, organic, locally-grown produce and foods.  It’s a partnership between farms and community individuals who support the growing and production of food.  Members “purchase” a share of the harvest and are usually on a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of fruits and vegetables (and sometimes even dairy, meats and grains).CSA harvest

It’s the perfect scenario… you get fresh and organic foods, support local growers and farms, AND avoid the CO2 emissions created to bring your food from other parts of the country… or world, for that matter!

Last year we participated in a CSA with Fresh Fork Market.  If you’re lucky enough to be in Cleveland, take a look because… yes, they’re taking reservations NOW!  Last year, during the 22 weeks of summer, our CSA participants sampled over 350 different products from 62 local farmers.  At year’s end, Fresh Fork proudly spent over $300K with local farmers! THAT gives me the warm fuzzies!  Not only was I serving my family fabulous, organic food but we ALSO helped generously support local farmers and the local economy.  Everyone wins in that scenario!

straw1If you aren’t in Cleveland but want to find a CSA in your area check out Local Harvest or Biodynamics to put you in the right direction.

Get on board, sign-up, eat organic and support your farmers… I promise, you won’t regret it!

(These are our strawberries from last year… NO methyl iodide included!)  🙂

Simple tip: 3 ways to get the “most” out of your produce!

CSA foodSummertime is the perfect time to enjoy fabulous, fresh produce. Whether you’re raiding your local farmer’s market or buying the usual organics from your grocery store, you want to make sure you get the “most” out of everything you buy.

Sadly, the nutritional content of today’s conventionally-grown produce is believed to be dramatically decreased from 30 years ago (the vitamins, minerals and proteins are dwindling, due in part of the use of synthetic fertilizers that make them grow faster and inhibits the absorption of nutrients!) so this is another little testimonials for “going organic” too.

But whether your produce is conventionally-grown (afterall, the “Clean 15” is often considered) or you go 100% organic, there are a few helpful tips to get the “most” out of your produce:

  • “Fresher is better” – all produce begins to lose nutrients are soon as it’s harvested, so consume it as soon as possible after you buy it. The rule of thumb should be one week maximum (plus, you must consider where your produce “originated”), so plan for what you need and don’t overbuy, even if it will “keep”.fruit
  • “Bigger isn’t better!” – choose smaller pieces of fruits and vegetables instead of the largest ones in the bunch.  Plants have limited amounts of nutrients to pass on, so if the produce is smaller the nutrients are more concentrated.
  • “Keep it together, people!” – while pre-washed, pre-cut, and pre-prepped fruits and veggies may sound appealing (and convenient!), skip them… this causes them to lose nutrients as well.  And don’t do a lot a prep, cleaning, chopping or cutting at home until you actually need to consumer them either… no need to set those nutrients loose!

My kids have always been great eaters when it comes to a variety of fruits and veggies, but whether for us or our kids we all know every bit matters, so use these tips to make the “most” of every precious bite!

2010 update!… the “Clean 15” and the “Dirty Dozen!”

fruit shoppingAny trip to the produce department of a grocery store can give you moments of anxiety when you hover between the organic and non-organic section.  In a perfect world, they would be equally priced and you wouldn’t even have to give it a thought, but alas the world isn’t that perfect, is it?

A few of my most read posts detail Environmental Working Group’s lists of the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen – the fruits and vegetables that are very low in pesticides (clean) and those that receive and retain an extraordinary amount of pesticides (dirty).

Now I’ve learned that EWG has actually updated these lists for 2010!  I can’t explain the exact reason for some shifts but there have been changes nonetheless.  So here, without further ado, are the lists that you’ll want to know for that next trip to the store.

“The Clean 15” (BEST – this produce is acceptable to buy non-organic)

—  asparagus       —  grapefruit             —  pineapple
—  avocado         —  honeydew melon    —  sweet corn
—  cabbage         —  kiwi                     —  sweet peas
—  cantaloupe      —  mangos                —  sweet potatoes
—  eggplant         —  onion                   —  watermelon

“The Dirty Dozen” (WORST – this produce should always be purchased organic)

—  apples            —  cherries                 —  peaches
—  bell peppers     —  grapes (imported)   –  potatoes
—  blueberries       —  kale                     —  spinach
—  celery             —  nectarines             —  strawberries

In our other non-existent-perfect-world we would all have a local, organic farmer’s market a short walk from our homes that made every fruit and vegetable we want available at a cheap price, but alas… that’s not likely.  So print it, memorize it and when you need to make choices, know that you can make the wisest choices possible.

Grab your CSA and get fresh!!!

The clock is ticking!  Have you grabbed your CSA yet???

CSA basketCSAs, or community supported agriculture, are the best way to share in the bounty of the freshest, organic, locally-grown produce.  It’s a partnership between a farm operation and community individuals who support the growing and production of food.  Members “purchase” a share of the harvest and are usually on a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of fruits and vegetables (and sometimes even dairy and meat).

It’s the perfect scenario… you get fresh and organic produce, support local growers and farms, AND avoid the CO2 emissions created to bring your produce from other parts of the country… or world, for that matter!

… so what’s with the ticking clock???  Well, many CSAs are getting ready for the season and probably filling up… quickly.  You certainly want to get your spot now, so to find a CSA in your area check out Local Harvest or Biodynamics.farmrs mkt

If a CSA isn’t the way to go for you, and you just want to locate a local farmer’s market, you can also check another area of Local Harvest or the Farmer’s Market site.

Luckily, I WON a spot in a local CSA at EarthFest at our Zoo!  (Yes, for a change {instead of me looking for a winner} I was the winner!)  I will be sharing in the bounty of Fresh Fork Market, so if you’re in or around Cleveland check them out… there are a few membership spots left!

Now don’t wait a second longer… grab your CSA!!!