It’s great to have a salad made with ingredients that are in season. One of my favorite salads starts with just 3 ingredients: spinach, sliced fresh strawberries, sliced green onion. Like most salads the exact amounts are not important (you might like a few more…
We are still in the midst of an out break of food borne illness related to Romaine lettuce. Investigators have at least narrowed the source of the out break to lettuce produced in Yuma Arizona. This is the second outbreak associated with leafy greens in…
There are a lot of reasons to like local food: less environmental impact of transporting food, keeping dollars in the local economy, fresher tasting food, etc. One of the most important could be the nutritional quality of the fresh produce you are buying. We eat things because we like the taste and because we want to be healthy. Most people would say they are trying to eat a healthier diet and that, of course, includes fruits and vegetables. But what if 80% of some of the key nutrients were gone by the time you purchased those vegetables?
It is pretty well accepted that produce loses nutrients after harvest, leading to debates about whether canned or frozen or fresh vegetables retain the most nutrients. I’m not going to get into that debate today. What I really want you to consider is how you can get the most out of the fresh produce you buy. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry compared fresh broccoli with broccoli that was handled to mimic the typical refrigerated storage,transportation and retail display time of broccoli harvested, transported and displayed at a grocery store.
At the end of the experiment:
“Results showed major losses at the end of both periods, in comparison with broccoli at harvest. Thus, the respective losses, at the end of cold storage and retail periods, were 71-80% of total glucosinolates, 62-59% of total flavonoids, 51-44% of sinapic acid derivatives, and 73-74% caffeoyl-quinic acid derivatives. Slight differences in all compound concentrations between storage and retail sale periods were detected. Distribution and retail periods had minimal effects on vitamin C.”
Wow! Only vitamin C was minnimally affected. Glucosinolates are among the cancer fighting compounds that cruciferous vegetables are credited with. Just think, 80% of these compounds are probably lost by the time the broccoli gets to the store! This is where local food and farmer’s markets shine! Most produce at a farmer’s market is less than 24 hours old!! Some farmers markets allow farmers to supplement their business by buying produce from other producers or even at produce auctions and reselling it so to insure the freshest produce, buy from the farmer who grew it.
Does this mean that all produce in the store has lost most of it’s nutrient value? No. This is only one vegetable and one study. However, I was shocked to see how great the loss of nutrients was. Here is another study that shows 55% loss of a key cancer fighting nutrient in broccoli within 3 days. It is probably safe to say that shopping the farmer’s market twice a week and eating the produce you buy within a few days is the best way to get the most nutrient dense produce. If we based our shopping decisions on price per nutrient rather than price per pound we would understand a more accurate cost of food. (Okay, I understand that fat and carbohydrates and sugar are also considered nutrients but you know what I mean) Another way to evaluate what we are getting for our food dollars is to think about nutrients per calorie in what we are buying/eating. In my experience, prices at the farmer’s market for most vegetables (tomatoes are a possible exception) are no more expensive than at a supermarket (sometimes less).
On a side note: One of the reasons we sell living microgreens is so that you can get the best nutrient density possible. Since they aren’t “harvested” until you cut them, they have peak nutrient density.
Next time you see that your produce is from Mexico, Chili, or California, consider how far that produce has traveled and the time it takes to harvest, pack, ship, unload at a warehouse distribution center and then be moved to your local store. If your produce has more miles on it than a used car, it has probably lost nutritional value along the way. Buy Local, Eat Local if you can.
Oh how I hate chiggers! If you haven’t experienced them, they are nearly invisible bugs that live in grass and brush during the summer. Their bite, while not technically a bite, leaves a red itchy welt but you don’t know right away that you have become the host to a chigger. They are attracted by the carbon dioxide that animals and humans produce and like to attach in hot areas like waist bands and arm pits and anywhere you have elastic.
They feed on you (again, not technically a bit) and then drop off to resume their life cycle. They are often gone by the time you realize you have one of these welts, but they itch like crazy. Ground temperatures need to be warm and in our area (Eastern Kansas) they seem to appear around Memorial Day and stay into early September. That is not a scientific report but is based on my experience. When Memorial Day arrives I go into Chigger defense mode since prevention is always preferred.
Chigger defense mode is as follows:
Dress defensively. Wear long pants and sleeves and tuck your pant legs into your socks. I know, it is dorky but it keeps things from crawling up inside your pant legs. Do some research for clothing choices available that are cooler options than jeans or a long sleeve T-shirt. Try to get out as early as possible to beat the heat. I also wear chigger boots (tall rain boots). I even have second set that I keep in the car “just in case”. Chiggers lay eggs in clusters and don’t move far. You can have a chigger free area of grass right next to a chigger convention. One time I was house hunting (wearing sandals) and went out on the back patio with the realtor. A small snake surprised us and I jumped off into the grass for 30 seconds. I got 14 chigger bites. Keep your chigger boots by the back door so they are easy to grab on your way out to the garden.
Use insect repellent. You can probably find some natural repellents but I admit I use one with the lowest level of DEET. The key is that I spray the rubber boots so I am not spraying my skin. If I have to be on/in the grass with my hands, I might spray a shirt and my gloves, let them dry and then put them on.
Shower off as soon as you can after working outside. Now here is the thing. I recommend scrubbing with a wash cloth because just standing under the water may not remove them. Wash your clothes that you wore outside.
Never ever walk on grass unless you know it has been treated or you are defensively dressed/sprayed.
Consider mulch or gravel around garden beds or create a container garden on patio or deck. While I do have beds in the grass, I also have a section of garden that has mulched pathways and a side garden where I have additional potted herbs and vegetables. In the heat of summer, those seem to need daily watering and I can go to that part of the garden without defensive dressing.
During chigger season, I keep insect repellent and spare boots in my car, just in case. If we go somewhere and park along the street, if I am on the passenger side, I ask the driver to let me out in front of a driveway before parking so I don’t have to walk across the grass. It may seem neurotic but if I can avoid the misery of chiggers, so be it.
If you are one of those people that chiggers don’t like, you are lucky! If you have suggestions as to how to prevent chiggers, I’d love to hear them.
Once vilified as the epitome of bad fats, lard is making a comeback! Lard and other animal fats are showing up on natural food store shelves and coolers at premium prices. These are $9.99 for 11 ounces! There is still controversy surrounding the health risks/benefits of…
One of the coolest things about microgreens is that you can grow them year round. In the middle of winter when everything is brown and gray outside and you know most supermarket produce travels more miles than you did on your last vacation, something fresh, alive and packed with nutrients is welcome. If you are new to microgreens and wondering why you might want to grow them, check this post or how to eat them, try this post.
Microgreens are mostly easy and quick to grow (some, like beets, are a little more fussy). You do need light but not special light. A sunny window sill or the light over the sink is just fine. We offer a “grow your own” kit where everything is pre-measured but you don’t need a special kit to grow microgreens.
Here is what you do:
Wet the potting mix (we use a soilless seed germinating mix) with water. You do not need to fill the container all the way to the top, in fact it is better if you don’t. We use 1/3 c water for out kit.
Then mush it together. A lot of germinating mixes don’t absorb water very quickly. You can add water and come back later to find the mix is just floating on the water. You will probably need to stir to get the water incorporated depending on what type of mix you use.
Gently press the wet mix into the bottom of the tray. If water runs out the bottom of the tray you might have added too much but it won’t hurt anything.
You will use quite a few seeds. They should be evenly spaced and close together but not a solid carpet of seeds with no grow mix showing through. Gently press the seeds into the grow mix to make sure they have contact with the grow mix, but they do not need to be covered.
Spritz the seeds with water.
Put the entire tray in the bag and fold it under the tray. The bag will act as a mini green house. If you are using a different container you could cover it with plastic wrap loosely.
You will know you have the right amount of moisture if later you see a little condensation on the bag.
The microgreens do not need light at this point but also don’t need to be kept in the dark. You will soon see germination (for our example we used spicy mix which germinated in 24 hours).
Once your seeds have germinated and sent up a little sprout, they will need light (probably around day 3 or 4).
Here they are on day 4:
Check on them daily. Leave the bag open at the top. If the container is light weight they probably need water. If the grow mix has dried out and is lighter colored they need water. They will continue to grow and can be harvested at any point from here forward. Of course if you let them grow a few more days you will have more greens.
What could be more fun than having a fresh, living, edible centerpiece for a holiday table? It’s even more fun if you grow your own with microgreens. To make this center piece, start with a 4 inch plastic plant saucer. They are available year round at most…