Wednesday, January 5, 2011

'Tis the Season: For Winter Produce!

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       It's 2011 as you surely know! For me, this is not a year of resolutions but a year of solutions! I have decided that I want to be a part of the solution to the dietary health problems that are becoming more and more prevalent in the United States and in other countries who have adopted the "western" way of eating. While I'm in college I will learn what the administrators tell me to learn, but rest assured this will not stop me from learning about things that are important to my health and the health of the people on this Earth. Over the break I have been catching up on my reading. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan is one of the books I'm reading now. I would honestly add it to the list of books that everyone should read. Why? Because everyone eats food! It's unavoidable, although some try to avoid eating all together...a sad state of affairs that I won't get into here.

           You may have heard the current suggestion for healthy eating--it's all over the news, magazines, books, and popular TV shows: Eat fresh, local produce and buy in season! How easy or how difficult is this for the general public? I will use myself as an example: a college student with no income other than what the government generously provides or the loans that I take out... As I have mentioned before, my grocery budget is $50 a week...and someone who does not live close to a farmer's market. The nearest farmer's market is in Lewisville--roughly a 20-30 minute drive depending on the time of day. It is not a convenient distance for me, although it is probably the best source of local fresh produce. I do the bulk of my shopping at Kroger which is a 5 minute drive from my apartment and has nicer produce than Wal-Mart in my opinion. Think about where you shop for produce. Do they have a good selection? Do the fruits and veggies seem fresh? How often do you pay attention to where that piece of produce came from? If the produce did not come from the state you live in, or even the country you live in--it is not local!

           Does this mean that you can't have fruits and vegetables unless they come from a local source? Of course you can have them! I'm not a Produce Nazi! The whole idea of buying local is to reduce the transit time that produce undergoes from the farm to your plate and to support small farmers in your area. If you would like to learn more about the impacts of buying local visit and search: why buy local? Knowing where your food comes from, how it is produced and most important--what is in it--is crucial in improving yours and your family's health. Trust that nature got it right with fruits and vegetables, and do not trust that food companies and food scientists know what is best for your health. This is the change I would like to see and be a part of! The end of food ignorance and blind trust! Oops...starting to get preachy...

          Let's talk about seasonality! The winter season is between December and February, and you may notice a price difference in certain produce now compared to the summer or spring months. Check the price of berries right now...outrageous! That's because they are not in season and are not as readily available. Chances are they won't be at their best when it comes to nutritional value. Now, look at the abundance of winter produce such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, winter citrus fruits, pears, and green leafy vegetables. The produce in season should be lower in price, fresher, and more abundant. As my new year's gift to you, my wonderful reader, I have made a list of common (and not so common) fruits and vegetables and when they are in season. You can find this list on the right side of my blog page--just click the link. Print it out and keep it with you when you go shopping.

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          My winter produce pick of the week: Brussels sprouts! I'm going to be brutally honest here...I don't like Brussels sprouts. However, I saw Emeril make a delicious looking side dish on the Planet Green channel using   fresh Brussels sprouts, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, chicken stock and lemon juice. I'll try it, and if it makes the cut it will go on my Stephfoodie's Favorite Recipes! Look out for my next winter produce pick next week!