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Introducing the New Type of Homo Sapien: the Locavore

If you follow my blog, you’ve read a lot about why eating organic, quality foods is so important.  But there’s another equally important aspect to the food industry, and that’s the act of buying food.  You’ve heard the expression “money is power,” and that applies to food as well.  Where you shop, what stores you support, and when you buy things is just as important – if not more – as what kind of food you buy.

I’ve told you about FarmPlate and GreenTowns, which are great resources for locavores, or local food eaters.  But I never told you why eating local is so important.  Supporting local business helps keep money in your local economy rather that in Big Ag’s pockets.  And by supporting local farmers and farmer’s markets, you not only help keep them in business, but you also help them preserve their farmland, which land developers would happily buy up and turn into residential or commercial plots should the farm fail.  It also reduces the amount of gas and other resources needed to get the food to you, which benefits both the environment and you, since you aren’t paying prices inflated by shipping costs.  The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture estimates that “fresh” produce travels about 1500 miles to reach our bellies (Why Eat Locally?).  That’s a lot of gas.

If you’re like me, you like to know where your food comes from, whether it’s local or not.  Buying from farmer’s markets gives you a chance to meet the farmers (or their crew) and ask them about their products.  They know a lot about their products, and who doesn’t love learning about food?  I also enjoy fresh – I mean FRESH – produce, and buying from local markets means that farmers can harvest their produce at the peak of its freshness and not have to worry about storing it for transportation.  There’s nothing like making a casserole for dinner with produce picked that day.

For those of you who’ve never been to a farmer’s market, have no fear, they’re not just for veggies!  Many livestock farmers sell their meats at markets, and there are often bakers, craft vendors, jelly-makers, dairy farmers, herbalists, and flower vendors.  I’ve worked several markets in both Delaware and Maryland, and though the majority of the vendors are vegetable growers, there are always a good variety of other vendors as well.  So don’t think you have to limit yourself to veggies if you choose the locavore lifestyle.

Last week’s CSA share at Greenbranch Farm.
(picture from greenbranchfarm.com)

Community Supported Agriculture, or a CSA, is a great way to get involved in local agriculture.  In most CSAs, you pay a lump sum at the beginning of the season and receive your share of veggies each week.  Some farms require you to volunteer a certain number of hours on the farm as part of your payment, but not all.  At the farm where I work, a small share (for 2 people) is $450, and it runs from the beginning of May until Thanksgiving.  This week, the share included beets, tomatoes, potatoes, summer squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, and watermelon.  Our members also get 10% off anything in our store that we produce, including our meats.  Each CSA is set up differently, but they’re most definitely worth the investment.

One aspect of eating local that does take some getting used to is the importance of the seasons.  Certain vegetable only grow during certain times of year, and though some can be grown in greenhouses during the winter, eating locally usually means eating seasonally.  Trust me, I would love to eat asparagus all year long, but vegetable just don’t taste the same when they’re grown out of season.  Freezing is one way around this; I freeze berries, homemade pasta sauce, shredded zucchini for zucchini bread, and cooked veggies like corn and carrots.  Canning is also another way to enjoy veggies out of season, and it’s relatively easy.  It took me forever to actually attempt it, but after my first batch of strawberry jelly came out fabulously, I was hooked.  Canning tomatoes is even easier.  But that’s another blog post.

If you’re interested in local eating, definitely check out GreenTowns, FarmPlate, and LocalHarvest, another site listing local markets (I think LocalHarvest has the most listings).  A great example of a locavore is my friend Aundra, who lives in Chestertown, MD.  She’s a homesteader/locavore/Zumba teacher, and her blog is both entertaining and informative, as she documents her journey through all different zones of fitness.  She has a list of local farms whose products she buys, so her blog is a great resource for any locavores living near Chestertown.  I highly suggest you check it out: http://www.chestertownfitforlife.com/.

And if you live on the Delmarva peninsula and are willing to do a little driving, check out Greenbranch Farm where I work.  The farm is in Salisbury, MD, and we have a store on the farm that’s open Monday-Saturday where we sell all of our veggies and meats, as well as local milk, eggs, cheese, and crafts.  We also sell our produce and some meats at several farmer’s markets, all of which are listed on our website.  (We also go to the Sea Colony market in Bethany, DE on Wednesdays, 8am-12pm, and the Ocean Pines market outside Ocean City, MD on Saturdays, 8am-12pm.  I work the Sea Colony market on Wednesdays, 8am-12pm.  It’s a nice little market, and it’s right across the highway from the beach, so there’s always a lovely ocean breeze.  To our left is a fabulous raw milk cheese stand, and to our right is a conventional farm who grows yellow seedless watermelons.  Yummm.  The man who runs it is such a character that I’m laughing all day, and he always gives us a watermelon.)

Our table at the Sea Colony market. / Cherry and slicer tomatoes.

Green and wax beans, sweet onions, garlic, and 7 types of potatoes: Austrian Fingerling, Red Thumb, Rose Finn Apple (my favorite), Colorado Rose, Desiree, Purple Majesty, Yukon Gold. / Burgundy okra, Armenian cucumbers, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, beets, Swiss chard.

P.S.
Yes, there were a couple of shameless plugs in this post.  I support the people I respect.  Share the love.

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Get in Touch With Your Primate Roots and Eat a Banana Today

Bananas are not my favorite fruit.  Far from it.  Like most of the things I dislike, it’s a texture thing.  But I’ve slowly been developing a taste for them after adding them to my daily breakfast menu.  (They’re great in yogurt – it coats them so the texture isn’t as noticeable.)  But why eat something I dislike so much?  It’s because they’re packed full of nutrients like iron and potassium, which not only give you energy, but the latter aids in fluid retention, both of which are crucial when working outside in the heat.  So bananas are my new breakfast buddies.

It’s actually surprising to see the long list of health benefits bananas carry inside that rubbery peel.  And that peel, by the way, is pretty useful too.  They make wonderful additions to compost, and they’re especially good fertilizer for roses.  You can also rub the peel on a pimple or mosquito bite to alleviate the symptoms.  Funny story: an elderly customer once told me that the peels help to fade age spots on skin, so one day she rubbed her face and arms down with them.  She didn’t think about the fact that bananas quickly turn brown, and walked around the mall covered in what looked like poo.  Haha!

Since there is literally a list of banana-flavored perks in this sunny fruit, I’m going to list them for you:

-Bananas are great for stress relief.  They contain tryptophan, the amino acid building block of serotonin, the good mood molecule.  They have about 450 mg of potassium, which helps balance both heartbeat and the body’s water levels during periods of high stress.  (Potassium also helps relieve menstrual cramps, which is also great for stress relief.)  They are also high in B vitamins, and B vitamin deficiency, especially B6 and B12, often leads to depression.  B vitamins also support metabolism, hair and skin health, immune system function, and the nervous system, among other things.
-Bananas are a good source of iron, which aids in hemoglobin production.  This helps prevent anemia.
-One banana contains around 5 grams of dietary fiber, as well as the fiber pectin, and we all know what fiber does!  Along with aiding in digestion, fiber helps maintain regular bowel function, so bananas are a great fix for constipation.  If you have the opposite problem, the high levels of electrolytes found in bananas (including potassium) can help restore your electrolytes after a bout of diarrhea.
-Daily consumption of fruits and vegetables is necessary for good health, especially kidney health. Bananas, cabbage, and root vegetables are extremely helpful in the prevention of kidney cancer; bananas and many root vegetables are extra rich in antioxidants, and cabbage is rich in sulfur, which aids in detoxification.
-Potassium is an excellent dietary way to reduce blood pressure, thus reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
-Potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins are essential nutrients for anyone attempting to quit smoking, for they help the body recover from nicotine withdrawal and can reduce withdrawal symptoms.  So eat a banana instead of smoking a cigarette – good snacking will help keep off that quitting weight, too.
-Bananas are also helpful for those suffering from ulcers.  They reduce stomach acidity and irritation by stimulating digestive cells to produce more mucus.  They also contain protease inhibitors, molecules that help block the bacteria in your gut normally associated with ulcer formation.  They’re therefore great heartburn relievers, too.
(http://bananasweb.com/health-benefits-of-bananas)

Who knew those pretty little fruit were chock full of so much goodness?  And the great part is, their skin is so thick, most pesticides don’t make it past the peel, so don’t fret if organic bananas aren’t available near you.  Aside from adding them to my morning yogurt, I’m going to start looking up some recipes for bananas.  My first banana cooking experience is going to be empanadas, I think.  I’ll keep you posted.  Happy eating!