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The Not-So-Wonderful Wizard Oz

imagesIf you keep up to date on holistic news, then I’m sure you’ve seen the latest headlines condemning Dr. Oz, popular TV personality and supposed “health food guru” as a sell-out due to his recent anti-organic article in TIME magazine.  Well, as one who’s worked in the holistic health industry for a few years, I can tell you that this is pretty old news.  Even when he’s promoting a natural supplement, it’s usually for the wrong reasons.  He is just another talk show host, and holistic health is just another tool he uses and abuses to reel in viewers.

In his article (which is coincidentally quite similar to the recent controversial Stanford University review that was published in September) he claims that organic food is nutritionally no different than conventional food and that the organic lifestyle is “elite” and “just not very democratic.”  Like the study, he bases his argument on the simple fact that a conventional pea is nutritionally the same as an organic pea.  Um… DUH.  A pea is a pea, but what he fails to mention (again, like the study) is the pesticide contamination that comes with conventional produce.  And he also makes the (in my opinion) hilarious claim that canned or frozen veggies are just as good as farm fresh vegetables because “as a doctor, I know that patients don’t always have the time, energy or budget to shop for artisanal ingredients and whip them into a meal.”  Because it’s so much harder to cook fresh spinach than frozen spinach.

Here are some amusing highlights (sorry, I could not refrain from commenting) from his article, which you can read in full here if you don’t have a TIME subscription:

Nutritionally speaking, there is little difference between the farmer’s-market bounty and the humble brick from the freezer case… [Livestrong says BULLSHIT.  Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture says BULLSHIT.] Organic food is great, it’s just not very democratic. As a food lover, I enjoy truffle oil, European cheeses and heirloom tomatoes as much as the next person. But as a doctor, I know that patients don’t always have the time, energy or budget to shop for artisanal ingredients and whip them into a meal. [I’m choosing to take that as a compliment – I’ve never thought of the crops we grown at Greenbranch as “artisanal,” but hey, I’ll take it!]

The rise of foodie culture over the past decade has venerated all things small-batch, local-farm and organic–all with premium price tags. But let’s be clear: you don’t need to eat like the 1% to eat healthily. [I eat almost wholly organic even though I make less that $20,000 a year… But apparently I’m part of the “elite” 1%.]  After several years of research and experience, I have come to an encouraging conclusion: the American food supply is abundant, nutritionally sound, affordable and, with a few simple considerations, comparable to the most elite organic diets. Save the cash; the 99% diet can be good for you. [If you can call overly-processed, starch & sugar heavy, and preservative-laden “nutritionally sound.”]

This advice will be a serious buzz kill for specialty brands and high-end food companies marketing the exclusive hyperhealthy nature of their more expensive products. But I consider it a public-health service to the consumer who has to feed a family of five or the person who wants to make all the right choices and instead is alienated and dejected because the marketing of healthy foods too often blurs into elitism, with all the expense and culinary affectation that implies…  [Giant & Food Lions both have natural food sections that are VERY affordable, complete with organic canned & frozen foods that are not laden with preservatives and pesticides, for those who agree that fresh food is simply too complicated.]

There’s no question that free-range chickens and grass-fed, pasture-dwelling cows lead happier–if not appreciably longer–lives than animals raised on factory farms. They are also kept free of hormones and antibiotics and are less likely to carry communicable bacteria like E. coli, which are common on crowded feedlots. If these things are important to you and you have the money to spend, then by all means opt for pricier organic meats.  [Um, hello?  Does anyone actually enjoy scarfing down loads of hormones and antibiotics and bacteria?]  But for the most part, it’s O.K. to skip the meat boutiques and the high-end butchers. Nutritionally, there is not much difference between, say, grass-fed beef and the feedlot variety.  [EatWild says BULLSHIT.]

Let me make the argument against the great and powerful Oz.  Or rather, arguments:  1) Even when he promotes holistic or natural remedies, he uses them only to gain popularity. On an episode of his show, he heralded white bean extract as a weight-loss supplement when its real purpose is to lower blood sugar and help diabetics digest starches without spiking their sugar levels.  Never did he mention the fact that eating a starch-heavy diet is why you’re fat – and why you’re going to end up with heart disease, diabetes, or some kind of gluten-caused illness.  That’s just not what his over-weight, over-50 female audience members want to hear.  2) His show is a running ad for images2RealAge.com, one of Big Pharma’s many marketing schemes used to push drugs on the unsuspecting public.  RealAge is an online quiz that supposedly determines your true biological age.  The website then graciously bombards you with ads and recommendations for pharmaceuticals tailored to your specific age and lifestyle.  3) He not only supports RealAge, he constantly urges his viewers to keep up to date on their vaccines.  Coincidentally, he owns 150,000 shares in SIGA, a vaccine technology company.  And you wonder why he’s pushing a conventional lifestyle over an organic, drug-free one.

Bottom line: do yourself a favor and unplug the wonderful wizard next time he tries to cast his spell on you.  The only wonderful wizard in town is Mother Earth, and anyone who decries her bounty as the stuff of “food snobs” and “elites” is a grade-A Oz-hole.

MotherEarth2

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The Incredible Edible Egg… Yolk

As a vegetarian, there are two nutrients that I’m highly conscious of, and those are protein and B12.  It’s often hard to get these nutrients on a vegetarian/vegan diet, and so when I find good sources of them, it’s like edible gold.  And actually, there is edible gold… that is, the golden, delicious, protein & nutrient packed egg.  The majority of the nutrients are actually found in the yolk, that precious nugget the American Heart Association has deemed the dietary devil, which is why I get so upset when people tout the great benefits of egg whites.  Egg whites are literally nothing without their creamy counterpart; like R2-D2 and C-3P0, the golden one is necessary to translate the benefits of the other into something humans can use.  (Who says you can’t learn anything from Star Wars?)

Eggs are one of nature’s best sources of protein, with 6 grams per egg, and they are one of the few foods that contain the entire spectrum of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.  There are 22 amino acids needed to make a complete, bioavailable protein.  Animal products contain complete proteins while vegetables and grains have only incomplete proteins, which is why eggs and dairy porducts are so important for any vegetarian (and why veganism is so harmful to your health).  However, Mother Earth made eggs with yolks for a reason, so when you only eat the whites, you are missing out on half the total protein content and half the amino acids, leaving only incomplete, unusable proteins.  Protein is not only essential to many bodily functions, but it also boosts your metabolism, giving you more energy and helping you stay fuller longer.

These delicious golden jems are also chock-full of a dozen other nutrients, including many B vitamins (including B12), iron, choline (good for brain health), lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants that help prevent macular degeneration), and fat soluble vitamins like A & D.  Plus, that’s where most of the flavor is, and who wants to give that up?  Especially when trying new eggs, like duck or quail!

Now, I know what most of you are thinking: But the cholesterol!  I wish I had Lierre Keith here to explain cholesterol to you, because her book The Vegetarian Myth is truly an amazing resource on the nutritional dangers of vegetarianism, as well as a great dietary myth-buster.  But here is a short summary of her explanation of cholesterol:

Cholesterol is, of course, the bulwark that the nutritional vegetarians will stand behind.  The Lipid Hypothesis – the theory that ingested fat causes heart disease – is the stone tablet that the Prophets of Nutrition have brought down from the mountain.  We have been shown the one, true way: cholesterol is the demon of the age, the dietary Black Plague, a judgment from an angry God, condemning those who stray into the Valley of Animal Products with disease…

Yes, it all began when researchers fed protein and cholesterol to rabbits and their blood cholesterol shot up…  Which is about what you’d expect when you take an herbivore designed for cellulose and stuff her full of fat and protein…  When these experiments are done on carnivores – cats, dogs, foxes – no damage results.

Remember that 80 percent of the cholesterol in your blood was made by your body.  Only 20 percent was put there by your food choices.  Your body knows where it wants that cholesterol level…  If you eat more cholesterol, it will produce less.  A meta analysis of one hundred sixty seven – yes, that’s 167 – cholesterol-feeding experiments found that raising dietary cholesterol had a negligible effect on blood cholesterol, and no link to CHD (coronary heart disease) risk.

She goes on to prove her point with graphs, studies, and more of her endlessly amusing wit.   And many others agree with her, including the World Health Organization’s MONICA (MONitor Trends in CArdiovascular Diseases) Project, the largest investigation into diet and cardiovascular disease ever.  After surveying 10 million people from 21 countries over 10 years, the study showed absolutely no correlation between cholesterol levels and heart disease.  A 2006 study from the University of Connecticut came to similar conclusions; it showed that while eggs do slightly raise cholesterol levels, they tend to increase levels of good cholesterol (high-denstiy lipoproteins, HDLs) and increase the size of bad cholesterol molecules (low-density lipoproteins, LDLs), making it harder for them to enter artery walls and cause damage.  Christine Greene, lead researcher of the study, claims that the data indicates “that most people’s bodies handle the cholesterol from eggs in a way that is least likely to harm the heart.”

This is because cholesterol is actually a necessary nutrient; it is present in every cell in your body, for it is responsible for making cell walls waterproof, building hormones, and rebuilding damaged cells.  Big Pharma doesn’t tell you this because it wants you to continue to blindly choke down your 3+ cholesterol pills a day.  When in fact, all you have to do is make breakfast.

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Ghosts, Gouls, and Soy Lovin’ Fools

Happy Halloween!  Today is not only Halloween, but also the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month.  So I thought I’d celebrate the day by helping you avoid treats that trick – and cause breast cancer.  As well as a host of other health problems.  I’m talking about soy, that omnipresent ingredient that’s in 80% of processed foods, the bean that’s been touted as the miracle crop that can feed the hungry, the protein-rich savior of vegetarians and protein shake fanatics across the nation.  There’s a dark side to soy though, and it’s time to expose the darkest of health food hoaxes.

If you make any attempt at a healthy lifestyle, chances are you’ve included veggie burgers, tofu, or protein bars or shakes in your diet.  If you’re lactose intolerant, soy milk was probably a blessing for your breakfast.  If you’re a mother who doesn’t have the time to breast feed, you’re probably feeding your baby a soy-based formula.  Soy has become THE food of the 21st century due to its cheap production costs and seemingly endless health benefits; this is just the sort of crop Big Ag loves, and soy food sales therefore increased from $300 million to $4 billion from 1992 to 2006, according to the Soyfoods Association of North America.  It is a staple of Asian cooking, and everyone knows Asians are smarter and more fit than Americans.  Soy must be super fabulous, right?  Wrong!  All of the so-called benefits of soy are actually quite the opposite, and the amount of antinutrients and harmful hormones far outweigh the protein content.  Not all soy is bad, however.  Asians eat fermented soy, and the fermentation process breaks down all the toxins that wreak havoc on your body.  Foods like soy sauce, tempeh, miso, and natto are fermented, which means that the shroud of toxins standing between their nutrients and your body is broken down.

But then why is soy hailed as such a healthy food?  Both the American Cancer Society and BreastCancer.org claim that the isoflavones (phytoestrogens, or plant estrogens) in soy help reduce your risk of breast cancer.  Soy is also recommended for women suffering from menopause effects, as the phytoestrogens can supposedly balance out a woman’s hormones.  The truth, however, is the exact opposite.  One 100mg serving of soy contains the amount of estrogen found in one high dose birth control pill, and such a high amount of estrogen can not only cause breast cancer, but reproductive cancers, birth defects, infertility, early puberty, and feminine qualities in men.  Furthermore, the antibutrients found in soy can lead to ADD/ADHD, severe gastrointestinal issues, food allergies, thyroid disruption, and immune system failure.  And it gets even better!  91% of the soy grown in the US is GMO soy, and you know how wonderful GMOs are.  Not only is non-organic soy teeming with both naturally occurring toxins AND genetically modified toxins, but it’s contaminated with pesticides and aluminum from the acid-washes used to process the beans.  (The processing required to turn soybeans into hydrolyzed vegetable protein also produces glutamate – the G in MSG – and aspartate – a component of aspartame – which are excitotoxins that literally cause your brain cells to explode.  Like… BOOM.)

Not all hope is lost.  Like I said, fermented soy is not so scary.  In fact, it’s a good source of nutrients and can in fact help ward off cancer.  Soy is the best food source of vitamin K, though your body can’t access it with all those unfermented toxins blocking its absorption.  Vitamin K is necessary for calcium utilization and therefore helps prevent osteoporosis and cardivascular disease.  It’s also great for blood health – it’s named after “koagulation” –  and the enzyme nattokinase, which is derived from natto, is the most effective method for dissolving blood clots.  It is indeed a good source of protein, but that is another nutrient that is only made available once all the antinutrients are dissolved.

Soy can be a great component of a healthy diet, but only if it is fermented.  The fermentation process breaks down the toxins and phytoestrogens that cause so many problems for our bodies – and it makes it tastier too!  So stock up on some tempeh and natto and check out these resources for more info on soy:
The Dark Side of Soy
-Dr. Mercola’s “The Truth About Soy Foods”
-Dr. Mercola’s updated article “Newest Research on Why You Should Avoid Soy”
-Kaayla Daniel’s book The Whole Soy Story (I definitely recommend this if you’re a vegetarian or someone who needs more convincing to avoid soy)

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In GMO Land, Halloween Comes Everyday!

Happy Non-GMO Month, fellow Frankenfood Fighters!  With Prop 37 (the label GMO bill) on the November ballot in California, the entire nation has been witness to the battle between real food lovers and Big Ag.  This makes Prop 37 even more fabulous, because all this pro- and anti-GMO campaigning has drawn a lot of attention to this issue and clued a lot of people in on the fact that this is an issue.  Even political comedian and talk show host Bill Maher has entered the GMO debate.  (If you’ve never seen his show, I highly recommend it.  Check it out on HBO or on HBO’s website.)  He’s talked a little about the subject with the new Hulk Mark Ruffalo, and last week he sat down with Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farms and chair of Just Label It.  To sum up Maher’s pov: “Fucking Monsanto…  I mean, on a scale of 10 to 11, evil being 10, fucking evil being 11, they’re an 11.”  Bill Maher, I love you.

But let’s get serious, because this issue is serious.  In my opinion, the GMO debate is one of the most important political/social debates of our lifetime, possibly of both the past and present century.  Although I’ve talked about the dangers of GMOs before, I want to get a little more in depth, seeing as how October is Non-GMO Month.  For those of you who know GMOs are bad but aren’t exactly sure why, listen up.  GMOs are generally created to allow crops to be more resistant to herbicides and pesticides, and sometimes to produce these chemicals themselves.  This is done by splicing genes from animals or other plants into the crops rather than cross-breeding species naturally.  So basically, GMOs exists so that “fucking evil” companies like Monsanto, Dow, and Dupont can sell you seeds that are resistant to chemical herbicides and pesticides sold by, shockingly, the same companies.  So not only is the food they produced GMOed, but it’s laden with pesticides that cause sterility, birth defects, and cancer… Not to mention all the awful environmental effects, such as groundwater contamination, animal exposure, bee colony destruction, organic crop contamination…  Sorry for all the ellipses, but these lists could take up a lot of html.

So what exactly do GMOs do to our bodies?  If you visit Monsanto’s website and watch their charming “Who We Are” video, you would think that GMO crops are the tools we need to save the world.  But in reality, genetically modified foods come with a long list of side effects.  In his well-known paper “The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science” published in 2009, agro-ecologist Don Lotter admitted that:

The promoter gene used in genetically engineered crops, the cauliflower mosaic virus, is a powerful promoter of inter-species gene exchange. Scientists thought it would be denatured in our digestive system, but it’s not. It has been shown to promote the transfer of transgenes from GM foods to the bacteria within our digestive system, which are responsible for 80% of our immune system function; they are enormously important. This is a huge flaw, but not even the biggest in crop transgenics.
Organic Cosumers Organization

One of our nation’s leading crops, soy, is almost exclusively GMO.  Ninety percent of soy grown in the US is genetically modified, and, along with the disastrous side effects of soy’s high estrogen levels, these crops lead to infertility, accelerated aging, immune system impairment, birth defects, asthma, allergies (seasonal and food), and cancer, to name a few.  The fact that scares me the most about this is that the vast majority of processed food contains soy, whether it’s soybean oil, soy lecithin, or soy protein.  Read the label; everything from kids cereal to canned soups to vegetarian products contains soy.  Even the meat – what do you think they feed those poor animals in CAFOs?  Soy and corn, the GMO superproducts.  Recently, they’ve also been feedin corn to rats in order to test Monsanto’s new super-improved GMO sweet corn.  If animal testing itself doesn’t make you sick to your stomach, I hope these pictures do.  Because Monsanto’s new corn, genetically modified and teeming with Roundup, produces not only grotesque tumors, but severe liver and kidney damage, reproductive cancers, respiratory problems, and death.  I’d like my dinner with a side of tumors, please.  If you want to read more on this study, published by the University of Caen in the Food & Chemical Toxicology Journal, check out the article on NaturalNews.com.

Now here’s the big question: what do we do about this?  Unfortunately, appealing to the federal government won’t help, because many of the the top officials in the FDA, USDA, and CDC are former Monsanto or Big Ag employees.  For example, in 2009 Obama appointed Mike Taylor the current Chief Deputy of Foods, the leader of the FDA.  In Bill Maher’s words, this dude is “fucking evil;” for nearly a decade, Taylor was Monsanto’s leading lawyer and chief adviser.  He was the man with the plan when Monsanto started developing their recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH.  Yes, our new FDA chief was the mastermind behind the label on dairy products stating (falsely) that milk from cows treated with rBGH is no different from milk from untreated cows.  This was Monsanto’s way of hiding the horrendous side effects of rBGH, for Mike Taylor’s brilliant scheme passed a law requiring that statement to appear on any product that listed rBGH as an additive.  This man is now leading the FDA, the organization that approves and disapproves food for human consumption, and there are dozens of others placed strategically throughout the government.

What, then, is the answer?  Eating organic ensures that you avoid GMOs, but not everyone can afford that – and there are lots of products out there that don’t use GMOs but don’t advertise that.  That’s why Prop 37 is so important.  Forcing companies to label whether or not their products contain GMOs gives us the information we need to choose while also bringing us a step closer to banning GMOs completely.  While those of us who don’t live in California can’t vote on the bill, what passes in Cali usually makes its way across the nation.  So by supporting Prop 37 – financially, socially, on Facebook, on your blog, with your friends – you’re supporting everyone’s right to know.

Happy Non-GMO Month!!

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Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels When You Sell Your Soul

Headlines across the nation are proclaiming the long-awaited truth: “Organic Is Overrated!”  Yes, folks, thanks to the hard work and ethical reporting of The Media, we finally have the scoop on the organic food movement, and we won’t let those liars fool us anymore.  The studies never lie, after all.

Today at the farm the news channel WBOC came to interview my bosses about the latest agricultural scandal.  (Check out the video.  That’s me cleaning beans!)  According to a review published by Stanford University in the Annals of Internal Medicine, organic food is no different from the GMOed sweet corn or the pesticide-covered tomatoes Monsanto puts on our grocery store shelves.  And while Big Ag concocts these studies all the time in their endless war on organic foods, the hype over this one stems from the fact that this isn’t a study, rather a review of studies.  So actually, no new tests were performed, no new information gathered.  You might look at this as a catalog of the attempts Monsanto has made to undermine the organic movement.

During the interview, we were out in the chemical-free fields picking beans.  All I had to do was pop one freshly picked, unwashed bean in my mouth to know my bosses were on the right side.  But unless you’ve spent time on an organic farm, or are able to reap the benefits of a local farm stand or market, I can understand why you’d believe The Media over us.  Our products are essentially look the same, but are more expensive.  And yes, the nutritional values in both organic and conventional produce are the same (but that’s because they’re still the same vegetable… duh).  So how are you to know the difference?  Since I work for Team Organic and am therefore biased, I’m just going to give you the facts and hope that you can see the clean and clear difference.

What the Study Says:
(Read the actual study for yourself in the Annals of Internal Medicine online)
-“Two studies reported significantly lower urinary pesticide levels among children consuming organic versus conventional diets, but studies of biomarker and nutrient levels in serum, urine, breast milk, and semen in adults did not identify clinically meaningful differences.”
-“The risk for contamination with detectable pesticide residues was lower among organic than conventional produce.”
-“Bacterial contamination of retail chicken and pork was common but unrelated to farming method.”
-“Limitation: Studies were heterogeneous and limited in number, and publication bias may be present.”
-“Conclusion: The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

What the Holistic Health Industry Says:
-“Preservatives and synthetic food agents found in foods inhibit oxygen and delay the development of fungus and mold, creating a longer shelf-life for products. But after being consumed, these toxins deprive human cells of oxygen and rob them of nutrients, thus leading to cell mutation and the perfect breeding ground for cancer.” (Natural News: The Food Industry Is Waging War on Your Cells With These 10 Toxic Ingredients)
-“We thought that the best way to measure the more subtle effects of this kind of intake was to monitor the reaction of intestinal cells.  And we did this in two ways: in vitro, through human intestinal-lining cells that we had cultured in the lab; and in vivo, through the intestinal linings of live chickens. Both sets of results pointed to the same thing — that exposure to nanoparticles influences the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream.”  (Gretchen Mahler, assistant professor of bioengineering at Binghamton University and lead author of the 2012 study done by Binghamton and Cornell)
-“Scientists refer to this contamination as a person’s body burden. Of the 167 chemicals found, 76 cause cancer in humans or animals, 94 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 79 cause birth defects or abnormal development. The dangers of exposure to these chemicals in combination has never been studied.”  (The Environmental Working Group’s new project: Body Burden)

What the Farmer Says
-As Ted says in the video, the nutritional value of fresh produce comes from the soil, and without healthy soil, the veggies will have lower vitamin and mineral contents.  Ted tests the soil each year and add soil amendments to balance out the nutrient levels to ensure that our produce has the highest possible nutritional value.  That, combined with the absence of chemicals, leads to truly healthy, nutritious food.

So though while organic and conventional apples may have the same amount of calories, vitamin C, and fiber, are they really the same?  Or is this just another “wooden nickel” Big Ag is throwing you to bring you over to the dark side?

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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!