Tag Archives: fruit

Three tips for visiting the farmers market this weekend (and a story)

It’s the weekend and I hope you’re heading to a farmers market. The best ones are always on the weekends. Lots of farmers and variety, as well as crowds, but if you arrive early you can avoid them and get the best selection. Here are a few tips for shopping at the farmers market this weekend.

Hold your cash in one hand and the food in the other. I use this trick all the time. As a regular at the market I know exactly what I want and I usually know the farmer. But that doesn’t give me any special privileges. I have to wait in line with everybody else and sometimes that can take forever. A new person asking lots of questions or ten people in line. But if you walk up to the front and show your cash and food – you can skip the line. I know it’s cutting in line and a cheat, but with exact change you can complete the transaction in second. And with the growing crowds of people at the market it can be needed to get in and out quickly.

Save everything you get from the market, from little ties and rubber bands, to fruit and egg boxes. You can return all of them for a smile and nod of appreciation. Look closely at every market and you will see this happening. Someone returning a collection of thirty rubber bands or another with 5 empty egg cartons. It’s the sustainable side to the market. And the farmers love it because it saves them a few dollars on supplies.

Look for the special item at every table. I’ve learned a secret about farmers that I can share with you. Each one has several products that are their specialty. They grow lots of them and have great variety – their staple crops. But they also like to experiment, grow something new, or cook something different. Usually just a small amount to see if it sells or for their own family. Which means they quickly sell out, but if you can find one, take a look. It’s usually exotic or rare and you probably won’t know what to do with it, but it’s always a treat.

Finally, a quick story about one of my experiences. A few years back, I found a farmer with a single walnut tree in his yard. His father had planted it 40 years ago so his family could have walnuts, but now it was so big they couldn’t eat all the fallen walnuts. So he began selling a few of them at the market for dirt cheap prices, but he always placed them in the corner and sometimes didn’t even put them out. I learned all this as I began buying from him, and they were delicious. The best walnuts I ever had.

Soon my girlfriend was eating them and I was buying double. Some weeks I would walk up with a huge bag and buy every single walnut he had. At this point he realized walnuts could sell and gave them more table space with a big sign. To my chagrin, they did sell and I was now fighting other market shoppers for walnuts. Some weeks I would get some and others not. The price went up a little, but every time he saw me I would get a discount and a smile.

 

Do you have a tip or story, please share in the comments? 

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Fruit of the season

I’m an emotional person. The kind that says I love this when I find something good to eat. I have to tell everyone about it – saying I’ve found my fruit of the season. The one item I can eat every day, all day and feel perfectly content. Last month it was watermelon and this month it’s the pomegranate.

This can only happen at the farmers market where seasonal food comes and goes like travelers at an airport. At first there’s just a few of them, the farmers doing an early harvest to get a jump on their neighbors. Then the crowd rushes in and everyone is selling it. For a few weeks you’ll find it everywhere and then it’s gone.

There’s a science and a history to this. It goes back centuries and is in our genes. We are made to live off the land and follow the seasons – which until recently meant watermelons in summer and pomegranates in fall. For every month there was an ideal food, but then airplanes came along and brought us South American watermelons in February.

And here is where most would talk about food miles or unsustainable practices, but those are secondary to health. Eating out of order disrupts our natural pattern of eating with the seasons – one perfectly suited to our bodies. That allows the bacteria in our gut to squeeze every last bit of nutrients out of food. Like little factory employees working overtime. And when that food is done another shift of workers comes in for the next food item.

The biology behind this starts in our guts where the bacteria live. They break down our food into essential items, like proteins and carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. And the more you feed them the more they grow, getting more efficient each time. Which means you can eat less and get more out of it.

And when I eat those watermelons and pomegranates, I get even more. They are peak of the season, so filled with nutrients that I can eat one and feel full for hours. Which prompts, “that’s all your going to eat,” or “all you had for lunch was watermelon?”.

Yep, I’m following the seasons.

 

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The world’s most intense natural color – Pollia Condensata

Pollia condensata produces its blue color at the nanoscale level and is more intense than anything ever studied. From the Smithsonian Magazine:

When they examined P. condensata on a cellular level, they realized that the fruit produces its characteristic color through structural coloration, a radically different phenomenon that is well-documented in the animal kingdom but virtually unknown in plants. They determined that the fruit’s tissue is more intensely colored than any previously studied biological tissue—reflecting 30 percent of light making it more intense than even the renowned color of a Morpho butterfly’s wings.

Most plants produce a pigment which coats the plant but is not a part of its cells. When the plants die they no longer produce the pigment and fade in color. Not the amazing blue of P. Condensata.

 

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Research: nutrient levels in U.S. food supply are dropping

I’ve written a lot about the benefits of shopping entirely at farmers markets, the difference between organic/GMO/seasonal, and how food is more important than working out. These topics have interested many people with many asking for more data.

Here is one piece, possibly the most important in explaining our obesity epidemic. The findings reveal farming practices and seed choice that have led to lower quality food. Compared on a nutrient-nutrient basis it can be a 1/3 drop in nutrient level for some foods.

This means that the typical person will need to eat 3x as much to obtain the proper nutrients. If true, that would provide the ideal explanation for our overweight problems. It’s not so much our sedentary lifestyle or even our poor choices in food, but our simple desire to get the nutrients our bodies need.

The report is worth a read and I will be sharing several more like it over the coming days.

 

 “Nutrient levels in U.S. food supply eroded by pursuit of high yields” 

Full Report (pdf)

2-page Newsletter Summary (pdf)

“High yields and jumbo produce deliver more water, starch, and sugar per serving, but less vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.”

4-page Research Summary (pdf)

“Farmers have doubled or tripled the yield of most major grains, fruits and vegetables over the last half-century. They have done so by capitalizing on the work of plant scientists, crop breeders and companies manufacturing a wide range of inputs—from fertilizer to water, pesticides, sophisticated machinery and diesel fuel.

But American agriculture’s single-minded focus on increasing yields over the last half-century created a blind spot where incremental erosion in the nutritional quality of our food has occurred.  This erosion, modest in some crops but significant in others for some nutrients, has gone largely unnoticed by scientists, farmers, government and consumers.”

 

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How Farmers Markets can give you a superior workout

Ok, you’re probably starting to think I’m crazy. First, I suggest you buy all your food at farmers markets. Then, I tell you it will improve your health and start talking about getting to know your baker and making winter stores. Now, I’m going to make the argument that it will give you a superior edge in your workouts.

The explanation is pretty simple. Most of us workout once-a-day (if that) while we eat three times-a-day. This means food has a greater impact on our bodies than any individual workout does. Or, put another way, a workout breaks down the muscles in the body and recovery requires high-quality food to rebuild.

Right now, the popular advice is to eat protein bars and protein shakes, hearty meals of protein and vegetables, and energy drinks with electrolytes and vitamins. None of which is based on a solid foundation of science or nutrition. It’s all marketing.

Let me repeat that, none of the health claims coming from these food manufacturers are true. Hard to believe, I know, but the following explanation, from the Harvard School of Public Health, will help out.

On protein:

Surprisingly little is known about protein and health. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of…about 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. Beyond that, there’s relatively little solid information on the ideal amount of protein in the diet, a healthy target for calories contributed by protein, or the best kinds of protein.

Harvard, a trusted name in medicine, is basically saying they have no idea. So how do food companies know the right amount? Aren’t we buying these products because of their health claims?

If you read the rest of the Harvard article it actually lays out the answers for you. Protein is a general term referring to the 20+ amino acids that our bodies need. These “building blocks” are found in all foods, with some containing more than others. Meats tend to contain all of them, a “complete package”, while beans, fruits, and vegetables contain varying amounts.

It goes on to recommend that we eat a diverse diet of high quality foods, while making sure to not over-indulge on meat. In this way, you guarantee yourself a diverse source for the 20 amino acids, as well as other nutrients and vitamins.

Which brings us back to that superior edge you can get in your workouts. If you can find high quality food and eat that three times-a-day then you will maximize the growth, health, and weight loss your body can attain from working out.

What is high quality food? It’s grass-fed beef, sustainable seafood, free-range chicken and pork. Vegetables and fruits that are ripe and in peak season form. Bread made from heirloom grains. Cheese and milk from grass-fed cows.

All things you will find at a farmers market. No need to read labels or learn about the differences among organic/local/grass-fed. Just visit your local market, build a relationship with the farmers there, and start making your post-workout meals from the food you buy.

I promise you will notice a marked increase in energy, weight loss, muscle gain, stamina, and more. You will be eating the finest food money can buy and sometimes you may even see restaurant chefs buying at the market too. They will be from those high-end restaurants searching out the highest quality food with you. There is a reason they are shopping there and when you start eating the food you will soon see why.

 

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10 reasons to drink lemon water

I’m not sure how many of these are scientifically accurate, but if just a few are true…

Drop a slice of lemon into your hot/cold water to:

 

1. Boost your immune system: Lemons are high in vitamin C, which is great for fighting colds.  They’re high in potassium, which stimulates brain and nerve function. Potassium also helps control blood pressure.

3. Help with weight loss:   Lemons are high in pectin fiber, which helps fight hunger cravings. It also has been shown that people who maintain a more alkaline diet lose weight faster.

6. Clear skin:  The vitamin C component helps decrease wrinkles and blemishes. Lemon water purges toxins from the blood which helps keep skin clear as well. It can actually be applied directly to scars to help reduce their appearance.

8. Relieve respiratory problems: Warm lemon water helps get rid of chest infections and halt those pesky coughs. It’s thought to be helpful to people with asthma and allergies too.

 

Source: La Jolla Mom - 10 Reasons Why You Should Drink Lemon Water in the Morning

 

 

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The Unites States of Pie – yum!

We hold this truth to be self-evident: America loves pie.

Food writer Adrienne Kane celebrates that right. She has gathered those regional pie recipes into a new cookbook, United States of Pie.

Some excerpts from the interview:

Bakewell Pie: “is adapted from the very common English dessert, Bakewell Tart. I found the Bakewell Pie recipe in an 1886 cookbook called The Unrivalled Cook-book and [Housekeeper's] Guide. It’s a raspberry jam on the bottom, and then an almond meal sponge on top. It’s not too sweet, so

Chocolate Raisin Pie: “It’s sort of like a brownie in a pie, and it has that wonderful combination of chocolate and raisins — think Raisinets,” Kane says. “And it’s obviously from the West Coast, actually from Southern California. It comes from the fact that California is grape country and raisin country, and it’s sort of an adaptation of using what’s around you.”

Sack Pie: “That is an intriguing recipe. You bake the entire pie in a large paper bag, and so it steams the fruit and the fruit becomes very tender. And then at the last moment, you take it out of the bag and finish it off in the oven and just sort of brown the crust and the top … It sort of smells papery in your kitchen for the first half-hour or so, but I will tell you that it doesn’t taste papery at all.”

 

Source: NPR – A Pie For All Regions: Serving Up The American Slice

 

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On Nora Ephron, by Tom Hanks – “Knowing Nora meant her world – or her neighborhood”

Knowing and loving Nora meant her world — or her neighborhood — became yours. She gave you books to read and took you to cafés you’d never heard of that became legends. You discovered Krispy Kremes from a box she held out, and you learned that there is such a thing as the perfect tuna sandwich. She would give your kids small, goofy parts in movies with the caveat that they might not make the final cut but you’d get a tape of the scene. For a wrap gift, she would send you a note saying something like, “A man is going to come to your house to plant an orange tree — or apple or pomegranate or whatever — and you will eat its fruit for the rest of your days.” Rita and I chose orange, and the fruit has been lovely, sweet and abundant, just as Nora promised — a constant and perfect reminder of the woman we loved so much.

 

Nora Ephron: A Life of Voice and Detail by Tom Hanks

 

 

A great scene from You’ve Got Mail, especially with Harry Nilsson’s rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow:

 

'Tis The Season For Pomegranates

If you live in Southern California, one fruit that’s no stranger to farmer’s markets and CSA-boxes is the pomegranate.

I only recently discovered how much I enjoy this fruit, after years of watching it be bastardized and exploited by food companies. The fruit has long been celebrated for its health benefits (it’s a good source of vitamin C and B5, potassium and polyphenols) as well as for its externel beauty (it makes a great decorative fruit, especially around the holidays) and has a deliciously rich history:

The pomegranate tree is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and has been cultivated since ancient times throughout the Mediterranean region of Asia, Africa and Europe. The fruit was used in many ways as it is today and was featured in Egyptian mythology and art, praised in the Old Testament of the Bible and in the Babylonian Talmud, and it was carried by desert caravans for the sake of its thirst-quenching juice. It traveled to central and southern India from Iran about the first century A.D. and was reported growing in Indonesia in 1416. It has been widely cultivated throughout India and drier parts of southeast Asia, Malaya, the East Indies and tropical Africa. The most important growing regions are Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, India, Burma and Saudi Arabia. There are some commercial orchards in Israel on the coastal plain and in the Jordan Valley.

Ripe and in season, typically from September/October to January/February in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s like eating sweet cranberry-flavored corn of the cob (I’ll admit this not the most elegant description but you get the point). The juicy red seed casings (what I refer to as “kernels”) are called arils and can be eaten on their own (I hear they’re great with a little salt and pepper).

Getting the arils out of the skin and inner pulp can be tricky (I’ve stained a couple white shirts with the red juice) but if you score the shell correctly and use a bowl of water (as shown below), you can save your countertops and clothing from a speckled red motif.

Happy pomegranate eating!