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Ask Darya: What should I do if I don’t have a local farmers market?

by | Dec 18, 2015

ask farmers market 650px

Hi guys,

Today we have another episode of Ask Darya, where Stacey from Denver asks:

“I love your idea of shopping at farmers markets whenever possible, but I’m located in Denver, where farmers markets tend to run from June/July through October-ish. What would you suggest as an alternative during the rest of the year? Should I order produce from a CSA and have it shipped to me? Should I find a farm that does pasture-raised poultry/meats and order through them?”

It’s a good question, and I offer a slight reframe on the value of farmers markets and share some of the solutions I’ve been using since moving to NYC from California.

Want me to answer your question? Submit it on the Ask Darya page.

Cheers,

Darya

Read the rest of this story »

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For The Love Of Food

by | Aug 17, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week learn why a knife can help you eat less, eggs aren’t really as bad as smoking, and how to tell real from fake olive oil.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Farmers Market Update: CSA, Los Angeles

by | Sep 11, 2011
Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture

This is the first Farmers Market Update describing a CSA (community supported agriculture) box, and I absolutely love it. Thanks Samantha!

If you’d like to share your own CSA or farmers market with Summer Tomato readers, please read this and contact me.

Farmers Market Update: Central Farmers’ Cooperative

by Samantha Jones

I’m Samantha Jones, a Bay Area girl who now lives in LA. I’m getting a masters in public health at UCLA (which is awesome) and I love running, cooking, and dreaming about growing my own veggies.

Wednesdays are the most exciting day of my week. I leave work or class, rush to a designated pick-up site, and retrieve a mystery box! I head home, joyfully unpack the box and make something amazing for dinner, often for a friend who has noticed I have delicious lunches and wants to know my secret. The secret is a weekly CSA share, something I’ve been participating in for the past three years. Thanks to my CSA, I am now an awesome cook, I can turn any vegetable into a tasty meal and I have a diet centered on fresh, affordable produce.

Week 1

Week 1

CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and it’s basically a system where we as veggie-consumers buy our produce directly from the farm that grows it. The idea is that the farm gets payment up front to support their operating costs, and their subscribers share in the farm’s harvest via a weekly produce delivery. In the SF Bay Area, where I bought my first veggie box, I subscribed to the very awesome Riverdog Farms. Now that I live here in Los Angeles, I subscribe to the equally awesome South Central Farmers’ Cooperative. I know affordability is relative, but I have found CSAs to be very reasonable.

Week 2

Week 2

I wrote this over the course of three summer weeks, and each week I got a TON of produce. I have mounds of spicy peppers.

Peppers

Peppers

And more summer squash and zucchini than I can handle.  (I invite friends over for dinner and force them to take squash home.)

Summer Squash

Summer Squash

I also get melons each week, a treat because boxes are generally veggie focused.

Watermelon

Watermelon

This summer I’ve also gotten bunches of beautiful basil every week, which smells AMAZING.

Purple Basil

Purple Basil

I get kale year round (several kinds in the winter time!) which is great because I can eat it every day.

Kale

Kale

I also get tomatoes, eggplants and cucumbers each week. Last week was unusual in that I got a vegetable I’ve never seen before – I think it is some kind of long bean?

Long Beans

Long Beans

This was all summer produce; in the fall and winter I get several kinds of greens each week, (collards, spinach, kale, chard) broccoli, winter squash, carrots, cabbage, beets, (LOTS of beets) and citrus fruit. In the spring, I get asparagus, fava beans, more beets, more greens, little carrots, strawberries and lettuce so good it will blow your mind. With some CSAs you can even order pasture-raised meat and eggs!

Peppers, Tomatoes, Kale, Melon

More summer produce

I started buying a CSA because a good friend loved hers and I wanted to try something new. I was really bad at actually making it to farmers markets and when I made it there I got excited and spent way too much money. My CSA solved these problems for me, but now I keep it up just because I love it so much.

Sometimes I tell people as a joke that my CSA totally CHANGED MY LIFE, but really, it’s kinda true. It has raised my standards for produce quality, made me a better cook and an all around healthier person. I totally encourage people to try a CSA, you can check out Local Harvest to learn more about CSA programs and find one in your area.

What did you find at the market this week?

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How I Lost 60 Pounds In 1 Year With A New Healthstyle

by | Mar 23, 2011
Patrick in Sept - 20 lbs ago

Patrick in Sept 2010 (20 lbs ago)

I recently learned about Patrick from a comment he left here at Summer Tomato. I was astounded by his tremendous weight loss success and touched by his story of how he got there.

Patrick describes himself as “just a regular guy that works a corporate job who decided to educate himself with the internet and use the knowledge to upgrade my healthstyle.”

I hope he inspires you as much as he’s inspired me.

P.S. Because of Patrick I’m now doing interval training again, and I’ve noticed a difference in less than a week. w00t!

How I Lost 60 Pounds In 1 Year With A New Healthstyle

by Patrick Birke

My journey really began two years ago with the birth of my daughter. She was born in March, and the following summer my wife and I bought out a friend’s CSA (community supported agriculture) summer share who was moving out of the neighborhood. With ¾ of the summer season left, we received more vegetables than we knew what to do with.

We began making our own baby food for our infant daughter. Steaming fresh veggies, pureeing them and freezing it into ice cube trays was the perfect way to feed her over the next year without the need to ever buy store bought baby food. By the time the season was over we were hooked on the CSA. The three of us even went to visit the farm for their annual fall harvest celebration, we picked our own pumpkins and saw where all of our yummy veggies were grown.

This was the first step to the new me. I was introduced to fresh vegetables that I would normally pass right by at the grocery store (things I didn’t even know they had, but have now noticed) such as kale, swiss chard, fennel, leeks, rutabaga, turnips, squash, brussels sprouts, rhubarb, just to name a few.

That fall we ran out of our CSA stock but we did purchase a half cow and half pig from a local farmer to get us through the long Minnesota winter.

Local grass-fed beef is great, but I quickly learned that it cannot be the only thing in my diet.

By spring 2010, I was up to 200 pounds. We signed up again for the CSA summer share but I knew if I wanted to lose weight and gain muscle, that diet alone would not do it. So I joined a gym. I have belonged to various gyms in my life and even have an elliptical in my basement, but I never lost weight in the past because I hadn’t changed my diet.

I started out slowly, going only once or twice a week. I would use the elliptical for 50 minutes while watching an episode of True Blood or other action show where the cast is ripped. This was great motivation to get to the gym—I could go get bad Chinese food with my co-workers or I could workout and see what trouble Sookie Stackhouse was in today.

In summer 2010, we began receiving our CSA summer share again. We made it a fun weekly routine to pull our daughter in her wagon to the CSA drop off location in our neighborhood. We would also stop by one of the dozens of farmers markets around Minneapolis to fill in what we needed.

I was back on a balanced vegetable diet and increasing my gym time to 2-3 times per week, but the picture was still not complete. The next piece of the puzzle was to start cutting things out that I don’t need. This includes soda, fast food, frozen pizzas, delivery pizza, milk, juice, processed and packaged food, etc.

Breaking these habits did not happen overnight, but over the course of the year I’ve done pretty well. Cutting out soda was easy, especially when I gave up coffee (which was not for weight loss reasons, but for caffeine withdrawl headaches). Since I spend my lunch hour at the gym, I no longer get fast food for lunch. Instead I bring a sandwich (tuna, turkey, chicken, etc.) and a piece of fruit. There are times when I do buy my lunch, but I get a salad instead.

I still enjoy going out to dinner with friends or family and am not too concerned about what I eat there, but I am mindful of the pitfalls (dinner rolls, buffalo wings, movie popcorn, cookie dough Blizzards, etc.). At home we occasionally get take out, but it is just as fast to cook something than wait for delivery or pick up take out.

By cutting these things out, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise, I started to really see some progress. I lost 40 pounds by the fall of 2010 without starving myself or counting calories. I am conscious of portions and always read food labels, (especially for the first few ingredients) but it does not rule me.

By fall, I had run out of True Blood and switched to shorter television shows on the elliptical, using the remaining time to lift weights. Again I started slowly with just a few weight machines. I also went back to the internet and read about the benefits of mixing a lifting routine with interval cardio.

I decreased my time on the elliptical, increased my time lifting and started experimenting with intervals on the treadmill. Some people might call it HIIT (high-intensity interval training), but I like to think of it is as MIIT (moderate-intensity interval training). I could always run faster but I am not interested in blacking out or throwing up after a workout, because I do have to go back to work!

Over winter 2010-2011, I was doing a 10 minute warmup on the elliptical (now watching The Tudors in 10 min intervals), then lifting for 20 minutes (I mix in free weights with weight machines), then 20 minutes of intervals (one minute walk, @ 4 mph, one minute jog @ 6 or 7 mph, one minute run at 9 or 9.5 mph, repeat).

Although the treadmill calculates less calories burned doing intervals verses just running @ 8 mph for 20 minutes, I get super sweaty and feel great! Again, I use my phone to motivate me, I listen to Stuff You Should Know or other podcasts while lifting, and Girl Talk or other up tempo music while running.

I now go to the gym 3-5 times a week as my work schedule allows. I work in a very tall building in downtown Minneapolis, so the days that I cannot get there (due to lunch meetings or other) I run/walk up the stairs between meetings, sometimes more than 10 flights at a time. It gets the heart pumping, but I don’t even get winded anymore.

From fall 2010 until now, I have lost another 20 pounds bringing the total to over 60 pounds. My weight has plateaued again, but that is fine. I am slowly gaining muscle while losing the remaining belly fat, which means my weight is pretty stable.

For the winter, we signed up for a winter share from the same CSA. We received a lot of root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, etc.) along with fruits and vegetables they saved from the summer and froze. We include spinach, kale or chard in almost every meal we can. The CSA also includes really good bread and granola they make on the farm.

These days it is all about routine and spending time cooking with my family. We plan a vegetarian night (Meatless Monday!), a fish night (ahi, salmon, sword fish, etc.) and a meat/pasta night (local beef, pork or chicken). With enough leftovers to get us through the rest of the week. My wife and I both bring our lunches and snack on nuts or fruit between meals.

Although I have cut out a lot of junk food, I don’t feel like I am missing out. I still enjoy alcohol and have a glass (or two) of wine or Scotch almost every night. I try to stay away from sugary desserts, but do have the occasional piece of cake or ice cream.

By reading Summer Tomato and the links that Darya provides, I have started to incorporate other foods such as white beans, lentils, quinoa, etc., especially on vegetarian nights. I’ve learned to love food and really pay attention to it instead of just cramming anything into my mouth. I’m always looking for new and interesting recipes. I’m even starting to get to the point that I can make dinner without having to pre-plan it, just by using what is on hand.

This summer we’re signed up with the CSA for our 3rd year, and have added a fruit share. I’m on the look out for an egg share and possibly a bread share, though I might try to start baking my own bread instead.

To summarize, I attribute my weight loss success to a combination of diet, exercise and cutting out the junk. Each one of those things alone would not (and have not in the past) accomplished it. The love of my family and cooking together keeps me going everyday.

Thanks,

Patrick Birke

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jun 11, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Let’s start with some news. I’ll be on The Block Radio podcast this morning sometime between 7am and 10am PST talking about how to make the most of your farmers market trip. It will be archived on the site once it airs. The interview was inspired by an article/slideshow I had at The Huffington Post last weekend, Top 10 Mistakes Made By Farmers Market Noobz.

Also, for the next two weeks I’m participating in the Inkwell interview at The Well with David Gans and Diane Brown. Have questions for me or just want to eavesdrop? Come join us!

Lots of good news in the food world this week. Brian Wansink demonstrates that it’s pretty easy to trick kids into making smarter food choices at lunch. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn posting calories really does help people eat less. And local meats are easier to find than ever. w00t!

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the week

What good stuff did you learn this week?

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For The Love of food

by | Feb 19, 2010
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

There were an unusual number of thoughtful articles published this week. To start, read up on the important legislation that was passed for organic dairy production (yippie!). There is also some bad news about bagged salad greens you should be aware of, along with some valuable info on choosing a CSA if, per chance, the salad story makes you want to opt out of the industrial food chain (if it didn’t, check out the salmonella pepper article).

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

Links of the week

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What inspired you to eat well this week?

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Last Minute Foodie Gift Ideas

by | Dec 14, 2009
Photo by danesparza

Photo by danesparza

Sometimes the stars just do not align for getting your holiday shopping done early. I know I haven’t started mine yet. But there are still plenty of easy-to-find, yet super valuable gifts out there for your favorite foodies.

Personally I try to avoid giving gifts that require guessing someone else’s taste or style. Instead I rely on things that are either super useful, completely novel or just ridiculously cool.

At this stage of the game your best bets are things you can order online and have delivered in the next week, gift subscriptions, or books that you can find just about everywhere.

Here are some of the coolest tricks I have up my sleeve for 2009.

Last Minute Gift Ideas That Aren’t Lame

1. Artisan foods from FoodzieFoodzie_Facebook_Logo

Decadent food is one of the easiest ways to make someone happy. But Summer Tomato readers know that I do not take my indulgences lightly. If I’m going to eat something that isn’t healthy, I want it to be beyond awesome–the healthy food I eat is just too delicious to bother with anything less.

That’s why Foodzie is so cool. If you don’t live in San Francisco, New York or LA, finding high-end artisanal foods can be a challenge. But now thanks to Foodzie, anyone can have Bacon Jam or Single Malt Scotch Bars delivered to your doorstep. Just be sure to order in the next day or 2 or your orders won’t make it before Christmas without extra shipping costs.

2. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]0143038583&fc1[/amazon-product]

As you might imagine, I’ve read A LOT about nutrition and have tried almost every diet myself. One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned in this research is that while the content of your diet is certainly important, how you think about and approach food is one of the most influential factors in your long-term health and happiness.

By far the best book I’ve read on food philosophy is Michael Pollan’s landmark work The Omnivore’s Dilemma. This book is remarkably well-written, meticulously researched and an overall pleasure to read. It is also the perfect gift for the curious yet unconvinced soon-to-be healthy eater.

If you are still looking for more, check out his practical guide for following these principles, In Defense of Food.

3. How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]0764578650&fc1[/amazon-product]

For someone who has decided to start cooking but doesn’t know where to begin, this book has everything you need to know. Mark Bittman is the brilliant author of the New York Times food column, The Minimalist, that includes fantastic 2-3 minute cooking videos also available as a podcast.

Bittman demystifies the kitchen by explaining basic cooking concepts and fundamentals in this classic cookbook. There is even a vegetarian version for those who aren’t interested in the perfect roasted chicken.

4. Splendid Soups, by James Peterson[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]0471391360&fc1[/amazon-product]

The only other cookbook I consider indispensable is Splendid Soups, by James Peterson. Soup is pretty close to perfect food, especially during these cold, stormy winter months. Soup is also perfect for dinner parties and potlucks, since it stays warm all night and doesn’t require a set “dinner time.”

I recently re-ordered this cookbook for myself (my last copy actually belonged to a former housemate) even though I have most of my favorite recipes memorized. I’ve benefited so tremendously from this book, I just feel better if it is always in my kitchen.

5. Cuisinart Hand Blender[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]B0006G3JRO&fc[/amazon-product]

This makes a great bundle gift with Splendid Soups, since a purée is often the last step in soup-making magic. Though it is possible to make a wonderful soup in a regular blender or food processor, it is exponentially easier if you have an immersion hand blender. You can also use an immersion blender for smoothies and other blended foods, like hummus.

The Cuisinart hand blender is especially awesome because it comes with attachments that transform it into either an electric beater or a mini chopping food processor as well.

For $50 this is some of the best value you can get out of a kitchen gadget.

6. Fagor Pressure cooker[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]B00023D9RG&fc1[/amazon-product]

My pressure cooker is the one special piece of cooking equipment that I cannot live without. The reason is that the first time I tasted beans made from scratch I knew I could never go back to canned. But beans are such an essential part of my healthstyle that the 1-4 hr cook time is a bit too inconvenient to be practical for real life.

Enter the pressure cooker. A pressure cooker cuts bean cooking time down to under half hour. It’s also great for grains and a ton of other foods. Fagor is the only brand I recommend bothering with. You don’t want to mess around with high-pressure cooking unless you are sure about your gear.

7. Audible membership

I rave about Audible every chance I get. If you’ve never heard of it, think Netflix but for audiobooks. While a monthly audiobook subscription isn’t for everyone, for those of us with commutes or jobs with extensive manual/technical (aka mindless) work, Audible is a godsend.

Though audio is still not my favorite way to “read,” it is perfect for those books in which I only have a passing curiosity. If I find a book I love (which happens often), I will buy a hard copy as well. Sometimes I listen to a book more than once. Rarely am I disinclined to finish one.

Audible is a great way to finally read all those food and health books you’ve been meaning to get to.

Have I mentioned I love Audible?

8. Zagat subscriptionzagat_twitter_bigger

Yelp is great if you want to find the best tailor near your house or need a place to get your pets groomed, but I never use Yelp for restaurant recommendations. There are very few people I trust in food taste, and in my experience Yelp reviews reflect the typical American appetite for cheap, big and cheesy. Thanks, but I’ll pass.

When I’m curious about the best Korean food in SF or if I’m traveling to a city I’m not familiar with Zagat is where I turn. I never hesitate to renew my subscription and recommend it to anyone looking for reviews by people who actually know what they’re talking about.

9. Bialetti stovetop espresso maker[amazon-product align=”right” bordercolor=”#ffffff”]B0001WYDP0&fc1[/amazon-product]

I’m something of a coffee purist, and of all the home brew methods I’ve tried (most of them) the Bialetti stovetop espresso maker is my favorite. It’s relatively inexpensive and has the added charm of being a little old-school.

This is how everyone makes coffee at home in Italy.

10. CSA membership

Busy people have trouble finding the time to buy fresh fruits and vegetables every week. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture brings fresh, seasonal produce to you. The idea behind a CSA is that you subscribe to a farm or collection of farms and pay a certain set price (varies by farm) for a box of their goods. For your fee you are provided with a week or two worth of fruits and vegetables of the season.

Buying someone a subscription to a CSA is a great way to encourage healthy eating and support local farmers. All CSAs are a little different, so you need to find ones in your area and contact them to work out the details. Most deliver to your house or a nearby pick up point and allow some filtering for your particular food preferences.

There are also meat and dairy CSAs, which you will become more interested in after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Visit Local Harvest to find CSAs in your area.

Good luck with your shopping and happy holidays!

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Farmers Market Update: Noe Valley, Tomato CSA and Other Adventures

by | Aug 2, 2009
Tomatero Organic Tomatoes

Tomatero Organic Tomatoes

It was an action packed day this Saturday in San Francisco. I started the morning by checking out the Noe Valley farmers market on 24th Street then headed off to the Ferry Building to buy a few more things and chat with the people at Epicurious.

Although I have been to the Noe Valley farmers market before, it had been years since I spent any real time there. For a small market, the selection was really impressive. Many of the farms I recognized because they also have booths at the Ferry Plaza farmers market. Others I would be happy to see there.

Melons

Melons

Rosa Bianca Eggplant

Rosa Bianca Eggplant

I had the most fun at the Tomatero Organic Farm stand where their selection brimmed with summer bounty, especially tomatoes. I came out to the Noe Valley market to try Tomatero tomatoes because they are (drumroll, please) starting an all tomato CSA this year!

If you have ever tasted Tomatero’s tomatoes, you know how exciting this is.

Deliveries begin on August 18 and go until the end of the season. There will be 3 pick up locations, 2 in the Noe Valley area of San Francisco and one in the Lake Merrit area of Oakland. The cost is $15 per week and will include whatever varieties they have in stock. For more details please visit the Tomatero website.

Flame Grapes

Flame Grapes

White Raspberries

White Raspberries

While I was there I also purchased some of their zucchini, spectacular white raspberries and some eggs–which I promptly left on the counter and forgot 🙁 I’ll go back and get them next week.

Everything was spectacular.

Other Noe Purchases include:

  • Edible flowers and lettuce (Happy Boy Farms)
  • Piel de sapo melon (Happy Boy Farms)
  • Spring onion (Happy Boy Farms)
  • Rosa bianca eggplant (Capay Organics)
  • Thai basil (Sunny Farm)
  • Green onion (Sunny Farm)
Red and Green Okra

Red and Green Okra

Pluots

Pluots

Even though I bought a good amount of food in Noe Valley I still wanted to head to the Ferry Building. I can’t help it, I just love it there.

It was a beautiful day and I tried so many kinds of stone fruit I should have probably just counted it as my lunch. One of my main reasons for heading there was to get some Rancho Gordo beans. I asked for a new recommendation (I’ve tried many of them before) and the woman working there nearly exploded with excitement about a new bean they have from Mexico, Alubia Criollo. This is a white bean that she claims is so creamy and luxurious it is to die for.

I can’t wait.

Also exciting is that the early girl tomatoes are finally available, even the ones from Dirty Girl Produce. Folks, early girl tomatoes are the summer tomatoes that changed my life. Definitely get yourself some this season from Tomatero, Dirty Girl or wherever you can find them.

Huge Zucchini

Huge Zucchini

Early Girl Tomato Frenzy

Early Girl Tomato Frenzy

Another reason I visited the Ferry Building was to check out the Epicurious booth that will be hanging around at various SF foodie events this week, giving out free tote bags and goodies. If you haven’t heard of Epicurious, it is a fabulous online resource for food lovers.

Epicurious Booth SF

Epicurious Booth SF

Nectarines

Nectarines

Apples have also appeared at the market, and there are more grapes every week. They are delicious, but it is hard for me to buy grapes when there are so many stone fruits and melons still around.

I’d love to hear what you got at the farmers market this week.

Tomatillos

Tomatillos

Ferry Plaza purchases:

  • Alubia Criollo beans (Rancho Gordo)
  • Flavor queen pluots (Honeycrisp)
  • Flavor king pluots (Honeycrisp)
  • Basil (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Pagoda figs (Balakian farms)
  • Sweet Italian frying peppers (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Ginger flowers (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Arctic Jay white nectarines
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How To Get Started Eating Healthy: Seasonal Shopping

by | Apr 13, 2009
Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Every Saturday morning I wake up as early as I can (usually not very early) and head to the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market to buy my vegetables for the week. Seasonal vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet, and buying them each week is the single most important step you can take to upgrade your healthstyle.

(This post is part three of the series How To Get Started Eating Healthy. Part one is Stock Your Pantry and part two is Essential Groceries. Subscribe to Summer Tomato to get more free healthy eating tips)

Why Vegetables?

Decades of research on diet, nutrition and health have universally confirmed that a vegetable-based diet can reduce your risk of (and even reverse) almost every disease. Debates still rage regarding the mechanism by which vegetables improve health (Is it because they replace bad foods? Contain antioxidants? Are low in calories? Low in fat? Low in protein? Have low glycemic index?), but for you and me the reason doesn’t really matter. The important point is that vegetables are proven to make you healthy. Those other questions are only important to people who want to bottle that benefit and sell it to you at a premium.

Interestingly, one of the most consistent findings in nutrition science is that any attempt to isolate a specific element of food and create a useful dietary supplement fails to mimic the benefits of the whole food. The lesson from all of this is that you are much better off spending your money on vegetables and other whole foods than on nutritional supplements.

Why Seasonal?

If you have ever wondered how much vitamin C is in a tomato, please stop. The idea that one tomato is the same as the next is ludicrous, yet this is the kind of logic we have accepted from grocery stores and the food industry in general.

Anyone with taste buds can immediately tell the difference between a sweet, ripe heirloom tomato at the height of summer and a mealy red beefsteak from your grocery store in December. These foods taste wildly different because of how they were grown, so doesn’t it stand to reason that they may have different nutrient levels as well?

In fact, there is a tremendous difference in nutritional quality of foods grown in the correct season and in good soil. Seasonal organic produce is substantially better for you than the conventional produce at Safeway, and this difference is reflected in how your food tastes.

For these reasons, shopping in season can do wonders for how you think about vegetables. A salad may sound boring to you, but how about miner’s lettuce tossed with arugula, Tokyo turnips, Mediterranean cucumbers, ruby grapefruit and sliced almonds? If you are more excited to eat vegetables because they look, sound, smell and taste delicious, then you will lose weight and become healthier by default. Your daily greens will be a joy, not a chore.

Seasonal produce is also more affordable than out of season produce that was grown in a greenhouse or shipped halfway around the world.

How To Shop Seasonally

Farmers Markets

As I mentioned above, my preferred place to shop for vegetables is my local farmers market on Saturday. Farmers markets are wonderful because you have access to the freshest local and seasonal vegetables available, usually just picked the day before. This means that not only are you guaranteed vegetables at the peak of their season, you can even go from stand to stand and find the batch you like best. You can also discover interesting and unique offerings (like the chocolate persimmon), and build relationships with local farmers. If you are lucky enough to have a weekly farmers market in your area, it is certainly worth it to commit yourself to go every week.

Read this blog on Saturdays to keep up with local finds in the Bay Area and California in general.

CSAs

Unfortunately, farmers markets are not practical for everyone. Some people have time constraints that prevent them from attending a weekly market. Luckily there are some alternatives available. One option is the CSA, or Community-Supported Agriculture. When you subscribe to a CSA you have pledged support for a particular farm (or sometimes a group of farms), and in exchange receive a box of seasonal produce each week or on an agreed schedule. The biggest convenience of joining a CSA is that the times arranged for delivery or pick up are much more flexible than the weekly market. There are CSAs for vegetables, as well as meat and dairy.

From what I understand, individual CSAs can vary substantially in how they are run and what they provide. If you are interested in finding a CSA in your area, I recommend spending some time researching your options and deciding what works best for you.

I have personally never belonged to a CSA and would love to hear about your experiences if you have.

Local Produce Markets

Even without a farmers market or CSA it possible to shop in season. Most cities and suburban areas have local produce markets and/or health food stores that focus on fresh vegetables. While not everything in these markets will be seasonal and local, they usually provide a nice alternative to large chain grocery stores to at least supplement your produce shopping. For more information you can read my article about how to find local produce markets in your area.

Grocery Stores

Even if none of these options are available in your neighborhood, it is still likely that the most affordable and best tasting food at your regular grocery store is whatever happens to be in season. Thus it is still worth it to keep up on local produce trends in your area.

Conclusions

Eating your vegetables is the most important thing you can do for your health, and neither nutritional supplements nor regular workouts can substitute for a healthy diet. Whether you have access to farmers markets or not, you are better off eating any vegetables than no vegetables at all. The same is true if you are considering conventional vs. organic produce.

If farmers markets are not available to you year-round there are many ways to get seasonal vegetables and fruits. But the first step is committing to your health and your future by making sure seasonal, fresh vegetables are a part of your personal healthstyle.

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Holiday Gift Ideas For the Health Conscious

by | Dec 8, 2008

Know anyone who is trying build healthy habits? Want to give yourself a leg up on your New Year’s resolution? Here are some simple gift ideas for anyone wanting to embrace a healthy lifestyle:

  1. Eat, Drink and Be Healthy, by Walter Willett. This is my favorite nutrition book. Dr. Willett, a physician and Harvard nutrition scientist, presents a comprehensive guide explaining the basics of nutrition science and why few things are as important as what you choose to eat. His recommendations are based on solid science, but everything is explained in clear, simple language and is easy for anyone to understand. This book will change the way you think about food and nutrition.
  2. Subscription to Cooks Illustrated magazine. It is almost impossible to have a healthy diet if you are eating out for most of your meals. Cooking at home can be a pleasure, but to many people it is a source of fear and anxiety. Cooks Illustrated is a resource that demystifies cooking and makes it virtually idiot proof. Their staff tests recipes over and over in “America’s Test Kitchen” so you don’t have to. The result is the easiest, most reliable method for making almost any meal.A bonus of subscribing is that they also offer product and appliance reviews. I often find myself browsing their website with my online subscription, but they also have a beautiful print magazine if you prefer to peruse recipes on the go. Because of Cooks Illustrated I feel like I can cook just about anything I set my mind to, even things I have never tasted before. I couldn’t live without my Cooks!
  3. Braun Hand Blender. This is the magic kitchen appliance. If you or someone you know is not the type to buy every single piece of fancy kitchen equipment, this is the perfect item. Its many attachments make it so you have a blender, food processor and mixer all in the palm of your hand. Everything you need rolled into one tiny device!
  4. CSA membership. Busy people have trouble finding the time to buy fresh fruits and vegetables every week. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture brings fresh, seasonal produce to you. The idea behind a CSA is that you subscribe to a farm or collection of farms and pay a certain set price (varies by farm) for a box of their goods. For your fee you will be provided with a week or two worth of fruits and vegetables of the season. All CSAs are a little different, so you need to find ones in your area and contact them to work out the details. Most deliver to your house or a nearby pick up point and allow some filtering for your particular food preferences. For the truly dedicated, there are also meat and dairy CSAs.
  5. In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. Michael Pollan is a journalist and UC Berkeley professor who has spent the past several years figuring out the best way to eat in the Western world. This book distills everything he found, and his advice is surprisingly simple: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. In Defense of Food is a quick, easy read that is both entertaining and filled with valuable information.
  6. Wii Fit. I’m not sure if a video game can really be exercise, but it sure beats sitting on your butt watching T.V. I cannot deny that on cold evenings when I have worked too long at home to squeeze in a workout I have resorted to my Wii to get the blood pumping. Wiis are not easy to acquire (I have had success with Wii Alerts), but if you can get your hands on one they are easily worth the money.
  7. Pressure cooker. You probably do not eat enough legumes. People have weird ideas about beans and assume they are accompanied by foul smells, but home-cooked beans are an entirely different species. A pressure cooker can make it so you have a week’s supply of your favorite beans in under half an hour. What’s not to love?
  8. Full body massage. The latest research suggests that stress may be as bad for you as red meat. Luckily getting rid of stress can be one of the best experiences of your life. Everyone loves a trip to the day spa. A full body massage is the perfect gift for that person who has everything.
  9. Lunch box. Eating out for lunch every single day is not an option if you want to be healthy. But that does not mean you have to be a nerd. REI makes a great, affordable lunch cooler that is both stylish and functional. Want more of a selection? Browse the offerings at Amazon.com through the link on the sidebar.
  10. Email subscription to Summer Tomato. It’s free and comes with a 25-page healthy eating guide! Get to know what fruits and vegetables are in season, learn about the latest nutrition research and discover simple and delicious recipes for health straight from my brain to yours. This is the ultimate gift for the ultimate connoisseur! (OK, I admit this is kind of a cheap gift. I recommend it, but you should probably get one of those real gifts I mentioned too 😉

Good luck shopping and happy holidays!

Check out my 2009 healthy gift ideas

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