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potato nutrition facts

Amazing potato nutrition facts

Behold the mighty potato!

Adapted from Live Science:

Fresh potatoes like the ones grown by the McKenney family at Sion House Farm in Farnham, Va., above, may look like pretty dull company. But beneath every potato’s mild-mannered exterior lies a super-tasty, super-nutritional SuperSpud! Or they are when you eat them fresh, like these, not processed into store-bought French fries, chips, tater tots, or hashbrowns.

Prior to the 1960s, Americans ate most of their potatoes fresh. But as freezing technology improved, processed potatoes became more popular. Today, the USDA says processed ‘taters eat up 64 percent of the potatoes we consume! Compare that to just 35 percent in the ’60s. Americans, on average, eat 55 pounds of frozen potatoes per year, 42 pounds of fresh potatoes, 17 pounds of potato chips, and 14 pounds of dehydrated potato products — whatever the heck that is.

That’s a lot of potatoes. No wonder potatoes are the #1 vegetable crop in the United States and the fourth most-consumed crop in the world. According to the bean counters at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they’re beaten only by rice, wheat, and corn.

Anyway, potatoes are often thought of as a comfort food — mashed with rich butter and sour cream or fried up crisp in vegetable oil. But when you prepare them like that, they can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Of course, grassfed butter is a different matter, because grassfed results in healthy fats.

In fact, a study published in 2017 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate fried potatoes twice a week wound up with an increased risk of death. Yikes!

But happily, the study did not find any correlation between non-fried potato consumption and increased death. This backs up University of Texas nutritionist Victoria Jarzabkowski, who argues that potatoes aren’t necessarily bad for you.

The healthiest way to cook potatoes

Baked, boiled, or steamed — which is healthiest? Well, the best way to eat a potato is in its whole, unprocessed form. So baking, or roasting, a potato is the best way to prepare it. Roasting loses the fewest nutrients.

The next-healthiest way to cook a potato is to steam it. The worst thing you can do is boil it, because if it’s cut up or peeled, all the water-soluble nutrients leach out into the water. That includes B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, and calcium. As much as 80 percent of a potato’s vitamin C goes down the drain if you boil it.

The same thing can happen when peeled or cut-up raw potatoes are left to soak to keep them from darkening. Exposing any cut up veggie to air is no better — air, light, and heat are the enemies of nutrients. Best to do all the prep right before you cook whenever possible.

So when you cook potatoes the right way, without heaps of butter, cheese, or cream (unless all that dairy’s grassfed, because grass produces healthy fats), they really can be good for you. Just check out these amazing potato nutrition facts.

Amazing Fact #1: The skin is the best part

Don’t peel that potato! However you cook it, try to eat the skin. Ounce for ounce, the skin contains more nutrients — including the majority of the spud’s fiber — than the rest of the potato! Speaking of skin…

Amazing Fact #2: Potatoes are your skin’s best friend

According to Organic Facts, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorous can all help keep skin as smooth and creamy as, well, mashed potatoes. These nutrients are all present in potatoes, mashed or not.

Amazing Fact #3: Potatoes are lo-cal

Lo-cal, as in low calorie. Potatoes weigh in at just 110 calories for a medium-sized baked potato. And they’ve got zero fat calories. So a spud’s calorie count is not going to add to your waistline. By the way, in addition to being fat-free, potatoes are also cholesterol-free.

Amazing Fact #4: Potatoes’ relationship with blood sugar is… complicated

While a potato’s low calorie count won’t make you loosen your belt, they are starchy carbohydrates with very little protein. And those carbs are the kind that the body digests rapidly. They’ve got what’s called a high glycemic index value. Potato carbs cause blood sugar and insulin to surge and then dip, so you may wind up feeling hungry again soon after eating. That can lead to overeating. Plus the rapid rise in blood sugar can also lead to increased insulin production — not a good thing if you’re diabetic.

On the other hand, potatoes are also a great source of fiber, and the fiber content helps you feel fuller longer.

Meanwhile… a 2016 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that different people respond to a food’s glycemic index value in different ways. So this study suggests that the glycemic index is only somewhat useful when it comes to making food choices.

Bottom line: Whether or not you should avoid potatoes depends on how your individual body reacts to them. There’s no one-size-fits-all.

Amazing Fact #5: Potatoes and arthritis — also complicated

Some people think potatoes and other members of the nightshade family — such as eggplants, tomatoes and peppers — trigger arthritis flares. However, the Arthritis Foundation says there is limited scientific evidence to support this hypothesis. They suggest that arthritis sufferers try cutting nightshade vegetables from their diets for two weeks to see if symptoms improve.

Some studies indicate these vegetables may actually help reduce arthritis symptoms, the foundation said. For example, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that potatoes might actually reduce inflammation.

Again, figure out what works best for you.

Amazing Fact #6: Potatoes may help prevent cancer

A 2017 study published by the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that consuming purple potatoes might reduce the risk of colon cancer. Purple potatoes are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce levels of a protein linked to cancer cell growth in the colon.

Amazing Fact #7: Potatoes have as much vitamin C as half an orange

Spuds are the new citrus! Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and antioxidants ward off damaging free radicals that destroy healthy cells throughout your body.

Vitamin C also keeps your immune system strong, helps wounds heal properly, and aids in the absorption of a certain type of iron. Because of vitamin C’s many roles throughout your system, keeping up with your daily intake is important. Potatoes can get you there.

Amazing Fact #8: Potatoes may help lower blood pressure

According to Jarzabkowski, the nutritionist, there may be several reasons for this. All that fiber may help lower cholesterol by binding with cholesterol in the blood. “After it binds, we excrete it,” she says.

Potatoes are also a good source of potassium, even more than a banana. A lot of it is in the potato’s skin, which also contains a good deal of fiber. Potassium is a mineral that helps lower blood pressure, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, by widening blood vessels.

Plus, scientists at the Institute for Food Research have discovered that potatoes contain chemicals called kukoamines, which are also associated with lowering blood pressure.

Potatoes are just plain good for your heart. Vitamins C and B6 help reduce free radicals; and carotenoids help maintain proper heart functioning. B6 also plays a crucial role in preventing damage to blood vessel walls, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Amazing Fact #9: Potatoes make you smart

Potatoes’ high level of carbohydrates may have some advantages, like maintaining good levels of glucose in the blood. You need that for your brain to function properly. A 1995 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that modest increases in glucose could help enhance learning and memory. Potassium, by encouraging wider blood vessels, also helps ensure your brain gets enough blood.

Also, the B6 vitamins in potatoes are critical to maintaining neurological health. Vitamin B6 helps create useful brain chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This means that eating potatoes may help with depression, stress, and maybe even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Amazing Fact #10: Potatoes go down easy and come out the same way

Potatoes aid digestion, big time, due to their high fiber content, Jarzabkowski said. Their high level of carbohydrates also makes them easy to digest, while their fiber-filled skin can help keep you regular.

Amazing Fact #11: Potatoes are a win for athletes

When athletes sweat they lose sodium and potassium, two important electrolytes. Electrolytes are necessary for optimum body function, and having too few can cause cramps, as many athletes know. It just so happens that potato skins are full of sodium and potassium and can help restore electrolyte balance.

And last but not least…

Amazing Fact #12: Eek! Potatoes are poisonous… sort of

Potato stems, branches, and leaves are toxic, containing alkaloids such as arsenic, chaconine, and solanine. Solanine is “very toxic even in small amounts,” according to the National Institutes of Health. But, seriously, who eats the stems, branches, and leaves? No one.

Still, poison is also found in green potatoes. They turn green if they’re exposed to light too much. NIH says you should “never eat potatoes that are spoiled or green below the skin.”

What about a potato’s “eyes”? Are they poisonous? The “eyes” of potatoes are buds, which will sprout into branches if left alone. If they’re not sprouting, they’re totally edible. If they are sprouting, NIH recommends cutting off the eyes and the sprouts. Once that’s done, you can chow down on the rest of that ‘tater.

To get more details on the science and history of potatoes, read the original article.

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

boost flavor with local food

11 tasty tips to boost flavor

The Flavor Fairy tells all!

By the Flavor Fairy:

Full disclosure: There are some flavor elements you can’t do anything about. Mother Nature gets a say in the flavor of your food because she controls the weather. Like the way cold snaps sweeten up greens, or the way dry weather can boost the flavor of fruiting crops like tomatoes. Those tomatoes will wind up with a lot more flavor than you’d get from a very wet season — if the farmer relies on mulches, soil that’s full of organic matter that retains moisture, and a little irrigation.

But take it from me, the Flavor Fairy: You have the power to boost flavor, too, and you don’t need Mother Nature’s wondrous weather or a magic fairy wand to do it. Here’s how.

1. Start with fresh, local produce and artisan fare.

The Veggie Fairies who bring you your local food will tell you that there are many reasons to eat local food. Well, yours truly the Flavor Fairy is here to tell you that there’s only one reason, and one reason only: FLAVOR. Seriously — fresh, local food just freakin’ tastes better!

But okay, I’ll admit that with local food, taste and nutrition do go hand in hand. The sooner you eat food after it’s harvested or made, the more flavor and nutrition will still be inside there to be eaten, since both immediately start to fade after harvesting and making. But as far as this Flavor Fairy is concerned, the extra nutrients are just a nice bonus. The flavor boost is what it’s all about!!

As I’m sure you know by now, fresh, locally grown produce and freshly made local foods have a big advantage over the stuff in the supermarket because it doesn’t have to travel as far or as long. So it’s fresher. Plus local farmers can choose to grow things for their flavor, not their ability to withstand long trips and still look good. Many so-called improvements (more productive, disease resistant, tough enough to withstand the rigors of long-distance shipping) have been made at the expense of taste (and, okay, nutrition, too.)

(This profile of the Flores family farm explains it all!)

2. Prep garlic and onions at the last minute.

Chopping them up unleashes sharp odors and strong flavors that just keep getting stronger and stronger until they’re overpowering. Frankly, this Flavor Fairy is horrified at the thought of chopping up any fruits and veggies that you aren’t going to eat right away — the longer you expose the interiors of fruits and vegetables to light and air, the faster the flavor and nutrients escape, never to return. So, whenever possible, wait with the chopping.

3. Keep all those tomato seeds and the goopy stuff, too.

Think they’re gross? The Tough Love Fairy says: Get over it. Most of the flavor is in the seeds and surrounding jelly, not the flesh and skin. Who knew?!

4. Boil it NOT!

Lightly steam or briefly sautee greens instead of boiling them. For root veggies, you can roast, grill, or braise them instead of boiling. When you boil veggies and then discard the water, you’re tossing the flavor, and the nutrients, too. But if you do boil…

5. …Save the broth!

Boiling is fine for some things. After you boil proteins like legumes and meat, save the leftover liquid for recipes that call for broth. It’s flavor-rich and (bonus!) nutrient rich, too.

6. Strike when the pan is hot.

When you sautee or stir fry, don’t rush the preheating. A hot pan seals in flavor. So wait for the oil to shimmer before adding veggies to an empty pan. Before adding meats to an empty pan, wait for the first wisps of smoke to rise from the oil.

7. Add a wee splash of cider vinegar, salt, or sugar.

Vinegar and salt brighten up the flavors of veggies and proteins, especially soups and stews. Reach for the sugar when you’re browning something. Browned food tastes better, and a pinch of sugar speeds it up. Sprinkle on veggies and lean proteins like chicken, pork, or seafood.

8. Add soy sauce or anchovies.

They contain natural glutamates, which enhance savoriness. Add a teaspoon or two of soy sauce to chili, or cook a few minced anchovies along with the vegetables in a soup or stew.

9. Add fresh herbs at the right time.

Hardy herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, and marjoram can go into whatever you’re making early in the cooking ­process. They need time to soften up and release their maximum flavor. Save delicate herbs like parsley, cilantro, tarragon, chives, and basil for the last minute. Add them too early, and all their fresh flavor and bright color will be lost — and that breaks this Flavor Fairy’s heart.

10. Use fat to intensify dried spices.

Cook ground spices and dried herbs for a minute or two in a little butter or oil before adding liquid to the pan. If you’re sautéing something like onions, wait until they’re nearly cooked before adding the spices to the fat in the pan.

11. Oh, and keep those fats fresh!

Ever tasted a rancid almond or oil that’s turned? It’ll give you a prune face for sure. Keep those off-flavors out of your cooking by keeping on hand only as much fat as you can use promptly. While your fats are waiting to be used, store them in ways that limit their exposure to oxygen and light to slow down the process that turns them rancid. Extra butter and nuts go in the freezer, nut oils go in the fridge, and vegetable oils go in a dark pantry.

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

FLores Farm local food tastes better

This farm family’s local produce tastes better. Here’s why.

Local produce has one big advantage over supermarket produce

By the Veggie Fairy Team:

Local produce tastes better than supermarket produce, and there are three reasons why. For local farmers like the Flores family in Hauge, Va., those three reasons add up to one huge advantage when it comes to flavor:

1. Local produce travels a short distance in a short amount of time — within 150 miles of where we deliver, going from Dirt to Doorstep® within just a couple days.

2. On its way to you, our local produce passes through just a few hands — the hands of our farmers and our veggie fairies. We all handle it gently to avoid damaging it.

3. So because local produce doesn’t have to travel far, and is handled gently, it gets picked when it’s supposed to be picked: at the peak of ripeness. That’s when it has absorbed its full portion of flavor (and nutrients) from the sun and the earth.

So being local is a huge advantage. We talked about that with Omar Flores, whose father Gerardo started the family farm.

Supermarkets are selling a lie

But before we get to the Q&A, compare local produce like the Flores’s to supermarket produce:

1. Most supermarket produce travels long distances over long periods of time. It comes from across the country and overseas, sometimes halfway around the world. It’s usually at least a week old by the time it arrives in the supermarket.

2. It has to withstand rough handling as it passes through middlemen and warehouses and factory-like assembly lines. Supermarket produce has to be bred to be tough enough to prevent damage. It’s not bred for maximum flavor.

3. Because it has to travel so far and long, it has to be picked before it’s ripe. Otherwise it would rot before it gets to you. It either ripens indoors along the way or gets gassed at the last minute to make it look ripe in the supermarket. Either way, it doesn’t get to absorb its full portion of flavor and nutrients from the sun and the earth, so it isn’t ripe in the true sense.

Supermarkets are selling you a lie.

Local farmers are selling the truth

Local family farmers like the Floreses, on the other hand, are selling you the truth. Produce that is truly ripe, truly nutrient-rich, and bursting with true flavor. We asked Omar Flores how they do it.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Your family provides our members with a jaw-dropping array of vegetables and fruits, a lot of them really unique. This week alone you’ll be bringing us multiple varieties of potatoes, cucumbers, beets, garlic, basil, and kale, plus cabbage, radishes, red sweet onions, Swiss chard, fennel, curly parsley, collards, and hyssop — what the heck is hyssop?

OMAR:

It’s a mint-like herb that’s been used since ancient times. It’s even mentioned in the Bible.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

That’s why it sounds familiar! You also provide us with greens, beans, carrots, squashes, tomatoes, and more pepper varieties than we can count, many of them inspired by your family’s Mexican heritage.

OMAR:

My father, Gerardo, he always tries to grow anything that’s different, so his produce stands out.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

And it does — your family’s farm is like an adventure in veggies. Do you grow it all yourselves?

OMAR:

We do grow all our own stuff. We’re not a big commercial farm — we’re just my dad and my mom, my two little brothers and little sister, and me. It’s a lot of work. When my dad was growing up in Mexico, he helped his father grow corn. After he emigrated to the U.S., he worked in apple and peach orchards and other farms. Eventually he started growing his own vegetables. So he has the knowledge and experience to do most of the farming, and the rest of us help him. I help with planting and delivery and farmers markets.

Omar has been helping his father Gerardo since he was a kid.

Omar has been helping his father Gerardo since he was a kid.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

What kind of farming techniques do you rely on?

OMAR:

We’re sustainable. We use water conservation methods and although we’re not certified organic, we use the same chemicals as organic growers. We don’t do the big mono-crop type of farming like the big corporate farming operations do. We start our own plants from seed in our greenhouse, and transplant them into the fields. We grow a big variety of produce on our land, side by side with open fields of wild flowers, so we’ve got a pretty healthy ecosystem. We live right there on the farm, and my wife and I have two toddlers, so we want it to be healthy and safe for all of us.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

And how often do you do planting? Just in the spring?

OMAR:

Oh no, we’re planting something new every week throughout the growing season. And every week something else that we planted earlier is reaching maturity, ripe and ready for harvest. Like for instance, we plant tomatoes four times a year, and cucumbers every three weeks. Because we’re constantly planting, that’s why our produce has so much flavor. We only pick it when it’s naturally ripe, and that’s happening every week. There’s always something turning ripe, full of flavor and ready to eat.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

How big is your farm?

OMAR:

We now own 40 acres of fields and open land, and we lease another 18 acres. The first year, though, we didn’t even have a tractor. We did everything by hand. The next year, we bought a tractor. And year by year we’ve been buying the equipment we need to expand, mostly used equipment. Thanks to the families who support us by buying our produce, we were able to put in a small irrigation system. But most of our fields are watered by Mother Nature, whenever she decides to make it rain.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

And this spring she was a little too generous with the rain!

OMAR:

Yeah, it affected the peppers and squash, but we just replanted and kept going. That’s farming. You work without knowing how it will turn out. It’s a gamble every year. If you think about it, we’ve been working since February for free, when we first started planting. We don’t get paid until we have something to sell. So we really appreciate your members. We couldn’t farm without them. That’s really my favorite part of farming — knowing we are feeding people and making them happy with food that tastes better than anything they can buy at the supermarket.
*
For more photos of Flores Farm on Virginia’s Northern Neck, visit the family on Facebook.

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

grilling tricks grilled local food

9 simple grilling tricks

The do’s & don’ts, plus how to grill the perfect grassfed steak

By the Veggie Fairy Team:

Although fatherhood has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s ability to captain a grill, Father’s Day does happen to land right as grilling season is getting underway. So whether you’re an alpha-griller dad or a guy who likes to kick back and watch someone else do the sweating in all those clouds of smoke, we veggie fairies salute you with this guide to grilling fresh, local food!

Anything you can cook inside in your oven or on your stovetop, you can cook outside on your grill — that includes fresh local fruits and veggies in season, as well as grassfed meats and other proteins. You can even grill blueberries (which are now in season here in Virginia) as a delish topping for your protein. Or use them to make a mouthwatering, outlaw kinda pie — (here’s how.)

More of our advice here applies to grilling meat because it’s trickier than grilling produce. And this is not a comprehensive list of all the great tricks out there — just 9 simple grilling tricks for cooking up your favorite local food in the great outdoors.

Trick #1: Starting the fire

DON’T use lighter fluid if you have a charcoal or wood burning grill. Just don’t. It’s dangerously flammable, smells bad, and gives off toxic fumes. It shouldn’t be anywhere near your fresh, local, healthy local eats.

DO use something called a charcoal chimney – wad up newspaper and stuff it in the bottom, put charcoal on top (more coals for more food, fewer coals for less food), then light the paper. Your coals will ash over nicely in about the same amount of time as when you use lighter fluid. If your grill uses gases, preheat it too, so the cooking grate is hot enough to make the food sizzle when you put it on.

Trick #2: Fire size

DON’T build one big fire. It forces you to cook everything at the same temperature and tends to burn things fast.

DO create two zones. Place charcoal or wood to one side of the grill, or turn on the gas on only one side of the grill, leaving the other side empty or flameless. The “direct” zone is where the heat source is. Use it for direct heat cooking, like searing meat with the lid open. The “indirect” zone away from the heat source is for indirect heat cooking. In general, use this zone to gently roast your food with the lid closed. Having two zones also gives you more control over how fast things cook as you move them around on the grill.

Trick #3: Spacing

DON’T crowd the grill.

DO leave enough room between all the food items to work with each one and ensure even heat distribution. The intensity of the heat changes in different areas of the grill. In addition to creating the two cooking zones, get to know where the hot spots and cool spots are and move things around as needed to keep them from burning or overcooking.

Trick #4: Cooking temps

DON’T cook things like ribs or pork butts over too hot a grill.

DO cook those chunkier cuts more slowly. Once the grill is heated up, place ribs or larger cuts of meat on the grate in the indirect zone and close the lid. For faster-cooking fish and chicken on a charcoal grill, you can use fewer coals or let the coals cool down a bit. Ribs and pork butts, though, need higher temps even when you’re cooking more slowly over indirect heat.

Trick #5: Cooking time

DON’T guesstimate when it comes to cooking meat.

DO use an instant-read thermometer. Stick it into the meat’s thickest part to get an accurate read on doneness.

Trick #6: Steak! (And chops!)

We’re going to take a little detour here, because grassfed steak and chops require some extra TLC to get them right — and by right, we mean tender, not tough and chewy.

To grill the perfect steak…

  • Bring it to room temperature and oil it. If you’re going to season it, now’s the time to coat it with a good spice rub.
  • Preheat the grill on high until it’s so hot you can’t hold your hand over the grate more than a couple seconds.
  • When the grill is ready, leave the top open while you cook. Grassfed steaks and chops are best when cooked hot and fast.
  • Sear the steaks for about 30 seconds per side before lowering the heat a little and continuing to cook with the lid open.
  • Since grassfed meat tends to be leaner, it has less fat to protect it and keep it tender even if it’s accidentally overcooked. So top it with a pat of grassfed butter as you cook each side. It won’t add to the fat content because most of the butterfat will cook off, but it will protect the meat as it goes.
  • How long do you cook it? The rule of thumb for a medium-cooked 1” filet is 4 minutes per side; for a medium-cooked 1” ribeye or t-bone, 7 minutes per side. Go shorter for rare and longer for well done. If your steak is more than 2” thick, it will continue to cook inside after you take it off the grill, so remove it from the heat a little sooner. If you have an instant read thermomenter, you can stick it in the middle to test doneness: 125 degrees Fahrenheit for rare, 130-135 for medium rare, and 155 for well done. Don’t make more than one hole, though, to limit the loss of juices.
  • After you take the steak off the grill, loosely tent it with foil and let it rest for 8 minutes. That will give the meat fibers time to relax and reabsorb the liquids back to the center.

    Trick #7: Watching

    DON’T. Don’t open the lid too often to watch your big hunks of meat cook over indirect heat.

    DO… not peek. Every time you open it, you let heat escape, which reduces the temperature and affects the cooking time. You could well wind up with the unhappy surprise of unappetizing, underdone meat. If you have to feed a fire, get a hinged grate that will let you quickly add coals or wood chips and keep the fire steady during a long grilling session.

    Trick #8: Sauce

    DON’T add sauce too soon. The sugar in the sauce will caramelize and burn.

    DO start basting with the sauce during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Or even better, use a spice rub and let the magic happen on its own between the rub, the juices, and the smoke.

    Trick #9: Cleaning

    DON’T fail to clean the cooking grate. There is no such thing as a self-cleaning grill.

    DO scrub the grate after it has cooled with a wad of aluminum foil or a non-metal bristle brush. DO NOT USE A BRUSH WITH METAL BRISTLES. Now and then the tiny bristles fall out, and if one gets left on the grill, it can wind up in your food and get stuck in your throat… until you go to the ER to get it unstuck.

    So after you’ve scrub the grate clean, oil the grate with a rag or paper towel soaked in vegetable oil. To reduce the amount of food that sticks to the grate in the first place, oil your food before cooking. Or wait a little longer before turning to give it time to caramelize or acquire nice black grill marks. At that point, it will let go of the grate more easily.

    Now go forth and grill and enjoy the smoky flavor of flavorful, nutrient rich, grilled local food in season!

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

  • how to store fresh vegetables

    How to store fresh vegetables & fruits

    Make fresh taste and nutrition last!

    By the Veggie Fairy Team:

    When you eat fresh local produce, you’re eating the most nutritious, delicious food you can get, picked at the peak of ripeness shortly before you receive it. True, it doesn’t last forever. It’s not like grocery store produce, which is usually grown far away, picked early for the lengthy trip, and then waxed and sprayed with preservatives so it will look beautiful and “fresh” for an unnaturally long period time.

    Fact is, grocery store produce looks great long after many of the nutrients inside have faded away.

    (Read more: Real fresh vs fake fresh)

    With local food, what you see is what you get. If it looks fresh, that’s because it really is. The key is to handle and store it right.

    Now if you’re in a hurry, skip to the end to get to the bottom line: Our handy dandy cheat sheet that tells you exactly how to store most local and regional produce items.

    But if you’ve got a minute, first check out these additional strategies and background info that will help you get the most out of your fresh veggies and fruits.

    1. Eat fast

    The longer your produce sits in your fridge or pantry, the more nutrients slowly disappear. You get good stuff (like perishable enzymes) from fresh food that you can’t get from anything else, so don’t let your fresh local food go to waste.

    (Read more: Why you should eat raw food and keep it on hand)

    But you don’t have to eat everything all at once! Simply…

    2. Prioritize

    To avoid wasting produce, prioritize it so you eat it in the right order. Eat the produce with the shortest life span first, like berries or salad greens or green beans. Once they’re eaten, the more long-lived produce will be waiting for you, with most of their nutrients still intact.

    So each week after your order arrives:

  • Indulge in the DIVAS right away: Berries, broccoli, cherries, green beans, leafy greens, mushrooms, peaches and plums (if soft and ripe), peas, and sweet corn.
  • Dive into the more moderate there-for-you BESTIES next — no rush, but don’t wait forever: Cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, grapes, green onions, greens from root veggies, herbs, leeks, peppers, radishes, summer squashes, and tomatoes.
  • Save the LOW MAINTENANCE BROS for last. Even you don’t get them eaten during the week, they can actually kick back and last for a couple weeks, so long as they’re in their happy place. These include: Apples, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, garlic, onions, pears, potatoes, root veggies, and winter squashes.
  • Now on to the storage part.

    3. QC before storing

    Do a bit of quality control before you store your food. If there’s one mushy or moldy berry, toss it right away. A mushy item is a bad influence, and will lead everything that hangs out with it down the road to ruin.

    4. Do wait to wash

    You should definitely wash your produce to make sure it’s safe to eat. But wait to wash until right before you eat it or cook it. Until then, leave it in its original state and handle it as gently and as little as possible. Excess moisture and bruising accelerate decay and nutrient loss.

    5. Do wait to chop or peel

    We love meal-prepping, but if you prep too far in advance, fresh fruits and vegetables lose those precious nutrients. So hold off on peeling or cutting them up until you’re ready to use them. Peeling and chopping expose the insides to oxygen and light and that kills nutrients. Once you do slice into something ahead of time, store it in the fridge until it’s time to use it.

    (Read more: 4 easy ways to max out your produce’s nutritional value)

    6. Don’t wait to refrigerate

    For most fruits and veggies, a cold, dark place slows down decay and the loss of nutrients, because it inhibits destructive enzymes and the loss of vitamin C. B vitamins are particularly sensitive to heat and light.

    There are exceptions — namely citrus and any fruit that could use some ripening, plus garlic, ginger, potatoes, onions, winter squash, zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes.

    7. Don’t crowd your crops

    Make sure produce has room to “breathe” if it’s stored in a bag. If you cram too many items into a bag, more moisture builds up, more bruising happens, and the produce will spoil more quickly.

    8. The humidity factor: A detour into the crisper drawer

    In general, vegetables last longer in a more humid environment, while fruits prefer a slightly less humid environment.

    The typical crisper drawer is nothing more than a partition inside your refrigerator that offers a more humid environment than the rest of the interior. Some crispers have a sliding humidity control setting that ranges from low to high. Sometimes they’re labeled “vegetables” (high) and “fruit” (lower than the veggie crisper but still higher than the rest of the fridge).

    But of course, the real world isn’t as simple as these low-tech sliders, which usually just open or close a little vent in the drawer that allows moisture and ethylene gas to escape. The complicating factor is that ethylene gas.

    9. Beware the ethylene gas!

    It’s released by some fruits, including apples, apricots, melons, pears, peaches, plums, plus ripe tomatoes and avocados (but not unripe ones so much.)

    Meanwhile, ethylene gas causes ethylene-sensitive produce to ripen faster, which includes most veggies and some fruits (apples, apricots, avocados, cantaloupe, grapes, limes, mangos, honeydew melons, peaches, persimmons, tangerines, and watermelon.)

    So to keep the sensitive ones from turning into overripe mushes, you have to keep them away from the gassy ones. What do you do if a gassy emitter is also a sensitive hater, like an apple? As you’ll see on the cheat sheet at the end, you can keep it in the fruit crisper, or better yet on a shelf in the fridge.

    If you’re the analytical type, here’s an in-depth chart that lists the optimal storage conditions for most veggies and fruits and whether or not they’re an ethylene emitter or an ethylene hater. If you want to totally geek out with this, we’ve created a PDF of the chart that you can download to print and post on your fridge.

    If you prefer a simpler guideline, here’s the ABC version:

  • A… Keep most fruits in the low humidity drawer along with onions you need to keep cold because you don’t plan to eat them for a long time — onions like low humidity and are neutral in the ethylene gas wars.
  • B… Keep vegetables in the high humidity drawer along with fruits that are gas sensitive haters and NOT emitters that you need to keep cold because you’re not going to eat them within a couple days: unripe avocados, grapes, persimmons, and watermelon.
  • C… Keep gassy emitters who are also sensitive haters on a counter if they’re not ripe yet, and on a shelf in the fridge once they are ripe: apples, apricots, avocados, cantaloupe, mangos, honeydew melons, peaches, pears, and plums.
  • 10. The Cheat Sheet: Store each item in its happy place

    GET YOUR RED HOT PRINTABLE PDF DOWNLOAD OF OUR HANDY DANDY CHEAT SHEET RIGHT HERE!

    Should it go on a shelf in the fridge? Or in one of the fridge’s crisper drawers? In a cool, dark pantry? Or a sunny window? At long last, here’s our handy dandy cheat sheet to make it easy:

    When the storage advice calls for plastic bags, you can always substitute plastic or glass storage containers for plastic bags. Store everything unwashed, uncut, and unpeeled. Wash and prep just before using.

    (For visual learners, here’s a helpful infographic that shows the happy places of some common fruits and veggies.)

    APPLES: Can be stored on the counter or in the pantry for a few days. To prolong freshness, store on a shelf in the fridge or in a well-ventilated crisper, where they can last for a couple weeks. No need to bag them.

    APRICOTS: Store on a shelf in the fridge or in a well-ventilated crisper, where they can last for a couple weeks.

    ARTICHOKES: Store in the vegetable crisper.

    ASPARAGUS: Store in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

    AVOCADOS: Regionally grown winter avocados from Florida can be stored on the counter or in the pantry for a few days. To prolong freshness, store on a shelf in the fridge or in a well-ventilated crisper. Do not bag them.

    BEANS, GREEN OR LIMA: Wrap in a paper towel in a loosely closed bag in the vegetable crisper.

    BEETS: Remove any greens and store them separately like other greens. Store beets in the vegetable crisper.

    BERRIES: Store in single layers divided by paper towels, inside a loosely closed bag or perforated container in the fruit crisper.

    BREAD: Store in an air tight container on the counter or in the pantry. In warm weather, if you can’t eat it within a few days, store it, sliced, in the freezer. (The fridge tends to dry bread out.) Defrost slices on the counter or briefly in the toaster and they’ll still be moist.

    BROCCOLI: Place in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper. Eat quickly; broccoli is surprisingly delicate.

    BRUSSELS SPROUTS: Quite resilient! You can store them on or off the stalk in the vegetable crisper. If you cut them off the stalk, leave all the outer leaves intact for an extra layer of protection and seal them in a bag. When it’s time to cook them, remove any leaves that don’t look good.

    CABBAGE: Store in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper and it will last for weeks.

    CANTALOUPE: Can be stored on the counter or in the pantry or on a shelf in the fridge.

    CARROTS: Remove any greens and store them separately like other greens. Wrap carrots in paper towels in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper. If carrots get soft, just drop them in cold water for a few minutes.

    CAULIFLOWER: Wrap in paper towels and store in a plastic bag stem-side down in the vegetable crisper. Keep the head intact until use.

    CELERIAC: Store in the vegetable crisper.

    CELERY: Store in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper. If it gets soft, trim the ends of the stalks and place in a glass of cool water, or soak the whole stalk in cold water, and that should perk it up.

    CHERRIES: Cherries must, must, must be kept cold! Refrigerate in a plastic bag in the fruit crisper.

    CITRUS: Regionally grown winter citrus from Florida tastes best when stored and eaten at room temperature, so store on the counter or in the pantry. But if you can’t eat it within a few days, pop it in the fruit crisper.

    CORN: Store in the vegetable crisper in its husks but eat within a couple days. It can be roasted or grilled in its husks, too!

    CUCUMBERS: Can be stored on the counter or in the pantry for a day or two. Otherwise, wrap individually in paper towels and store in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

    EGGPLANT: Can be stored on the counter or in the pantry. If you can’t eat it within a few days, seal it in a plastic bag in the crisper or on a shelf in the fridge, but eat within a week.

    FIGS: Store in fruit crisper.

    GARLIC: The kind that has a dry, papery outer skin and no greens can stay on the counter or in the pantry, or it can also be stored in the vegetable crisper.

    GINGER ROOT: Store on the counter or in the pantry.

    GRAPES: Seal in a plastic bag and store in the vegetable crisper, not the fruit crisper.

    GREENS: Includes everything that is mostly green and leafy, from kale, bok choy, lettuce, and spinach, to spring onions, spring garlic, and leeks; also greens cut from the tops of root vegetables. Go through them and immediately discard any leaves that are beyond wilted. Store greens unwashed, wrapped in paper towels, inside a sealed plastic bag, in the vegetable crisper. Use them as soon as you can. They can be a bit delicate. Just make sure you wash before eating!

    HERBS: Trim the ends of the stems (like flowers) and place in a glass of cool water on the counter until ready to use. This method will also help perk up any herb or greens, including celery, that may have wilted en route. To keep them going longer, you can put any herb except basil in the fridge, glass and all, with a plastic bag over it. But leave basil on the counter — the cold temps inside the fridge will quickly turn it black. You can still cook with it, but for fresh uses it gets pretty unappealing.

    HORSERADISH ROOT: Store in the vegetable crisper.

    JICAMA: Can be stored in a cool, dark corner of the pantry or countertop. You can also store them in the vegetable crisper.

    KOHLRABI: Store in the vegetable crisper.

    MANGOS: Regionally grown winter mangos from Florida can be stored on the counter or in the pantry for a few days. To prolong freshness, store on a shelf in the fridge or in a well-ventilated crisper. No need to bag them.

    MELON, HONEYDEW: Can be stored on the counter or in the pantry or on a shelf in the fridge.

    MUSHROOMS: Wrap in a paper towel and refrigerate in a breathable container (perforated plastic or a paper bag) in the vegetable crisper.

    NECTARINES: If at all possible, do not refrigerate. It can produce mealy, tasteless fruit. Ripen on the counter and eat when ready.

    OKRA: Place in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

    ONIONS: Store in a cool, dark corner of the pantry or countertop. You can also store them on a shelf in the fridge for longterm storage of a couple weeks or more. Never store them in plastic.

    PARSNIPS: Remove any greens and store them separately like other greens. Wrap parsnips in paper towels in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper. If parsnips get soft, just drop them in cold water for a few minutes.

    PEAS, SNOW OR ENGLISH: Wrap peas that come in their pods in a paper towel and refrigerate in a breathable container (perforated plastic or a paper bag) in the vegetable crisper.

    PEACHES: If at all possible, do not refrigerate. It can produce mealy, tasteless fruit. Ripen on the counter and eat when ready. If they’re not quite ripe and you’re in a hurry, they will ripen faster in a bag. But keep an eye on them — they may ripen very fast that way!

    PEARS: Can be stored unwashed on the counter for a few days. To prolong freshness, store on a shelf in the fridge or in a well-ventilated crisper, where they can last for a couple weeks. No need to bag them. Wash just before eating. If they’re not quite ripe and you’re in a hurry, they will ripen faster in a bag.

    PEPPERS, HOT OR SWEET: Store in a paper bag in the vegetable crisper, where they’ll keep for a week.

    PLUMS: Can be stored on the counter or in the pantry for a day or two, or on a shelf in the fridge or in a well-ventilated crisper. If they aren’t quite ripe, they will ripen faster if you bag them.

    POTATOES: Store in a cool, dark corner of the pantry or countertop. You can also store them in the vegetable crisper for longterm storage of a couple weeks or more. Never store them in plastic or in the same area as produce that releases ethylene gas — potatoes are highly sensitive!

    RADISHES: Remove any greens and store them separately like other greens. Wrap radishes in paper towels in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

    ROMANESCO: Wrap in paper towels and store in a plastic bag stem-side down in the vegetable crisper. Keep the head intact until use.

    RHUBARB: Store in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

    RUTABAGAS: Store in the vegetable crisper.

    SPROUTS: Wrap in paper towels in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper.

    SQUASH, SUMMER: Yellow squash and zucchini can be stored on the counter. If you can’t eat it within a few days, seal it in a plastic bag in the crisper or on a shelf in the fridge, but eat within a week.

    SQUASH, WINTER: Hard winter squashes, like acorn, butternut, and pumpkin, can hang out in the pantry or on the counter out of direct sunlight. If you store them in the fridge, keep them on a shelf, not in a crisper. They’re very hardy and can last a long, long time in the fridge. Big pumpkins do not need to be refrigerated at all.

    SWEET POTATOES: Store in a cool, dark corner of the pantry or countertop. You can store them on a shelf in the fridge or the vegetable crisper, but be aware that fridge storage can sometimes alter their taste and flavor while cooking — but not always, so it’s okay in a pinch.

    TOMATOES: Best on the counter, or in a sunny window if they need to ripen a bit more. But if you can’t get to them before they turn too ripe, you can store them on a shelf in the fridge. Just let them return to room temp before eating them raw – the cold can reduce the flavor, but most of it usually returns if you let it warm up.

    TURNIPS: Remove any greens and store them separately like other greens. Store turnips in the vegetable crisper.

    WATERMELON: Store on the counter or in the pantry. Can also be stored on a shelf in the fridge. Never store it in the same area as produce that releases ethylene gas — watermelon is highly sensitive!

    11. When all else fails, freeze it!

    If you can’t eat it all fast enough, just throw it in the freezer. It’ll keep there for 8-12 months! When you defrost it later, if it’s not as appetizing to eat raw, it’ll still be great cooked… and just about as nutritious as it would have been if you’d cooked it instead of freezing it in the first place.

    (Read more: How to freeze and save fresh local produce for a year!)

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    strawberries spring superfood

    10 spring superfoods to put in your belly ASAP!

    Discover their amazing super powers

    By the Veggie Fairy Team:

    Spring’s a great time to go local, because to tell the truth, no list can do justice to spring’s amazing bounty. Every spring, Virginia’s fields overflow with foods bursting with flavor and nutrition and week by week, they’re all on offer in our online farmers market. It was really hard to settle on just ten spring superfoods, so treat this list as a starting point for enjoying Mother Nature’s seasonal treats! To make it easy, we’ve included links to inspiring recipes on our Pinterest boards for each and every item on the list.

    Asparagus

    These spears are one of the best veggie sources of folate, a B vitamin that could help boost your mood. Folate plays an important role in synthesizing the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, all crucial for a happy day. A single cup of cooked asparagus has two-thirds of the recommended daily allowance of folate for women! Asparagus is also rich in folic acid, which helps the body produce and maintain new cells. Plus it’s got potassium, fiber, vitamins C, A, and B6, and thiamine, it’s an antioxidant, and it has anti-inflammatory properties. Whew! Try this recipe: Spaghetti With Asparagus and Lemon Balm

    Beets

    Beets are a superfood for the liver. They contain a substance called betaine which has a powerful positive impact on the liver’s detoxification pathways. Beets can also aid in reducing systemic inflammation in the body. Steam or roast them, then eat ’em as a side or chop them up for salads. Cook beets in batches and store them in the fridge — they store well. Try this recipe: Chocolate & Balsamic Roasted Beets

    Blueberries

    Eat up and you may score big for your brain. In a recent study, people with age-related memory decline who drank roughly two and a half cups of blueberry juice per day for 12 weeks (the equivalent of eating a cup of blueberries) made significant improvements on memory and learning tests compared with those who drank a placebo juice. Now that’s a whole lotta berries, but even some blueberries are sure to benefit you. Turns out blueberries have a type of antioxidant that’s been shown to increase signals among brain cells and improve their resilience. That helps enhance learning and memory. Try this recipe: Quinoa Blueberry Salad

    Bok choy

    One cup of bok choy has just 9 calories and barely a trace of fat, yet delivers protein, dietary fiber and almost all the essential vitamins and minerals. It’s rich in antioxidants and helps build strong bones, a healthy heart, and may help protect against cancer. As for taste, one of our members described it as tasting like spinach and celery had a yummy baby! We love that! Try this recipe: Tom Tom Chicken

    Dandelion greens

    Before you pull that “weed” out of your lawn, remember this: In early spring, tender young dandelion greens have four times as much calcium, 1.5 times as much vitamin A, and 7.5 times as much vitamin K as broccoli. Also twice as much iron and three times as much riboflavin as spinach — which provides no vitamin E or carotenoids. But dandelion greens do, with 17 percent of the daily adult dose of vitamin E and 13,610 international units, or IUs, of lutein and zeaxanthin per 3.5-ounce serving. Try this recipe: Dandelion Salad with Bacon & Mushrooms

    Garlic scapes/green garlic/spring garlic

    Green or spring garlic is immature garlic and looks like a slightly overgrown scallion. It’s often mistaken for garlic scapes but while spring garlic is harvested before the garlic bulb attains its full size, garlic scapes are harvested later — they’re the curly shoots that form later in the season. These shoots look like green stalks with closed buds on top and may help with weight loss — they contain a compound called allicin, which gives garlic its pungent smell and may keep you from overeating by stimulating satiety in the brain. Try this recipe: Cilantro Black Rice with Roasted Garlic Scapes & Asparagus

    Lettuce (field)

    In the spring, our local field lettuce is ready for your salads and more. The darker the lettuce, the more good-for-you stuff it’s likely to contain. Lettuce can deliver moisture, energy, protein, fat, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and sugars. Its minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc, and its got vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, C, A, E, and vitamin K. Lettuce can help with lowering cholesterol levels, preventing cancer, protecting neurons, sleeping better, controlling anxiety, lowering inflammation, and supplying antioxidants. Amazing! Try this recipe: Easy Ginger Beef Lettuce Wraps

    Peas (garden, snap, snow)

    They’re loaded with fiber, protein, and micronutrients but low in calories, which means they will keep you feeling full without blowing through your daily calorie allotment. They also have high levels of iron, calcium, zinc, copper, and manganese, which can help boost immunity. Try this recipe: Pea & Herbed Goat Cheese Tart

    Radishes

    Oh, the radish! It’s at its sweet, crunchy best in the spring. Radishes are very good for the liver and stomach, and they act as a powerful detoxifier too. Radishes are considered roughage, which means they’re composed of indigestible carbohydrates. That’s good for digestion, water retention, and helps prevent or undo constipation. They’re good for your skin, your cardiovascular system, your urinary tract, your — oh, just read this, we can’t list it ALL here! Then try this recipe: Cinnamon Sugar Radish Chips

    Strawberries

    They may not have the smoothest complexion themselves, but strawberries are great for your skin. Who knew?! Their secret is the antioxidants they’re packed with — antioxidants help your skin repair damage caused by environmental factors like pollution and UV rays. Plus, they’re full of so much vitamin C that less than a cup gets you your entire recommended daily allowance. And vitamin C is associated with fewer wrinkles and less dryness, per research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Try them in a homemade facial, too — if you can stand not eating them. If you’re like us, you’ll rather try this recipe instead: Strawberry Smoothie

    There’s more on some of the science we’ve mentioned here in this article. Now get eating!

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    local organic food

    Is organic worth it?

    And can you even trust those organic labels?

    By the Veggie Fairy Team:

    So you want to eat food that’s good for you. But it’s hard to tell what’s truly good just by looking — you can’t see pesticides or lost nutrients.

    When you’ve got nothing else to go on, that organic label seems like an easy solution. Organic foods have a reputation for being more nutritious and safer than non-organic. Plus, organic costs more, sometimes twice as much as conventional. If it’s more expensive, it must be better, right?

    The truth, it turns out, is complicated.

    Organic toxins — yep, that’s a thing

    Think that organic label means something hasn’t been sprayed? Think again. A Bloomberg News reporter wrote a good article that explains the history of how and why organic labeling got started. She also gets into the uncertain science on whether or not organic actually more nutritious.

    Some of the uncertainty is based on who’s doing the farming. In the beginning, organic labeling was driven by family farmers who relied on old school, eco-friendly organic practices instead of spraying chemical fertilizers and pesticides. But because there were no rules on what was officially “organic”, lots of farmers who did spray were claiming to be organic when they really weren’t.

    But as the labeling movement gained steam and the government began writing regulations about what could be called organic, big agriculture corporations saw an opportunity and got involved. Needless to say, many of the resulting regulations benefit Big Ag, not small, truly organic family farmers.

    So today, you can grow, say, lettuce that’s USDA certified organic that nevertheless tests positive for toxic substances. USDA guidelines allow certified organic farms to spray their crops with certain chemicals under certain conditions. According to this NPR story about organic pesticides, some of them probably aren’t harmful to humans. But some probably are.

    Fake organic labels — yep, that’s a thing, too

    Labels are only as good as the USDA’s ability to oversee the production of organic food and enforce the rules. Turns out, the department’s ability to do that is limited. There just aren’t enough inspectors to keep tabs on all the farmers and corporations here in the U.S., much less overseas.

    Last year, a Washington Post investigative series revealed just how much of a problem organic food fraud is — bad enough that now Congress is working on legislation to double USDA’s oversight.

    Organic or not, freshness counts

    The sooner produce gets to you the better. Research shows that most nutrients begin to degrade from the moment produce is harvested. Spinach, for example, loses up to 60% of its nutrients in a week, the typical age of most grocery store produce. Our local produce gets to you within just a couple days of harvest.

    Also, many studies have found that fruit that’s picked closer to the peak of ripeness (rather than being picked green and ripening on the shelf or by being gassed) contains more nutrients, more vitamins and minerals, than fruit that’s picked before or after peak, whether it’s organic or not.

    This is why we hustle to get your produce to you as soon as possible after harvesting, and why being local helps — it doesn’t have to travel very far. Much of the food in grocery stores has traveled thousands of miles and many days to get there, losing nutrients every hour of the way.

    Some of our local farmers are certified organic, and some use organic practices but just can’t make the financial investment that’s required to get certified. All of our local farmers are low- or no-spray. Many of them are multi-generational, so they care for their land, crops, and animals with the next generation in mind. The vast majority of our farmers don’t spray because that would jeopardize the integrity of their land. If they do spray, it’s minimal and only as required.

    They also use sustainable practices like rotating their crops to avoid sucking all the nutrients out of the soil. That’s why we call sustainable farming “old school organic” — the way it was often done before the government got in the business of regulating it.

    One of our sustainable farmers has a friend who runs a certified organic farm not far from him. One year, our sustainable farmer sprayed his yellow squash one time all season because it was necessary. His certified organic friend, on the other hand, sprayed his squash on a weekly schedule using a spray approved by the USDA. Our farmer isn’t considered certified organic, but his weekly spraying friend is allowed to use that title.

    So how can you tell what’s good for you?!

    Organic can be great! But only if you go beyond the regulations that were developed for Big Ag. There’s no official label that will tell you if something is only a couple days out of the field and truly fresh. There’s no label that will tell if it was grown by a farmer who’s sustainable or old school organic, using traditional methods with future generations in mind. The only way to know if something is really good for you is to know and trust your farmer.

    That’s not possible for most of us as individuals. But when we come together as a group like Seasonal Roots, that’s exactly what we do. We know our farmers. We talk with them, visit their farms, and develop relationships with them. We share their stories with you so you can know them too, even if you don’t have time to go visit them yourself.

    It’s not quite as easy as reading a label, but it’s a lot easier than trying to do the due diligence all by yourself!

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    LaMarsh margo & josh delivery day 400

    Word-of-Mouth

    HOW THE LOCAL FOOD MOVEMENT IS SWEEPING THE NATION
    By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist

    Our food system is broken, but word-of-mouth is changing it. People are telling each other about their personal experience with local food, one friend at a time.

    For Margo LaMarsh, it started at Bible study. That’s when a friend told her how Seasonal Roots was connecting local families with local farmers.

    “Eating better is all about cooking with fresh ingredients,” says Margo. “And there’s nothing fresher than local food.” So Margo joined her friend and became a member of Seasonal Roots.

    Because local food is fresh, it has more nutrients and tastes better, so those good nutrients are more likely to get eaten. That’s what Margo discovered when she served Seasonal Roots beets to her high school daughter.

    Her daughter was not a veggie eater. “I don’t like beets,” she said.

    “When did you ever have beets?” Margo asked – knowing full well that before then she’d only ever had pickled beets from a jar. “You have to take one bite.”

    When she finally took that bite, she exclaimed, “These are so good!”

    Margo hadn’t done anything special with them. She just wrapped them in foil, roasted them in the oven, and peeled them afterward when the peel practically falls off. “When it’s fresh, you don’t have to do much. They taste good all by themselves,” Margo says. “So I’m a firm believer that the only reason she liked them was because they were so fresh.”

    Now her daughter eats pretty much anything veggie. And Margo, who used to work for NASA before becoming a stay-at-home mom, now works for Seasonal Roots. She’s a neighborhood market manager, pictured here with Josh of Harvest Hill Farm on delivery day, making weekly deliveries to members in York County.

    Margo acknowledges that eating more fresh local food requires a little more planning than eating processed food out of a box. “But having it delivered saves you time,” she points out. And as her husband says, “We use that time to cook more, which is a lot more fun than going to the grocery store.”