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Health by Heidi

You deserve to feel great!

Heidi's World

Heidi's World

The ongoing food debate

Posted on July 17, 2015 at 3:50 PM

One of my good friends posted something this week expressing her frustration with the lack of easily accessible organic food here, and in general.  It sparked a great discussion and got me thinking about food (again).  So I wanted to share more of my thoughts.

In the not-so-distant past, we didn't have access to fresh fruits and veggies year round.  People ate the produce that was in season because that was all that was available.  There were no strawberries in January or apples in May, unless they had been preserved from the year before.  Now, with the evolution of the global industrial food system, we have access to any kind of produce that we want at any time of the year.  Strawberries in Montana in January?  Sure!  Ship them up from Mexico!  Never mind that even though they look big and red and juicy they taste like cardboard (we have all experienced that before!).  Why do they taste like cardboard?  Because in order to make the 2000 (or more) mile trip from Mexico to Montana, the berries have to be picked early; so early that they are mostly solid white.  Over the course of the trip, they gradually turn red.  Even though the berries are turning red, they are not getting any more flavor or anymore nutrients because they are separated from the plant and the roots and the soil which provide the berries with their nutrients and flavor.  It just so happens that in nature, when a berry (or any produce) reaches its peak ripeness, that also happens to be when it reaches its peak flavor AND its highest nutrient content.  That is why produce in season tastes 100 times better and is more nutritious than produce bought out of season.  The simple lesson here?  Buy produce in season from a local grower! 

Here in the Bitterroot valley, we can grow and do grow TONS of delicious produce.  We may not grow oranges or bananas here, but we can grow apples, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, huckleberries, service berries, choke cherries, currants, thimble berries, elderberries, and the list goes on and on.  And that's just the fruits!  The veggie list would be ten times longer than that.  The nice thing about this valley is that if you don't have your own garden, you can purchase delicious, fresh, local, organic produce from the farmers market or from the Darby Merc.  Same goes for meats, dairy products, eggs, etc.  Some of the grocery stores in Hamilton also carry local products.  The trick is to buy the produce in season when it is at its peak freshness (which also happens to coincide with when it is cheapest) and then can, freeze, or dehydrate it for use in the winter.  Preserving food for winter is not necessarily always fun, but it is worth it.  You have the comfort in knowing exactly where your food came from and how it was raised, you know you got it at peak ripeness, AND you saved money on it!  It's a win win win!

However, not everyone likes to preserve food for winter, or has the space to store extra food for months at a time.  My advice to you is to buy organic produce when possible.  Know that organic or not, the produce has been shipped long distances and won't be as nutritionally sound as the produce bought in season, but better to get some produce than none at all!  Also, do some research and learn about when certain produce is in season.  For example, most citrus fruits peak in the winter, so when you go to the store look for organic oranges in the winter months.  If possible, find out where the produce is from.  Oranges from California would have less travel time to Montana than oranges from Florida or Hawaii, so theoretically would not have been picked quite as early and therefore may have more flavor and nutrition.

I have said this before and will say it again now:  Educate yourself about your food choices.  Food does not come from a grocery store.  It comes from the earth.  Do your best to know how it was grown and where it is from.  We speak with our dollars, so let's spend them wisely!

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