Posts tagged ‘CSA’

May 18, 2017

Healthy is Beautiful

Why can’t we see that healthy is beautiful? This week there were radishes in my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box. I immediately thought of my grandmother. As the host of all of our Sunday family dinners, birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving meals, and Christmas lunch, she never molded, garnished, piped or styled anything. She didn’t take the time to weave a lattice top over her apple pie, she just rolled a second crust and put a few slits in the top. Her one nod to beautifying her food was the radish rose. Even those she kept simple, using a few rudimentary cuts. Then she placed them on a china plate – sometimes her pattern and sometimes her mother’s.
If this leaves you thinking the table was bland or ugly, think again. A simple white on white table cloth held pristine china, real silverware, cloth napkins, and a row of serving bowls down the center brimming with food from the garden — bright yellow corn, red tomato slices, green okra or string beans with new potatoes. Even the stuffed peppers were home grown, and the dark red Bing cherries were picked fresh from a tree in her yard. Gran may not have used the silver service that sat in her china cabinet next to the dining table or made room for flowers and candles on the table, but her table was elegant, inviting and filled with colorful, fragrant, delicious, fresh food.
What would Gran think of styling or plating food? I don’t know if she’d object. She wasn’t particularly rough around the edges. Her grammar was impeccable, her nails were always perfectly manicured and painted bright red, and she never gave up her high heels. She just had her own sense of priorities and a limited amount of time. That led to practical decisions. Gran was able to discern that fresh ingredients and skilled preparation would trump appearance in the long run so that’s how she allotted her time.

She also shopped and delivered groceries to a disabled man on a regular basis, made regular nursing home rounds to visit old friends, was church clerk and worked 40 hours a week. If you had suggested she style her food rather than perform these tasks, I’m pretty sure she would have stomped her foot and sent you out of the room. That sort of prioritizing just made her mad.

Maybe it’s my grandmother’s influence, or perhaps I’ve just hit that age when lots of things don’t make sense, but our current priorities leave me frequently feeling out of sync. We spend lots of time, energy, and money making things look good on the surface when doing so means sacrificing quality, health, resilience, accomplishment, character, learning, and deep connection. You can see this in play in many areas:
Relationships – Dump this imperfect person for the next imperfect person instead of examining our contribution to the problem
Parenting – Help the child with his homework so he gets a good grade rather than allowing him to learn from failure
Education – Teach to the test instead of teaching how to learn and process knowledge, i.e. think critically
Finances – Spend and borrow so we appear affluent now rather than plan and save for later
Beauty – Starve, cover, augment, inject, fill, and color instead of appreciating the beauty of our natural attributes
Psychological & Emotional Health – Numb with drugs, alcohol, video games, excessive spending, and overworking rather than feeling and healing
Politics – Say what appeals to constituents right now no matter how a policy will affect the country in the future
Nutrition – Substitute packaged, processed, fortified and convenient for fresh, whole, nutrient-rich, minimally processed and variety
Medicine – Treat symptoms with meds in instances when lifestyle changes can be equally effective

The shift in priorities from Gran’s era to now is rarely questioned, but it doesn’t seem to be serving us well. In my city, the homicide total to date is more than double last year’s rate as of this date. The number of nonfatal gunfire injuries has increased 92 percent. Opioid addiction is at an all-time high. Chronic disease is increasing across all age groups. Political divisiveness and hostility now frequently erupt into contentious confrontations. Rudeness abounds. Bad behavior is presented as the norm of the reality TV star. The US barely makes it into the top 20 list of countries with the highest standard of living as measured by the Social Progress Imperative.
How many of these problems could we reverse simply by prioritizing basic healthy practices-
Getting enough sleep
Eating fresh, minimally processed food
Finding a way to be active 5-6 days per week
Making time for stillness
Forgiving ourselves
Owning our decisions
Setting boundaries
Showing appreciation
Practicing gratitude
Listening to each other
Showing compassion

Of course, there’s no way to know, but I believe we have the ability to improve anything on which we focus our energy. If we simply viewed healthy as beautiful, it’s clear we’d throw lots of time, money, and energy into achieving a healthy state. Perhaps we can start by pausing a moment to see the beauty in colorful fresh vegetables, fragrant herbs, and listening to each other over a bowl of homemade soup.

With her energy focused on growing and preparing vegetables, making pickles and tomato juice, and keeping the cookie jar full, Gran may not have had time for frilly or fancy, but she certainly provided a beautiful spread. She’s been gone for more than 20 years and we still talk about those meals. We miss them. On Gran’s table, healthy food had lasting beauty.

The lasting beauty of healthy food that contributes to healing – that’s a priority I can get behind!



April 4, 2017

Spring is a Great Time to Locate Sources of Fresh, Local Food

farmers marketEarly in the growing season is a great time to locate the best sources of affordable fresh, local food. Imagine a salad of buttery lettuce, scallions, shaved carrots, spicy micro-greens, and vine ripened tomatoes topped with a grate or two of artisan cheese or one made of crispy cucumber slices and fresh dill. It’s hard to beat the full flavor of fresh produce.

It can also be healing to get your hands dirty. There’s something about working with peaty smelling soil that makes you feel more connected to the earth and its natural ebb and flow of life. The green of a garden makes the space calm and inviting — even if that garden is inside.

If you’re lucky enough to live in the country, your own garden gives you the best of both worlds — fresh produce and a place to work the ground, get some sun, and breath in the smell of earth, grass, and possibly not-as-pleasant compost. When you have the land available, a full-fledged garden may be the best source of fresh food during the growing season. 

I grew up helping my grandmother in the garden. Hers was located on our farm about 10 miles from her home. In the spring, my dad would till up the soil and from that point, it was my grandmother’s domain. Long before anyone talked about the dangers of skin damage from the sun, she wore long sleeved shirts and a broad-brimmed hat while she dug, planted, weeded, and harvested lettuce, onions, cabbage, zucchini, summer squash, okra, peas, green beans, potatoes, corn, and tomatoes. 

Down the road, my great aunts shared a garden. They spent many afternoons sitting in chairs in the lawn shelling peas, snapping beans, or shucking corn together while they swapped stories. When the grandkids were around, we ran free in the yard or the fields. There was a sense of community created by these shared tasks that lessened the drudgery and made them as much enjoyable social activity as everyday task accomplishment. To those of us who grew up in this environment, it’s no surprise that designed communities that encourage similar shared gardens are springing up in cities like Asheville, NC.
If you live where outdoor space is more limited, raised beds or containers provide a suitable environment for tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, kale, cucumbers and other favorites. Even a window sill can host pots of herbs throughout the year. 

Growing your own herbs and vegetables provides an opportunity for mindful interaction with nature and reduces the cost of fresh food, but it also adds to your task list. A garden must be tended to get the best results. Regular watering, weeding, and harvesting all take time. If you’re long on fertile land, but short on time, you may want to explore additional sources of fresh food.

Luckily, the farm-to-table movement has increased the number of options for procuring fresh produce, grass fed beef, and free range chicken. Shares of organic farms can be purchased through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Each share entitles you to a weekly pickup of food from the farm. The contents and amount of food vary depending on your location and the specific farming organization. Another version of this arrangement offers memberships that entitle you to pick up a weekly food basket.
Community garden plots are collectively farmed by a group of people. They may sell food or allow you to trade labor for a certain amount of food. Trading labor for food can make them a budget friendly option. Don’t assume these are only located in affluent neighborhoods. There may be one near you no matter what your economic or social status. My city has a community garden located in a low income, gang saturated neighborhood next to a middle school. It is used as a learning tool for students.

Down the street, a neighbor turned an empty lot into a neighborhood garden. He rented small plots to his neighbors for a nominal fee on a first come, first served basis. On a Saturday morning, it’s not unusual to see neighbors visiting while they work in the garden. Sometimes cities or counties have similar gardens located on the outskirts of town.

Other options for fresh, local food include the traditional Farmers Markets that abound in cities. There may be one within walking distance in your neighborhood. Many vendors can swipe your debit card, so take reusable bags, but don’t worry too much about getting cash on the way.
market 2

In more rural areas, farmers sell fresh fruits and vegetables from the back of pickup trucks. If peaches grow in your state be sure to stop the next time you see a farmer with tubs full for sale. There’s nothing like the perfect fresh peach!

While all these options are worth exploring, you may not need to change your routine at all. Some urban farmers sell their food in grocery stores. Ask a store manager whether this is true in your local store. Natural Grocers has a stock of locally grown produce in my city. Even Walmart has made an effort to increase its selection of locally grown items.

I’m looking forward to digging in the dirt this weekend, but most of all, I’m looking forward to the harvest and all that yummy food!