CSA – The Healthy WaySeptember 5, 2007
Yesterday was CSA day, which for me is like Christmas every two weeks (but without the family drama). CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a fabulous program available in many cities around the country. You sign up with your local organic farm, and every one or two weeks (you choose the schedule) you pick up a box full of delicious produce.
During the Winter months, we get butternut squash, chard, turnips, beets, apples, oranges, mandarins, fennel and kale, among other things. In the Summer months, we get delicious heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, mixed salads, zucchini, collard greens, peaches, and green beans, to name but a few items.
The benefits – to your family, the community, and the planet – of joining a CSA program are many. Through your membership, you are supporting local organic agriculture and actively pumping money back into your local economy. Organic farmers face many challenges and hardships in order to bring us quality produce, and this is a great way to thank them. At the same time, because you skip the assorted middlemen and costs involved in bringing produce to a grocery store, you can save a considerable amount of money!
While you’re saving money, you could also be doing your part to save the planet. According to the PA Department of Agriculture, the average vegetable travels nearly 1,500 miles from the farm to the grocery store before you even see it on display. That’s 27 times the mileage of foods purchased from local farms! Join a CSA, and not only will you be reducing your carbon footprint, but you’ll be limiting the amount of money that goes into the pockets of Big Oil. We all like that!
Much shorter travel times mean that your fruits and vegetables will last longer in the fridge. How many times have you been forced to throw away partially-consumed bags of salad because the vegetables spoiled after only two or three days in your fridge? We receive a large amount of produce every two weeks (enough to fill two large crisper drawers and one shelf in the fridge). Many of our veggies have lasted us up to three weeks without special handling or packaging! Try that with supermarket produce.
And speaking of supermarket items, have you noticed how bland and insipid fruits and veggies have gotten in the past years? Many people remember growing up with sweet, juicy strawberries and plump, flavorful tomatoes. Now, all you get are crunchy, dry, flavorless foods with reduced nutritional value, wax coatings, and elevated prices. These fruits and vegetables have been picked while still unripe, resulting in lower nutritional values, and impaired flavor and texture. Taste a strawberry from a CSA or a farmer’s market and I guarantee that you will NEVER buy grocery store produce again!
Now, let’s face it, if you feed your family fruits and vegetables, it’s with their health in mind, right? Well, if you buy your produce in the supermarket, you might be surprised to see these statistics:
Reviewing 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and grains, certified nutrition specialist Virginia Worthington has concluded that there are significantly more of several nutrients in organic crops. These include: 27% more vitamin C, 21.1% more iron, 29.3% more magnesium, and 13.6% more phosphorus. In addition, organic products had 15.1% less nitrates than their conventional counterparts.
See the complete article here.
And finally, there’s the fun of receiving a bunch of unexpected items, and creating or researching great recipes to bring the flavors to life! Yesterday, it was so hot in San Diego that I decided to make a cold dinner. I combined cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, basil, and red onions with a generous squeeze of lemon, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and coarsely-ground pepper. This salad accompanied a mixture of quinoa, lentils, parsley, and radishes. Hummus and pita bread rounded out this well-balanced vegetarian meal. It was ready in less than 30 minutes, and I only dirtied two bowls in the process! Who says healthy cooking has to be laborious and time-consuming???
For more information on your closest CSA or farmer’s market, visit http://www.localharvest.org
Here’s a GREAT six-minute video about choosing organic produce that your entire family will enjoy! Share it with your kids and teach them the way to better health.