Focus On Fresh - May2012
By Jennifer Hogeland
The organic food market has grown dramatically over the last two decades. According to the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic foods and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010. With demand for organic and fresh foods on the rise, some residents are taking their health in their hands by growing their own produce while others look to farmers’ markets or restaurants to serve up something healthy.
Benefits of fresh and organic
Lindsay Leahy, a horticulturist at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens, says, “The biggest reason for growing your own produce is you have control over what goes into your food. Another benefit of picking fresh produce right from the garden is you are eating the food when it has the most nutrients and when it is the most healthy for you.”
There is nothing like picking a tomato fresh off the vine. It’s juicy and full of flavor. Try slicing up a tomato from the grocery store out of season – they aren’t nearly as red and succulent. Leahy explains produce is typically shipped to stores before it has had time to ripen. Because the tomatoes and other produce transported to grocers haven’t had a chance to fully develop, some of the flavor and nutrients are missing.
Produce grown organically means it wasn’t sprayed with synthetic pesticides, herbicides and preservatives. “Organic focuses on biological pest control like using beneficial insects or plant derived herbicides or pesticides. Growers look at plant rotation and reuse animal and plant waste as compost,” adds Leahy. They also have to come up with different ways to control pests. Many methods are manual like picking bugs off plants or spraying the pests with water, both of which are labor intensive.
In addition to avoiding putting unwanted toxins into the body, other benefits of organic foods include optimizing the health of plants, animals and people, and obtaining larger doses of beneficial vitamins, minerals and essential antioxidants.
Making healthy choices
The Green Bay Botanical Gardens has seen a spike in the interest in gardening. Most visitors come to the experts with questions or participate in the many classes offered in hopes of becoming a master gardener at home. Leahy adds, “Gardening, and different ways of gardening, has been growing in popularity.”
If you can’t grow your own produce but want to fill your home with fresh fruits and vegetables, head to the local Farmers’ Markets. All the produce is fresh. Many growers have organic offerings so ask as you browse. Leahy explains these foods tend to be picked fresh, making them a more nutritious choice.
Some restaurants have gotten into healthy offerings, serving diners organic and sustainable foods whenever possible. Stone Cellar Brewpub in Appleton strives to only offer organic fruits and vegetables; they buy from companies with certified humane practices. New, healthy entrees continue to show up on the menu.
The Urban Frog in Green Bay pushes for a healthy community, promoting that their meals go from the field to The Frog. The restaurant’s goal is to serve fresh, locally sourced and organic produce. Kavarna, located right around the corner, follows the same philosophy. Organic food is incorporated into their menu as often as possible; they buy from local farmers and businesses. Virtually everything is made from scratch. How does this sound? A vegetable salad with a heap of mixed greens, seasonal vegetables, garbanzo beans and your choice of dressing along with organic whole wheat bread.
The key is to find balance, suggests Leahy. While seeking out and purchasing organic and local food may sound ideal, it isn’t always practical, especially with Wisconsin’s long winters. But don’t let that deter you from eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Consuming more plant-based foods – organic or not – is certainly beneficial to your health.