Tuesday Tip: Fall Time at the Farmers’ Market

Happy Tuesday! It’s getting chilly here on the farm so I’ve got my warm sweater on, sipping Moroccan mint tea while looking at the front garden’s palm trees and gardenias. Sounds like heaven right? It is (most of the time) but today I realized that for the first time in my life I’m not going to experience fall in the East Coast. Fall for me is as much about the color of the leaves changing as it about going to the farmers’ market. There’s something about being bundled up in the chilly weather, hunting for treasures in a sea of color and all the possibilities of great meals to look forward to that make farmers’ markets in the fall so special.

Farmers Market

Make a spread with the kids using the goodies you just brought back from the market. {Ripe heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced onions, basil, balsamic reduction served over fresh baked olive bread}

If you’re reading this, you probably already know the great benefits that come with supporting farmers’ markets. Aside from being better for the planet, it’s a great chance to get your kids involved and emotionally connected with healthy seasonal foods from an early age, not to mention an opportunity to expand their taste palate.

Consuming produce from a farmers’ market can also be an easy and direct way to increase your family’s nutrient intake. I found this great article from Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment that goes into detail about these benefits**:

  • Variety: Supermarkets (that have more middlemen and overhead costs to cover) decide which produce and varieties to offer based on efficient yield, profit margin, consistent appearance (those apples need to look perfect and identical) and shelf-life, among other things. Having so much overhead cost and extra transportation time doesn’t leave much room for prioritizing taste and nutritional value. Farmers’ Markets do, however, have that luxury.

    …the spice of life.

  • Healthier farming methods = more nutritional value: The methods used in local farms vs industrial produce farms allow the plant to absorb and sustain more nutrients
  • Harvest Time
    Peak ripeness is when nutrients are at their highest.  The earlier the plant is picked the less nutritional value it has.  Harvesting prematurely is necessary when foods have to travel far to extend shelf-life.
  •  Handling
    Any damage done to a plant can lower its nutritional value.  Bruising is probably the most common problem which is hard to avoid with industry practices such as mechanical harvesting and moving them with trucks and forklifts.
  • Packaging
    If a bruise can affect the nutritional value, you can image what cutting can do.  The second the plant is altered, it starts losing its nutrients.  That why it’s best to consume fruits and vegetables sooner than later once you’ve ‘processed’ them somehow (cut or blended).  Buying pre-cut foods can save time but it does affect the value.  However, if that’s what works for you, pre-cut veggies are certainly better than no veggies!  You can work around this by eating your pre-cut foods earlier in the week or ideally the same day.
  • Longer storage and transportation time
    Plants start losing their nutritional value from the time they’re harvested.  Also, the longer it takes to transport, the harder it is to prevent damage along the way.

Getting there:  Saturday morning rolls around, my comfy sweats and Netflix are enticing me to stay in.  “What time is the market open ’til?”  My husband and I have a leisure debate about that until we know it’s too late to go.  ‘Next week’ we say.

Farmstand app no longer lets us get away with that.  It tells you where the closest market is and what time they’re open.  Did I mention it’s free? :)

Farmstand App

Photo courtesy of itunes.

What’s in Season? Check out this great interactive map from Epicurious.  It allows you to easily select your state and month to give you a heads up for what’s in season.  LOVE!

Whats in Season

Now that you’re fully armed with all this info., grab your coats, enjoy every second of the market, every sip of hot cider, knowing that these are small yet invaluable steps to keeping your children happy and healthy!

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**This is a summarized version of the article.  If you do have the time, it’s well worth reading through it.

Goodbye My Little Artichoke

Growing up the only artichokes I ate were marinated and came in expensive, tiny jars.  It wasn’t until I visited Morocco that I had the pleasure of enjoying the entire plant in its intimidating splendor.  Excited by the novelty of it all, I dipped the steamed leaf into a small hand painted bowl filled with crushed raw garlic, olive oil and lemon juice.  I finally reached the heart and it’s been a  lifetime love affair ever since.

IMG_4987 copy

Kids are likely to develop a preference for foods they familiarize themselves with and eating artichokes the traditional way is a fun opportunity to slow things down and get your children involved in the kitchen.  After the entire vegetable is steamed, they get to to peel, dip and nibble the flesh of each leaf and work their way down to the best part, the heart!  The whole process is an invaluable learning experience where they get to see the inside of the plant from start to finish.  This kind of ritual can become bonding moments they will cherish and take with them to adulthood :)

Artichokes’ full bodied texture and earthy, yet subtle flavor is reminiscent of eggplant and portobello mushroom.  They give substance to any dish, from paella to quinoa recipes.  Frozen artichokes are also a great option when they’re out of season since frozen produce are normally harvested at their peak (meaning higher nutritional value) and the way they are steamed and frozen does a pretty good job at keeping the nutrients.  My absolute favorite is extracting the heart from a fresh artichoke and serving it steamed with sliced avocado, lemon juice and paper thin slivers of raw garlic.   This is a simple recipe with complex, out-of-this-world flavors!  Here’s a helpful 90 second video of how  to remove an artichoke heart.

Roman Style Artichokes from 'Savoring Time in the Kitchen' blog.

Roman Style Artichokes from ‘Savoring Time in the Kitchen’ blog.

If raw garlic might be a bit overwhelming for your little one, a sprinkle of garlic powder will do the trick.  Odds are, them watching you enjoy it will pique their curiosity and  increase their odds of acquiring the delicious, spicy taste eventually.  Leading by example instead of nagging is as effective for adults as it is for children!

I know this sounds crazy, but I’m pretty sure that in another life I was Mediterranean and lived off of artichokes.  This past year I’ve been fortunate enough to live on a  fruit and vegetable farm in Morocco, so you can imagine how I felt when I discovered the farm’s blossoming artichoke field!  Everyday before sunset I would collect a couple and have fun preparing them with my husband.  Turns out adults like using their hands as well!  Working side by side in the kitchen, laughing and listening to music was the perfect way to end the day.  Since cooking needs to be done regardless; why not make it a time to nurture and bond with loved ones, instead of treating it as a chore?

The cold winter days grew longer and we were scheduled to travel during the end of artichoke season.  When we came back from our trip my heart ached just a little as I walked towards the silvery field knowing the season had passed.  To my surprise, they had left us these bittersweet parting gifts and a promise of return.

Artichoke-Flower

 

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New Beginnings: Developing Your Baby’s Palate

Thank you for visiting!  We’ve been meaning to launch this blog for quite some time now and even though I’m excited, I can’t help feeling slightly overwhelmed.  Partially because it feels like a first day at school but mostly because there is sooo much to cover and it’s all so important.

This post is dedicated to all the recently crowned parents and parents to be.  I can’t think of a better place to start than the beginning.  Luckily for you, we’ve done all the grunt work so you can focus on basking in your pregnancy glow or your new little bundle of joy.

Baby tastes what Momma tastes:  Babies growing in the womb drink ounces of amniotic fluid every single day.  The smell of amniotic fluid is affected by the food the mother eats and 90% of what we taste comes from smell.  This means that by the third trimester, your baby is also enjoying your recent garlic-on-everything craze and the tartness of your newfound love/hate relationship with kumquats.

This is also the case for breast milk.  Depending on the food, the taste of the breast milk is affected by what the mother has recently consumed.  Different foods linger for different amounts of time and a small study done in Copenhagen University also found that the timing of the flavors showing up in the breast milk varied between the mothers.  Experts theorize this transfer of taste and smell at an early age enables a smooth transition into the baby’s new environment.  What’s even more exciting is that studies suggest  the baby is likely to enjoy novel foods when the food is  introduced through the mother’s diet while breast feeding.

Developing your baby's palate Take advantage of this opportunity to encourage diversity.

Biologically, our taste buds are designed to favor salty, sugary, and fatty foods. These characteristics meant more calories and nutrients  for our ancestors at a time when food was scarce.  Plants harvested at the their peak ripeness, for example, have higher nutritional value than if you were to consume them prematurely.  Our preference for sweetness over sour is designed to encourage us to eat the sweeter, more nutrient dense fruit.  We also tend to shy away from bitter foods since bitterness can be a sign of toxicity.

Our predisposition for loving salt, sugar and fat  works perfectly for an environment with limited food.  Obviously, babies today are born into a very different environment! So… there’s no need to worry about developing the baby’s love for Ben and Jerry’s; our evolution has that covered. Take this opportunity now to increase the chances of having your baby fall in love with amazing, healthy foods,  instead of struggling to get them to enjoy them later on.  In the future, if they refuse to eat their brussels sprouts, they might be calling your bluff.

Here’s a list of some of the most nutrient dense foods with complex tastes to turn your baby into a little connoisseur:

Garlic
Onions
Ginger
Radishes
Celery
Brussels sprouts
Mustard greens
Radicchio
Cranberries
Kumquats
Turmeric
Limes
Lemons
Olives
Grapefruit
Kale

Here’s to New Beginnings :)

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References

Breastfeeding facilitates acceptance of a novel dietary flavour compound.
Hausner H, Nicklaus S, Issanchou S, Mølgaard C, Møller P.
Clin Nutr. 2010 Feb;29(1):141-8. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2009.11.007. Epub 2009 Dec 4.

Evolution’s Sweet Tooth – NYTimes.com, Published: June 5, 2012
Daniel E. Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard and author of “The Evolution of the Human Head.”

Understanding the Origin of Flavor Preferences
Julie A. Mennella and Gary K. Beauchamp

Chemical Senses.  2005 Jan; 30(Suppl 1): i242-i243.

Prenatal and Postnatal Flavor Learning by Human Infants
Julie A. Mennella, PhD, Coren P. Jagnow, MS, and Gary K. Beauchamp, PhD
Pediatrics.  2001 Jun; 107(6): E88