As you may have picked up on in my last poetic entry, I am a fan of slowing down a bit and evaluating sweeping culture movements before joining the bandwagon.Unless of course big hair and overalls really do may a comeback. Then consider my Soul SOLD.
Seriously though, more and more, we are hearing evidence to support that we have championed Convenience in the name of quality and ultimately done our cocky millennial Selfies a wee bit of a disservice.
Maybe just maybe, we ought to make time to remember where we come from – our Roots, as it were; in this case, the roots of those fruits and veggies you are eating…
An interesting thing happens when you start to pay attention to where your food comes from – you realize you really are what you eat.
Us humans… we are part of an ecosystem, you know.
I know, I know – “but we have opposable thumbs and I’m pretty sure cloned someone and the government just isn’t telling us…Doesn’t that mean we are at the top of the food chain?”
And Um… Probably not the best time to answer that last one.
At the risk of going on a hugely taboo tangent, let’s get one thing strait:
We homo sapien sapiens are just part of the lifecycle – an incredible, beautiful, capable, yet woefully fragile lifecycle.
But listen, I’m going to level with you.
Life a profit-hungry farmer levels some more trees for space to grow cheap corn and feed our livestock – I am going to level with you:
Our fruits and veggies are not as nutrient-dense as they were 50 years ago.
And while there may be a few non-human related environmental factors contributing to that. There are a lot of human contributions as well – and let’s face it – those are the only ones we can do much about.
Let’s take broccoli for example.
Everyone LOVES BROCCOLI – am I right?
MMMMM that delightfully crunchy, green cruciferous vegetable that makes your breathe smell slightly foul and sheds what I am convinced are thousands of “broccoli balls” when cut and cleaned…what’s not to love?
We all know we should eat more broccoli.
After all it IS jammed packed with potassium, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and dietary fiber, while remaining epically low in calories, sodium, and fat [unless you pour Velveeta all over it NOT RECOMMENDED]
What if I told you that you actually have to eat twice as much broccoli as you thought you did to reap the benefits of broccoli heads harvested back in 1963?
Those Flower Children got WOODSTOCK, the BEATLES, and nutrient-dense broccoli???
Ok, allow me to explain, because I know all the vegans out there are having a meltdown at the thought of their sole food source – plants – being bastardized at the hand of SUPPOSEDLY organic farmers. Hell, I’m not vegan and I’m, shall we say, perturbed.
Allow me one more, brief metaphor before I get into the nitty, gritty details:
Let’s start with a nice, neutral global imperative: People ruin everything cool.
I mean, there’s that place – you know the one – it’s cool, it’s quaint, it’s got killer food and great views, and leaves you with a tab that won’t break the bank.
And then Oprah© finds out about it or that crazy foodie with 9, 456 friends on YELP © Shares, and Pins, and Likes it all over social media and suddenly everyone and their mother knows about your little gem, people go in droves, food quality goes down and prices goes up all in perfect unison with that little Econ 101 catch phrase: Supply and Demand. Which also happens to be a title of a song by the remarkable artist Amos Lee [some of you will appreciate this reference]
Now, let’s see how this applies to our food.
As many of us know, our livestock and poultry are pumped full of antibiotics and steroids to grow bigger and faster and ward off infection, right?
But why is this?
Well, it’s because the faster the meat source can grow, and the fleshier it can be, the quicker ol’ Bessie can be DOA at the closest butcher shop and the quicker she can turn into a ROI for the farmer.
Is this the farmer’s fault? Well I suppose, but he is only catering to his “Gimme Gimme” customers – afterall, don’t we all love our big, meaty, IN-EXPENSIVE, meat? We must. Or Walmart © would not be the behemoth that it is.
We are a people who demand quality at the most inexpensive prices.
But there is another side to that coin – the producers, and they also want to keep money in their pockets, same as you. The difference is that they can control the quality. Most unsuspecting consumers remain just that – unsuspecting.
Well start suspecting.
We all want brilliantly green apples and perfectly rounded and shiny red tomatoes, right?
Sadly, those perfections are often engineered. Think of it like the airbrushed models in beauty magazines. Don’t get me wrong, Nature is perfect, but generally not in the symmetrical, replicated sense. Look for produce that looks real.
Yes, it might even have some dirt on it. That’s why god gave us water. And a little lemon juice and salt. Rinse those suckers right off.
Also, if your fruits and veggies do not ripen almost completely within the first few days of purchasing them, chances are they could be high in chemicals and low in nutrition.
What exactly is happening that is rendering these poor plants so stripped of their natural goodness?
Among other things – Tilling.
The detriments of Tilling have been calculated in numerous studies – all concluding some variation of what Daniel Marano, food writer of Ann Arbor Michigan, reports, “Tilling soil is equivalent to stripping your gut of good bacteria by depriving it of fiber-rich whole foods and [simultaneously] overusing antibiotics”.
With each annual tilling, disking, and plowing, the integrity of the soil is chipped away at.
Remember, soil houses its own ecosystem – millions of fungi, bacteria, and other microscopic critters that break down nutrients and increase availability of said nutrients to plants, a process known as Bioavailability.
Anything that impedes the process of bioavailability, is going to impact the consumer’s nutritional intake. Simply put, if the nutrients are either missing or eroded from the soil due to over-tilling and chemical fertilizers, they simply aren’t going to be available to feed the root system of the plants and, consequently, the fruit the plant yields will have markedly less.
This can even be the case in your organic fruits and veggies.
The reason being is that, while it is getting a bit better over time, the rules and regulations for how and when a segment of farmland can start declaring “Organic” produce is still somewhat lax. Just because a farmer STARTS “going” organic with soil management techniques doesn’t mean that he or she is doing so on freshly renewed soil. Yesterday they were using pesticides, today they aren’t – ok great – but those pesticides and the chemicals that comprise them stay within the soil deep down and will leech in to new crops for an unknown period of time.
The ideal situation is that farmers simply won’t till their land, but will allow their crops to die off on their own accord; this decomposition process actually acts as a protective barrier over the soil, helping it retain vital carbon, water, and nutrients. With this protective shield, the soil can start regaining its integrity right away. And even just a 1% increase in integrity has been shown to correlate to the soil’s increasing capability to retain H2O– up to 20, 000 gallons per acre. So not only can you reduce carbon emits by having it reabsorbed into the soil, but you can increase nutritional content of the plants you produce, and save the Whales some water.
I’m sure that all seems fascinating, but hugely overwhelming at the same time.
How in the Hell are you supposed to know what level of tilling your produce has undergone?
We as the consumers don’t know unless we ask.
The folks who are growing your food and harvesting it DO know the answer. All the more reason to buy local and at farmer’s markets, where those folks are readily available to talk to you.
Keep in mind too, even with their diminished nutritional content, those leafy greens and crispy apples and peaches are still a better choice than the processed cookies and pies.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that there is a reason that Cheap and Inexpensive are synonyms.
Make sure you are aren’t compromising for more than you bargained.
So to speak.
Until Next time,