Carrots, Cumin & Coriander Salad – A Trifecta of Flavor

Fresh CarrotsSummer is the best time of year to find fresh, crisp, delicious carrots at your local farmers’ market. While they are available year round, there is nothing like the taste of picked-today veggies; not to mention these wonderful foods are at their peak nutritionally during the summer months.

Some people think carrots are not very exciting.  They often see them as low-calorie snack foods to endure or merely some “color on a plate” rather than the incredibly versatile food they truly are. Carrots are indeed a great snack food (and they are certainly a low calorie option) but they are also excellent when made into soup, included in a stew, roasted with some herbs as a side dish, added to muffins and, my personal favorite, as the lead actor in my Carrots, Cumin & Coriander raw summer salad that is so full of flavor you’ll want seconds.

For my salad recipe, I happened to use the more common orange carrots; but you can certainly use a variety of colors: red, purple, yellow, white and orange to make your salad a beautiful rainbow of color on  your plate.  Make sure you select the freshest, brightest carrots available – the ones with the tops still on are a good bet!

Carrots, Cumin & Coriander Salad – A Trifecta of Flavor

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 4 - 6 Servings

Carrots, Cumin & Coriander Salad – A Trifecta of Flavor

The dressing can be made ahead of time and refrigerated (covered) for up to 24 hours. This will allow the flavors to blend together and will save time when ready to serve. Make sure the avocado is not too soft - you want it to be a little firm so it will hold up. While the cayenne or chili pepper is optional, it does add a lovely little kick to this salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh carrots
  • 4 stalks fresh crisp celery
  • 1 medium avocado
    For Dressing
  • 1/4 cup organic EVOO
  • 1 Tsp cumin
  • 1/2 Tsp coriander
  • 1/2 Tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 Tsp chili powder or pinch of cayenne (optional)

Instructions

  1. Wash and trim carrots. There is no need to peel. Shred in food processor and remove to large bowl.
  2. Finely chop celery and add to bowl.
  3. Chop avocado into small pieces and add to carrots and celery IF serving immediately. Otherwise, prepare avocado just before serving and toss into salad at last minute to avoid any browning.
  4. Whisk all dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
  5. Add dressing to veggies and toss.
https://jazzedupveggies.com/2016/06/carrots-cumin-coriander-salad-a-trifecta-of-flavor/

Why Carrots Make a Healthy Food Choice

Carrots are an excellent source of Vitamin A – especially important for eye health as well as having overall antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. In fact, 1 cup of carrots provides 113% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin A.

Carrots are also a very good source of biotin (an important B Complex vitamin that helps convert food into energy), Vitamin K for cell health (particularly brain cell health), molybdenum to help our bodies detoxify, 14% of our daily requirement of fiber to keep our digestive tract in good shape, 11% of our daily potassium requirement, and 10% of our Vitamin C requirement.  Carrots are also a high water-content food so they make a great addition to your hydration needs. NOTE:  Drinking water throughout the day is the best way to stay hydrated – foods like carrots, celery and watermelon are awesome supplements.

BONUS:  Carrots are a low calorie, nutritionally awesome, very affordable food. They are easy to prepare and very portable.  Take them on a picnic, add them to your lunch, enjoy them after fitness class or school…. they are a healthy whole food to enjoy every day.

Picnic-Perfect Potato & Sweet Pepper Salad

Summer

Hooray, it’s picnic season! Who doesn’t enjoy packing a picnic basket full of delicious summer foods and heading to your favorite park, or beach, or a secluded hilltop to enjoy the great outdoors and break bread with friends and family or maybe even spend some alone time to destress from a busy week? It is easy to work up quite an appetite when enjoying the outdoors: swimming, building sandcastles, hiking, playing games etc; so the temptation to fill up on empty calories from salty chips, sugary sodas, and fat-filled sweets is very strong; however, taking good care of your health by eating nutritious foods is just as important on a picnic as it is every day at home. Yes, your choices need to be fairly portable, easy to prepare and serve, and packed safely to prevent food-bourne illness; but this is pretty easy to accomplish with a little preparation.

There are many great recipes available for simple yet nutritious picnic fare. One I particularly love is my Sweet & Peppery Summer Salad.  Should you want to “cook” while enjoying the outdoors, my Black Bean Burgers are a great choice. They will sizzle in no time on a grill or outdoor cooktop and I know will be a big hit with everyone. A delicious staple of picnics everywhere is a potato salad but it can come with some hefty calories and often unhealthy ingredients.  Here is my recipe for a delicious but healthier, plant-based version of this picnic favorite that is truly easy to prepare.

Picnic-Perfect Potato & Sweet Pepper Salad

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 60 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Picnic-Perfect Potato & Sweet Pepper Salad

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Wash, halve and steam potatoes until just fork tender (about 25 minutes) Drain and rinse gently with cold water to stop cooking process. Cut potato pieces in half again. Let cool.
  2. Use the Healthy Saute method to slightly soften and bring out the flavor of the chopped peppers (Healthy Saute: bring 3 Tbsp of vegetable broth or water to bubbling, add peppers, cover and cook for no more than 3 minutes. Drain.) Let peppers cool.
    For Dressing:
  1. Combine Just Mayo, Yellow Mustard, smoked paprika, dill weed and salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to blend into potato mixture.
    To Pack or Serve
  1. In a large bowl add potatoes, celery and sweet peppers. Add dressing. Mix gently.
  2. When serving, sprinkle potato salad with small amount of dill weed and paprika.

Notes

Keep all picnic foods cold with ice packs/bags of ice in your picnic basket/cooler until ready to serve. Serve only when ready to eat. Do not let foods sit out in the sun/heat.

https://jazzedupveggies.com/2016/06/picnic-perfect-potato-sweet-pepper-salad/

Plant-Based Nutrition Information

potatoesPotatoes are the stars of this recipe.  Often considered inexpensive comfort food and frequently consumed as unhealthy fast food; potatoes can actually provide awesome nutrition if they are prepared in a healthy way! This recipe calls for steaming the potatoes rather than boiling them.  This prevents the nutrients from being boiled away into the water and ensures the potatoes do not become too soft. Leaving the skins on the potato also increases the already high fiber content of this important food.

Potatoes are a very good source of Vitamin B6 – the cell-builder vitamin. B6 is very important for keeping our brain cells functioning and for supporting our nervous system. Our body’s production of serotonin (happiness), melatonin (sleep), epinephrine and norepinephrine (for stress management) needs vitamin B6. B6 also supports our cardiovascular system by helping to keep homocysteine levels low (homocysteine damages our blood vessels). Potatoes are also a good source of potassium, copper, Vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin and pantothenic acid.

Sweet Bell Pepper

Sweet Bell Peppers are AWESOME! One cup of these incredible veggies has only 29 calories – pretty incredible for a food that tastes so good, right? Sweet Bell Peppers are an outstanding source of Vitamin C – just one cup will give you 157% of your recommend daily intake of this important vitamin.Sweet Bell Peppers are also a very good source of Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, and folate. BONUS: these peppers have 30 different carotenoids that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support to our bodies. Good things do come in small packages!

The nutrients we derive from these delicious veggies are at their peak when the peppers are fully ripe.  How do you know if they are ripe?  Your best evidence is in their color: when the color is deep and vivid they are likely ready to eat.  Another bit of evidence is if the pepper feels heavy for its size and if the pepper feels firm but yields very slightly to pressure.

celeryCelery is an awesome veggie that adds great texture (crunch) to my potato salad and a lovely color against the white flesh of the potatoes. Celery has been a go-to veggie for anyone trying to keep their caloric intake in check; but I wonder how many people really understand how valuable this veggie is to our daily nutritional requirements!

Celery is an excellent source of Vitamin K – a vitamin necessary for blood clotting. Vitamin K is also very important for our bone health.

Celery also has very special anti-inflammatory benefits – particularly for our digestive tract.  Celery is an important source of molybdenum – a mineral that helps our bodies detoxify by keeping the sulfer in our system in balance. Celery is a good source of folate, potassium and manganese as well.

I’ve talked a lot about the need to stay hydrated – especially in the summer – and celery can play a role in this essential task. Celery is 95% water – and while just eating celery won’t keep you hydrated, every little bit helps.


NOTE:  If you are unable to find Just Mayo from Hampton Creek for this recipe at your grocery store, Veganaise from Follow Your Heart is a very good alternative. In fact, I use both these products regularly.

12 Fabulous Fresh Fruits to Buy Now

I Love Fruit

Fruit has been my favorite food for as long as I can remember.  When I was a young girl, my mom always knew where to find me;  sitting under our peach tree reading a good book and enjoying this incredible fruit until I nearly burst. My mother used to tell me I was going to turn into a peach one day – but I never did.  Guess that was just a “momism” right? I eat several servings of fruit everyday.  I just love everything about fruit – its taste, texture, rainbow of colors, its portability, its accessibility, and now that I am a grown up its awesome nutrition. Really, what’s not to love?

With summer here (unofficially) it is the perfect time to enjoy all the mouth-watering, fresh, delicious, nutritious, in-season fruit available at your local farmers’ market or grocery store. Why buy in-season? Well, in-season means flavor and nutrition are at their peak. Moreover, when you buy in-season and local you are also supporting local producers, minimizing the carbon footprint of your purchases, and reducing your food costs. There is a lot to be said for picking your own food or speaking directly with the grower. Its a great experience.

What’s In Season?

Let’s start with stone fruits.

Peaches, cherries, apricots, plums, and nectarines are delicious and nutritious, very portable, and add awesome taste, color and texture to fruit salads and non-dairy yogurts. Stone fruits are good sources of Vitamins A & C and calcium and are excellent sources of potassium and fiber. BONUS BENEFIT of choosing stone fruits – they are low in calories and their natural sweetness will satisfy your need for something sweet without the guilt.

Who doesn’t love berries?

I’m going to confess that I could easily eat berries everyday, all day.  I love how they taste and how juicy they are and their rich colors. I remember spending a lot of time as a child picking wild blueberries on the hill behind my grandmother’s home. As an adult, I still seek out opportunities to pick my own berries – it is such a great way to spend a morning and the payoff – a basket full of beautiful, delicious berries – is well worth the dirt on my knees and stains on my fingers.  Berries  are the quintessential finger food. You can take them to work, enjoy them while watching a movie, snack on them while reading a good book….really they are great anytime, anywhere. AND – NO GUILT! Berries are also low calorie foods.

Berries in general are an excellent source of Vitamin C, are a good source of fiber, and are an exceptional antioxidant-rich food.  Strawberries are a good source of folate, potassium and manganese too.  Raspberries are also high in potassium, and a good source of iron, Vitamin B6 and calcium. Blueberries (I particularly love the flavor of wild blueberries) offer great support to our brain function: in fact, several studies show blueberries can improve memory. Delicious, juicy blackberries are plentiful – growing often uncontrollably along the slopes of many roadsides and walking paths.

Melons are awesome!

This is the perfect time of year to enjoy sweet, juicy cantaloupe and watermelon.  I love these two fruits just by themselves; but there are so many other ways you can incorporate them into your diet. They are awesome in a fruit salad or stirred into non-dairy yogurt. You can add them to your fruit smoothie or just juice them on their own. Some people like to grill watermelon too.

Did you know watermelon is one of the best fruits for hydration?  Watermelon is 92% water – this is why it is so popular on hot days. Watermelon is a very good source of Vitamin C, like other fruit, but it is also a heart-healthy food. Watermelon contains lycopene, an important carotenoid that fights free radicals. Lycopene gives watermelon  flesh its red color – the redder this fruit’s flesh, the higher the lycopene (a very good thing).

Cantaloupe is an incredible source of Vitamins A & C. In fact, a small melon can provide over 375% of your daily requirements of these two vitamins. Pretty awesome, right?  Cantaloupe is also a good source of Vitamin B6, iron and calcium too.

Both these melons are low-calorie foods too.  Don’t you love that????


There you have it – 12 fabulous, fresh, in-season fruits you can find in your local farmers’ market or produce section at your grocer. Want to know more about what’s in season?  Check out this handy chart from CUESA http://www.cuesa.org/eat-seasonally/charts/fruit


 

10 Heart Healthy Proteins – Plant Based of Course

HEART HEALTHY

We need protein to build, maintain and repair our body’s tissues. The recommended dietary allowance for protein is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For the average moderately active 135 pound woman this translates to 48 grams of protein per day. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, there are plenty of myths about protein resulting in many people consuming far more than they need. In fact, few people truly understand the risks associated with over-consumption of protein. Check out this important information from PCRM.

One of the most prevalent myths perpetuated about protein is that you can only get protein from eating animal-based foods.  This is absolutely not true. Not only can you get all the protein your body needs from plant-based foods, you also get many added benefits you can’t get from animal products like fiber and complex carbohydrates.  Here are 10 heart-healthy plant-based proteins that I encourage you to consume in place of animal protein.  You may already be consuming many of these delicious foods and not know they are great sources of protein. Try them in new ways and certainly consume them more often.

  1. Tofu/Tempeh/Seitan/Edamame
    Let’s start with Organic Tofu – such a versatile, easy to prepare, and extremely budget-friendly food. A 14oz package of Organic Tofu costs about $2 and contains 5 servings. Each serving provides 7 grams of protein and 210 mg of potassium (an important electrolyte that helps our muscles and nerves function properly). Tofu is also a very low calorie food. I often serve a tofu scramble for breakfast and love to serve baked tofu as a main course for an evening meal.Tofu with Mango SalsaOrganic Tempeh is such a versatile food and delivers 15 grams of protein, 260 mg of potassium and 7 grams of fiber in a 3oz serving.  You can purchase tempeh already prepared for you or learn to make it yourself.
    Seitan packs a whopping 18 grams of protein in a 3oz serving. It is made from wheat gluten and for many transitioning to the world of plant-based meat alternatives, it has the look and texture of meat that may aid in making the switch. Seitan can be purchased ready-made or you can learn to make it yourself. The benefits to making it yourself include controlling ingredients such as sodium and experimenting with flavors you and your family enjoy. Seitan is often available in restaurants so ask your server.
    Edamame BeansEdamame is a real favorite in our home. I love to add edamame to my salads and make hummus with it. Check out my recipe for Edamame Hummus here! Edamame are fresh, green soybeans cooked right in their pods. Edamame are easy to cook – just barely cover frozen organic edamame in water, bring to a boil for 30 seconds, drain and serve. A 1cup serving provides 17 grams of protein, 676 mg potassium, 8 grams fiber and only 189 calories.  Edamame is also an excellent source of magnesium. Magnesium is a macro mineral  that builds and strengthens our bones, keeps our blood circulating smoothly and relaxes our nerves and muscles.
  2. Lentils
    Group of lentilsLentils may be small but they are mighty! Lentils fall into the category of legumes and are believed to be one of the first foods to be cultivated. Lentils come in a variety of colors (green, brown, yellow and pink – NOTE each color cooks slightly differently) are very inexpensive, and easy to prepare. I believe it is best to buy dried lentils and store them in tightly sealed containers. If you choose canned lentils, pay attention to any added sodium or sugars. Lentils offer a whopping 18 grams of protein per cooked 1-cup serving, 15.6 grams of dietary fiber and are an excellent source of folate, a B-Complex vitamin that supports red blood cell production and allows nerves to function properly.  Lentils can be eaten as they are for a main course, added to soups and stews, used to make plant-based burgers, added to salads, and are a staple in delicious East Indian dishes.
  3. Beans
    Edamame HummusMy favorite, go-to beans are garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas). I use them for everything from sandwich filings, to curried East Indian dishes, to hummus (of course) and in salads. Garbanzo beans offer 14.5 grams of protein per cup, 12.5 grams of dietary fiber and are an excellent source of manganese that helps protect our cells from free radical damage, keeps our bones strong and healthy, and helps us maintain normal blood sugar levels.  I also keep dried black beans, navy beans, white beans, kidney beans and soy beans in my pantry (all organic).   I make milk every morning from the soy beans! Beans, especially dried beans, are very inexpensive and easy to store. They are all excellent sources of protein, typically ranging from 14 – 16 grams of protein per 1-cup serving.  Beans are very versatile; they can be served any time of day, are easily portable to work or school, and are excellent a satiating your hunger.
  4. Quinoa
    Quinoa PlantsMy regular readers know I am a big fan of quinoa. This very versatile food is not only an excellent source of protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein that includes all nine essential amino acids.  Quinoa promotes heart health because it is an excellent source of magnesium – a mineral that relaxes the blood vessels. 1 cup of cooked quinoa delivers almost 6 grams of protein (remember that is complete protein), nearly 22% of the recommended daily requirement of iron and is an incredible source of phosphorus and manganese.
  5. Nuts
    160379603I love cashews but they can be pricey in the market so I buy my organic cashews in bulk (usually a 10lb bag) from an online supplier. Send me a note if you are interested in knowing more.  Cashews make wonderful milk and they are essential to making my salad dressings, cream, burgers, cheese cakes, and for snacking (in moderation of course). A serving of raw cashews (1/4 cup) provides 5 grams of protein and a good dose of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. A bonus benefit of eating a small amount of cashews is they contain tryptophan that helps to promote sleep. I also keep a good supply of almonds on hand. Almonds make delicious milk. I recommend you make almond milk at home rather than buying it already made. It is so much better from scratch!  Almonds are an excellent source of manganese and vitamin E and are a concentrated source of monounsaturated fats which make them an excellent food for heart health. One-quarter cup of almonds provides 7.62 grams of protein. Other great nut choices are walnuts and pistachios.
  6. Seeds
    Chia SeedsKeep a good variety of seeds on hand because they are so good for you, taste awesome, add great texture/crunch to foods and are, once again, an excellent source of protein, omega 3s, minerals and fiber,
    Let’s start with one of my favorites, Chia Seeds. Chia seeds are a great substitute for eggs in baking, make an incredible pudding, are easy to add to your favorite smoothie, and can be popped on top of cereal for added nutrition. Flax seeds are another favorite. I buy them whole and grind them when I need them (just use my coffee bean grinder). I add ground flax seeds to my baking, smoothies, and cereal. Flax seeds are a particularly excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids – important for optimum cardiovascular health. Sesame seeds (the tahini in hummus recipes) are a very good source of copper in addition to the 6.4 grams of protein and 4.24 grams of fiber per 1/4 cup. I buy shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds in 20lb bags. I add sunflower seeds to my almond yogurt, I eat them as a snack, I grind them up and add them to baking, and I add them to salads for added protein and crunch.  Sunflower seeds are another excellent source of Vitamin E along with 8.2 grams of protein and 3.78 grams dietary fiber per 1/4 cup serving. Try some pumpkin seeds or hemp seeds on your cereal or salad. You will get a great protein boost and treat your body to essential fatty acids and fiber.
  7. Vegetables (Yes, vegetables provide protein!)
    BroccoliSpinach is probably the best known vegetable source of protein. Just 1 cup of cooked spinach provides 5.4 grams of protein and you get the awesome added benefit of vitamins K and A, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, B2, calcium, and potassium. A lot of nutrition in that little green leaf, right? While Swiss Chard doesn’t have quite as much protein, it is also an excellent choice to keep on hand. Other great vegetables that offer good protein are asparagus, Brussel sprouts, and broccoli. Note, the bonus you get with broccoli is a 1-cup serving provides 100% of the daily requirement of vitamins C and K.
  8. Mushrooms
    Mushrooms for GravyMushrooms are fantastic. They are very low in calories and exceptionally high in nutritional value – so what’s not to love! I love to experiment with different varieties of mushrooms. I tried the mushrooms pictured here in my recipe for mushroom gravy and WOW, it turned out great. An 8oz serving of shiitake mushrooms only contains 87 calories but you get 5 grams of protein, 3.6 mg of iron, 6 mg of vitamin C and 2.5 grams of fiber in return.  Now that’s a great return on your caloric investment! Crimini mushrooms are very commonly found in grocery stores and are an excellent high nutrient, low calorie food choice for everyday use. Mushrooms can be incorporated into all kinds of meals including salads, stews, spaghetti sauces, plant-based burgers, in your tofu scramble or just as a side dish.
  9. Whole Grains
    Steel Cut OatsOats are an outstanding source of protein and fiber. I typically purchase steel cut oats, pictured here, as they are the least processed. Oats offer 6.1grams of protein in a 1-cup serving as well as 4 grams of dietary fiber and several minerals our bodies need to stay healthy. There are actually over 60 nutrients available in oats! Rye provides a whopping 8.3 grams of protein in a 1-cup cooked serving and 8.2 grams of fiber.  Brown rice, with which I batch-cook an awesome brown rice pilaf, has 5 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of dietary fiber per cup. Brown rice is a good source of selenium, a mineral known to keep our blood vessels in good shape, making it an important heart-healthy food. Whole wheat and buckwheat are also great choices – good sources of protein, and high in fiber and minerals too. Choose whole grains for the best nutrition.
  10. Vegan Meat Alternatives – (meat analogues)
    There are many packaged and prepared vegan meat alternatives on the market and quite a few are not only nutritious but really delicious.  When time is a challenge, you’ve run out of ideas, don’t feel like cooking something from scratch, or have a crowd to feed, try some of these awesome products available in most grocery stores.
    www.beyondmeat.com
    www.gardein.com
    www.fieldroast.com

The bottom line is this: plant-based protein rich foods not only provide all the protein you need but they also provide fiber, complex carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins your body needs. Just as importantly, plant-based foods are cruelty free and much better for our planet than animal-based products. Your body will be grateful for the nutrition you provide through plant-based foods, our planet will benefit and the animals we share this earth with will live long, healthy, happy lives.  Pretty much a win-win-win!


A heart shape held in hands

February is Heart Health Month. Take good care of your heart by choosing a WFPBD.

 

 

 

Heart Health Matters So Listen Up!

 

A heart shape held in handsFebruary is National Heart Month. Over the next 28 days, you will hear a lot about how to get and keep your heart healthy; but here’s the thing, February has been designated as National Heart Month since 1963 and heart disease is still the leading cause of death so we are clearly not taking this seriously!  Heart disease does not discriminate between genders. It has long been thought that heart disease was mostly a “male” problem; but the reality is heart disease is an equal opportunity health problem. In the US, more than 610,000 people die each year of heart-related disease and nearly half of those are women.  (stats for Canada are equally alarming).  We can fix this but it will take commitment and real effort to get heart healthy. Are you ready to make this a priority?

Heart disease causes premature death and, for the most part, these deaths are preventable. It is not just the unnecessary loss of life that is staggering; it is the astronomical economic costs that should get our hearts beating harder too! In 2011, heart disease cost the US economy over $320 Billion in health care costs and lost productivity. In 2011 the cost to the Canadian economy was $21 Billion. This is money that could be going toward solving other problems like food insecurity and homelessness. By the way, this is not just a North American issue, it is world wide – although my friends in Chile seem to be doing something right as they have one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.

What Can You Do to Get and Keep Your Heart as Healthy as Possible?

Start by eating a healthy breakfast every day. Your body needs fuel to help you power through a busy schedule. You wouldn’t leave home without gas in your vehicle, don’t leave home without healthy, nutritious food in your body. Check out my 5 Healthy Plant-Based Breakfasts for some simple ideas.

Heart Month

 

Orchards in the Desert – Surprising Options for Buying Local Plant-Based Foods


Is anyone else surprised at the fact fruit trees can do well in the desert? I’ve been living in the desert for more than a decade and am still amazed when I see flowers and blooming bushes throughout the hottest months, so you can imagine how mystified I am to see something as seemingly delicate as pears and peaches hanging ready to be picked in an area that this year had the hottest June on record. Yet, there they are; listed amongst the in-season, ready for the table, fruits and vegetables available from our local orchard.

Yes, you read that right; we have a local orchard in Las Vegas, Nevada (www.thegilcreaseorchard.org) – right smack dab in the middle of a parched landscape that I previously believed only scorpions and tumbleweeds found pleasurable. I’d always thought of myself as well-informed; but clearly I missed the lesson in my west-coast school that covered the ability of the desert to give rise to such an oasis of delicious fruits and veggies. I’m pretty sure I am not the only one, though, just watch people purchasing so-called “fresh” fruits and veggies at the local grocery store. That produce had to travel for weeks on two ships, a train and a truck before it could be sold. Seems ridiculous when you think about it that way, right?

There was a time when the ritual of gathering food for your family meant grabbing some baskets and walking to the square where the local farmers’ stalls were bursting with fresh, sometimes imperfect-but-none-the-less-healthy and delicious produce. You knew the farmers, and while you talked to them about their day, you took the time to carefully select the best foods you could for your family. You had confidence in the quality because these were the same foods the farmers, people you knew, fed their families. Now our idea of buying groceries is a quick trip to grab the first few things inside the grocery store door, then rush home and throw something together for dinner. In our mad-dash world, we no longer feel we can afford to take the time to make careful selections, touching and taking in the wonderful scents: and the idea of actually knowing who grew the food and having a real conversation with them is laughable.

Ask the next 20 people you meet where our food comes from and you’ll probably get a list of countries half way around the world; yet, what many don’t know is that right here at home, in the desert regions of Washington, California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, we are growing everything from apples to zucchini that can go from farm to table in days not weeks. Consumers can purchase fresh dates and figs, lemons and limes, apples and almonds, a rainbow of vegetables, and pears and peaches direct from people whose life’s work is to grow food. So the question is: Why on earth would we buy so many imported products when we can spend an awesome morning meandering around a local farm or making the rounds of the dozens of farmers’ markets in our desert communities and purchase incredibly delicious, fresh, not-subjected-to-the-vagaries-of-long-distance-travel, nutritious produce? We get a pleasant experience while purchasing healthy (and necessary) food for our families while supporting local farmers who are our neighbors and friends! Seems like a win-win to me.

This “eureka” moment for me of discovering there are actually pears and peaches growing on trees in the desert town of Las Vegas is really a flashing neon sign with the message, “Buy Local”. What we put into our bodies should nourish us not just fill a void. There’s real value in taking the time to get to know the people who grow our food, to give thought to and carefully select what we nourish our bodies with, and to meander through an orchard or farmers’ market (or two) and take some pleasure in a delightful process I believe nourishes our lives.

Wherever you live, take some time this week-end to explore your community farms and farmers’ markets. Meet the people who grow the food you eat and savor in the process. You’ll find it will nourish your soul!

Orchards in the Desert from Berry Creative on Vimeo.

I hope you enjoyed our interview with Mark Ruben at Gilcrease Orchard. Looking for a farm adventure this week-end? Here are some suggestions on where you can find locally grown plant-based foods in your desert community?