Posts filed under ‘Veggie Wraps’
Now that the tomato scare is over, people can go back to buying one of summer’s perennially favorite crops. The question is, should shoppers buy organic or conventionally grown tomatoes? If they’re looking for the more nutritious tomatoes, the organic ones might be the way to go. A farming experiment at the University of California, Davis – as reported by NPR’s Allison Aubrey in May – found that organic tomatoes are more nutritious. The experiment, which is part of a 100-year study, compared organic and conventionally grown tomatoes in neighboring plots. The organic tomatoes had almost double the concentration of two flavonoids associated with strong antioxidant activity: quercetin and kaempferol.
Was the difference due to how the tomatoes were grown? The jury is still out on that, but the experiment suggests that it was. A possible scientific explanation for why the type of fertilizer used – natural or chemical – may have influenced the nutritional value of the tomatoes is tied to how quickly they absorbed nitrogen.
The conventionally grown tomatoes quickly absorbed the nitrogen in the commercial fertilizer they received, while the organic tomatoes had to work harder to absorb the nitrogen in theirs. The organic tomatoes used natural fertilizer made of manure and composted cover crops. The slower absorption of the nitrogen played a role in the formation of flavonoids in the organic tomatoes.
That said, researchers weren’t 100 percent sure that the difference was due to how the tomatoes were grown. Other possible explanations could have been differences in soil types, moisture and irrigation, and variety of tomatoes.
OK, I confess. I committed what locavores—and possibly even the Pope—would consider a mortal sin: I bought an avocado. It came all the way from Mexico, and it wasn’t even organic. If it were organic, maybe my wrongdoing would have been downgraded to a lesser, or venial, sin.
For days, I’d been thinking of avocados. I dreamed of spicing up my sandwiches and savoring the soft buttery fruit on crackers for mid-day snacks. When I saw avocados piled high at the supermarket for $1.99, I couldn’t resist. I grabbed one. I reasoned that it was OK. Yes, yes, yes, I added to the world’s carbon footprint, but I was also doing something incredibly good and just – helping far-off Mexican farmers who grew a crop that we didn’t have in New York.
Then I discovered that the company that sold my tasty avocado – Calavo – was not a Mexican company. Calavo instead was a U.S. company that sourced produce from Mexico and other South American countries. I had no idea how they treated their workers. I checked the company’s Web site to see if they were “fair trade,” a label that attests to a company’s fair treatment of workers. I didn’t see the label. Of course, not having the label doesn’t mean the company didn’t treat its workers fairly. But I couldn’t know for sure.
Suddenly I realized I could be in deeper trouble than I thought. The Pope recently came out with a set of seven new mortal sins. Damaging the environment was one. Another was social injustice, anything that caused poverty or the “accumulation of wealth by a few.”
No, I thought. By buying the tasty treat, I could possibly have double sinned!
I realize that just because I can buy avocados, doesn’t mean I should – for environmental and social reasons. Still, I somehow felt that buying the avocado was harmless. If we’d all have to stick to eating things grown locally, we’d all get bored, and the world and all its wonders would shrink immeasurably. There would be less interaction among nations, less trade, less sharing of food and crops.
Perhaps I should have bought an organic avocado. It would have cost $2.29 at the health food store. Had I sprung for the 30 extra cents, I would have peace of mind that it was grown in a manner that was gentle on the earth. It would have compensated – a little bit – for the fuel spent in getting it here. I’m not sure that it would address any social issues, though. Just because avocados are grown organically doesn’t mean the farmers who planted and harvested them were treated justly.
I think I should get myself to a confessional just in case. “Bless me Father,” I’ll confess, “for I have sinned.”
Today was my first time to the farmers market this year. It’s been cold and I’ve had other commitments on Saturday mornings—like sleeping—but today I managed to shake myself out of my winter slumber. I wanted to see what the market was like on a cold 31 degree morning. I was surprised to find a good number of farmers there – selling apples, eggs, milk, cheese, pork, beef, lamb, potatoes, turnips, beets, kale and winter greens, among other foodstuff. Farmers are a hardy bunch, and I was glad to see that the market didn’t go into complete hibernation, as I almost did.
The highlight of my visit was buying my very first hydroponically grown tomato. Instead of growing from soil, these tomatoes grow indoors from trays of water. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but the woman said something about hydroponics being a very sustainable way to grow food.
I picked one of the smallest tomatoes there—they were all beefsteak tomatoes with a few green tomatoes thrown in—and decided to try it. It tasted fabulous—it had a nice texture and dissolved in my mouth, just like the ones grown in soil in the middle of the summer. So I guess I won’t have to give up tomatoes if I don’t want to this winter. What a treat! It puts a whole new spin on eating seasonally.