Category Archives: Food & Nutrition

Lisa on KCUR's Central Standard

On the Air – Lisa featured on KCUR

Lisa discusses the healthiest dishes in KC restaurants

Lisa on KCUR's Central StandardI recently had the pleasure of joining Gina Kaufman, host of Central Standard on Kansas City’s KCUR, to discuss the healthiest food options in KC restaurants. As always, it’s a ton of fun being on the show talking about something I love – food, particularly food that’s healthy and delicious.

I opened the show by saying, “I believe there are so many personal definitions of what ‘healthy’ is. Every individual has to make their own choice and have their own personal philosophy.”

Whether we’re a vegetarian, vegan, carnivore or pescetarian (like me), what matters is actually having a food philosophy, and being mindful about our food choices.

You can listen to the podcast of the program and see my list of healthy dishes in Kansas City restaurants HERE.

 

Strawberry

Dirty Dozen 2017 – To buy or not to buy organic?

Eating organic can be confusing, time consuming and expensive. Fortunately, each year the Environmental Working Group makes it easier by publishing it’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.

Strawberry

What’s the big deal with pesticides?

Pesticides are poison. They are made to kill living things. If that isn’t barbaric-sounding enough, independent researchers and medical professionals have confirmed that many pesticides are harmful to humans, especially children. According to the Environmental Working Group, “As acknowledged by U.S. and international government agencies, different pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems, including:

  • Brain and nervous system toxicity
  • Cancer
  • Hormone disruption
  • Skin, eye and lung irritation”

Who is the Environmental Working Group?

The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. They are committed to protecting human health and the environment. Their mission is: “…to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, we drive consumer choice and civic action.”

What is the Dirty Dozen?

Each year, the EWG analyzes pesticide residue testing data from the USDA to determine which conventionally grown, fresh produce items have the highest levels of pesticide contamination. (It’s important to note that the data comes from produce that was cleaned and ready to be eaten.) Armed with this information, we can make wise choices about how we spend our money and what we feed our children and ourselves. Number one on the list below, strawberries, contained the highest levels of pesticides, spinach ranked next, and so on.

The Dirty Dozen: The worst offenders

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet Bell Peppers
  12. Potatoes
  13. Baker’s Dozen of Dirty – Hot Peppers

Conventional hot peppers do not contain contamination levels high enough to make the Dirty Dozen list, but were  “contaminated with insecticides toxic to the human nervous system.” Do we really want to eat something found to be toxic to our nervous system?

What’s the Clean Fifteen?

If the Dirty Dozen is the bad news, the Clean Fifteen is the good news. Of the 48 fruits and veggies tested, these fifteen conventionally-grown foods were the least likely to contain pesticide residues. Sweet corn is the cleanest, followed by avocados, etc.avocados

  1. Sweet corn
  2. Avocados
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet peas – frozen
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangos
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew Melon
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

Check out the Environmental Working Group’s full report here.

 

KCUR's Central Standard

In the News – Lisa featured on air

Lisa talks vegetarian food in Kansas City

KCUR's Central Standard

I recently had the pleasure of joining Central Standard on Kansas City’s KCUR to discuss vegetarian-friendly food options in KC restaurants. It was my first time on the radio and a ton of fun! It’s refreshing to see that the general public’s interest in eating a healthy diet that includes more plant-based foods is being reflected in local radio programming.

Veggie food on local menus is thankfully now mainstream, delicious and inventive. Regular Central Standard food critic Charles Feruzza asserts that the best vegetarian food is deep-fried food, but I must respectfully disagree. (Not that there’s anything wrong with indulging in fried food — on occasion. On a recent trip to Brooklyn, New York, I enjoyed falafel-crusted artichoke hearts at Olea that were indeed fried—and amazing!) But some of the vegetarian dishes I most enjoy when dining out in KC are simply prepared, yet complex in flavor vegetable offerings such as the roasted Brussels sprouts straight from the wood-fired oven at Pizza Bella in the Crossroads, and the fresh kale salad from the Westside Local (simply order both without the bacon.) The latter’s topped with slivered almonds, Parmesan cheese and an incredibly rich and creamy maple tahini dressing. Both selections exemplify just how tasty healthily prepared vegetarian food can be.

Whether one’s a full time vegetarian, vegan, carnivore or pescetarian (like me), it’s good to see that folks are interested in including more plant-based foods in their diet. Good for our heart, our waistline and good for our planet.

You can listen to the podcast of the program and see my list of local vegetarian recommendations HERE.

Asparagus

Asparagus A-Z: Everything you ever wanted to know about asparagus and more, in 26 bites

Spring has sprung and asparagus spears are sprouting. Because it’s one of my very favorite vegetables, and because it epitomizes seasonality, asparagus stars as my Veggie of the Month for April. Check out my alphabetical list of how and why to enjoy asparagus.

Asparagus

A: Antioxidants: Loaded with vitamins A, C, and E as well as other powerful antioxidants, asparagus acts as a veggie super hero, fighting to neutralize cell-damaging, villainous free radicals in our body. A diet that includes five–eight servings of anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables (like asparagus) helps to keep the bad guys from wreaking havoc and causing nasty diseases like cancer.

B: Beauty: The slender stalks of this herbaceous perennial plant are something to behold. And eating asparagus makes you beautiful – its Vitamin C and E nourish the skin and boost collagen production.

C: Colorful: Did you know that asparagus comes in the familiar spring green, as well as white and purple? Chlorophyll makes green asparagus green; white asparagus is simply green asparagus grown in the absence of light, thus no chlorophyll; and purple asparagus gets its lovely hue due to the presence of anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants that may help prevent cancer and cardio-vascular disease. 

Purple asparagus spears

D: Dipper: Trim spears as shown in this short video, steam or blanch until tender but still firm and use for dipping. Asparagus is especially delicious dipped into soft-boiled eggs with their tops cut off, or as a naturally gluten free dipper for hummus and guacamole.

E: Eggs: Asparagus and eggs are a natural fit. Marry asparagus with fluffy eggs in omelets (see W for Woody Stem), or top crisp-tender, cooked asparagus spears with a poached or fried egg.

F: Folate: Asparagus is one of the best sources of naturally occurring folate, which helps prevent birth defects and also promotes production of healthy red blood cells.

G: Grilled: Grilled asparagus is easy and delicious. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cook on a hot grill until tender.

H: Highfalutin: Feelin’ fancy? Pour yourself a glass of sparkling wine (see U for Unique), steam some spears and wrap ‘em with smoked salmon. Serve with a honey Dijon dipping sauce. Ooh la la.

I: Ice: What does ice have to do with asparagus? Well, steam your asparagus, then immediately dunk into a bath of ice water to halt the cooking. This extra step provides perfectly crisp tender stalks that retain their vibrant green color.

J: Jonquils: Asparagus and jonquils are both eagerly awaited signs of spring and both sorely missed once the weather heats up. But that’s the bittersweet beauty of eating seasonally. Not only does locally grown, seasonal food taste better, asparagus grown by a farmer in your own region uses fewer precious natural resources to get to your table. Unless you live in Peru, you’re likely not meant to eat asparagus in winter.

Jonquil

K: Vitamin K: One cup of cooked asparagus delivers 101% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin K. Vitamin K plays a starring role in blood clotting, and is also helps builds strong bones and assists in preventing heart disease.

L: Libido: Not only is asparagus suggestive to look at, its high folate levels aid in the production of histamine which is important for a healthy sex drive in both men and women. Cook the spears whole, pick them up with your fingers, dip in Parmesan lemon butter, and lick your fingers. Sexy.

M: Mediterranean; Asparagus was first cultivated in the Eastern Mediterranean region more than 2000 years ago! Those ancient Greeks and Romans had good taste. No wonder asparagus goes so well with the sunny flavors of the Mediterranean – think lemons, oranges, pine nuts, and olives to name a few favorites.

N: Nation; China is by far the nation that produces the most asparagus. Do you live in China? If not, think local and seasonal. Just imagine the carbon footprint.

O: Organic; While it’s always best to buy organic whenever possible, asparagus is on the Environmental Working Group’s most recent Clean Fifteen list, which is a list of produce grown using the least amount of pesticides. So if you have an organic source of asparagus, lucky you. If you don’t, don’t worry. Enjoy anyway.

P: Pee: Yes, asparagus might make your pee stink. That’s because it contains a chemical called asparagusic acid, which is broken down by our bodies into sulphuric compounds during digestion. Sulphur is smelly, so that’s why your pee might smell. To further the mystery, asparagus apparently makes some folks’ urine smell, but not everyone’s. And even weirder, it’s claimed that some asparagus eaters’ urine does indeed smell, but they just can’t smell the offending odor! Crazy.

Q: Quick: Be quick about it. Asparagus is best eaten fresh. Another reason to eat local and seasonal.

R: Roast: One of the easiest and tastiest ways to cook asparagus is to roast it. See my tasty recipe for roasted asparagus here

Roasted Asparagus

S: Storage: Asparagus has a high respiration rate, which makes it susceptible to drying out, shriveling and wrinkling. (Sound familiar?) To help slow this unpleasant process, store asparagus with the ends wrapped in a damp paper towel, or standing up in an inch or two of water like flowers in a vase.

Asparagus Bouquet

T: Trimming the ends: The easiest way to trim the tough ends at the appropriate place is to pick up each spear individual, and give it a snap. The spear will break at the magic place and you’ll be left with the tender edible part and the woody end, which can be discarded or peeled and used in soup or omelets.

U: Unique: Asparagus is fun and funky. It grows out straight up out of the ground and has a unique flavor – fresh and grassy. This vegetal taste that makes asparagus such a seasonal treat can make pairing it with wine quite tricky. What’s a connoisseur to do? Do what I do with all wine-unfriendly foods and pour a glass of bubbles!

V: Velvety: Asparagus can be turned into a rich and velvety soup. Sautee some shallots and garlic in olive oil, toss in one bunch of asparagus, trimmed (see T for Trimming) and chopped, add veggie broth and cook until asparagus is tender. Cool slightly and puree, then stir in your favorite milk (non-dairy or otherwise) and a handful of chopped fresh herbs – dill is nice. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

W: Woody stem: When you trim the tough ends of the stems (see T for Trimming) don’t toss them in the compost. Peel them with a vegetable peeler and use to make soup or slice and toss them into an omelet.

X: Xeriscaping: My loose definition of xeriscaping is gardening or landscaping that reduces or eliminates the need for water by irrigation. If you live in an area that gets a fair amount of rain, it’s possible to xeriscape with asparagus. The plant is a perennial, will grow wild and can get by without extensive watering.

Y: Yes: Just say yes when offered a second helping of asparagus. One cup of cooked asparagus has around 40 calories. Maybe hold the second helping of hollandaise.

Z: Ziti: Asparagus goes great with ziti, or any pasta for that matter. Think light and springy: lemon, olive oil, maybe a little ricotta or Parmesan and a toss of toasted pine nuts.

This article published by Elephant Journal: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/04/asparagus-a-z-everything-you-need-to-know-about-asparagus-in-26-bites/

Roots + Garlic

Stay Grounded: 8 Down-to-Earth Root Veggies to Love

“March is a month of considerable frustration…,” begins a quote by plant lover Thalassa Cruso. I couldn’t agree with Ms. Cruso more. No longer winter, not yet spring, March has the potential to frustrate food lovers and gardeners alike. So what’s a localavore, or anyone wanting to eat fresh and seasonally to do? Be patient and content in the present moment. Spring will get here when she gets here. Winter will go when she’s ready. In the meantime, enjoy what Mother Nature does have to offer, and it might already be sitting in your fridge. 

Roots + GarlicSpring is just around the corner, but before you go lusting into the future after sexy, imported spring veggies, how about pausing in the present to check out the dependable, yet desirable turnips waiting patiently in your produce drawer?

Here in the American Midwest, where fresh local produce is still weeks away, it can be ever-so-tempting to pick up a bunch of asparagus shipped in from Mexico. I admit I will get impatient and do just this, but the root vegetables that may be wintering in your fridge (or root cellar if you’re lucky enough to have one) are begging to shine. At the moment, my fridge contains no fewer than three watermelon radishes, two pounds of carrots, and enough turnips for a creamy mash. And they need to be appreciated.

Sometimes, you just need a bit of inspiration to turn that pumpkin into a chariot. Here, in my opinion, are the top eight most fabulous roots (in no particular order) and some good reasons to give them a twirl.

In addition to the cooking hints I give below, you can’t go wrong enjoying any of these roots in my Roasted Root Vegetables.

1. Watermelon radish – A local farmer’s market darling, (Brooke & Dan from Urbavore Farm here in Kansas City, MO must grow TONS of these beauties!) the watermelon radish is a breath of fresh air in late winter. It’s a bit unassuming on the outside, but cut into one and you’ll see how it gets it’s name; the inside is deep fuchsia, speckled, and looks like a juicy watermelon. Add to your crudité platter, toss thinly sliced into salads, impress your friends by topping slices with egg salad or hummus as a fancy-schmancy, yet easy-peasy appetizer, or roast them (yes, roast them!). Watermelon radishes are a rich source of antioxidants, particularly zeaxanthin, lutein and beta-carotene, which are known for promoting healthy vision.

watermelon radish up close

2. Turnips – I am in LOVE with turnips, especially the voluptuous, old-fashioned Gold Ball variety. Their flavor is slightly bitter, which I think is why I’m such a fan. Turnips make a comforting mash – but because of the bitterness, I like to mix them with Yukon Gold potatoes and a bit of red onion. Steam the turnips, ‘taters and onion until cooked, then mash! A bit of butter or ghee is a must J. Turnips are a great source of fiber and vitamin C.

3. Sweet potatoes – A true workhorse in the kitchen, sweet potatoes can be baked, roasted, mashed, made into soup and turned into dessert. Orange-fleshed varieties such as the heirlooms Jewel and Garnet are farmer’s market dandies, while Beauregard is likely on your super market shelf. But it’s worth seeking out the elegant, white O’Henrys (which taste like a toasted marshmallow when baked or roasted) as well as the vibrant purple varieties. In case you need another reason to love these gems, they’re often touted as a super food – high in fiber (eat the skin) antioxidants and minerals.

sweets

4. Leeks – Ah, the lovely, long and leggy leek. Sliced and sautéed on their own as a simple side dish, tucked into omelets or stirred into scrambled eggs, their subtle onion flavor goes well with another of my favorites – a drizzle (or spoonful) of white truffle oil. They make potato soup extra special, too. Leeks are a great source of vitamins and phytonutrients that protect your eyes.

Leeks

5. Beets - Yes, beets taste like dirt, so apparently, I love dirt. I find wrapping these dirty babies in foil—skin and all—and roasting on a high temperature (guess that’s really steaming?) is the easiest way to go. Let them cool and the skins will slip off easily. Slice and toss with dirty-minded ingredients such as walnuts, fresh herbs, feta cheese or oranges. Once they’re peeled and cut, you’re also ready to whip up a jar of Quick Pickled Beets. The nutritional benefits of these colorful gems are plentiful – they’re a good source of folate and magnesium, a cure for constipation and protection against colon cancer, just to name a few. Don’t ditch the greens; they’re worthy of your attention and probably more nutrient-dense than their bulbs. Try cooking the root and leafy tops together in my recipe for Beets and Greens. See how to make both of these beet recipes, as well as a racy beet cocktail in my What about Beets video.

Colorful Beets

6. Carrots – Carrots are the girlfriends of the vegetable world: underappreciated and taken for granted! Regular ole’ carrots are great, but check out some of the other colorful varieties. Did you know they come in purple, red, white and yellow, in addition to orange? Roast ‘em, puree into soup (Gingery Carrot Soup), and shred into muffins. Carrots are low-cal, high-fiber, and it’s true, good for your eyes.

Colorful Carrots

7. Sunchokes (0r Jerusalem artichokes) Warning: I find sunchokes highly addictive, but they make many people fart because they contain a certain kind of carb called inulin. Unsexy, but true. Nevertheless, they are absolutely delicious roasted with lemon and thyme. You’ll often see cooks instructing you to leave them raw, slice thinly, and add to salads. Proceed at your own risk; I can’t imagine trying to digest these little devils in their uncooked state. They also have a good reputation for being great in soup – let me know if you have a favorite recipe. Like most roots, sunchokes are a good source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and also act as a prebiotic, which is good for gut health.

8. Celeriac – This mysterious root probably has the fewest names on her dance card. And what a shame. A big, knobby, brown bulb, celeriac – aka celery root – has a flavor often described as a cross between her sexier sisters celery and parsley. Like most roots, she’s tasty roasted or mashed with potatoes, but my favorite way to enjoy this ugly duckling is rich, creamy, and in the raw in this Celeriac and Green Apple Soup, courtesy of what I consider to be my raw food bible – Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis’ Raw Food Real World. The dead of winter is probably the wrong time of year to be eating an uncooked soup, but I won’t tell your Ayurvedic doctor if you don’t tell mine. Celeriac contains anti-cancer properties and is a good source of Vitamin K and phosphorus.

Our summer flings with verdant snap peas, luscious squash blossoms, and shapely eggplants will be here soon enough, but there’s no need to merely bide our time. Prepared well, these root veggies will have us longing for late winter instead of hoping to escape it.

Nutritional information from livestrong.com.

This post was published by Elephant Journal https://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/stay-grounded-8-down-to-earth-root-veggies-to-love/

Funny Face

I’m not Vegan – I’m a lacto-ovo-potato-chip-eating-pescatarian

Jamie Oliver is one of my food heroes. From his early days as The Naked Chef (the food was naked – not Jamie!) to the role he currently plays as food educator and food activist, Jamie challenges us to consider the way we feed our children and ourselves.

Several years ago, Mr. Oliver took a lot of flack for slaughtering a lamb on his TV show. In response to the controversy, Jamie stated, “It’s a beautiful creature, but it is tasty and we are top of the food chain. A chef who has cooked 2,000 sheep should kill at least one, otherwise you’re a fake.” I think he has a point.

I don’t completely align with Jamie’s food philosophy, (I don’t eat meat, and the killing of innocent creatures is one of my personal reasons for abstaining) but I admire that he is not afraid to acknowledge where his food comes from. In my recent blog, I’m not Vegan, I consider the role of awareness in choosing our diet and disclose my personal food philosophy. What’s yours? 

Funny Face

I don’t eat meat, but I do eat eggs, seafood and a bit of dairy. (My cousin Di’s homemade goat’s milk feta—produced from goats she and her boys raise and milk by hand—is the main reason for the dairy.) I also eat fruit, tons of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, wheat, gluten, sugar, caffeine, soy and potato chips. I guess that makes me human. And a lacto-ovo-pescetarian (a vegetarian who eats seafood.) But what’s in a name?

This topic came up inadvertently the other night when my friend Chris and I were discussing what to have for dinner. I suggested sushi, to which he replied, “Uh…” So I countered with, “I have a bunch of veggies from the farmer’s market, we could have some sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes?” (My favorite late summer meal.)

You can imagine my surprise when he didn’t jump up to start boiling the water, but instead blurted out, “You know, I’m not vegan.”

Apparently, he felt rather strongly about this as he continued, “ Sometimes I just need to eat a big burger and fries. My concern is that if I eat vegan meals with you (or apparently sushi), it might make me binge on foods that you don’t eat when I’m not with you.”

Chris, I don’t care what you eat.”

“Well Lisa, I care what I eat, and I’m a man who sometimes cares to eat meat. I’m a “he-gan.”

Fair enough.

I don’t think I’m judgmental about what Chris or anyone else chooses to eat, but I admit it is a bit strange for me when I’m out with someone who tucks into a piece of charred flesh. And if I’m honest, I do peer curiously (or is it judgmentally?) into a fellow shoppers basket at the supermarket

I acknowledge my hypocrisy in devouring a perfectly cooked piece of beautiful, wild-caught, sockeye salmon, while swearing off organic, free-range beef. A salmon has eyes just like a cow (although not nearly as big), and was happily swimming along in some crystal clear Alaskan stream before being plucked from the cold waters to have his skin crisped in my hot skillet. Do I want to be judged for this? No.

So live and let live — well, as the case may be. Although I may unconsciously judge others for their decision at times, my honest intention is to eat with awareness and allow my dining companions the same freedom. Eat in a way that works for your own body. Eat in a way that coincides with your personal philosophy and allows you to sleep at night. (Quite frankly, the reason I don’t eat much dairy is selfish. With the exception of organic ghee and my cousin’s goat cheese, I find dairy doesn’t agree with me. It’s a conscious choice based on personal experience.)

On most nights, I’m quite satisfied with a plate of veg framing a scoop of fluffy quinoa. Occasionally, I’ll add juicy seared scallops to my plate. But that’s me, and my menu selection is a deliberate decision. I guess I’m a “me-gan.” Everyone has to draw her own line.

My hope is that those personal lines are drawn mindfully. Even though the less liberated me may unconsciously commit judgment crimes in the grocery store, I do believe in freedom of dietary choice.

I am also, however, unwavering in my belief that we need to educate our children and ourselves on where our food comes from and how it is grown. Personally, I want to know if the potatoes in my roasting pan were grown in organic soil, and if the kale I’m about to sauté was sprayed with pesticides. Were the chickens who laid my now-scrambled eggs allowed to see the sky? The answers to these questions matter to me and determine where I spend my money when I shop for veggies and when I dine out. It starts with awareness.

I pose a similar question to my meat-eating friends—do you really want to eat a conventionally raised chicken that has been pumped with growth hormones and antibiotics and raised in confinement never to see the light of day or inhale fresh air? If you do, bon appetit, but consider the facts before you decide.

Personally, I believe that for our own health, and for the health of our planet, we should eat more plant-based foods. But if we choose to eat meat or fish, I think it’s worth considering if differences exist between wild and farmed seafood; free-range and conventionally-housed poultry; and grass-fed versus feedlot-raised, corn-fed beef. And regardless of animal husbandry practices, if we are not vegetarian we must acknowledge that living creatures are killed for our benefit. Arm yourself with information and then intentionally make your own call. Draw your line in the sand, but don’t stick your head in it.

You may be vegan, Chris may be he-gan, but let’s all be conscious me-gans. It’s the consideration that matters – not what you call yourself.

Some definitions (not that they matter):

  •  Pescatarian: A person who does not eat any animal flesh with the exception of fish and seafood. A pescatarian eats a vegetarian diet plus things like shrimp and salmon. (Pesce from Italian, meaning fish.)
  • Vegetarian: A person who does not eat meat, fish, seafood, poultry or game. Vegetarians, by definition, eat eggs and dairy. Sometimes this is called lacto-ovo vegetarian. Lacto is Latin for milk and ovo Latin for egg.
  • Vegan: A person who does not eat any animal products. Being vegan is stricter than being vegetarian. In addition to excluding meat, a vegan does not eat dairy, eggs and in some instances, honey, because it comes from bees.
  • He-gan: My friend Chris. I think this means a man who wants to eat what he wants to eat, when he wants to eat it.
  • Me-gan: A conscious, compassionate eater who educates herself on how food is produced, notices how different foods affect the way she feels, and then makes a personal choice about what or what not to eat. A me-gan does not proselytize, but is confident and guilt-free in her personal decisions.

This article was published by Elephant Journal as Vegan, Vegetarian or Pescatarian? Choosing our diet starts with awareness.

Hot Peppers at Market

10 Reasons to Shop Your Local Farmers’ Market

Hot Peppers at Market

During the summer and early fall, I rarely shop at the grocery store. Of course I have to buy necessities such as toilet paper and laundry detergent, and pantry staples like olive oil, grains, salt and pepper. (As far as I know they’re not harvesting sea salt anywhere near Kansas City.) But I prefer to do the bulk of my shopping at a nearby farmers’ market where I’m able to purchase from local growers, farmers, bakers and cheese makers. Rising bright and early on a Saturday morning and heading to the market is one of my biggest joys. Here are 10 reasons why:

  1. The food tastes better – The green beans, eggs, gluten-free brownies, you name it, just taste better. I find that food grown, raised or baked by folks passionate about their craft tastes of love.
  2. Fresher food is more nutritious – The produce I buy direct from farmers usually has been picked within 24 hours of being sold at the market. Your grocer can’t say that about his blueberries imported from Mexico. The sooner you eat fresh foods, they better they are for you.
  3. It’s more fun – It’s a blast shopping at a farmers’ market. Make it part of your weekend ritual. Include your kids and teach them where food really comes from. They may be more likely to eat a carrot if they meet the farmer who pulled it from the earth.
  4. You get to be picky –You can choose the exact heirloom tomato you want to slice for your lunch.
  5. Helps you eat seasonally – Sorry, but we’re not supposed to eat asparagus year round. And when we do, it’s because the asparagus has been grown in a country far, far away and shipped across hemispheres and time zones to get to our supermarket. The food you buy from a local farmer is seasonal. It’s grown in a location and climate with the perfect conditions to produce a superior product using minimal resources. Reconnect with Mother Nature. Enjoy tender asparagus in the spring, sweet, sweet corn in the summer, and orange-fleshed pie pumpkins in the fall.
  6. Try something new – Local markets are full of cool, weird, funky vegetables; red kohlrabi that looks like a spaceship, sweet yellow carrots and heads of purple cauliflower. You’ll also find new varieties of your old favorites, for example the meaty flavor of Kentucky Wonder green beans will blow your mind.
  7. Support your local community/economy – It feels good to put your money where your mouth is. Support local farmers, particularly farmers who farm using organic practices. They work hard to produce a superior product without harming the earth. Good, quality food may not be cheap. It takes backbreaking work to provide you and your family with healthy, wholesome products.
  8. Meet someone from Burma – Many markets feature ethnic farmers growing and selling fruits and vegetables used in their native cooking. When’s the last time you got to chat with a Burmese farmer about her exotic crop of bitter gourd, chayote or unusual eggplant varieties? Be sure and ask what to do with the vegetables when you get them home.
  9. Brook and Dan – This pair of hardworking food activists own and operate URBAVORE – Urban Farm, within the city limits of Kansas City, Missouri. Every Friday night through the end of February (that’s right, February!) they bring some of the tastiest organic produce to their very own market, Badseed, located in the Crossroads Arts District at 1909 McGee Street, KCMO 64108 They know their stuff. Ask them about no-till farming.
  10. Fred and Helen – Two fixtures of Kansas City’s historic City Market, this married couple own and operate Nature’s Choice Biodynamic Farm, near St. Joseph, Missouri. From the New Zealand spinach to the Kentucky Wonder green beans, every variety they sell has been carefully vetted. A treasure trove of organic farming knowledge, Fred can tell you why his grape tomatoes are some of the tastiest around. Ask them about biodynamic farming.
Apples

2015 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen – Is organic produce worth the expense?

Apples

Not sure if it’s worth shelling out the extra dough to buy organic produce? According to the USDA’s Environmental Working Group, in some cases it might be. Every year the EWG reports which fruits and vegetables have the highest levels of pesticide contamination and which have the least. Armed with this information you can decide for yourself when it’s worth spending the extra money to buy organic produce.

Unfortunately, the ever-popular apple tops the “dirty” list for the fifth year in a row. Apparently chemicals used to preserve the fruit are applied to apple crops both before and after harvest. But the good news is, for the second consecutive year, avocados top the “clean” list. Just in case you need another reason to eat more guacamole.

I recommend buying organic (and local) whenever possible. But if it’s not available or in your budget, you can use the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to make an informed choice.

The Dirty Dozen (the most contaminated):

  1. Apples
  2. Peaches
  3. Nectarines
  4. Strawberries
  5. Grapes
  6. Celery
  7. Spinach
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry tomatoes
  11. Snap peas (imported)
  12. Potatoes

The Dirty Dozen Plus (Contamination levels weren’t high enough to make the Dirty Dozen list, but the pesticides present in these veggies are so highly toxic that the EWG recommends buying organic. If organic isn’t possible, the EWG recommends serving these vegetables cooked.):

  1. Leafy greens
  2. Hot peppers

avocado

The Clean Fifteen (the least contaminated):

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet peas (frozen)
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangos
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet potatoes

Read the Environmental Working Group’s full report here.