In North America, hundreds of harmful chemicals are sprayed on crops to increase yields. These include insecticides, fungicides, pesticides as well as the famous glyphosate a.k.a. Roundup. We live in an increasingly toxic world, being exposed to chemicals constantly increases our toxic load which puts a strain on our organ of detoxification, our liver. An overloaded liver is an underlying cause of many health issues.
Organic farming reduces the erosion of topsoil, conserves water and reduces pollution in nearby streams and groundwater. It also protects local birds and bees. Organic farming does not use genetically modified seeds, which have a whole array of issues including allergic potential, change in nutrient value and the transition to monocropping.
Let's face it: eating organic is expensive! Sometimes, fruits and veggies are double the price than non-organic items. Many CSA boxes average $40, and if you pay upfront for a season the price can drop per box. Depending on the farm, the size of the box varies. In my household, there are 2 people who both eat a significant amount. I find that the box lasts us 1.5 weeks, then we have to supplement veggies from a market for the last few days. I see eating organic as an investment. When you put in good quality foods, free from chemicals you greatly reduce the risk of developing health problems in the future.
Support the Farmer Directly
Organic farmers pay a high price to be verified and certified organic. When they sell to grocery stores, there is a "middle-man" which can lower their profit significantly. When you buy a CSA box, you pay the farmer directly, with no middle-man.
Even during the winter months, my fruit and veg are still fresh. They are picked in the late autumn before they are ripe and then they are stored in a cold cellar to ripen. The flesh of the squashes are bright orange and apples are never mealy! Fruit & veg just taste better when they're local and organic.
In the Northern hemisphere, we are not meant to be eating mangos and pineapples in the dead of winter. Root vegetables, squashes and tubers are where its at! My winter boxes usually contain different colored beetroot, multicolored carrots, a variety of apples and pears, leeks, garlic, winter squashes, potatoes and onions. Last week I got a bonus of homemade apple chips that were really yummy to dip in tahini. In a couple of months I will begin to receive some of the spring produce.
Eat Local Produce
Less time spent transporting produce means less greenhouse gases. Furthermore, many fruits and veg are irradiated at borders to reduce harmful microbes that can cause illness and cause food to spoil quickly. In Canada, the top irradiated imported foods are: potatoes, onions, wheat and flour. Irradiation uses gamma x-rays to destroy microbes, not all bacterias are destroyed (C. Botulinum) and also significantly reduces nutrients. Furthermore, irradiation of viruses and bacteria could lead to mutations and resistant strains. The longterm impacts on the human population are unknown at this time.
Get a Variety of Vegetables
Prebiotics are food for probiotics. These undigestable plant fibers from veggies are excellent prebiotics, and the more variety you have, the more diverse your microflora is which can support your gut and immune system. In my last box the best sources of prebiotics were: garlic, leeks & onions. Fiber can help to maintain bowel health keeping you regular. It also lower cholesterol and help to normalize blood sugar. Loading up on insoluble fiber is also known as "inoculating your microbiome"
Visit a Farmers Market
Many CSA boxes offer delivery, however the one that I am currently signed up for requires pickup at a farmers market every 2 weeks. It is a great excuse to attend the Farmers Market at Nat Bailey Stadium on Saturdays. If I have class (which I do 1 weekend per month, I leave during my lunch break to collect the box and grab lunch at one of the many food trucks). I can also grab any extra groceries that are not provided in the box while listening to some awesome live music.
Next weekend, February 2-3 you can sign up for CSA boxes at the Riley Park Farmers market and Hastings Park Market.
My Favorite Vegetables so far...
This is a variety that is commonly grown in the Western region of North America. I made a curry out of it with onions, red lentils, ginger, garlic, coconut milk and curry paste, served over long grain brown rice.
Kohlrabi has similar texture to a broccoli stem, but is much sweeter in taste. I peeled, chopped and oven roasted the kohlrabi with cumin and chili powder.
I fully support organic gardening. I grew up with a small veggie patch in my own backyard. My mom still has this, and supplements with a CSA box that she shares with friends and neighbors when she is traveling. Since she lives on the east coast, she gets slightly different varieties of produce and it is always fun to compare.
If you do not have access to a CSA or choose not to sign up for one, do yourself a BIG favor and buy these 12 items organic.
If you can't afford all 12, PLEASE buy strawberries and spinach organic. These two are the winners of the dirtiest foods contaminated with pesticide residue.
I look forward to getting my box each week, and would highly recommend Klippers Organics from Cawston, BC.