Posts Tagged ‘produce’

Caring For Your Reusable Shopping Bags

I volunteer at my local farmers’ market where I’ve gotten to know many of the farmers. One farmer told me about the rules and regulations for vending at the market, all designed to keep food clean and safe. That’s reassuring, but he also expressed his frustration that no matter what he does to keep food clean, there is always someone who touches the produce with dirty hands or who sneezes on it. It is obviously important to wash your produce before eating or cooking with it, but he also thinks that reusable shopping bags are part of the problem with food contamination. Our conversation inspired me to write this post.

Green wtih Betsy Market Bag

It’s exciting to see the reusable bag movement catching on, but it is imperative to wash the bags just like anything else when it gets dirty. Canvas bags can be washed in the washing machine on hot and then dried in the dryer. Recycled plastic bags should be washed by hand with warm soapy water (don’t forget the seams where grime can collect). Nylon bags should be washed inside out by hand in warm soapy water and air-dried. Occasionally you will need to replace the bags with new ones.

Two more important points

  • Use separate reusable bags for meats and produce.
  • Never keep your bags in your car or trunk. Heat can cause the bacteria to breed even faster.

Do you wash your bags? If so, great. If not, don’t let the idea of washing your reusable bags deter you from continuing your new eco-conscious habit. It’s as easy as washing your dirty clothes!

Some information compiled from http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

The only way to insure that your food is safer – no pesticides, artificial colorants, preservatives, or GMO’s – is to eat organically. (Organic produce may contain more natural antioxidants and nutrients, and taste better too! ) The biggest obstacle to eating organically however, is the cost. And while I still maintain eating organically is cheaper than the doctor, I understand. That’s where the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen guidelines from the Environmental Working Group come in.

The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen are the 12 fruits and vegetables most heavily sprayed with pesticides – they contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving – and the ones you should always buy organic. These foods are most susceptible because they have soft skin that tends to absorb more pesticides.  They are, starting with the worst first:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Snap Peas – Imported
  • Potatoes

     + 2 more

  • Hot Peppers
  • Kale/Collard Greens

The Clean Fifteen

The Clean 15 are the fifteen fruits and vegetables lowest in pesticides and not necessary to buy organic.  They are, starting with the best:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn*
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas – frozen
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papaya*
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Potatoes

*A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from GE seedstock. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid GE produce.

It’s easier than ever to buy organic produce, which are now found in conventional grocery store chains as well as natural food markets.  To be sure the produce you choose is organic, check the sticker on the fruit or vegetable. The code number should start with a 9.

Visit the Environmental Working Group to download the EWG Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce and to see their full list of all 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue data. Their website also contains shopper’s guides to safe cleaning products, safe cosmetics, safe sunscreen and a variety of other important topics.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Eating Locally Through The Winter

It’s getting easier to eat fresh, local produce long after gardens have been put to bed.

Many farmers’ markets and CSA’s have extended their season into winter and early spring instead of closing down at the end of October. Green houses and hoop houses allow them to offer even more produce options.   Restaurants also feature locally grown and produced food all year-long.

Ithaca Farmers Market

Ithaca Farmers Market (Photo credit: mhaithaca)

Local produce choices depend on where you live, but in the northeast, farmers’ markets continue to sell root vegetables, onions, peppers, potatoes, winter squash, kale and other hardy greens, apples, and cranberries. Additionally you can also find local organic meat and poultry, freshly caught seafood, homemade baked goods, local organic chocolates, fresh spice blends, maple syrup and more.

Most gardeners have already made and canned fresh tomato sauce, jellies and jams enabling them to eat the bounties from their harvest well into the winter, but with a basement or a root cellar and a freezer you can also stock up on vegetables, fruits, and herbs from the markets.  Easily frozen or dried, you’ve got “fresh” herbs when your recipe calls for it.

So what’s so important about eating locally?

The average food travels 1500 miles from farm to plate, consuming large quantities of fossil fuels and generating major CO2 emissions. Produce is picked unripe, then gassed to ripen, or processed using preservatives or irradiation, losing important nutritional value.  With locally grown food there is less chance for spoilage or contamination since it doesn’t travel great distances.

Local food is grown using organic or IPM (integrated pest management) farming practices, with little or no petroleum-based fertilizers or toxic pesticides. Picked at peak freshness, local produce is tastier and more nutritious.

Farmers’ markets support local farmers and the local economy.  Because the farmer sells directly to the customer, he can eliminate the middleman and keep more of his profits.  Farming is hard work and a precarious business.  Their yield is totally weather-dependent and it feels good to help them.

Farmers’ markets create a sense of community, a place where friends and neighbors can gather.  They are a way for farmers and consumers to connect with each other.  They also offer a venue for musicians and artists.  In cold climates when hibernating sets in, this extension of summer is a welcome respite.

Check out the winter farmers’ market schedule in your town!

 

AN “ECO-CORRECT” LABOR DAY COOKOUT

This Labor Day, think green and have an eco-correct cookout.  How?  It’s easy —

Visit your local farmer’s market for fresh local fruits and vegetables so abundant this time of year.  A charcoal chimney is an easy way to start your grill and much safer than lighter fluid if you don’t have a gas grill.  Make sure you use natural, hardwood charcoal instead of the conventional briquettes.  Fill at least half your grill with produce.  Produce is not only healthy and low calorie, but also doesn’t produce the carcinogens that can form on grilled meats.  Always cook over a low-to-medium flame and avoid over-charring.  Flare-ups and smoking oil create carcinogens.  Marinating or basting with oil, honey or a barbeque sauce will provide a barrier and help prevent charring.  Add delicious and nutritious vine ripened tomatoes and watermelon to your meal – they contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which may also help ward off sunburn!  If possible, serve organic food.

I prefer reusable dinner plates and utensils, but if you are having a crowd it is easier to use disposable.  Make sure they are biocompostable or made from recycled plastic.  Preserve Products makes plates, utensils and storage containers that are made in the US from 100% BPA-free recycled plastic and are dishwasher safe.  (They also make great toothbrushes and razors made from recycled yogurt cups.) Whole Foods carries the line, but you can also order them from PreserveProducts.com.  Cloth napkins are a nice touch, but if you prefer disposable, you can easily find them made from recycled paper at most supermarkets.

Chemical free sunscreen and insect repellants are a much healthier alternative than conventional products.  Badger makes effective, non-toxic, biodegradeable repellants and sunscreens.

Plan activities to get your guests moving and not eating and drinking so much.  If your cookout is near the water, swimming and kayaking are fun. If not, set up a volleyball/badminton net and get the teens involved in a tournament.  Croquet appeals to all ages and a nature walk or an outside scavenger hunt is a great way to get the kids interested in the outdoors.

And, of course don’t forget to recycle cans, bottles and other recyclable items!

Image by Peter Wild

Whatever you do to honor the end of summer, make sure you are good to the earth.  Remember, what is good for the earth is good for you and what is good for you is good for the earth.  Have fun!