We recently shared a recipe for Sweet Red Beet Hummus using one of the five Healthy Foods for Fall spotlighted by Consumer Reports On Health, The Truth About What Is Good For You. The beets used in the recipe were part of a winter box of veggies delivered in early January 2020 from a CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) farm share. And even more beets were included in the February winter box from Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook (Columbia County), NY delivered a couple days ago! For certain, this easy recipe will use up more Roxbury Farm beets for another brilliantly red (and healthy) homemade dip in time for Valentine’s Day.
In today’s increasingly urban world, it’s extremely unlikely you can grow your own food. In our opinion, the second best way to source a mindful eater’s food is to have a CSA share in the bounty of a farm (where a consumer knows the farmers and the farm’s agricultural methods). A close third best way to source food is to shop regularly at a farmers market where a consumer can build a relationship with a particular farm that is a steady presence at the market week after week.
Our choice of a farmstand at the market would be a certified organic farm. Why choose a certified organic farm at the farmers market if one is an option? Rodale Institute has shared often the reasons: certified organic products ban more than 700 chemicals found in nonorganic food; never use genetically modified organisms; do not use harmful fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics and other chemicals that can wash into our water; and organic farmers prioritize good farming practices like cover cropping and crop rotation.
In the Albany metro area of upstate New York, we’re fortunate to have four year-round farmers markets: Glens Falls Farmers Market, Saratoga Farmers Market, Schenectady Greenmarket and closest to my hometown of Albany, Troy Waterfront Farmers Market.
On a recent visit to the farmers market in Troy (Rensselaer County), NY, it would have been possible to source two of the five healthy foods (butternut squash, beets, cauliflower, pears, and walnuts) noted by Consumer Reports. With my generous supply of sweet red beets from my CSA farm share, no need for the beets available in early February at the farmstand of the certified organic Denison Farm located not far from the Troy farmers market in Schaghticoke (Rensselaer County), NY. But this certified organic farm did not have butternut squash available.
Wandering around the Troy farmers market, I spotted butternut squash available at three other farmstands, but none were certified organic like Denison Farm. But after speaking with the folks at the farmers market from Maynard Farms and Orchards, located in Ulster Park (Ulster County), NY, I decided to buy the three butternut squashes included in a basket of colorful squashes. At the Troy market, they were offering primarily a variety of last season’s apples from cold storage, and kindly explained to this consumer (with lots of questions) that they grow fruit using integrated pest management practices. In addition, I understood from our conversation that the squashes were grown without pesticides.
The decision to buy the butternut squashes at the Troy farmers market turned out to be a wise decision since my next destination for purchasing the three other healthy foods spotlighted by Consumer Reports was the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany. A food co-operative is next up in my hierarchy of where to shop for food, if you don’t grow your own, have a CSA farm share, or patronize an organic farm stand at a farmers market!
In the co-op’s produce area, the organic butternut squash was carefully marked from Mexico, this information much appreciated since my goal is to shop for organic and local produce. Yet over the years I’ve decided that local produce grown with care is preferable to organic produce from far away. So the decision to buy the three squashes from Maynard Farms was the right decision for this mindful eater.
But the Honest Weight Food Co-op’s produce department was the source for some delicious red pears. And the co-op’s amazing bulk food department with nearly 1,000 bins was the source for organic walnuts, which happily were on-sale.
The decision whether to buy the organic cauliflower from California in the co-op’s produce department or Stahlbush Island Farms frozen cauliflower required some balancing of factors and was not an easy one. The ease of preparation of the frozen vegetables (place frozen cauliflower into small amount of boiling water, cover, steam for 3-5 minutes) led me to purchase the certified sustainable/family farm USA (Corvalis, Oregon) frozen cauliflower. On its website, Stahlbush Island Farms provides details on its sustainable growing methods and also notes that is is certified sustainable by the Food Alliance. Compromise made in the dead of winter but I’ll be looking for organic and local cauliflower in season.
(Frank W. Barrie, 2/6/20)