You’re in the market and the rows of new apples, tomatoes, and potatoes have just been neatly placed in their designated showcase bins. Chances are, they weren’t just picked or dug up. In fact, they may have been chilled, chemically treated, and stored elsewhere, sometimes for up to a year!
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far…
Yes, it does. Some apples fall and are picked from very far away. In the US, on average, our food travels approximately 1,500 miles from where it was grown. Different types of produce are treated in various ways so that by the time they get to the consumer, they still seem fresh.
Apples, for example, are often picked before they’re ripe. Then they are treated with spray preservatives or methycyclopropene and then waxed. (This is after they are tested for malformations, divets, or anything that would make their façade appear unsightly.) The apples are stacked on pallets and placed in low-temperature storage.
They are boxed in cold storage, slowing their respiration rate. They can be, and often are, stored anywhere from a week up until about 12 months. They’ll look good, taste fine, but will have lost their nutritional antioxidant value after three months in that type of setting.
Other Produce Life-Prolonging Practices
How about that easy-to-use cut and bagged lettuce? That’s generally picked, washed, dried by centrifuge, and then treated with a preservative or a chlorine-based compound to ensure longer shelf life. It can rest in a closely moderated low-temperature vault for almost a month. Once it’s packed into its bag, however, it will only be edible (and sellable) for about another 10 days, tops.
Potatoes, believe it or not, can be kept looking bake-worthy for up to a year. That depends on if directly after they’re dug up, they get “cured.” (Curing is a process where the food item is stored in a warm temperature, but with extremely high humidity for about two weeks.) So once the potatoes are cured, they can be sprayed with a “sprout-inhibitor” (a chemical) that will keep them looking like hot potatoes.
Getting a Hold of Truly Fresh Foods
Buying organic and from a local farmer is a surer way to know your produce is fresh. And remember the reason why we want fresh is because it contains the most nutritional value. When a fruit or vegetable has been kept alive under “inorganic” ways, the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant values diminish.
Check out stores that boast carrying locally produced foods. It’s not just about the genuine quality of the plant or fruit, but we have to take into account all of the handling. Hand-picked will always be better than harvested-by-machine because contamination risks will be lower.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Green Way
If you’re lucky enough to have some property to grow your own food garden, then most of your healthy produce concerns can be alleviated. Even a small, raised bed can fit on a patio if you lack a large yard. Of course, you’ll have to learn about feeding soil, direct vs. indirect sunlight, and gauging water provisions. But if you have a green thumb and/or the passion to discover what’s needed to grow your own veggies and herbs, it will be well worth it.
On the other hand, you may live in an apartment. Or, you may not understand how or have the time or inclination to supervise an entire garden. Enter: products and ideas for organic, personal, food growing in small spaces or for “garden dummies.”
For example, Click & Grow created The Smart Garden, which is basically a no-brainer, countertop party for growing your own veggies. Growing your own organic produce with their patented “smart soil” may be a preferable option to buying fake ”new” food. The green-friendly company will soon be launching their latest DIY garden aide that will hold, grow, and nourish up to 9 different lettuces, herbs, greens, or small fruits. You can actually watch your food growing in a box right on your kitchen table or counter. And it costs very little compared to grocery store expenses for old produce or doctor bills from ill health.
There are many resources available if you seek to shop wisely or grow your own produce. If those options don’t work for your lifestyle, then just be discriminatory about the products you purchase. If you’re able to buy organic, that’s the superior health choice. And if you’re interested in reading about other potential healthy-life choices, check out some more reports on Thrive!