BHealthy Blog

Gardening in Arkansas, part 2

I mentioned back in June that I planted a little salsa garden after talking to Chris Olsen about several aspects to gardening in Arkansas. It was going really well for a while there. I would eagerly check on my “babies” everyday. I enjoy the flowers and other plants I usually have in the summer but there was something different about growing what I would later consume. Unfortunately, the heat has been too much lately and my plants are looking really sad. However I did get a really fresh and tasty batch of salsa out of it. I’ve also used the basil and rosemary in several recipes. And I learned what I need to do differently next year. So I’d say my first experience as a gardener was positive.

To keep in line with the purpose of this blog, I also consulted an expert about whether or not fresh produce is healthier for you. I talked to Laura Quick, RD, LD, from the Health Management Center at Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock. Here’s our brief conversation:

Q: Is there really a difference in the nutritional value between fruits and veggies picked ripe (benefit to growing your own) and those picked early and ripened in the delivery truck?

A: Fruits and vegetables will always be more nutritious when they are picked ripe.  Produce tends to lose it’s nutritional value over time.  Each day a product sits on the shelf after it’s peak ripeness it loses some of it’s valuable nutrition.  Many grocery stores will allow their produce to sit on the shelves for several days after it has reached it’s peak ripeness.  Therefore, when it is finally bought and taken home the consumer is not always getting the full nutritional value of that fruit or vegetable.

Q: What other benefits are there to growing your own food?

A: One concern that many consumers are facing today is the fertilizers and pesticides that are added to our produce.  So, many consumers are buying “organic” produce which does not have the fertilizers and pesticides used on them.  According to an article published in Today’s Dietitian, there are certain fruits and vegetables that are referred to as the “dirty dozen,” meaning that these are highest in pesticide residue.  These include: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.  Growing your own produce allows you to have control over the use of these chemicals and can save money in the long run.  The advantage of growing your own produce or buying from a local farmer’s market is that your fruits and vegetables will contain less fertilizers and pesticide residue and will be a lot more fresh.

Q: What about the concern that we would produce more than we can eat?

A: If you think that having your own garden and growing your own produce will lead to an abundance or waste of good fruits and vegetables, consider canning or freezing.  Wait until the produce is at is peak ripeness and then freeze or can them.  They will still have the same nutritional value as they did when they were fresh.  Canned fruits and vegetables are great for sharing with your friends and make great gifts!  Also, having a garden adds more physical activity to your day, which can help you to burn off extra calories!

So not only do you have the satisfaction of providing for your family and the excitement of watching it grow, but the fact that you have fresh food just outside your door makes it easier to make a healthy choice for meals.