Weird-Looking Heirloom Vegetables: Why They’re Important

Published August 11, 2013 by Get Your Body Back With Coach Mary and Skinny Fiber

Strange CarrotIf you’ve ever been to a farmer’s market, no doubt you’ve come across vegetables labeled as “heirloom.” Heirloom is such an elegant words and it refers to something valuable passed down from generation to generation.

But if heirloom vegetables are so valuable, why do they look so darned weird?

Simply put, heirloom vegetables are a specific variety vegetable that has been grown for many years and is open –pollinated. This is in contrast to hybrid and GM (genetically modified) vegetables. Heirlooms themselves are not necessarily organic, but when you grow them using organic techniques, they most definitely are.

Because they aren’t modified or cross-pollinated to produce new desirable traits, they may not look as pretty as the produce we’ve come to expect at the grocery store. But the good news is they are usually quite delicious. They are also often selected for their ability to withstand extreme weather and produce high yields.

To understand this a bit better, we need to look at 3 types of vegetables, or more specifically, 3 types of seeds. This information will help you in deciding what type of produce to buy and then, in a later post, will be useful if you are trying to grow your own produce as well.

Plant a seedHeirloom Seeds: These are seed varieties that have been cultivated for many years, passed down from generation to generation, having fairly predictable results from crop to crop.

There is no agreed upon age required for these seeds, but some suggest 50 years, while others say it should be 100. A lot of people agree upon a date of pre-1945 because that marks the end of World War 2 when growers started hybrid experimentation.

Hybrid Seeds: Hybrids sometimes occur naturally and other times, intentionally to acquire specific characteristics and hybrid seeds often produce high yields. It’s the cross-breeding of two species to produce a new plant. Hybrids can produce great results, but are problematic when home growers or small farmers want to use the seeds from their hybrid crop to create new crops. Seeds from a second generation hybrid plant simply do not produce predictable results. Thus, hybrid seeds are usually purchased again for each planting.

DNA in a bottleGMO Seeds: Then we have the GMO seeds that are the intentionally genetically modified to produce very specific results. It’s the actual transfer of DNA from one organism (not necessarily other plants) to another to get those results. There are a number of debatable issues in regard to GMO ranging from ethics to ecology to economy.

For the purposes of my posts here, we all need to be aware that GMOs threaten the existence of organic crops through cross-pollination. Add to that, when large GMO producers like Monsanto hold patents on their seeds, they readily bully and sue smaller farmers when their GMO seed has been found to cross-pollinate with the crops of these smaller farms. Many of these farms simply cannot afford to fight these legal battles and are forced to either shut down or comply with buying their seeds from the GMO producers.

Earlier in 2012 a lawsuit including nearly 300,000 American farmers was launched against Monstanto and its practices, but the suit has been denied. The lawyers representing the farmers issued an appeal in July to take Monstanto back to court. Where this goes, is unknown, but it makes the protection of heirloom seeds even more important.

So the next time you see that gnarled carrot or misshapen tomato at the farmer’s market, consider giving it a home. This is the type of produce we need to support if we want to sustain organic cultivation.

Get Your Body Back With Coach Mary

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How to Eat Organic, Even if You’re on a Budget

Published August 3, 2013 by Get Your Body Back With Coach Mary and Skinny Fiber

BudgetA lot of people tell me they love the idea of organic food and would start eating it in a heartbeat but their budgets simply don’t allow it. It’s true that organic food can cost considerably more than conventionally grown food…absolutely. The one glimmer of hope is that there has been a downward pricing trend as organic foods became more popular. Still, the prices aren’t low enough for many people, so how can you eat organic when you’re on a budget?

Here are a few ideas you can start with.

Start with one thing at a time. Going organic doesn’t mean you have to go all or none. Take small steps to where you want to go. I also recommend downloading the EWG (Environmental Working Group) Dirty Dozen list that shows you the produce that is most likely to be grown with the most pesticides, so either avoid those or purchase them organically. The list includes items like apples, bell peppers, peaches, potatoes, blueberries, spinach, celery, strawberries and more. They also keep a list of produce that is least likely be grown with as much pesticide, so you may not have to rush into organic versions of those.

You can get the list or download a mobile app here.

Dirty Dozen App

Buy from farmers markets. There are many organic options at farmer’s markets and they are often more affordable than organic fare found at regular supermarkets. You can search Google for “[your town] farmer’s market” or use the Local Harvest website to find markets in your area.

Cut out expensive, processed foods. While processed foods may seem like a great deal because they save time and they appear to be inexpensive, they often don’t provide a lot in the way of portion size or nutritional value and can really eat up a food budget if you rely on them. Try reducing the amount of processed foods you buy and eat more nutrient dense whole foods. It’s good for the budget and good for your health.

Stock up when things go on sale and then can, dry or freeze it. It’s the same money-saving concept that people have been using for years and you can apply it to organic foods as well. Invest in a food dehydrator, canning equipment and freezer-ready containers, so you can store organic foods for later eating.

Make it a goal to eat a fully local and/or organic meal each week. It’s an idea borrowed from TheDailyGreen.com and it’s a good one. If you just try for one meal, you’ll be making a difference without a lot of cost. Plus, leftovers and extra ingredients can be stretched out to additional meals.

Eat more vegetarian meals. I know it’s scary for some meat lovers, me included, but eating more meatless meals gives you so much more money in the food budget. Or if you’re not ready to do vegetarian, consider using smaller portions of meat in your meals. Try things like stir fries and similar meals where meat is simply an accompaniment, rather than the main focus of the meal.

Pick Your OwnPick your own. Don’t be afraid of a little manual labor. Using “you pick” opportunities allows you save a lot of money and stock up for canning, drying and freezing. You can pick a variety of fruits and vegetables. You can look for you picks in your area by visiting PickYourOwn.org, but do confirm they are organic growers first.

Every little bit helps and the better you get at picking the right foods, the more affordable it can be. And remember, the long term health benefits of eating more naturally will likely save you plenty in health costs in the long run.

Just one thing before you head out and stock up on everything…we should talk about what organic really means and we’ll do that in my next post.

Get Your Body Back With Coach Mary

Eight Reasons Eating Organic is Important to You…and the World around You

Published August 3, 2013 by Get Your Body Back With Coach Mary and Skinny Fiber

A Way of LifeIt seems like everyone is talking about organic foods like it’s some kind of buzz word or status symbol. I suppose for some, it might be. But for many of us, it’s a way of life that takes us back to a more natural way of living and farming. One that has been destroyed by the machine food production has become today.

Now, I don’t mean to sound like one of those doom and gloom, anti-establishment types. I don’t disparage anyone for choosing the foods that they do. Sometimes it’s an economic necessity. Other times it’s simply not having enough information about what’s really going on with our food. Sometimes it’s just apathy.

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but we have found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings.” ~ Helen Keller

I’m not sure what I can do about the apathetic, but for people like you who may have budgeting obstacles or are trying to find more information about what’s going into you bodies, I am here to help.

So the first natural question is…why go organic?

Farming

Organic eating has a number of benefits and here are just a few of them:

– Organic produce is free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Even if you wash your produce, you cannot remove all these harmful chemicals that can affect your nervous system, cause cancer and more. Also consider that conventional farming which uses harmful chemicals can contribute to the contamination of our water supply, so supporting organic, you are also supporting a cleaner water supply for all.

– While people may not be quite as concerned, eating organic can help you avoid foods that have been irradiated. Government bodies tout the irradiation process as helpful in reducing harmful bacteria, preventing spoilage and increasing shelf life of foods. However, irradiation reduces the nutritional value of your foods and there is growing concern by researchers that the process may not be as safe as previously thought.

– Avoidance of genetically modified foods or GMOs (genetically modified organisms). While huge biotechnology companies like Monstanto will have you believing that they are increasing the viability of crop growing, there are long-term dangers in GMOs that have caused them to be banned by much of Europe and Japan.

– Organic livestock is fed its natural diet, rather than potentially contaminated grains, antibiotics and hormones. This is in contrast to conventionally-raised livestock that get hormones to help them grow faster and antibiotics are given en masse as a preventative measure to illness. The scary thing is that the preventative measure may be necessary given the poor hygienic conditions of the animals. With organic, animals are raised more humanely and more naturally, eliminating the need for these potentially dangerous situations for both livestock and human.

– Organic growing contributes to improved soil quality. A lot of people don’t realize it, but our soils are so depleted that we no longer get the nutrients we did from our foods a few decades ago. In order to obtain the certified organic label from the USDA, soil must be free of prohibited chemicals for three years and the increased soil quality is a necessary goal for organic farmers. To learn more about a variety of soil studies, check this out.

– Organic farming is more wildlife friendly. From animals to plant species, a more natural ecology is supported through organic methods. There are many studies supporting this including a study from the University of Oxford that found that there is increased biodiversity on organically farmed land.

– Buying organic allows you to support your local economy and farmers. This is good for you because you get fresher foods and also reduces the pollution that results from food transport.

There are so many reasons to go organic and this post touches on just a few of them. Here’s the most immediate one that people can really appreciate. Organic foods simply taste better. This is real food, free of all unnecessary human interventions and inventions. It’s nature’s perfection and once you try it, you probably won’t want to go back to your other options.

Of course, this still leaves the issue of cost and how organic food seems unaffordable to many families today. Well, that is exactly what we’ll be talking about in my next post.

Get Your Body Back With Coach Mary

 

Meet Guest Blogger: Grace Simpson on Going Organic

Published August 3, 2013 by Get Your Body Back With Coach Mary and Skinny Fiber

Organic VegetablesIf you’ve ever thought about going organic, you’ve probably had a few questions on your mind.

What does organic really mean?

How can it benefit you?

And can it really be done on a budget?

Well, I’ve enlisted a special guest for our site here and her name is Grace Simpson. She’s very educated about organics and is great at helping people get their feet wet into a more natural way of eating.

She’ll be here for the next little while sharing great advice and tidbits, so I’ll let her introduce herself…

Hi, I’m Grace. I’ve been studying organic living since the USDA introduced national standards in 2002 and my family has been eating fully organic since about 2006. This subject means a lot to me because I want my family to have the healthiest meals possible. A few other related subjects that I feel are important are our nation’s health, our wildlife and the sustainability of food production.

Even though certified organics have been around for a decade, I know there are still a lot of questions surrounding organic food. That’s why I am so happy to be here to talk about many of those concerns people have.

Growing Tomatoes

Here’s what you can expect in the next few posts:

– Why eating organic is important…to you and the world around you.
– How to introduce organics, even if you’re on a budget.
– What does organic really mean and are you really eating organic?
– We’ll also discuss issues surrounding, meats, and produce in more detail.
– Being your own source of organic foods.
– Do you need supplements?

We’re going to cover a lot, but remember, as you start consider the organic lifestyle; you don’t have to do this all at once. Just take it one step at a time adding healthier options slowly and keeping this great earth of ours in harmony.

Get Your Body Back With Coach Mary