Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Food for Thought

When I became a mother, I went a little crazy about what goes in, on, and around my child. Many women do. So we read labels, we research ingredients, we make ourselves the guinea pigs... and we buy organic.

Nowadays, there is organic everything. Almost anything you can find in a conventional grocery store has a correlating natural or organic product… organic cheese puffs, organic TV dinners, even organic wine!

But does an “organic” label on the package mean it is the best product out there for you and your family? As the natural foods movement becomes mainstream, more and more companies try to get in on your dollar. For example, lately I’ve been seeing “organic” produce from as far away as China at my local health foods store. Why are we importing – and more importantly – why are we buying imported organic produce?

I have been going to two farmers’ markets a week for the last twenty years. I admit, going to the open market can be a pain. I can’t just show up with a list, I’m never sure what the farmers will show up with, and all those bags can get so gosh darn heavy! But you know what? I do know that the produce I buy Sunday afternoon was picked on Sunday morning. I do know that when I have a question, I can ask the farmer standing in front of me. How can you do that when your farmer is on the other side of the world?

After a while, one gets used to the pace and soon it’s not too hard to figure out what’s in season. (My biceps even got a little stronger.) I love the fleshy heirloom tomatoes from Ed in Santa Monica, and the extremely fresh produce from the hardworking folks at Givens Farms. At the Hollywood market, I’ve discovered a new Sri Lankan farmer – actually his parents are from Sri Lanka and he’s from Lancaster, CA – he grows the best eggplant, okra and watermelon. These farmers grow organically, but I would still buy from them even if they didn’t have an organic banner hanging at their stand. Conventionally grown produce picked ripe the same morning it goes to market is better, in my opinion, than organic produce picked green and flown halfway around the world.

Local, local, local! That’s my new battle cry. Go to your neighborhood market and buy from the deserving farmers there. If they’re not organic, bring up the subject and talk to them about it. Let them know you’re interested. It’s a fun way to get to know your neighbors, get to know your farmers, and know that you are buying the best there is for you and your family.