Category Archives: Food Source

Where your food comes from helps determine how healthy, and I think how happy you are. Paying attention to your food is one of the simplest and most direct ways to change the world.

Happy cows! Grass fed beef.

Grass-Fed Beef – Does This Matter?

Grass-fed beef is a trendy idea right now, and sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish the real information from the trend, so let’s talk about beef, because god knows we all love beef. There are a number of factors to think about when evaluating this whole issue – some of them have been researched and some haven’t. So let’s dive in with cow happiness, cow health, health implications for you and your family and just keep going from there.

What does “Grass Fed Beef” Even Mean?

I know, that sounds like kind of a dumb questions – obviously grass fed means the cow has been fed grass. But, does that mean it’s been fed grass for part of it’s life, all of it’s life, only grass or grass mixed with other things? So let’s get into the legal nitty gritty. In October 2007 the USDA set voluntary standards to define the term grass fed. These standards suggest that beef should be grass or forage fed for the duration of it’s life, meaning that it doesn’t get grain except as an incidental part of the grass.  In general all cattle eat grass for the first 6-12 months, so this really only restricts the last portion of their life.  This sounds great but here are the drawbacks:

  • Verification is voluntary, and unless beef displays the USDA process verified shield, we’re just taking the farmers word for it.
  • In this sense grass-fed is different than pastured. These cows could still be in a penned feed-lot environment, but instead of being given corn or soybeans, they’re given hay. So essentially it still isn’t cows in their natural environment.
  • These regulations have no bearing on hormones and antibiotics given to the cattle. Cows can be labeled as grass fed and still be getting daily growth hormones and antibiotics with their hay. This tends to run counter to the general perception of what it might mean for beef to be grass fed.
USDA shield showing cows have been fed grass and forage only (but also still in pens, with hormones and antibiotics)

USDA shield showing cows have been fed grass and forage only (but also still in pens, with hormones and antibiotics).

Is There A Better Labeling Standard for Grass fed Beef?

The short answer, is yes!  But of course the long answer is slightly more complicated than that.  The American Grassfed Association is a membership organization of farmers and public interest groups who have come together to determine higher standards. Which is wonderful.  If you see their logo on your beef it means that the meat animal (they certify any ruminant animals, so cattle, goats, sheep and bison) is raised according to the highest standards:

American Grassfed Association logo. If you see this on your meat you know it's been raised right.

American Grassfed Association logo.

  • Diet — Animals are fed only grass and forage from weaning until harvest.
  • Confinement — Animals are raised on pasture with no confinement.
  • Antibiotics and hormones — Animals are never given antibiotics or growth hormones.
  • Origin — All animals are born and raised on American family farms.

This is a fantastic step forward and gives you as a consumer much more information about the meat you and your family are eating. The problem is that each farm that wants to be included has to pay for membership and pay each year for an independent inspection, as well as pay per head according to the number of animals that they have.  This is by far the best system we’ve got, but for some farms the cost may be more than they can support.  Still, if you have a chance to buy your meat animals either from a farm you know personally or a farm that is AGA certified I would highly recommend it. If you’d like to see the AGA’s complete standards here they are.

Is Grass Fed Beef Healthier?

The good news is that this one is a resounding yes. Grass fed beef has higher antioxidant levels, better fat ratios and fewer calories than conventionally raised beef does without the pesky traces of antibiotics and hormones.  A 2009 study published in the Journal of Animal Science compared grass finishing vs. grain finishing methods on the nutritional content of the meat. Here’s what they found:

  1. Healthier Fat Content– Grass fed beef is higher in total omega-3 fatty acids and lower in total fat than conventionally raised beef. Grass fed beef also has a healthier ratio of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids to anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids  (1.65 vs. 4.64 in conventional beef).
    Total fat in different meats including conventional beef vs. grass fed beef. Data from J. Animal Sci 80(5):1202-11 Taken from

    Total fat in different meats including conventional beef vs. grass fed beef. Data from J. Animal Sci 80(5):1202-11. Taken with gratitude from

    Omega-3 fatty acids bottom out in the feedlot. Data from: J Animal Sci (1993) 71(8):2079-88. Taken from

    Omega-3 fatty acids bottom out in the feedlot. Data from: J Animal Sci (1993) 71(8):2079-88. Taken with gratitude from


  2. Higher in Potential Cancer-Fighters – Grass fed beef is higher in CLA, which is a potential cancer fighter and also higher in vaccinic acid, which can be converted into CLA.
  3. Higher in Vitamins – Grass fed beef is higher in thiamine (vitamin B1) and riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  4. Higher in Antioxidants – Grass fed beef has higher levels of vitamin E and beta-carotene.

    Vitamin E in grassfed beef. Data from: Smith, G.C. "Dietary supplementation of vitamin E to cattle to improve shelf life and case life of beef for domestic and international markets." Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1171. Taken with gratitude from

    Vitamin E in grassfed beef. Data from: Smith, G.C. “Dietary supplementation of vitamin E to cattle to improve shelf life and case life of beef for domestic and international markets.” Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1171. Taken with gratitude from

  5. Higher in Minerals – Grass fed beef is higher in potassium, calcium and magnesium.

S.K. Duckett et al, Journal of Animal Science, (published online) June 2009, “Effects of winter stocker growth rate and finishing system on: III. Tissue proximate, fatty acid, vitamin and cholesterol content.”  Also for a great article on grass fed beef, meat, milk and poultry check out Eat Wild.

 Quality of the Cows Life in Grass Fed Beef

I am an unashamed omnivore, proud of my status at the top of the food chain. Nothing about that means that I do not value the lives of the animals that I eat any less than I value any life.  It matters to treat all living things with kindness, care and consideration. There is absolutely no excuse to neglect another living being. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves and you can make your own decisions as to which life looks happiest.

Feedlot cattle. Just picture yourself in that dusty pen with all those bodies, constantly. Flickr Photo Credit: Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, used under Creative Commons. Industrial Feedlot

Feedlot cattle. Just picture yourself in that dusty pen with all those bodies, constantly. Flickr Photo Credit: Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, used under Creative Commons. Industrial Feedlot

This is the life of honest to god grass fed beef from Now don't these look like happy cows?

This is the life of honest to god grass fed beef from Now don’t these look like happy cows?

The simple fact is that their environment speaks for itself. I have no ethical problem with eating meat, but I have a huge ethical issue with raising animals in a cruel or unnatural environment.

Other Thoughts on Grass Fed Cattle vs. Feedlot Cattle.

I’d like to digress for a minute into the musings of my mind, simply because these issues aren’t talked about too much with farmed beef.  Obviously on a feedlot cattle need daily doses of antibiotics so that they don’t get diseases from all the other cows there – it’s like humans in prison, but with less space. Communicable disease travels quickly.  Of course I don’t like that, but what about lifestyle diseases? These cows are being fed a diet that has nothing to do with what they would get in the wild (which is grass). That diet happens to be tremendously high in sugars and starches, which in humans leads pretty directly to diabetes.  Is it safe to assume that the cows we eat are largely diabetic cows but that this doesn’t matter to growers because they’re slaughtered before the health ramifications show up? I would theorize that this is exactly the situation. I’m guessing that by eating diabetic or pre-diabetic cows, we may actually also be ingesting their hunger and satiety hormones as well as the inflammatory particles that the cows flesh would be saturated with. What would that mean if my theory is correct? It would mean that by eating diabetic animals we are raising in our own bodies some of the hormonal and inflammatory factors that would contribute to our own diabetes.  Food for thought.

Economic Impact of Grass Fed Beef

This is a hard one to parse out. Grass fed cows take more time to raise, more land per animal and more expertise in their farmers. This means it costs more (often far more) per pound for the consumer.  That can be a real challenge if you have a family of four. In defense of grass fed the farmers are more likely to be small family farmers rather than huge agri-business and more of that money is more likely to stay in the hands of real families and real communities. Environmentally this requires less chemical use and healthier land maintenance, but the bottom line is that it’s expensive. The compromise that I’ve come to is eating less meat, but higher quality and filling in the gaps with more fruits and veggies. This gives me a healthy balanced diet, keeps me in my food budget, and makes sure that I’m putting money towards the things that are important to me.  Grass fed beef, grass fed meats and sustainably raised food in general have become a priority for me, but I’d love to know what you think so please leave your feedback!

Eat From The Earth – Forage for Cleavers

In keeping with the foraging theme, it’s cleavers season in Texas and my yard has a bountiful harvest. Cleavers always pop up in early spring – in Texas that’s mid February to mid March, but if you’re elsewhere in the country it’s at the end of the frost and snow season and along with the early greening-up of the world.

Forage for cleavers - great kidney tonic and cleanser. Abundant this time of year in Texas.

Forage for cleavers – great kidney tonic and cleanser. Abundant this time of year in Texas.

Cleavers are a very seasonal plant – really only appearing for about a month every spring and appearing in unlikely places – yards, edges of roads, edges of wooded areas and generally places that might be called “transition zones.” That means the edges of things or the spaces where one type of landscape changes into another. They’re easy to spot because there’s a bare green stem with a whirl of 6 leaves, then bare green stem, then another whirl.  It’s not an easy plant to confuse with anything else and so it’s a great plant if you’re new to foraging and don’t want to risk anything toxic – probably a good idea, right? If it’s distinctive looks weren’t enough, cleavers has one other unique characteristic that makes it spectacularly hard to confuse with anything else, and that is the reason it got it’s name.  Cleavers is actually covered with tiny barbs – they’re soft and not prickly, but it will happily stick to your shirt. It’s a great test to make sure you’ve got the right plant.

Cleavers - great yard food to eat from the earth. This shows the way cleavers will stick to your shirt - providing a convenient positive identification.

Cleavers – great yard food to eat from the earth. This shows the way cleavers will stick to your shirt – providing a convenient positive identification.

In terms of flavor, Cleavers is some of my favorite yard food. To me cleavers tastes very much like spring – it’s a fresh, green sort of flavor that I look forward to after winter.  I’m guessing my neighbors think I’m a little odd as I’ll often grab a sprig to munch on my way out for work. Cleavers is best mixed in with a salad, if you’re eating it raw, or with other greens to cook as a pot green.  I think it would be too much on it’s own and probably too much for your body as well – in part because cleavers, or Galium aparine  is strongly medicinal.

Medicinal Uses of Cleavers, or Galium aparine

Cleavers as a blood and lymph cleanser:

Cleavers has been used historically for a wide variety of ailments, my favorite of which is as a cleanser for the blood and lymphatic system.  Just like spring is a great time to get into your house and do a deep clean, purging all of the unwanted junk that arises over the winter, it’s also a great time to clean out your own system.  Galium, which appears naturally at just this time, can be a fantastic addition to that protocol. This can be as simple as eating 1-2 stems raw and fresh (the little barbs on the plant have an interesting feel inside the mouth) or you can dry some of the herb and continue to use it year round in teas.  As part of the cleansing process you will notice it also has a mild diuretic effect, and will increase the amount you urinate slightly.

This blood and lymph cleansing effect can help with swollen glands, skin rashes and eruptions, liver, kidney and urinary disorders and to boost overall energy and vitality when combined with a general detoxification protocol. Again – spring cleaning can be a great thing for your whole body. Cleavers may be such an effective blood cleanser simply because it is a potent antioxidant, and strong free radical scavenging powers have been demonstrated in research of the aqueous extract.  Good thing because the aqueous, or water extract, is the easiest one to make at home in the form of a tea.

Cleavers as an anti-tumor and anti-cancer agent:

Galium species are a new target for research as anti-cancer agents. This includes cleavers (Galium aparine) and it’s cousin lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum).  Galium aqueous extract (this is herbal tea) shows strong cytotoxic effects on various tumor lines including Hep2 and HLaC79 cell lines – these are two aggressive head and neck cancers. It has also been studied with success in cervical, breast, prostate and bladder cancer.  Historically, cleavers is one ingredient in the famously controversial herbal anti-cancer formula called Hoxsey formula. There are various ways of preparing this formula, but one of the safer and less controversial versions is below.

Hoxsey-like formula:

1 oz Red clover
1 oz Burdock
1 oz Dandelion root
1 oz Sarsaparilla
1 oz Oregon grape
1 oz Cleavers
1 oz Buckthorn
1 oz Poke
1 oz Echinacea
1 oz Licorice
1 oz Ginger
1 oz Wild yam

This formula can be mixed in large batches and brewed as a concentrate (like the similar anti-cancer formula which is available retail called Flor-Essence) or mixed dry and brewed in small batches.  To make a cup of tea use 1 tablespoon of the mixed dry herb and simmer in a cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes.  As a starter anti-cancer cleanse Hoxsey suggested having a half cup of tea every 1-2 hours for a week.

Although the cancer research we have now is insufficient to say whether or not this would be an effective protocol for any particular cancer by itself, it would certainly be a good addition to an already existing cancer protocol and could potentially be used in conjunction with other cancer therapies such as radiation.  If you are using chemotherapy talk with your MD or oncologist about any herbs before adding them, simply because we genuinely don’t know how those therapies will interact.

In every situation please talk with your doctor and health care team before starting a new therapy, especially for something as serious as cancer.

Cleavers as a topical:

Cleavers tea has also been used as a topical wash for burns, skin rashes, skin eruptions, and generally irritated skin.  Historically it was mashed into a pulp and applied to bites and stings. Research has shown that water extract of cleavers have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory effects so no wonder it’s good for your skin.

Cleavers are a wonderful addition to your spring diet and can be eaten raw, added to salads, cooked up with a variety of other pot greens like spinach, kale, chard or collards or dried for use in herbal teas. And all of this for free out of your yard. Will wonders never cease?

Eat From The Earth: Foraging for Your Food

I am a big fan of plants and herbs, a big fan of the outdoors and a big fan of food – so let’s face it – foraging is pretty much my favorite thing.  Why you might ask? Why would I forage for food when there are so many shiny, waxed fruits and veggies at the supermarket? It’s a fair question.

Here is why I’m passionate about foraging for my food and why I think you might be too:

  1. Supermarkets are boring: Everyone agrees we’re supposed to eat lots of fruits and veggies every day. And many of us try to do that, but here’s the problem – we end up eating the same 5 – 10 kinds of fruits and veggies almost every day. Frankly, that can be more than a little boring.  I can’t be the only person who has gone to the grocery store and walked down the same aisle thinking “organic kale, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, bananas, apples, parsley, ginger, peppers. Yep – same as last week.” It’s not that there aren’t some exciting and wonderful foods out there, it’s that they’re hard to grow on a large scale, hard to transport, and hard to sell because plenty of people haven’t heard of them. Shake your diet up a bit and start to forage – this is the planet’s gift to those of us savvy enough to enjoy it!

    The uniformity of grocery store tomatoes. Try foraging! © Jamie Wilson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

    The uniformity of grocery store tomatoes. Try foraging! © Jamie Wilson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

  2. Foraging is the perfect excuse to be outside: I *love* being outside, but there are only so many walks around the neighborhood, trips to the springs and hikes I can take in a week before I’m looking for something else – why not bring a field-guide and gather some food too?
  3. Foraged food is sacred food: There is something so magical about being connected to the earth, and connected to the place your food comes from.  This can be as simple as farmers market and visiting local farms, or it can be a little bit deeper and more vital than that.  Foraging – finding food in your natural environment – gives you a profound sense of just how much you are supported by the earth, by creation, by the divine mystery at all moments.  It is literally finding nourishment everywhere. Think about that for a moment because it is truly a profound idea to find nourishment all around you. This is a tangible gift to you for no reason at all – only because you are alive and have the eyes to see it.
  4. Foraged food is the best for nutritarians: Remember the nutritarian idea? It’s the notion that you choose the most nutritionally dense foods possible at all times.  Herbs, weeds, the plants that have difficult environments and survive because they are sturdy are generally the most nutrient dense plants out there and your body will thank you for the introduction to them.
  5. Your taste buds need some excitement: I’m just guessing here, but you probably know what spinach tastes like.  And green beans, and carrots and maybe even rutabagas. But you may not know what cleavers taste like, or the tart little pods that grow on some native clovers, or dandelion blossoms, or rose petals or juniper berries. These fresh, unique flavors can give you a whole different experience in your salad. They can enliven your dinner, your cocktails, your day.  Why be dull?
  6. You want to survive the zombie apocalypse: Well, don’t we all really. 🙂 Might as well build those survival skills now while there’s nary a zombie in sight.

Food Foraging Tips:

  1. Positive identification is key: When you’re first starting with foraging and just getting into it, be sure to choose foods that only look like themselves and can’t be mistaken for something else.  As your experience level grows and you get more used to looking at plants in detail then you can start in on the little more difficult foods.
  2. Expect the Unexpected: We are so used to the flavors that we are used to – it’s easy to forget that there is an infinite variety of taste experiences out there. Just because it’s green and leafy doesn’t mean it tastes like lettuce.  Likewise, just because it has a totally different flavor than you’re used to doesn’t mean it isn’t great food – you just have to begin to create space for it in your mouth.
  3. Start with Yard Food: Yard food is exactly what it sounds like – food foraged from your yard.  Why? Well, it’s pretty convenient for one, and there’s the added bonus that almost everyone knows what a dandelion looks like. Yard food is familiar food.

    Yard food! Gorgeous, sunny dandelion. © Ichtor | Dreamstime Stock Photos

    Yard food! Gorgeous, sunny dandelion. © Ichtor | Dreamstime Stock Photos

  4. Prepare to be Fascinated: If you’re anything like me, you’ll find an interesting clump of plants (usually in a place where lawn is supposed to be growing) that you recognize.  Right next to that interesting clump, there will be another clump of different plants that are also interesting, and perhaps you haven’t seen this clump before. You will find that when you start looking there is an entirely engrossing world in your yard just waiting to be discovered and all you need is a good guidebook.
  5. All you need is a good guidebook: Try foraging in your yard a few times, and if you feel the fascination kick-in then it’s time to invest in a good guidebook or field guide.  There are plenty of them out there – and many are specific to the area where you live. Of course I will keep writing about this because I love it, but I probably can’t write enough to keep pace with your fascination.
  6. Find a foraging-friendly friend: Everything is more fun when there’s two of you, and once you start doing some serious tromping around in the woods and fields and roadsides it can be nice to have company. I feel 100% confident that you will start tromping around seriously, so we may as well use the buddy system.

American Crab Apple blossoms - beautiful and good for the nutritarian in you! From Willis Orchards.

Are You a Nutritarian?

I *love* the concept of being a nutritarian – of looking for the most nutrient dense foods and enjoying those. Of broadening your ideas about what good food really is – we’ll be talking about this so much more because all of a sudden I’m an aspiring nutritarian (does anyone know do crab apples grow in Texas? I’m getting a tree). It’s time we embrace the sweet apples sour cousins, the grains less convenient early ancestors and yes, even the lowly dandelion from the yard (please don’t spray with weed killer – just dig it out and add it to your lunch.) Yes – there may be some growing pains for all of us as we adjust our taste buds to enjoy more bitter, tart and pungent but WOW about the nutrition!

What is a Nutritarian you Ask?

Funny – I have this AWESOME infographic right here…

An infographic by the team at Online Masters In Public Health

In answer to my own question, there is a Texas Crab Apple, which you can learn about from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. There is also an American Crab Apple which you can buy for $3.95 for a seedling that is rated for zones 5-9 (we’re an 8 in Austin but need something that’s rated to 9, which is hotter, and about 5, which is colder because you know as well as I do it’s unpredictable here.) Here’s a picture from Willis Orchards:

American Crab Apple blossoms - beautiful and good for the nutritarian in you! From Willis Orchards.

American Crab Apple blossoms – beautiful and good for the nutritarian in you! From Willis Orchards.

If anyone plants one this spring will you keep me posted? And expect more posts about foraged foods in Texas, because we’ve all got weeds, we might as well eat them.

Your Microbiome: Eating for ten trillion

You have a fantastic and wonderful microbiome, or personal ecosystem of beneficial bugs, which means that you are in fact eating for ten trillion. While ten trillion helpful friends seems like a rather large dinner party, these good bacteria and other critters are busy constantly strengthening your immune system, helping you to digest your food and manufacturing vitamins in your gut as well as strengthening your skin and mucosal barriers by defending their turf from invaders.  If you’re a little fuzzy on the whole microbiome concept then here is more information about your own personal microbiome. Given everything that your good bacteria are doing for you, it makes sense to add some microbiome-friendly foods into your diet.

Simple Foods that Protect Your Good Bacteria – The  Microbiome Maximizing Diet:

  1. Breast Milk! Yeah –  probably not. But it’s a good option to give your babies because human breast milk is chock full of not only beneficial microbes that help baby to build a good microbiome, but also complex carbs (oligosaccharides) and glycosolated proteins that your baby can’t break down or digest.  But guess who can? Beneficial bacteria in the Bifidobacterium species. These Bifidobacterium buddies actually help coat and defend the babies growing intestinal tract. While it’s a little odd, breast milk is being used as an experimental treatment for some forms of intestinal disease in adults as well.
  2. Prebiotics. You may have heard this term before, probably from a supplement or on your probiotic bottle.  Prebiotics are actually specific carbohydrates, especially fibers, that are the preferred food for different strains of beneficial organisms in your digestive tract.  Just to review, the largest group of gut bacteria lives in your ascending colon, which connects to your small intestine and runs up the right side of your abdomen.  It is here that a fermentation process takes place.  In this fermentation process prebiotics are gradually changed and release different end-products that feed flora in a beneficial way. Prebiotics include inulin, galactooligosaccharide, and many other long-named substances which can be conveniently lumped into the much more pronounceable category of fiber.  Eating a diet high in fiber, fruits and veggies feeds your microbiome and helps your gut to have healthy bacteria and good digestion.

    Awesome wikimedia commons file of your digestive tract. Your ascending colon is where fermentation happens for your microbiome.

    Awesome wikimedia commons file of your digestive tract. Your ascending colon is where fermentation happens for your microbiome.

  3. Cultured Foods.  Foods that have been cultured actually have their own little microbiome – the process of fermenting or culturing food is simply allowing good bacteria to grow and partially digest those foods and give them a fabulous taste in the process. Think yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and cheese. Also there are cultured fruit juice (belly), cultured coconut water (inner eco), and cultured butter (Vermont creamery, organic valley) available.

So the short list is fruits, veggies, fiber and cultured foods.  Easy enough! These simple steps help you to maintain a great immune system, have healthy digestive function, and even maintain normal weight.  Yes – your microbiome can contribute to your body shape too. These are ten trillion friends worth keeping!

Infographic: Michael Pollan Says Home Cooking Might be the Single Best Way to Improve Your Health by Doug Pibel — YES! Magazine

Home cooking for health isn’t a new idea, but it seems to be an often-overlooked idea.  I was thrilled to come across this great infographic from YES! Magazine’s managing editor Doug Pibel.  After all, home cooking for health might actually be the most important factor to determining your quality of nutrition.  At home you can choose to use healthy oils, to limit the fats to good fats, to use quality ingredients and to make nutrient-dense foods rather than nutrient poor foods.

Home cooking for health infographic by Doug Pibel from YES! Magazine

YES! Magazine’s great infographic on home cooking for health – by Doug Pibel, originally published 12/5/2013

I recognize cooking at home is a time commitment – it takes energy and time and there’s clean-up involved. It’s also a great family activity (or can be), a way to teach your kiddos about food, where food comes from, nutrition and cooking and a way to connect with your family without the TV or computer being involved. In this way home cooking for health is healthy for your body but also for your soul and family.

Here’s a link to the original article and original posting of the infographic from one of my favorite publications: YES! Magazine.

Infographic: Michael Pollan Says Home Cooking Might be the Single Best Way to Improve Your Health by Doug Pibel — YES! Magazine.

Why Should You Eat Seasonably?

Sure sure, you’ve probably heard that you should eat seasonably. It seems like there’s always a new trend with food – eat five colors a day, eat Dr. So-and-so’s diet, only ever eat grapefruits, etc…  Some of these trends just happen to be good advice that gets popular because it’s actually good advice  (some are just, well, trends).  When you see the grapefruit swap out for cabbage or soup  but everything else about the fad diet is the same you can bet it was probably a fad without a whole lot of anything to back it up. But what about eating seasonably?

Eat Seasonably!

Eat Seasonably Calendar from For the full size version, please click the link below.

Seasonal Eating Calendar from

Eat Seasonably (The Basics):

This isn’t anything fancy – it’s literally just eating the foods that are in season in your area when they’re at their peak.  This means you’re eating a whole lot more Spring foods in Spring, like asparagus and early greens. More Summer foods in Summer like peaches and melons and you guessed it, more Fall foods in the Fall. Bring on the pumpkins!  This makes sense in a lot of ways:

  • You Get the Best Flavor Eating Seasonably. Eating the foods that are in season right now means that everything you eat is at it’s peak freshness and maximal nutrient value.  You are getting the best of everything as it’s ripening and NOT getting the limp produce that’s been shipped across the globe unripe and hung out in airplanes and trucks for days before getting to you.
  • You Help The Earth. Eating the foods that are in season in your area right now, means you’re more likely to be eating local produce that doesn’t have to be shipped and that’s grown by local farmers in your own community. Not only are you contributing to your local economy, but you’re also reducing the pounds and pounds of produce that are shipped all over the globe every day.
  • You Get the Best Nutrition. Produce that ripens fully before it’s picked has had the best opportunity to absorb as many nutrients as it can from the earth. It’s developed it’s antioxidants more fully and so is nutritionally a richer, more complete source of the things you need.
  • You Participate in the Great Mystery.  Here’s the thing – there is a design in this universe that is so much bigger than we are.  Some people say it’s coincidence, but I say it’s too good to be coincidence.  The foods that are ripening in the summer when it’s hottest also happen to be the foods that have the most cooling effects on your body (think watermelon and cucumber).  The root veggies that mature in the fall help your body to nourish itself deeply in preparation for the cold to come in Winter.  The garlic, onions, horseradish and spicy foods of Northern climates help to thicken your blood to prepare for cold winters while the Jalapenos and peppers of the Southern climates thin your blood to help you weather the overly-hot summers.  Coincidence? I think not. When you eat seasonably you allow this great mystery into your life.

Your environment is meant to nourish and sustain you and help you exist in that little piece of the world.  So sure, you could buy more frozen peas or frozen corn or grapes shipped from Chile (nothing against you folks in Chile), but what are you missing here at home? Is it possible that your next Texas summer might be easier because you’re eating your local Texas produce as it ripens through the year?  And think about the animals “ripening” as well.  There’s a reason that we eat turkey at Thanksgiving and it isn’t just tradition – this is the season where turkeys are in their prime and we can derive the most benefit from their addition to our table. Eat seasonably this year and see what changes for you.

This past year I’ve been experimenting with my body to truly follow my instincts for foods that are ripe right now.  I can tell you there was a good three weeks where all I really wanted was watermelon and water with cucumber slices in it and I let myself follow that urge.  It’s possible that it’s coincidence, or that this summer wasn’t a horrible one, but I genuinely feel like I was able to enjoy the summer more and get out an do more because my body was able to withstand the heat with more grace.  I wasn’t quite so close to my pass-out point all the time.

Now that we’re coming into fall I’m craving roasted root veggies and pumpkin smoothies and all the wonderful things that it doesn’t make sense to eat in the summer.  I’m craving FALL FOOD. There are so many ways to know what’s in season in your area, but by far the simplest and most pleasurable is to just visit the farmer’s market.  Your local farmer’s market will have fresh produce from farmers who probably picked or harvested it within the last 24 hours.  No sitting around in trucks or spoiling in the supermarket – this is fresh and seasonal and I think will help your body to live in the world a little bit more easily.

Seasonal Food in Texas Month-by-Month:

Here’s a great list from the National Resource Defense Council of Texas seasonal foods month by month which also has a farmer’s market finder.

Happy Eating Everyone!