Thursday, July 26, 2012

Marinated tomatoes - more reasons to buy local

Locally grown produce tastes better. Just ask a tomato...

This is a great time of year to get out of the grocery stores and into local markets. We’re well into the growing season now so there is a delicious variety and abundance of fresh local produce.

Just last weekend I came home from the Kingston Market with carrots, zucchini, garlic scapes, beets, beet greens, Swiss chard,cauliflower, strawberries and sugar snap peas. But I could also have bought broccoli, kale, numerous other greens, turnip, string beans, potatoes and fresh herbs. This weekend there will be tomatoes. There is fresh bread to be had,eggs, free range chicken, pork and beef, honey and jams.

And so it goes, week after week through our growing season. The better part of a grocery order, all grown or produced nearby.

You don`t have to go to the Kingston Peninsula to enjoy the local abundance. Local markets -- The Saint John City Market, Country Harvest, Cochran`s, Kredels and others -- buy directly from farmers this time of year. Thanks to these markets, supporting local farmers and growers is easy and convenient.

If you need more reasons to search out local produce, consider this: Locally grown food tastes better and is more nutritious than the grocery store variety because it`s picked ripe and gets to you within a couple of days. It isn`t gassed to ripen, fumigated to kill foreign pests, or coated with petroleum-based waxes to keep it from going bad. It’s fresh in the most delicious sense of the word.

Back to the taste, if you're not convinced that produce grown nearby tastes better than imported compare for yourself. Taste locally grown carrots and beans alongside those from the grocery store or Costco. Or better yet, compare a local, field-ripened tomato to a grocery store variety.

Our growing season is so short we should all enjoy these local flavours while we can. Here is my favourite way to eat local tomatoes:

Marinated tomatoes

6 medium tomatoes
2 Tbsp fresh herbs (oregano, basil, thyme)


  • 2 tsp spice mix (see recipe below)
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Salt & pepper

Spice mix

  • 2 ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ – ½ tsp dried chipotle pepper or cayenne
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

Slice the tomatoes and lay them in a dish that’s deep enough to accommodate the marinade without it dribbling over the sides.
Pour over the marinade and let the flavours blend for a couple of hours.
Sprinkle with herbs before serving.
If you’d like to make this a bit more substantial nestle some slabs of feta in among the tomatoes. Or you can serve grilled feta on the side.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Avoiding pesticides and maintaining your sanity in the produce section of the grocery store

The dirty dozen and clean fifteen help you reduce your exposure to pesticides on produce.

When you’re in the produce section at the grocery store do you look at the organic-labeled fruit and vegetables and wonder if you should be buying it? Here is a bit of information that will help you decide.
Environmental Working Group, a research organization based in the U.S. has released its annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, a list of produce ranked according to the amount of pesticide residue they contain by the time they reach your table. The guide is a helpful way to limit your pesticide exposure and manage your grocery budget while still eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
The Guide is comprised of two lists, the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. The Dirty Dozen are the 12 fruits and vegetables that have tested the highest for pesticide residue. To rank produce EWG takes into account how the food is usually prepared, ex. bananas are peeled and apples are washed but not peeled. Produce on this list is what you want to buy organic if possible, or you can limit your consumption.
The corresponding Clean 15 are the fruits and vegetables that have low or no pesticide residue so you don’t have to stress about finding it organically grown, and you don’t have to spend extra grocery dollars on the organic version. Since organic produce is more expensive it’s good to know when you should fork out the extra money.
Topping the Dirty Dozen list again this year are apples, followed by celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines (imported), grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries (domestic) and potatoes. EWG has also given green beans, kale and collards an honorable mention of sorts because of a specific insecticide that commonly contaminates these green veggies. It’s a known neurotoxin so is of special concern.
But the good news is that the Clean 15 includes a great variety of choices: onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangos, eggplant, kiwi, cantaloupe (domestic), sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon and mushrooms.
A few highlights from this year’s report: at least one pesticide was found on 68 percent of the samples analyzed. 98 percent of the apple samples tested positive for pesticides and 96 percent of celery samples tested positive for pesticides, followed by potatoes at 91 percent.  As a category, grapes have more types of pesticides than any other produce (64 different types!|)
No single sample from the Clean Fifteen had more than 5 types of pesticides detected (this is a good thing) and more than 90 percent of cabbage, asparagus, sweet peas, eggplant and sweet potato samples had no more than one pesticide detected. (No samples of sweet corn and onions had more than one pesticide.)
The idea of ingesting chemicals when you`re just trying to have a healthy diet can be stressful. Just keep in mind that eating conventionally grown produce is still healthier than avoiding it for fear of pesticides and loading up on the Clean Fifteen give you the best of both worlds. Vist for the full report.