How to Build More Vegies into Your Diet

You know that you should eat more vegetables. Stop making excuses.

Plant a Garden

Me — with a prize-winning tomato in 1963.

My dad was an organic gardener before it was in fashion. He was proud of the heat at the center of his compost, learned about companion planting, and made it impossible for me to eat a tasteless out-of-season tomato without wincing. Every summer we had tomatoes, peppers, and corn plus whatever vegetables and fruits captured his fancy. Cantaloupe was a big hit one year.

I used to have a vegetable garden. Organic of course. I would plant my tomatoes on Mother’s Day instead of Memorial Day (my dad’s approach). I would intersperse dill  and nasturtiums as decoy plants for cutworms and use marigolds to repel pests. There were always multiple varieties of basil. Lettuce, kale, cilantro too. By August, most years, the weeds would overtake the smaller plants, but everything tasted great (if I harvested it before it rotted.)

Join a CSA

Patti Popp of Sport Hill Farm with one of the hens who lays organic eggs.

Gardening took more work than I was willing to devote to it. Thanks to our friend Bob, we learned about Sport Hill Farm, an organic farm in Easton, CT. They offer a CSA program: Community Supported Agriculture. The idea: You share the risks and rewards with a local farmer. As a member you buy shares (providing money up front, which helps the farmer’s cash flow). Every week from early June through mid October, you pick up your share of the harvest. The CT NOFA site lists CSA programs. It’s too late to join one for this summer but not too early to get on a list for 2014.

With a CSA, you get what you get and don’t get upset. There are two tricks to eating seasonally like this: figuring out how to cook vegetables that you never encountered or never would buy on your own… and not wasting any food before the next pick up. I learned about garlic scapes, baby bok choy, and the different varieties of kale. I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but I’ve learned to appreciate dark purple, light/striped purple, and even white varieties. Over the years I have perfected a ratatouille recipe based on  Melissa D’Arabian’s E-Z-P-O-T approach.

Visit Your Local Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s Markets remind me of malls — in a good way. They serve as a social meeting place, offer one-stop shopping, and usually have at least one vendor selling something that you can eat right away. Nearly every town and city in CT hosts a market at least once a week. Here’s CT NOFA’s list. Look for farmers who offer organic produce and try to skip the luscious sweet treats of local bakeries. Many farmers accept WIC and SNAP payments, making healthy food more accessible to lower-income customers.

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