Eating local, seasonal
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
First a shout out to those who joined my Cooking Matters grocery store tour sponsored by Pitt Partner’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Action Team. I had a grand time sharing tips on how to eat healthy on a budget as we roamed the aisles of a local Food Lion store.
I was ably assisted by Caroline Collier of ECU Department of Family Medicine’s diabetes prevention program and De’Vette Thomas of Vidant Health’s patient education program. I was impressed by the interest of Caroline’s class had in eating healthy to avoid developing diabetes.
If you have a group interested in a grocery store led by one of the trained leaders, contact Mary Gaskins at email@example.com
And a shout out to ECU’s Paul DeVita in the Department of Kinesiology. In my column about obesity and osteoarthritis (March 13, 2019) we failed to note that ECU contributed to the diet and exercise study conducted at Wake Forest University through biomechanical analyses conducted by Paul. His calculations identify the changes in knee forces during walking with weight loss.
Indeed, the reduction in knee forces is larger than the actual amount of weight loss, sometimes up to four times larger. So, losing 20 pounds can reduce knee forces by up to 80 pounds on each walking step and reducing the wear and tear on joints, cartilage and bone. That should be motivation for some of you who complain about hip and knee pain, losing a few pounds may help you move freely and with less pain.
It’s an amazing time of year in eastern North Carolina. I enjoy the fairyland look the spring flowering trees and shrubs create — especially after a rain has washed the pine pollen away. I start thinking about the re-opening of the farm stands with spring crops. I can’t wait to pop a fresh strawberry into my mouth.
The experts tell us to eat seasonally and locally when we can. Seasonal eating means acquiring and consuming foods that are picked or harvested at the same time of year they come to market. Local eating means consuming foods grown near the place they are sold.
Like many of you I have thought of local as grown or caught within a few miles of my home. It has confused me when I see food sold as “local” when I know it’s been trucked in from Georgia or South Carolina. I learned that experts define “near” as within 150 miles of where it is sold. The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 defines local food as the food is originating in the same state or within 400 miles. Seasonal food is sometimes local, but local food is always seasonal.
There is a new online guide from my long-time colleague Dr. Alice Ammerman at UNC Chapel Hill prepared that gives great tips about saving money and eating healthy produce. You can find her “A Budget-Friendly Guide to Eating Fresh, Local, Produce” at https://onlinemph.unc.edu/eating-on-a-budget.
The guide lists these vegetables and fruits as available in the spring in eastern North Carolina farm markets: arugula, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, green onions, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, peanuts, peas, spinach, strawberries, summer squash and sweet potatoes.
Seeing beets listed reminds me to share with you my special bitter sweet (cwikla) recipe for Easter. The ingredients are: 2 pounds of cooked beets (more colorful and flavorful if prepared with fresh rather than canned beets), 5 ounces of prepared horseradish, 4 or fewer teaspoons of sugar or sweetener, ½ teaspoon of salt, 4 tablespoons of light sour cream, and 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine (I have never tried it with olive oil). If you use canned beets, a drop or two of red food coloring brightens the dish.
Cook the beets (I usually bake them for an hour or until tender at 350F). Cool. Grate (coarse or fine to your taste). Melt butter and stir in sugar, sour cream and horseradish and add to the beets. Add more horseradish if you like it hot or more sour cream if you like it creamy. Warm the mixture to let the flavors blend and then chill before serving. It has a shelf life of a week in the refrigerator.
I was the expert taster in my childhood home. The reaction on my face told my mom if she needed to add more heat or sweet. It usually took three to four tastes before it was “just right.” As you may have surmised, they are called bitter-sweet to remind us of the death and resurrection of Christ. Mother would serve this beet dish as a side to the Easter ham or kielbasa— fresh not smoked along with dark bread, green beans polonaise, fresh cucumber salad and banana cream strawberry pie for dessert.
For those of you who celebrate Easter, may I wish you “Wesolego Alleluja.” For those of you celebrating the Passover Season or another “rite of spring,” I wish you the joy of the season.
Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an affiliate professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.