Seasonal Bounty: A Key to Optimun Health

writestuffStarred Page By writestuff, 16th Jul 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
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Cites Benefits of Consuming Seasonal and Homegrown Produce

Eat Well to be Well

Most septuagenarians grew up with the knowledge that eating seasonal bounty was 'good for your body' and a staple for all 'scratch-cooking' style home chefs. Back in the 1940's, during my early childhood, only the elders in our South side, predominately African-American community tended backyard gardens. Usually, these gardens were considered to be the personal sanctuary of an elder parent. 90% of the time this was true unless you were a 'youngster' and privy to those wonderfully memorable special occasions when gardening was shared with a grandchild. In our family, elder parents always planted fruit-bearing trees, herbs,roots and leaf vegetables that were sturdy enough to survive the Windy City's climate. These sage elders all held the same belief ~ 'eat well to be well'. Eating well had less to do with 'eating high off the hog' and more to do with what you ate. Under my grandfather's roof, everyone always consumed complete meals. For my elders, a complete meal always included something from above, on and in the earth, in addition to a 'tall glass of cool water'.



Most elders parents considered a garden essential to their family's survival. The regular consumption of seasonal produce assured healthier lifestyle choices and good eating habits for many of the multi-family households in our community. Besides being patriot, these gardens were a practical way of taking care of self. Of course, if your family prospered and had multiple lots, 1 lot of garden was harvested for you home block's usage. Additionally, large vacant corner lots were often re-purposed and shared as a community garden. Our village styled community thrived physically, emotionally and economically. It was indeed easier to prosper when you and yours worked collectively. 'No Wahala' as it was most common for three - four generations in addition to extended family members to all be housed in the same dwelling. These were the days of meals being gingerly prepared with seasonal produce and scratch cooking methods. Elders did everything with un-hurried care. Whatever the task it was always loving done. Be it homemade vegetable soups, potatoes chips, hand-deveined Collards, savory hot water corn bread, nursery rhymes, bedtime stories or rocking asleep a fretful lap baby. It was a child's paradise and I was extremely blessed to have lived in such an idyllic era.

Vegetable Centric Meals


Grandparents and great-grands were good tenders. By virtue of the passage of time they had become authentic nurturers. They were also great huggers, 'tall tale tellers' and closer to the soil. The majority of these elders had first-hand knowledge of the life-affirming properties of seasonal produce. They were accustom to the various culinary and medicinal benefits of meals prepared with home grown foodstuffs. Specific nutrients were gathered from their seasonal bounty. Backyard vegetable gardens, fruit vines and fruit-bearing trees all contributed to healthier diets. Cooking by season also ensures the greatest consumption of natural nutrients. More than likely, all vegetable centered suppers were most assuredly complete meals. Fresh herbs were always very popular condiments for poultry dishes and inexpensive cuts of meat. The use of fresh herbs and root vegetables are still essential as special enhancements of Gullah cooking.

An elder could be spied early in the morning proudly inspecting their anticipated produce patches. By mid-day these transplanted farmers had consumed 2 Mason jars of water and swapped and/or barter for other 'organic/natural' produce from neighboring backyard gardeners. Mrs. Hernández, from across the alley way, had peach trees and we had Big Daddy Johns' apple tree. So, she had apples for pies (baked or fried) and we had peaches for cobblers and peach brandy. Our elders honored the good earth and paid attention to all manner of things. They were first and foremost attentive to 'the young ones', seasonal produce, farmer's almanac forecast and 'healthy eliminations'. No matter the African diaspora branch, an elder's sage advice came from the same ancient tree and was fortified with every consumed tasty morsel of comfort food. The rule of thumb was to eat fresh.

Tis the Season

Autumn brought an array of splendor in foliage and seasonal bounty. In season herbs and vegetables (root and leaf) added extra flavor and nourishment to every meal. A good fall harvest often meant stocking up on various root vegetables for canning or pickling. A succulent roasted chicken, cornbread dressing, greens and a medley of roasted root vegetable was another of my comfort food favorites. Amongst my family members, from generation to generation every be well garden always included dark leafy greens. Greens are rich in vitamins and considered to be nature's multi-vitamin mineral. Greens were not only an inherited food but they are also simply extremely delicious. The staple of each elder's patch was greens (traditionally - collards, mustards, and turnips). It was common knowledge that a meal of garden plucked Collards greens and sweet savory cornbread had often sustained many a family in meager times. Most backyard gardens also included peppers, garlic, green onions, string beans, sorrel, tomatoes, cucumbers, butternut squash and radishes. Greens were prepared using various culinary styles. In those days the most popular style was the slow simmer Southern style-Collards seasoned with either salt pork, ham hocks and/ or turkey butt. However, today's trends are leaning most heavily towards meatless main dish like Congolese-style Greens, Brazilian-style Collards, Caribbean-style Collards or as an American side dish i.e. fried catfish and/or fried chicken with 2 sides (collards and mac n' cheese). Squash would usually be baked as a side or cooked as a soup. My favorites fall soups are Butternut Squash & Apple Soup, Mustard & Collard Green Soup and Turnip & White bean Soup which is similar to Caldo Gallego.


Unfortunately, all too many Americans live in 'food deserts' areas and are limited in their choice of fresh produce. Thankfully, due to many innovative health initiatives things are rapidly changing. Established drugstore chains now include a limited supply of fresh fruits and expiration date packaged salads as well as milk, cheese, eggs, juice and deli items. Still in all, the ideal nutritional foodstuff choice would be from your own be well garden to your table. The next choice would be from your green grocer to your table. For additional optimal health benefits always consider purchasing locally grown produce. Joining a community gardening group is another good idea. Membership in an organic food co-op is another healthy eating option. Better still, re-purpose your windowsills and harvest a sustainable garden. The culinary enjoyment from flavor enhancement via the usage of your own kitchen window's edible herbs is extremely satisfying. Of course, the ultimate for those truly into survival gardening and vegetable-centered diets would be planting Tree Collards as annuals. However, if none of these options are possible, do take care in grocery shopping. When purchasing from large supermarket chains, buying seasonal products can be tricky. Hence, following some well established buyer's tips are most essential for promoting good health.

Eyes on the Greens

Get to know your green grocer. Seeking and respecting the informed advice of the produce manager can be extremely useful. Buy fresh and only what you'll eat immediately i.e. within (1-7 days) to maintain foodstuff values. Avoid limes, lemons and strawberries that have furry ball spots. Do not purchase fruit that appears soft and/or is brown spotted. Appearance is key when selecting greens as well as salad greens. Special attention is needed in purchasing pre-packaged (mild, bold & bitter) salad green mixtures. Focused upon sell and/or use by dates. Green leafy vegetables with dark/black spots, yellowing and/or and limp leaves are not fresh enough to ensure expected nutritional meal value.


Proper storage of seasonal produce is also extremely important. Always store fresh fruits and vegetables separately. By habit, I wash and dry my fresh produce. I also loosely re-wrap ( in a damped paper towel) all tightly packaged fruits and/or vegetables to avoid quicken spoilage. Seasonal berries should be eaten within at least 3 days of purchase or immediately frozen as they break down rather rapidly. Store tomatoes, bananas, avocados and uncut melons on the countertop. No matter your locale, the highest nutritional value still comes from home gardens and local food sources. For your good health and eating pleasure, I encourage you to make healthier lifestyle choices by simply adopting an old rule of thumb - eat fresh.

CREDITS:
MS. Sandra Washington -aka- 'Eyes on the Greens', Consultant - Cook County, IL.
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia

Tags

Autumn, Backyard Gardens, Community Gardens, Fall Produce, Fresh Produce, Healthier Diets, Root Vegetables, Seasonal Bounty, Superfoods

Meet the author

author avatar writestuff
C.A. Lofton is a proponent of Positive Thinking. Her creative works: lyrics, short stories and poetry. B.A. in English and certificates in counseling and publishing. Website: www.calofton.com

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Comments

author avatar Utah Jay
29th Oct 2014 (#)

A very informative article. I wish I could remember just half of what my parents taught me, but I have retained enough to grow all my own vegetables each year and to put them up to last until the next growing season. We even grow all our own herbs, basil, thyme, sage and such.
I hope others will read this and understand the importance of eating right.

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author avatar writestuff
5th Nov 2014 (#)

Thanks for your support, read and comment. I hold the same hopes and continue to harvest from your sustainable garden. Be well!

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author avatar Retired
4th Nov 2014 (#)

Yes, most of America lives in those 'food deserts' of which you speak. Those urban areas have no land upon which to grow your own vegetables nor time for always-rushed urbanites to prepare such from-scratch meals, never mind sit down to supper with the family.

Those days are gone, my friend. You were fortunate to experience such a wholesome upbringing.

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author avatar writestuff
5th Nov 2014 (#)

Thanks for your read and comment. Yes, I feel truly blessed to have live in such a time. Be well.

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author avatar n.c.radomes
10th Nov 2014 (#)

Your motive is well understood. It's in the summary to consume seasonal and home-grown produce, with the benefits richly woven in the details till the finale. Keep up!

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author avatar writestuff
13th Jan 2015 (#)

Thanks so much for your read comment and kind support.

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author avatar Ptrikha
2nd Jan 2015 (#)

Quite informative and useful. Thanks for sharing this article.

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author avatar writestuff
13th Jan 2015 (#)

Thanks for reading and commenting.

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