Fresh vegetables are a critical part of living a healthy and abundant life. If grown correctly they will contain all the minerals, B and C group vitamins, antioxidants and other essential organic compounds. In this article I’ll outline how to choose your vegetables and why you should eat the freshest first.
Time of harvest
When you go to a supermarket, organic retailer or farmer’s market you will see a diverse display of organic vegetables. These have all arrived at different times depending on where they were harvested and how long it takes to transport the goods. In general, most vegetables arrive at the retail outlet or market between 3-7 days after harvest. Harvest takes one day, then the crop is cooled overnight and transported as soon as possible. Depending on the crop this transport may take up to 3 days to arrive at the wholesaler or retail destination. In winter time for example, zucchini’s come down from North QLD, 2-3 days by truck. Even farmer’s markets are misleading because many of the stalls often purchase produce from the organic wholesalers 1-2 days before. These resellers actually sell produce that was possibly harvested 5-7 days before.
Decline in nutrients begins immediately
Once the vegetable is harvested, the nutrient levels begin to decline. In general, 7 days after harvest the nutrient levels have declined by as much as 80%. This is particularly the case with vitamins, antioxidants and other beneficial organic compounds.
Farmers for centuries have harvested early in the morning and sold the produce immediately. Since the introduction of cool rooms there has been improved cool chain management, crops are cooled down immediately to the ideal temperature. For consumers, keeping the temperature of the vegetables around 4-5 degrees is essential for locking in the nutrients and keeping things fresh. Check that your fridge is cool enough.
Washed versus unwashed
Here at Mount Tamborine Organic Garden we minimise the washing of vegetables. Unless it is rainy weather and the soil has splashed on the foliage, our produce is left unwashed. For leafy greens this protects the probiotic layer that surrounds each leaf, keeping your vegetables tasty and crunchier for longer.
Oxygen and sealed bags
There is no doubt that keeping vegetables in sealed containers or bags helps retain their nutritional value. The reduction in oxygen helps keep the produce crispy for longer. Our bags have a reusable zip lock. We are also trialling cellophane bags for certain crops. This is made from plant cellulose and is the most eco friendly option we have. Other than this we encourage our customers to bring their own containers or request we combine the leafy greens into one bag when we prepare their on-line order.
What to eat first
Given that most consumers buy fresh produce once a week, it is important to eat most of your leafy greens as soon as possible. Here at Mount Tamborine Organic Garden we harvest most of our leafy greens one-two days before you receive them. We encourage you to try our greens first to get an appreciation of fresh flavour and crunchiness. The tastes are extraordinary so don’t leave the greens too long in the fridge.
Dehydrate versus rotting
One indicator of quality vegetables is how they behave in the fridge. Quality vegetables dehydrate and don’t rot in the fridge. If they are rotting this indicates poor mineral levels in the soil, too much moisture, bad weather at harvest or poor cool chain management. It is not an easy job being a gardener or farmer but by explaining to you what to look out for you will understand the commitment farmers have in order to produce good food. Ideally I would rather see you eat the produce fresh rather than leaving the product to dehydrate.
Eat me fresh
Here at Mount Tamborine Organic Garden we want you to really understand what fresh means. Retailers have for too long sold us produce that is anything but fresh. The closer you are to the farmer the better the food will be for you.
Finally, when you come across vegetables that are grown by local farmers eat them first. This is because their nutrient level is still high. Other produce from resellers can be eaten later as most of the nutrients have already passed their peak. Don’t eat our vegetables later because they last longer, eat them first and enjoy the benefits.
Happy eating till next time