KIOS: Eating, Part 8b: Fruits and Vegetables (the “why”)

This post is part of my series, “Kickin’ It Old Skool: Why and How We Are Old-Fashioned” or KIOS for short.  If you’re new to the series, please read my disclaimer before continuing on.  I’m keeping a table of contents to this series here so you can see what I’ve already written about and what more there is to come.

The topic of fruits and vegetables is so wide that I separated it into two posts.  Last week’s post was about the more practical “what we eat” and “where we get the food” side of the equation. This week, I have more to share about why we’ve made the decisions we have about what fruits and vegetables to eat.  

Over the past 4 1/2 years, we’ve made many changes to the kinds of fruits and vegetables we eat, along with where and how we buy them.  Here are a few of the “why” answers behind what we do.

1. Why we only buy fruits and vegetables (F/V) in season:  F/V taste far better and are far more nutritious when eaten in season.  Generally, when you buy F/V  out of season, they also have been flown in from a significant distance and the amount of energy needed to ripen them, keep them fresh, and transport them is astronomical.  Additionally, there are far too many horror stories about how migrant workers are treated to pick all of those F/V.  So for gastronomical, nutritional, and ethical reasons, we prefer to eat F/V only in season.

For example, have you ever eaten a winter tomato?  They are generally tasteless and mushy plus they’ve usually been transported in from thousands of miles away, heavily sprayed and picked by severely mistreated workers.  One of the first decisions we made when we started to change the way we eat was to never buy a fresh tomato in the winter again.

2. Why we buy lots of extra F/V and then can or freeze them:  We prefer to give our money to local farmers rather than big corporations.  We prefer to eat food that has been picked and processed at the height of ripeness.  We don’t mind the extra work involved in preparing the F/V because during the winter, it’s supremely easy to use them.

3. Why we aren’t concerned with the energy we use to power our freezers We haven’t noticed a significant different in our electricity bill since we started using our freezers.  So we know that the amount of electricity we’re using is fairly nominal.  Also, the electricity we use is certainly less than the energy that is required to bring frozen F/V from wherever they’re processed to our local grocery store and then keep them frozen until we take them home (where we still have to pay to keep them in the freezer until we use them).

4. Why we get most of our fruit from organic farms:  Although we don’t strictly follow this, we do try to pay attention to the Dirty Dozen list and limit our consumption of the most heavily contaminated F/V.  Our favorite fruits to preserve (blueberries, apples, peaches, pears, strawberries) are high on that list.  We’re grateful to have places where we can obtain organic fruit.  If we couldn’t, we would heavily limit our consumption of those fruits.  (See here for our explanation of why we pick strawberries where we do.)

5.  Why we don’t eat tropical fruit (yes, that means we don’t even eat bananas):  There is no way to get them even close to local (as in even from within a thousand miles).  More importantly, working conditions for banana workers are atrocious and pesticide use is high and we prefer to keep our money from supporting those things.

6.  Why we make exceptions for certain things (like fresh ginger, lemons, limes, very rarely avocados, and occasionally oranges):  We use a relatively small amount of ginger, lemons, and limes but their flavors makes a huge difference to the kinds of food we like to cook.  We very rarely indulge in avocados (maybe 5-6 times a year?) and do try to at least buy the Florida avocados when we do.  Sometimes, we just want some guacamole!  The same is true for oranges:  we only buy Florida citrus and try to only buy oranges in late winter when we’ve run out of other fruit and our bodies are desperate for a little Vitamin C.

7:  Why we continue to buy non-local storage crops from the farmers’ market in late winter (and why we don’t buy any other F/V from the grocery store):  Onions and garlic are two other crucial items in our kitchen.  We prefer to give our money to the local farmers rather than big chains and so that’s why we continue to buy non-local storage crops (which generally at least come from the US) at the farmers’ market rather than not buy them at all or buy them at the supermarket.

8.  Why we prioritize buying locally over buying “certified organic”:  I answered this question more fully in this post but essentially, we prefer to talk to our local farmers and find out how they raise their crops rather than just look for a sticker which tells us that it’s organic.

9.  Why we sometimes make exceptions to all our rules:  Here’s an example rather than an all-encompassing answer:  This past May, I was pregnant and very sick in my first trimester.  Oranges made me feel better.  I ate A LOT of oranges for about a month, far more than we usually ever buy.  We thought through the decision and mindfully decided that it was a good thing for me to eat oranges, for a season.  Sometimes, there are compelling reasons to do something differently than what we usually do.

10.  Why we love having a garden:  We can eat as many tomatoes as we want all summer long, for free!  Sadly, however, our tomatoes have been a gigantic FAIL this summer – as in, we haven’t eaten a single home-grown tomato, not even a little one.  Sad, sad, sad – we’re blaming our way too busy spring that meant we planted our plants a month late as well as the tomato blight that’s sweeping the East Coast.  (I just needed a tenth item to make the list feel complete!)

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Ellie didn’t eat a banana until she was about 21 months old.  We were at a friend’s house and she was offered a banana so she ate one.  I rather perversely didn’t want Ellie to eat bananas when she was young just to prove to all the critics that it is possible to feed a young baby without using bananas!

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I know I’ve said this before but to emphasize:  I know we have the luxury of living in a climate/environment where we can buy (or grow) almost any F/V that we want to eat.  I will be writing more in a few weeks about the different decisions that we would make if we lived in a place where this was not true (such as Alaska).

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More on why we should all avoid eating tomatoes that aren’t locally grown.

About working conditions for banana and pineapple workers.

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6 Responses to KIOS: Eating, Part 8b: Fruits and Vegetables (the “why”)

  1. Indeeds says:

    I keep flagging these posts and then not actually commenting….but, I have very much appreciated all these posts! I have learned a lot and am inspired to make some changes (small compared to your impressive diet overhaul) to how we eat!

    • Laura says:

      I’m glad Emily! And believe me – we didn’t make all these changes at once! 🙂 It’s been a long process, so I wouldn’t expect anyone to drastically overhaul at once!

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