By Marilyn Bay Drake, Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association
With so many Colorado-grown fresh fruits and vegetables available in grocery stores, at farmers markets or direct from the farm, it is easy to get excited about incorporating the cornucopia of color into our diets. It turns out that adding fruits and vegetables to the diet is not only fun and delicious, it is exactly what the doctor orders.
In this case, the doctor is Claudia Ferrell, retired family practice physician from Brighton, Colo., where she and her husband Tim now own and operate Berry Patch Farms, an organic operation that raises raspberries and strawberries as well as eggs and a variety of vegetables. The Ferrell’s quaint farmstead with its big red barn offers retail sales and educational tours. In addition to the berries and vegetables it raises, the store sells organic fruit from the Western Slope, is a pick up point for raw milk shares and connects folks wishing to buy grass-fed beef and pastured pork and chicken.
“We do what we do, because we are passionate about raising good food and educating people on eating for good health,” said Ferrell.
The doctor says increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, recommending two vegetable choices for each fruit, is an excellent start to improving health. In addition, she recommends minimizing processed foods and sugars, choosing good fats like olive oil and eating quality proteins.
“As a physician I treated so many people with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, digestive problems and other conditions that could have been prevented or the severity lessened by incorporating changes to the diet,” Ferrell said. “It is the reason education is a big part of what we do at Berry Patch Farm.”
In addition to educational tours, Berry Patch Farms offers classes and distributes a newsletter to its customers. For more information, see www.berrypatchfarms.com
Once people know how to eat for better health, there are other barriers, including a lack of purchasing and preparation knowledge and a lack of time to buy and prepare food. Here are some of Ferrell’s suggestions for overcoming these barriers:
- Eat fresh, local food. Produce, grown nearby rather than across the nation or even across the world spends less time from field to table. It tastes better and retains more of its nutritional value. Many of the varieties that ship from long distances are chosen for their durability, not their taste.
- Learn to cook with creativity. Take classes, spend time in a good cook’s kitchen or find internet cooking resources that teach novices how to prepare, store and cook fresh food.
- Try a new recipe each week. Scan recipes you find for fresh ingredients and try the ones that sound good to you and where the ingredients are readily available. For produce-focused recipes, check out:https://www.facebook.com/CFVGA/
- Creatively incorporate more produce into your diet. When a stew calls for two vegetables, use four. When you serve dessert, choose fruit-centered ones like peach cobbler, strawberry shortcake or apple crisp. Making a wrap for a school lunch? Add grated carrots or a grated apple to the meat and cheese.
- Choose a variety of colors. Not only does a stir fry with carrots, broccoli and red bell pepper look appealing, it provides a variety of nutrients.
- Extend the harvest. Now, while Colorado produce is abundant, buy extra and freeze, freeze, dry or can for later use. There are many resources, including county extension offices that have classes or educational material on preserving fruits and vegetables.
- Commit to cook for better health. Let’s be honest, cooking takes more time than running through the fast food drive through. But, if your family’s health is important, commit to take the time to prepare tasty, nutritious meals. Think of the time spent buying, preparing and eating a good meal as social or family time. That is also good for your health.
The Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association urges consumers to look for produce with the Colorado Proud designation in grocery stores and farmers’ markets as well for on-farm outlets. For more on Colorado produce seasonal availability, nutrition information and to find a grower near you, log on to:http://coloradoproduce.org/produce-directory/