The joy of vegetables
By Goldie Caughlan
PCC Nutrition Education and Quality Standards Specialist
This article was originally published in November 2010
I’m a home gardener and nutrition educator, and for nearly four decades have pushed the pleasures and health pluses gained from everyday feasting on seasonal vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Clearly I’ve long been convinced that plant-based foods are very special — literally alive with palate-pleasing textures, flavors and innumerable health-supporting nutrients. They add breathtaking beauty to a bountiful table, to boot!
I thought about this recently when I learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just awarded $3.7 million to our state’s department of agriculture to support numerous needs of Washington producers of “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops, including flowers” — collectively dubbed “specialty crops” in USDA jargon.
Funding support is critical for growers of specialty crops — most of which are extraordinarily labor- and management-intensive, both in production and harvest. Producers (and obviously, consumers) stand to benefit from more research and training, especially consumer education.
Ah, yes, consumer education. Learning to love our veggies and fruits. Do consumers need some nudging?
A recent headline in “The New York Times” read, “Told to eat its vegetables, America orders fries.” The article noted that the Centers for Disease Control has found that only 26 percent of adult Americans eat three or more servings of vegetables a day (fries excluded).
Another report, from a private market researcher, found only 23 percent of meals include any vegetable — period. Again, fries weren’t counted as a veggie — but the lettuce or pickle on the burger apparently did.
This source also reported that only 17 percent of homemade dinners included any sort of salad — a drop from 22 percent in 1994. Restaurant salads served as a main course at dinner or lunch had been favored by 10 percent of patrons in 1989 — but today? Only 5 percent.
It’s not clear what constitutes consumer education though, when it comes to learning about good, healthful and pleasant ways to get the recommended nine servings a day. Yes, you read that correctly — nine servings, for a total of four and a half cups of fruits and vegetables.
Here at PCC, our top-selling deli salad, Emerald City Salad, features raw kale. It shows that consumer education starts with providing consumers access to the highest quality vegetables and fruits throughout the year — always emphasizing organic, in-season, and locally and regionally grown.
For nearly 29 years (and counting!) we’ve also featured an outstanding selection of learning opportunities for every age and need — from our free Walk, Talk & Taste tours to our affordable classes taught by an array of talented cooks and chefs in the award-winning PCC Cooks program.
These classes always feature recipes that show how easy and pleasurable it is to enjoy every one of those nine servings a day of veggies and fruits — as well as all the other delectable components of your meal.
Keep in mind, whether you’re a vegetarian, an omnivore, or somewhere in between — half our daily fare should be from those “specialty” crops. Yes, it can include a bit of the vine or brew if you like!
I’m delighted to have been asked to introduce you to some special recipes — from a few of our instructors and friends who accepted the challenge of sharing some of their favorite and most treasured family recipes featuring fall produce.
The recipes are straightforward, simple and mostly easy to prepare, yet the flavors are complex and memorable. We think they’ll help lighten up your table this season.