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To Heirloom or Modern. That is the Question

Published August 5th, 2013 in HN4U Blog

Consumers are encountering more varieties of produce, some are labeled heirloom, others are organic, hybrids, or who knows it just came off a tree or showed up at the office varieties.

For those brave enough to try new or different, you might find those heirloom purple potatoes are richer tasting; others might enjoy the spicier or bitter taste of greens like nasturtium, radicchio, or arugula. The months of August and September also give gardeners a chance to show off their spectacular carrots, beets, tomatoes, peppers and more at the county fair or farmers market. We encounter not only a cornucopia of foods and colors but the names transport you to exotic lands or whimsical fancy. You see names like: blackjack, Oak leaf, Batavian, and Fire Mountain in the salad greens, honey crisp, Melrose, Queen Victoria and Ozark apples. And some of my favorites are the berries: Cape fear, Brunswick, Wild Treasure, Summit and Jewel. Yuhum yum

This week I read “Eating on the Wild Side” by Joe Robinson. The author has an easy manner with their writing, not loading you down with Latin names, and complexity, making for an enjoyable read. Yes I purchase this as an electronic book…I’m into brain energy conservation, it is summer after all.

Here are a few of the interesting tidbits from her book.

  • “The wild greens that hunter-gathers consumed were so rich in phytonutrients that they used them as medicine. The leaves of wild lambs-quarter were consumed by hunter-gathers from North America to Africa, the greens were eaten raw, fried in fat, dried, added to soups, or mixed with meat. Native Americans used this green to cure a condition we now know as scurvy. Americans are now eating seeds of domesticated varieties of lambs-quarter, which are high in protein. They go by the name “Quinoa”.”
  • “Most berries, for example, increase their anti-oxidant activity when cooked. Believe it or not canned blueberries have more phytonutrients than fresh providing you consume the liquid.”
  • “Cooking carrots whole and slicing or dicing them after they’ve been cooked makes them taste sweeter and increase their ability to fight cancer.”
  • When we stopped eating locally grown produce and abandoned our home gardens, we lost at least half the protective properties of our fruits and vegetables as well as much of their flavor.”
  • “Watermelons become more nutritious if you leave them out on the counter for several days before you eat them.”
  • Researchers discovered “the golden delicious apple was so low in phytonutrients and high in sugar that it made the study participants triglycerides rise. The Liberty apple released seventy five years after the golden delicious apple, has twice the anti-oxidant value.”
  • “one species of wild tomato has fifteen times more lycopene than the typical supermarket tomato.”
  • “White fleshed peaches and nectarines have twice as many phytonutrients as yellow fleshed varieties.”

Above all these great little trivia pursuit questions was the information on lettuce and how to keep it fresh in your fridge. You have to get the book to get this cost effective and useful tip.

So are all new or modern varieties poorer nutrition than heirloom varieties? It would appear the answer is no. There have been some truly remarkable advances in horticulture and plant sciences. Nevertheless, we innately crave sweeter easier to eat foods, this has led to the selective breading for centuries that has brought us to today’s foods. The downside is by developing sweeter, nicer looking foods we have also left behind those nutrients that made them medicine.

So to “Heirloom or not, that is the Question?” Aahh go for it, you just might find the purple potatoes, dark greens and quinoa are to your liking, and your health. But make sure you have a side of crabapples just to be sure, they can have between sixty and one hundred times the phytonutrients of today’s modern varieties!

To Summer Fun, Fresh Foods and Your Good Health

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