We are one month away from summer and I have already been thoroughly enjoying the sun! Have you been getting your daily Vitamin D? I love the next couple of months because the Farmer’s Markets start making their way to the downtown streets and fresh farm produce is readily available in just about any neighborhood – big or small!
Some people don’t have the privilege of having fresh farms that are super close and rely on their grocery store to provide fresh produce and sometimes it is really hard to determine which fruits and vegetables have the lowest risk of being exposed to harmful pesticides.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has been putting together some educational lists for quite some time and updates them every year. Their lists help guide consumers to pick produce that have been found to have the lowest exposure to pesticides overall. There have been many health risks linked to pesticides in our food. You can decrease your risk by buying organic produce, especially on the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list (below) and washing your fruits and vegetables properly before consuming.
The EWG recommends buying organic forms of the following fruits and vegetables to avoid toxic chemicals in your produce:
The EWG states it is safe to buy conventional versions of the following fruits and vegetables as it will help your wallet and that items on this list are likely to contain fewer pesticides and less of each one:
- Sweet Corn
- Frozen Sweet Peas
- Honeydew Melons
You can learn more about what the EWG does, get your questions answered, download their shopping guide and see the full lists they publish on their website. Their FAQ section is full of great information.
Do you know how to wash your fruits and vegetables properly? There is a lot of misinformation out there about what you should use, how long you should wash or soak for, or even what kind of scrubbing should be done. In a study done using detergent and 4 different vegetable washes in comparison with regular tap water, the tap water did just as well as the other agents as rinsing off the pesticide residues from the produce. The lesson here? We don’t need to invest in fancy solutions, we simply need to know how to rinse our produce.
So here is my suggestion for rinsing your produce:
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
- If damage or bruising occurs before eating or handling, cut away the damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
- Rinse produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
- Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
- Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
- For berries, rinse right before you intend to eat them so you do not encourage bacteria growth. You can soak them in water for a few minutes and strain or rub gently under running water for at least 30 seconds.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
- For leafy greens, remove the outermost leaves. Fill a salad spinner with greens, then fill with water. Let soak for a few minutes and spin. You can use a paper towel to further dry if needed.
- Store perishable produce in the refrigerator at or below 40 degrees.
This shouldn’t be something that is over complicated! The rule of thumb is – simply soaking your vegetables for a few minutes or rinsing your produce in running water for at least 30 seconds will help the food you eat and serve be safe.
Of course, if you want to avoid pesticides altogether, or at least have control over what you grow and what goes into your soil and onto your plants, a home garden is the perfect way to do that! You can grow produce in minimal space with a little creativity.
You can grow vegetable gardens in just about any space when you do vertical gardening. This literally means growing your plants upright! You can grow along a fence-line, in hanging pots, even mounted on your wall indoors. Look at these creative ideas for growing your produce in limited spaces.
If you have a little more space and want to start your own garden outdoors, you can buy or make garden boxes. Garden boxes are great because you don’t need a lawn, a large space or a farm to do it. These boxes come in many shapes and sizes and they can also be raised or made directly onto the ground. This article I found has so much information about not only the boxes themselves, but what to plant, when to plant, and a lot of other information needed to start your very own garden at home.
What if you don’t have any space outside at all? That’s OK, you can still nurture your green thumb inside your home while brightening up your place with beautiful plants. There are a lot of varietals of produce that you can grow indoors and I’m not just talking a small herb garden. This article from Country Living will spark your imagination and give you some ideas about where to begin your indoor garden.
I know that growing your own garden can be a daunting task, but once you get the hang of it, you will certainly have fun. The satisfaction of growing your own food and preparing a meal from that harvest will feel incredible! As you know, just because you grow food at home doesn’t mean the pests will stay away – there are natural ways to keep them at bay. Check out these homemade ideas to keep the pests off your beautiful produce. And remember, just because you grow your food at home, doesn’t mean you don’t have to rinse your produce 😉
All this talk of fresh fruits and vegetables is making me hungry! I think with all this fresh produce in season this month, you should definitely incorporate that into your home cooking. I’ve got some recipes using some of the produce from the EWG’s Clean Fifteen list:
This one is a little on the gourmet side and takes more time than most of us have on a typical weekday. But that’s why we have weekends and holidays and (hint, hint) Mother’s Day is coming up; show your mom some love! Asparagus is number 8 on EWG’s Clean Fifteen list and Onion is number 5!
- 3 whole eggs (Preferably cage free)
- 9 egg whites (Preferably from cage free eggs)
- 2 tablespoons half and half
- 1/2 lb asparagus
- 1 small onion
- 1/2 red bell pepper, julienne
- 1/2 orange bell pepper, julienne
- 1/4 cup Romano cheese, shredded
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- cooking spray
Grilled Fruit Kebabs with Icelandic Yogurt Dip:
This is a great summer snack or also fantastic as a dessert – loaded with flavor. Cantaloupe is number 12 on EWG’s Clean Fifteen list, honeydew melon is number 15 and watermelon just missed the 15, coming in at number 16.
- 8 cubes (1″ each) watermelon
- 8 cubes (1″ each) honeydew melon
- 8 cubes (1″ each) cantaloupe
- 4 tablespoons orange blossom honey
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 4 lemongrass sticks to use as skewers
- 32 ounces plain Greek yogurt
- 4 tablespoons slivered almonds
- 4 whole mint leaves
- In a large bowl, mix the fruit together and cover with the honey and chopped mint.
- Marinate for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
- Assemble the kebabs by alternating the fruit on the lemongrass sticks.
- Grill over medium heat for 2 minutes on each side.
- Serve with the yogurt in individual bowls for dipping.
- Garnish the yogurt with the almonds and mint leaves.
You can’t get any better than this – Holy Guacamole! Avocados are number 1 on EWG’s Clean Fifteen list. They contain more potassium than bananas, they are loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and are also loaded with fiber (just to name a few health benefits). Can you tell I love avocados? Not only are they healthy, but I love the color of fresh, ripe Avocados for Spring. This would be a delicious addition to any weekend get together.
- 2 Medium avocados
- 2 teaspoons red onion, finely diced, divided
- 2 teaspoons jalapeno, seeded and minced and divided
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, divided
- 2 teaspoons cilantro, divided
- 1 bag white corn tortillas (10 in a pack), cut into eighths
- Olive oil cooking spray
The Dream Center’s annual “Fostering Hope” Women’s Luncheon is on May 8th. I look forward to this event every year because The Jonathon D Fischer Foundation (JDFF) has had the privilege of sponsoring the private reception that includes lunch, entertainment, inspiring messages from women in leadership, and a live auction to support the efforts of the Dream Center.
This program is just one of the Dream Center’s many outreach programs that partners with the Department of Children and Family Services to prevent families from being separated in Los Angeles. Loving, hardworking moms are literally watching their children go into Foster Care because of a lack of basic necessities. The Dream Center will stand in the gap and supply those needs in order to keep healthy families together. They provide furniture, food, clothing, appliances and other basic items needed to allow parents to retain or regain custody of their children.
This year marks the fifth year that JDFF has had the opportunity to sponsor the luncheon and this year I have been honored to keynote the event. We hope that this program will become an anchor in Los Angeles’ philanthropic priorities. All proceeds from this event directly benefit the Dream Center’s Foster Care Intervention Program. You can learn more about it on their website here.
The Jonathon D. Fischer Foundation will be receiving the 2019 Innovative Philanthropy Award at the American Icon Awards on May 12th. We are honored to be receiving this award and are grateful not only to the American Icon Awards but also to the many charities that share our vision of inspiring and empowering people to make the world a better place by providing a hand up, through education, kindness, and generosity.
Don’t forget to show a little extra love to your mom this month – it is Mother’s Day on May 12th!
To all the Mothers, Grandmothers, Aunts, Sisters and other women in our lives that care for us and love us unconditionally – Happy Mother’s Day!