Freshness, Flavour and Confidence in our Food
The taste of fresh food is becoming unfamiliar. In our modern world, food has become a commodity that appeals foremost to the eyes rather than our taste buds. Never has food looked better but tasted worse - one has only to consider the decline of the red delicious apple over the past three decades. Even in the fresh food section, we are under the misconception that fruits and vegetables are fresh all year round, even if they have to come from a country in a completely opposite season to satisfy that illusion. In response to our desire for year round tomatoes and strawberries, food and transportation companies are only too happy to haul them thousands of kilometres from Chile, California and Mexico even though they obviously lack the aroma, flavour and juiciness normally associated with such fruits. We have become totally disconnected from our seasons, agriculture cycles, farmers and sadly our food.
Why do these foods lack the qualities that we normally associate with fresh foods? When produce has a long journey ahead, it is generally picked before fully mature or ripe and then sometimes sprayed with fungicides, sprout inhibitors and other preservatives to prevent it from rotting on the long journey. Commercial tomatoes, for instance, are often harvested when they are still green and then ripened through controlled exposure to ethylene gas. The longer a fruit or vegetable remains attached to the soil, the more sugar and flavour will develop within. The unripened state is still a work in progress and has yet to reach its potential.
It’s important to remember that fresh fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutritional quality and flavour from the minute they are harvested. The more time in transit, the less nourishing will be your food. So even if California spinach is picked at its peak, a week spent in transport and storage ensures that what eventually arrives in your kitchen is somewhat different, nutritionally, than the greens harvested fresh in a nearby field.
Cooking should be a pleasurable experience of transforming tasty raw ingredients into mouth watering dishes. The better those ingredients, the better the meal will be. Tasteless fruits and vegetables make cooking a frustrating experience. In an attempt to reclaim some vestige of flavour, we douse our foods in salt, msg, fat, and sugar laden sauces to satisfy a desire for “taste” in our raw ingredients, real or perceived.
What is the solution? In order to reclaim taste and vitality, we need to source out real food, food that has been allowed to mature and ripen in the field and transported such a small distance that it is on our plates within 24 hours of being harvested. Fresh foods have plenty of taste and require fewer of the unhealthy additives that may lead to disease. The nutritional content of most fruits and vegetables is safely preserved if frozen soon after harvest. Buying in large quantities when these foods are in season and then properly storing them in the freezer ensures that healthy food is available all year round.
Lastly, sourcing food from local growers and producers provides consumers with the power to trace back their meal to actual fields and production facilities. Family farmers take great pride in the high quality food they produce and are only too happy to answer questions about how it was grown. Artisanal producers are in the business because they are passionate about good food and are keen to promote the benefits of traditionally prepared cheese, breads or preserves. If you truly care about how your food was grown and want to create a connection to the people who nourish you, buy your food from the source....your local farmers and producers.