Agri-business News

Published on May 28th, 2008 | by Lisa Kivirist

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Popeye Had It Wrong: Local, Fresh Spinach Packs The Authentic Nutritional Punch

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tagtowspinachgo.jpgSorry, Popeye. Your tin can of spinach just can’t compete with the brawny nutritional wallop from a bunch of fresh greens from a local farmers’ market or home garden.

Too bad Popeye didn’t know Angie Tagtow, an environmental nutritionist based in Iowa and a leading advocate championing public access to fresh, affordable, sustainably raised food. “Local food is a dream team blend of nutrients and health benefits,” explains Tagtow. “Food’s nutrient value starts to decrease right after it is harvested. Local food is picked and then quickly eaten at the peak of ripeness. It’s thereby fresh, tastes great and packs a more nutritious punch than what might be shipped and processed 1,500 miles away.”

Local, fresh spinach would have also gifted Popeye with a decent long-term health insurance plan. “Increasing access to and consumption of fresh foods decreases the risk of diet-related, chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease,” adds Tagtow. “Local food offers tremendous long-term public health benefits. The challenge is for policymakers, public health agencies and nutrition professionals to recognize and initiate programs that support local, fresh food access for all.” Tagtow works toward such awareness through her business, Environmental Nutrition Solutions, which takes an ecological approach to food and health by focusing on the public health benefits of sustainable food systems, and through her work as a Food and Society Policy Fellow.

Growing up in rural Wisconsin where her father worked in the medical field, Tagtow saw the connection between diet and health early on. “There’s so much emphasis today on treating disease with drugs, and yet there’s so much potential for using our food choices as a preventive approach to disease,” comments Tagtow. “Realizing the connection between what we eat and the state of both public and planetary health will hopefully lead to a more holistic approach to disease prevention.”

As we enter the season of fresh food abundance, Tagtow offers some tips and ideas to get more fresh, local fare on your plate:

• Connect with a Local Food Source
Local Harvest provides a national database that links you to area farmers’ markets, U-picks, CSAs (Community Support Agriculture), food co-ops or retailers that sell local food. Plug in your zip code and you may very well surprise yourself with the number of options available in your area.

• Embrace your Culinary Limitations
“Know your skill and comfort level in the kitchen and start with food items you are familiar with, slowly learning how to handle fresh food,” advises Tagtow. “Pick a couple of items that you know you like and then experiment as your palette widens. Ask farmers questions on how they recommend preparing different items and for recipe and storage tips.”

• Choose a Rainbow of Color
“Anything that has a vibrant color is generally a robust source of vitamins and nutrients, such as dark green Swiss Chard or bright orange sweet potatoes,” Tagtow recommends.

• Buy Seasonally in Bulk and Preserve
“Right now I’m buying asparagus at the Des Moines Farmers’ Market and freezing it for the winter,” Tagtow adds. “You can’t beat the price, nutrient value and flavor of stocking up locally in-season.”

Tagtow relies on her easy “Garden Fresh Greens Salad” when she needs a simple meal that’s quick on prep and high on flavor and nutrients. Poor Popeye. If only he had ventured out of the can, he and Olive Oyl would have been savoring something like this:

Garden Fresh Greens Salad

Step 1: Start with a bowl of fresh greens, such as spinach mixed with baby salad greens. Tagtow likes to add in some zestier greens for a peppery bite such as red kale, arugula or endive. Sprinkle with a few chopped chives.

Step 2: Add in some fruit, such as a chopped apple or pear or handful of dried cranberries.

Step 3: Crumble 1-2 Tablespoons of flavorful cheese on top. Tagtow picks up blue cheese from Maytag Dairy Farm or goat cheese from Northern Prairie Chevre on her weekly jaunts to the Des Moines Farmers’ Market.

Step 4: Sprinkle on 1-2 Tablespoons of nuts or seeds, such as sunflower seeds, walnuts or pine nuts.

Step 5: Drizzle with aged balsamic syrup. Balsamic syrup is thicker and sweeter, which makes a great tasting, healthy dressing.

You can purchase balsamic syrup, or here is a recipe to make it:

1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 scant tablespoons sugar

Stir vinegar and sugar in heavy small saucepan and boil slowly until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Mix in 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme. Store in a small pitcher in the fridge.

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About the Author

Lisa Kivirist embodies the growing “ecopreneuring” movement: innovative entrepreneurs who successfully blend business with making the world a better place. Lisa is co-author, with her husband, John Ivanko, of Rural Renaissance: Renewing the Quest for the Good Life, capturing the American dream of farm living for contemporary times. Her latest release, ECOpreneuring: Putting Purpose and the Planet Before Profits is a compact, dynamic tool kit for a fresh approach to entrepreneurial thinking, blending passion for protecting and preserving the planet with small business pragmatics. As a W.K. Kellogg Food & Society Policy Fellow and Director of the Rural Women's Project, Lisa champions a voice for women farmers and rural ecopreneurs through media, speaking and advocacy work. Lisa runs the award-winning Inn Serendipity Bed and Breakfast in southwest Wisconsin, completely powered by renewable energy and considered amongst the “Top Ten Eco-Destinations in North America.” Her culinary focus on local and seasonal cuisine – with most ingredients traveling less than 100 feet from her organic gardens to B&B plates – earned recognition in publications from Vegetarian Times to Country Woman and inspired her cookbook, Edible Earth: Savoring the Good Life with Vegetarian Recipes from Inn Serendipity. In addition to feature writing for publications such as Hobby Farm Home, Mother Earth News and Wisconsin Trails, Lisa is the lead writer for Renewing the Countryside, a non-profit organization showcasing rural entrepreneurial and agricultural success stories. Lisa also penned Kiss Off Corporate America: A Young Professional’s Guide to Independence. Lisa shares her farm with her husband, their young son, a 10kw wind turbine and a colony of honeybees.



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