June 09, 2009

Advice for Graduates, CF style

Photo courtesy Beard Papa

It's that time of year.

People are graduating left and right, and you need to send cards, presents, or -- the favorite thing to give, at least it was in my college days -- lots of advice.

Since we at Cranky Fitness love to give out advice being helpful, I'll pass on to you the very last piece of good advice that I received before I walked down the aisle in that funny black robe. What I was told was this:

Vegetables start to lose their nutrients within 20 minutes of being picked.

(This advice is not as weird as it sounds; the woman behind me in line to graduate was an organic farmer.)

Since I've started picking weeds harvesting useful vegetables in my yard each morning before I head off to work, I've noticed a definite improvement from the point of view of my taste buds. I do not love vegetables -- we're not even "just good friends" -- but even I can taste the difference between leafy greens that I picked an hour ago and leafy greens that I buy in the store, which were picked days ago and driven/flown in from somewhere a long ways away.

They tell me that frozen vegetables are full of fresh vegetable goodness and nutrient-ness, and they may well be right. Froz. veggies are just not as crisp. Maybe they'd qualify for the runner-up position if you can't find a local source of really fresh veggies.

How to find a local vegetable?

Farmers Markets and CSAs

This link helps you to find a local farmers market or CSA (In this case, "local" means somewhere in the continental US/lower Canada, and "somewhere" means not too close to a desert.)

No, CSA is not the name of a government organization concerned with covert or indeed overt operations. In this case, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Somebody else grows the food and picks it, but instead of driving it to the store so that it can sit on the shelf for a few weeks having Muzak played at it, the food can be delivered straight to your door. (And what you choose to do with your food in the privacy of your own home is really none of my business. Really. I don't want to know.)

Get a window box

Grow vegetables in containers

If all else fails, you can always raid your neighbor's vegetable garden.
Worked for Peter Rabbit.

Fancy and local

Oh all right. If you're too honest for that (or if you read about What Happens to Bad Bunnies), then try an upscale grocery store. They're getting quite proud of carrying local produce. (Unless you live in a desert, in which case you might want to go back to growing stuff indoors near a sunny window. Deserts get loads of sunshine.)

I realize that we can't get fresh veggies year around (unless "we" live in California or somewhere of similar climate). But that's all the more reason to go for the gusto green beans while you can!

If your graduate isn't satisfied with this advice, this would be a good time to tell them about how much harder things were in your day. Uphill through the snow to school... both ways... and having to live in the dark ages before cable TV, back when twitter was something birds did, you young whippersnappers don't know what it was like...

Oh all right. Do you know any good ways to get fresh vegetables without going out and plowing the back 40?

Photo credit: Futurilla


  1. I suppose you could always tell the graduates useful non-nutritional advice as well: work hard, save your money, don't sweat the petty stuff and don't pet the sweaty stuff, things like that.

  2. don't pet the sweaty stuff...definitely a useful tip :) I do local markets where things are fantastically fresh!! Living in the city doesn't offer a lot of options otherwise though, and to be honest, I can't keep a plant alive to save my life...my parents are growing persimmons in their yard now though!

  3. Sigh... I really miss the farmers' markets back in California, or even down in D.C.

    Up here at the tip of the Cape we technically have a farmers market but there's still nothing there but a few herbs. The local growing season is so short!

    We have a garden and were so excited that some of our lettuce was ready to harvest but... yuck, very bitter. So we mix a few leaves ours in with stuff from the store which may have been sitting there forever but tastes much better.

    Need to tinker a bit more next year!

  4. "A few leaves ours..." Jeez, I need more coffee.

  5. I've got nothing. Although yesterday our ceiling where there had been a leak grew a mushroom. But we had that killed and taken away.

  6. I remember a friend who graduated with a degree in Plant Pathology. Her words," Plants have feelings too!"

    I guess they also have short memories.

  7. Being bombarded with Muzak certainly does things to MY nutrients!

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  8. Your idea for advice is superb for a new graduate. They already think they know so much (thinking back to a certain someone graduating last year who doesn't understand why he must go to college when he feels he's already qualified to teach).

    And Tricia's comment about her mushroom just about did me in.

  9. I can't think of anything else to add...you either have to grow it, buy it, or steal it. And you covered all of those. But growing it is the only way to beat that 20 minute window of opportunity to get all the nutrients. Victory gardens for everyone!! :-)

  10. I actually I do go out and plow the back 40. Okay, I didn't plow it, and it's not 40 acres - more like 20 feet, but still! I have a garden and I am so excited about it I could tinkle!

    AND I just found out yesterday that Oklahoma has a co-op where you can have stuff delivered from local farms! I'm so giddy, I might tinkle twice!

    oh, and the best advice I got for graduation? "Don't drink the bong water".

  11. My husband and I are 30 years out of college and still haven't been able to get tomatoes planted once in that whole time. Looks like I will have to schmooze with some suma cum laudes for fresh tomatoes this summer.

  12. I have part of the back 40 into potatoes. And corn, peas, carrots, turnips, onions, garlic, spinach, radishes, lettuce, beans..... Now if it would just stop freezing at night!!! sigh.

    (Crabby - try a different type of lettuce.... some are less bitter)

  13. We do something roughly equivalent to combining CSA and container gardening.

    If you have a house with room for a garden, make your own gardening cooperative with your neighbors. We've been doing it for years, and it's a blast. Everyone grows different things, so you don't have five houses growing zucchini. You go grocery shopping in the neighbor's yard. Just watch out for Mrs. Klopczik's dog, Rufus.

    But if you live in an apartment, you can do the same thing! Really! Find some of your neighbors who you can stand to talk to for more than five minutes, and you agree that each of you will grow something! Mesclun growns great in wondow boxes, tomatoes and bell peppers are fabulous in a patio pot, green bush beans are compact, nutritious, and (if you get the purple and yellow ones, too)festive! And the best part? NO ONE has room to grown Zucchini!


  14. "wondow boxes" Heh. Sounds like something Billy Mays would sell.

    I need more coffee, too!

  15. I like to go back to my favorite saying when offering advice to grads: Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit: Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

    Support your local farmers!

  16. i just heard of a Good Food Box program in my home town...for 30 bucks a month, every 2 weeks you can pick up a box of locally grown produce and grains with recipe cards tossed in.
    I'm in...
    Someday I'll have a garden in my back yard. Too much to do in the yard to get to that point yet. The herb garden is all I've got at the moment.
    You're right though - veggies from the garden taste best...the farmer's market is sucha great thing. If you can get up early enough before it's all picked over it's great...

  17. I find the "proud" upscale grocery store's definition of local kind of funny sometimes...essentially, as long as something is grown in the mid-atlantic region, they'll give it the big "GROWN LOCALLY" sign. But hey, good for them for making an effort.

  18. Supermarket vegetables & fruits that are in season (wherever they're actually grown) will be fresher & tastier than those out of season. I bought a cookbook that's seasonal, which helps me try to stay focused on seasonal foods.

    Another way to get fresh v & f is to have friends who plant gardens! They always have extras to give away.


  19. We call our garden a "Backyard Grocery" because during the summer, we enjoy lots of fresh produce that we KNOW was (1) freshly picked (2) has no chemicals on it and (3) is as heirloom (not genetically modified) as we can afford. We still have a couple of winter squashes in our basement from last year! We almost have tomatoes and strawberries ready to pick ... yum yum! Vee at www.veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

  20. I have a little apartment in the city and this year the bf and I decided we'd grow our own plants, we have pots and window boxes EVERYWHERE! It's great and our tomato plants are just starting to have their little babies :-) It's so exciting!

    fresh, untreated, non gmo food!

  21. So does that mean I have permission to eat everything I buy from a farmer's market within minutes of getting it? Excellent. Nom nom nom.

  22. I really like the concept of the CSA shares, but I've priced them before and they really looked like a more expensive approach to me.

    I'd love to this concept in a format that was actually less expensive than the supermarket. I wonder how the economics of scale (cheaper mass produced veggies) compare to the reduction in transportation and middlemen?

    Our local farmers markets are OK, but the window where the selection is any good is short..

  23. Wait - no "always wear sunscreen"?? ;) I miss the west coast farmer's markets too...

  24. Frozen veggies make great ammo for when your friends are being annoying.

    Nothing shuts someone up like a flying frozen baby carrot! Pfft... violence can't solve anything? Said who.

    Oh yeah, and frozen veggies taste better to boot. NO QUESTION.

  25. Great advice for new grads is to grow their vegetables and herbs in containers! I have had vegetables placed precariously on balconies, attempting to get light from kitchen windows, you name it. If I can grow zucchini successfully in pots in the summer in the middle of Alaska, I bet it will grow anywhere! Now I have a garden on my tiny piece of lawn, all in containers. That way if you have to move, they can come with you!

  26. Sorry -- I meant to add "always wear sunscreen"

    Um, Fitjerk? Frozen veggies taste better than fresh? Really? I'm thinking I'll have to try frozen veggies next time there's a heat wave.

  27. I think there's a lot of good advice in these comments. If the graduates don't appreciate all these suggestions, then I feel no sympathy if they ignore good advice and hafta learn things the hard way.
    Like I did.

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  30. i have put in an outrageously ambitious veggie container garden this year. i encourage everyone to do the same!

    after all raiding the neighbour's garden definitely did NOT work out for Rapunzel's parents...

  31. Merry - Better than fresh? No No... you got me all wrong. I guess I wasen't very clear either.

    They taste better then store bought ones that have been lying there for 8+ hours. Frozen veggies (most) are picked and frozen ASAP.

  32. Well, there's always an Aerogarden!

    Seriously, I had fresh romaine for a couple months in my basement. Beautiful, tender, bug free, tasty stuff. I'm STILL harvesting ruby chard that I started in January. And I ate my first tomato off a basement vine in April!

    Currently, those gardens are about to expire and will be replanted in July after a brief vacation.

    Meanwhile, I'm digging up the front yard roses with plans to put some veggies in that nice spot that gets sun all day. If neighbors snitch some, it's still OK! Digging is good exercise. No treasure found yet though. No bodies either. Probably a good thing.

    Frankly, my next door neighbor has a few raspberry canes next to our driveway fence and she told me to pick as I see fit and when those berries come in, believe me, I do!


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