There is something sublimely satisfying about picking a piece of fruit or a veggie straight from the vine or off the tree or out of the ground and eating it right there. That’s when fruits and veggies offer the most nutrients, and the fresh factor adds to the deliciousness. It’s labor day weekend (I can’t believe it’s September already!), and my boyfriend and I decided to pack up and head north for sunny Mendocino to get out of cold and foggy San Francisco. We landed on his dad’s farm, complete with beautiful vegetable garden. The tomatoes, zucchinis and cucumbers runneth over, so our first mission was to create a dish that feature those. The basil is looking gorgeous too, so homemade pesto happened.
We decided on a nightshade-heavy ratatouille for the first night to use some of the squash and tomatoes. We made a delicious cucumber salad with thinly sliced red onion, tiny cherry tomatoes, and topped it with avocado and a splash of white balsamic.
Tomatoes are high in the antioxidant lycopene, and cooking them actually increases the bioavailability (meaning higher lycopene content and easier to absorb). Vitamin C diminishes when cooked, however. For the ratatouille, we bought an eggplant and some red peppers and sautéd onion and garlic, then threw in the zucchini, eggplant, peppers, and fresh herbs like oregano and thyme. It was delicious and was unfortunately devoured before I could snap a photo.
We often lose sight of the connection we have with our food and the earth since we harvest most or all of it from the grocery store. After it’s been picked, it begins to lose nutritive value pretty rapidly, and often the soil in which our produce is grown is anemic, meaning the final product is lacking in minerals and nutrients. If you don’t have the luxury of having your own garden, buying from the farmers’ market is a great way to get to know the hands that grow and pick your food, and it’s often been picked that day. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can grow herbs inside or install planter boxes. Great way to get kids involved in food planning and prep.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. In addition to her coaching practice, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and kick nagging digestive issues for good. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.