Happy Spring! Finally, green shoots and crocuses are pushing through the snow and mud. It seems like we’ll see the sun more often and we start thinking about the feeling of a fresh start that spring brings. Shorts, flip flops, walking, cycling, bees (honey) and picnics pop through our day dreaming and, of course, gardening and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Oops. There is only one problem; I do not have a green thumb. I usually start off the season thinking that I will dig out a square of sod, scrabble through our hard red clay, mix in soil and mulch and plant those delicious Jersey tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, green beans, mmm… It never works. Every time I try, either I give up somewhere between leaving an open wound where I dug out the sod OR if I do get the baby plants in the ground I feed a family of rabbits or ground hogs before I fence and net it.
But wait, New Jersey is the “Garden State”. We have an abundance of local farms producing the most delicious and reasonably priced produce. Farm stands, pick your own farms, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs, and Community Farmer’s Markets are about to open up for this season. It is like having your own fresh fruits and vegetable patch without the sweat and grubby fingernails. And they are in all communities, not just rural or suburban. There are four community farmer’s markets in Trenton and two in Newark. Check out http://jerseyfresh.nj.gov/find/ to find one near you and plan on making a habit of stopping by weekly or more often.
The Greater Somerset Public Health Partnership designed and piloted a program last year to have bags of freshly picked fruits and vegetables from a local farm delivered to work once each week for municipal employees to pick up. Each bag contained a variety of fruits and vegetables dependent upon what was ripe for harvest. Each bag cost $10 each week and the employees contracted for six weeks of delivery. The GSPHP provided recipes and nutrition information in each bag. It was a huge success which will be repeated this year.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 states that a healthy eating pattern includes a variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and others. Adults should eat 2 cups of whole fruit each day and should eat between 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables each day. However, research shows that less than 18% of adults in the US consume the recommended amount of fruit and less than 14% of adults consume the recommended amount of vegetables.
Spring is a time for a fresh start so reevaluate your healthy habits to support your health and wellness. Eat Well in The Garden State!
P.S. If you haven’t given up on growing your garden, here are some great resources:
Rutgers University actually has a “Home Gardeners School” (Classes are over for 2017 but register in the Fall for 2018) with workshops like: “Growing Lean Mean Greens and Other Vegetables Naturally for a Healthy Diet” or “Early Spring Vegetable Gardening” http://www.cpe.rutgers.edu/courses/current/ah0201ca.html
Cheryl C. Komline, M.S., R.D.
Bernards Township Health Department