By Meredith Minx
’Tis the season for your new year’s resolution. If you are anything like me, you are waiting until after the Super Bowl bash to start your new diet. So whether you have already taken the dive into health and wellness for the new year, or are kicking off your own new season after the big game, here are some foods that you should have stocked in your kitchen – and of course, that you should be eating on a regular basis!
- Lean meats
- Kale (or dark green and leafy veggies)
- Black-eyed peas
- Plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt
All of these foods have many properties in common. Aside from being packed with good things for you—fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, amino acids and antioxidants to name a few—they also help reduce your risk for many diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s. In turn they increase your heart health, stabilize your blood sugars, increase your digestive health, give you more energy and last but not least, they all help you in your endeavor of weight loss! What’s not to like about that?
Meredith Minix is the owner of Fitness Together studios in Fairfax and Tysons. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Recreation and Leisure with an emphasis in Sports Fitness and Management. A married mother of three young children, Meredith excels at helping her clients juggle family, career and exercise –the balancing act of the 21st century! Find Meredith and her local Fitness Together colleagues at www.ftcustomfitness.com, follow them on Facebook and on Twitter to get their health tips and fitness news.
Posted by The Editorial Desk / Thursday, August 18th, 2011
Wednesday was a beautiful night to spend outdoors, so I headed over to Arlington’s Central Library demonstration vegetable and herb garden, where Don Weber, USDA-ARS Entomologist and Plot Against Hunger volunteer, gave a talk and fielded questions about fall vegetable gardening. At the close of the night, attendees received seeds (including Bolero carrots) as well as collard, (Win Win) bok choy, and broccoli transplants for their own gardens.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about gardening, but it was clear that many of the approximately 35 attendees have been regularly getting their hands in the dirt (including a woman who brought a leaf from her pumpkin plants so that Weber could diagnose its ills—turns out her worries were ill-founded). Weber’s message for the night was that gardening fun does not have to end with the harvesting of warm season crops such as tomatoes, sweet corn and cucumber.
The end of summer and early fall is the most pleasant time of year to work in your garden, as the weather is milder. And your soil likes this season too—it retains water better. Generally, you will experience less of a pest problem (although the dreaded Harlequin bugs—related to the stink bug and also called “Sherman bugs” because they arrived in the South from Central America during the time of the Civil War—can wreck even more havoc in the fall.)
So what can you plant between now and mid-September? Cool season crops (broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, lettuce and peas) prosper during the cooler days of autumn and can withstand light frosts; and frost-hardy crops (carrots, leeks, kale, Brussel sprouts, spinach, and turnips), as suggested by their moniker, are harvestable long after freezing weather.
Takeaway points of the night were:
1) Time of planting is essential.
2) Make sure that your soil is well taken care of before planting. You can use compost or some other nutrient amendment. Plant seeds deeper into the soil than you would for spring planting and consider placing a board (not cedar or pressure-treated) over the seeded soil until sprouts are visible.
3) Transplants are more resistant to heat, drought, and pests as opposed to seeds, so you may consider planting these during August and September. If you use seeds, you may want to invest in pelletized seeds for plants that are slow to germinate, like carrots, celery and spinach. These seeds are coated in clay, thereby retaining hydration better.
Weber presented attendees with a vegetable planting guide (available here), which details depth for planting, spacing of crops, and fall planting dates. He cautioned that it was specifically tailored for Arlington’s microclimate (where the first killing frost arrives around early to mid-November), so don’t expect to have the same success in, say, Leesburg. (To create your own guide for other microclimates, he suggests using the Johnny’s Selected Seed calculator.)
Are you a curious gardener who wants to get regular advice from the experts? Here are a few invaluable resources:
- Stop by the Plants Clinic held at the Central library by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m.
- Visit the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia tables at three area farners markets (Arlington from 8-11 a.m.; Old Town, Alexandria from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m.; and Del Ray from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.)
- Get help year round by calling the Master Gardener Help Desk: (703) 228-6414.
Other upcoming events at the library include an August 31 talk on both composting and “bodywise” gardening (i.e., how not to hurt yourself ) and inside the library in September, a lecture by Dan Redmond on the agricultural history of Arlington County.
Happy gardening! And speaking of gardens . . . be sure to read tomorrow’s Gut Check for more information on the Arlington Central library’s demonstration garden and the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s Plot Against Hunger program.
-Johnisha M. Levi
Posted by The Editorial Desk / Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
“Finish your peas.”
How many times have you heard that in movies? The pea suffers from a pretty severe image problem. Rather than being viewed as a fresh spring treat, most people equate peas with the lifeless frozen pellets that sit entombed in the back of their freezers, a vegetable only good for lending some color to mashed potatoes or a beef stew. They’re the kind of food that cartoon characters will only eat at gunpoint.
But with spring in full stride here in Virginia, the peas coming out of our markets are top notch, and we owe it to the little green guys bring them into our kitchens and dress them up nicely for a fresh spring meal. If anything, it would be good way to apologize for all of the negative PR we’ve dumped on the pea over the years.
When poking around the market looking for fresh peas, the ones that you want come in vibrant green pods that snap open when bent. A pod that bends on itself or is dark in color is a sign of age, avoid those. Look for medium sized peas, avoiding pods with oversized peas or ones with too few peas. You’ll need to buy quite a bit to make multiple servings, about a pound and a half of unshelled peas yields roughly 2 cups. Once you get your peas home, they should keep shelled in the refrigerator for about 4 days, but, like most vegetables, they are best eaten immediately.
To prepare, pop the pods open with your thumb, remove the peas from inside and discard the inedible casing. You can eat the pods of sugar snap peas and snow peas, but as these are later season vegetables, it’s best to wait for those. At this point, you can prepare your peas in a number of ways: stir fried, steamed, heck, you can eat them raw by the fistful if you want.
Boiling is probably the easiest way to prepare peas, as long as you’re careful not to use too much water and not cook them for too long. We’ve stumbled across some recipes online that suggest boiling peas for up to 15 minutes. Don’t do that. Remember, peas are little guys, so they only need to cook for about two minutes until they’re tender, otherwise they’ll turn mushy on you. Peas are often served with butter, salt, pepper, and if you feel inclined, mint (personal note: blech).
Update: A helpful reader has pointed out that you can actually make use of the pea pod, find a recipe for pea pod soup here.
- Kris King