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Archive for the ‘Tell it To Me Tuesday’ Category

Despite being blessed with an easily pleased palate, there’s no denying that beets taste like dirt. I do not like beets, their noted sublime sweetness absolutely stupefies me–what I taste is minerally, earthy, and undesirable. But, I no longer want to be the girl that doesn’t like beets (the only food I opt to abstain from my diet). It seems the higher power(s) have granted my request, because low-and-behold I saw the magenta vegetable at among a sea of leafy greens at the farmers’ market Saturday. Was it fate? I’d like to think so. Well there I was with a bunch of beets and no clue how to cook them. I wanted to make something that hopefully masked their potent flavor and may even fool my tastebuds into actually enjoying the beets. I remembered my former professor’s love of Borsht, a beet stew. I found a recipe for Borsht at Eating Well, and decided to give it a try. It’s purple broth richened by beef stock and thickened with starchy potatoes is currently bubbling away on my stove.

While the soup thickens, I realize I am left with beautiful green leaves attached to delicate pink stems that haven’t been used. After a quick Google search, I learned beet greens are not only edible, but they are highly nutritious. So, as a graduated nutrition major, let me convey to you the facts about beets, the nutrition facts that is.

Beet Leaves and Stems- 1 cup

  • Calories: 8
  • Protein: 0.84 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1.65 g
  • Fiber: 1.4 g
  • Sugars: 0.19 g
  • Total Fat: 0.05 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.008 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 0.010 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.017 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Micronutrients: large amounts of Vitamin K and Vitamin A,  as well as large amount of the antioxidants beta carotene and lutein

Beets

  • Calories: 58
  • Protein: 2.19 g
  • Carbohydrates: 13.00 g
  • Fiber: 3.8 g
  • Sugars: 9.19 g
  • Total Fat: 0.23 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.037 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 0.045 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.083 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Micronutrients:  Calcium, Vitamin C, folate, and benatin (a phytochemical that’s praised for its immune function)

Beets are healthy, but I can’t help but wonder what gives them the dirt flavor, especially when they have the highest sugar content of any vegetable? From researching, I’ve determined it’s a simple preference, maybe genetically determined. Beets either taste sweet or earthy, it just depends on the consumer.

Here are some recipes I found for beets and beet greens

Beet Greens Daal
Beet Greens
Beet Green Casserole with Mozzarella Topping
Orange and Beet Salad
Borscht

Also, if you eat beets are your pee is beet-red, don’t freak out, don’t call 9-1-1, and don’t be embarassed, it’s  just beeturia–the betacyanin (what gives beets it’s luscious color) paired with iron-deficiency somehow results in red pee-pee.

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Bananas in Costa Rica by RainyDays3

Bananas in Costa Rica by RainyDays3

 

Bananas are as popular in American kitchens as apples, grapes, or oranges. These oddly-shaped yellow herbacious plan origened fruits are common in kitchens, and we rarely think twice about eating them. I love bananas for their versatility in cooking–banana bread, banana smoothies, banana oatmeal, fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, banana splits, bananas foster, and my recent favorite banana salsa atop seared tuna. Clearly, our nation has found endless ways to include this potassium-rich food into both sweet and savory dishes in our diet. In fact, we are the largest consumer of exported bananas, consuming more than 3.7 million tons a year, averaging out to 75 bananas eaten per individual every year. But is our Chiquita-crazy nation fully aware of the implications of our extreme banana intake?

 

I recently finished reading Barbara Kingslover’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Kingslover’s writing is witty, inspiring, and educational. Many of my future blog posts will probably be inspired by Kingslover’s teachings. In one of the chapters, she addresses that her family practices banana abstinence. My curiosity peeked…why in the world would you give up such a wonderful fruit? The answer is simple because they travel thousands of miles to reach our kitchen.

Where do organic bananas come from ?

  • Dole Organic- Honduras, Costa Rica, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador
  • Chiquita- Costa Rica, Columbia, Honduras, Jamaica
  • Del Monte- Costa Rica, Guatemala
  • Fair Trade- Ecuador
  • Just to note: Dole, Del Monte, and Chiquita control 65% of world banana exports from Central America and the Caribbean Islands. It is also virtually impossible to find out where Chiquita and Del Monte bananas come from because they don’t list this information on their site. The Dole Organic bananas do and so does the fair trade banana site.

Bananas’ tropical origins make it an exotic food item.  In grocery stores, exotic food items are generally expensive (kalamata olives, mangos, olive oil, truffles, high cacoa chocolate, European cheeses), and these products are generally limited to more populous cities.  Bananas travel just as far to reach every single supermarket, gas station, and cafeteria in the good ole’ USA, yet they cost less than a dollar per pound.  Looking at the history of bananas will explain this paradox. 

Before 1880, bananas were unheard of in America. But, American-entrepreneur Minor C. Keith began working with the Costa Rican government to construct a transnational railroad to travel alongside the huge banana fields of his dreams and gather the fruit to be exported to the United States.  Keith’s business plan was accepted in Costa Rica, and he quickly convinced Honduras and Guatemala to join on board. He held nearly 85,000 hectars (212,500acres) of land to grow bananas. He merged his idea with the United Fruit company, and a monopoly that would control the industry until 1950 began. Bananas rapidly gained popularity, and by 1910 banana peels littered streets across America. After 1950, the monopoly was broken, and the big three (Dole, Chiquita- formerly United Fruit and Del Monte) have dominated the industry ever since.  The banana industry in Central America and the Caribbean are controlled by the United States. That is why we can afford to pay such a small amount for these exotic fruits. But at what economic, social and environmental consequences to the banana-producing countries?

 

Banana Plantation in workers in Colima, Mexico by Niclas Skold

Banana Plantation in workers in Colima, Mexico by Niclas Skold

 

 

Social, Economic, and Environmental Issues

  • Workers are exposed to harmful chemicals that have carcinogenic properties causing high rates of cervical cancer, testicular cancer, and leukemia in non-organic banana farms 
  • The pesticides used to grow on non-organic banana crops permeate the drainage ditches and rivers. At least 25% of pesticides sprayed on bananas miss their mark and land in farms, ponds, or streams. 
  • 90% of Costa Rica’s reefs have been killed by pesticides used to grow non-organic bananas. 
  • In Costa Rica, the banana industry is one of the largest job industries in the nation. However, the government allows companies to hire workers for no more than 3 months, meaning at least 70%  or workers don’t receive health, social security, and vacation benefits. With decreased job security comes the higher rates of alcoholism, sexual abuse, drug abuse, and prostitution in poor banana communities.
  • Costa Rican produced bananas generate 550-700 million dollars when exported to the United States. The corporations keep almost all of this money, generating nearly no money for the countries who grow them.
  • Bananas crops require Costa Rican marshlands to be drained, removing tropical plants and wildlife, etc. This depletes the land of nutrients to form a “homogenous chemical landscape.” 18 tree species are now extinct.
  • Increased rates of deforastation in Central America and the Carribbean because of the increased demand for bananas worldwide.

These are just a few problems that plague the banana industry. Although there are serveral lawsuits  prevent further problems in banana-producing countries, the damage to the people and the environment has been done, and many of the consequences are irreversible. After reading Kingslover’s book and researching the topic, I’ve decided to stop eating bananas, especially the non-organic, non-free trade variety.  I realize this action is extreme, but I cannot justify eating a fruit that has a controversial history and uncertain future. I know this isn’t for everyone, so I want to include some tips on how to make small changes that can really make a difference.

Be a Better Banana Consumer

  • Rather than eating a banana everyday, try cutting down to one or two a week. 
  • Always buy organic bananas that aren’t grown using harmful chemicals. Although United States laws prevent some exposure to pesticides, the less-developed bananan producing countries do not.
  • Buying free trade bananas is better than buying organic because the workers have rights, and they receive their rightful profit from the banana plantations.
  • Try new fruits such as plums, pears, persimmons, blood oranges, and berries that are grown in the United States. You may not even miss bananas
  • And remember, it’s ok to eat bananas., but it is important to know where they come from and make the decision for yourself.

 

Resources

http://members.tripod.com/foro_emaus/BanPlantsCA.htm

http://jrscience.wcp.muohio.edu/fieldcourses04/PapersCostaRicaArticles/GoingBananas.thebananaind.html

There are also numerous videos, books, online journals, and ethnographies that address the social issues of bananas.  If you have an interest in these, let me know. I’ll be glad to send you some links.

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