The other day we had a windy night and my kids and I were excited to find a decent drop of pecans under our pecan tree the next morning. I hadn’t expected to get anything from our pecan tree this year since I didn’t see many nuts on the low branches and it has been struggling with some sort of fungal issue this year. But low and behold, the ground was littered with healthy pecans! We had a great time cracking them between two boards, pulling out the nut meats and eating our fresh pecans. Not only are these healthy and full of beneficial enzymes you won’t find in the nuts that have been sitting in the store for who-knows-how-long, but my picky girl who usually won’t even consider eating any kind of nut was cracking and eating these as fast as she could! All of my kids are more than happy to try pretty much any food straight from the garden, yet as soon as I take it inside and wash it, their interest in eating it goes way down. There is just a special magic to picking a food and putting it right in your mouth- especially for children. You just can’t beat the feeling of picking a fresh, dew-washed berry and popping it right into your mouth! My girls were so excited to find a few tiny heads of broccoli in the garden the other day, they sat right down and started eating them as fast as they could! The same girls who barely nibble at store bought broccoli!
There are of course many other reasons to harvest your own food and eat it as fresh as possible. Studies have shown that the highest concentration of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are found in freshly picked, fully ripe produce. Unfortunately, most of the raw produce available for us to buy at the store has been picked before it fully ripens, then shipped and stored for anywhere from a few days to several months. Some of the best cancer preventing antioxidants are produced in the final day or two of ripening on the plant, so some of the fruits and veggies that are listed as “full of antioxidants”, may not be so full of antioxidants if they weren’t allowed to ripen on the plant. In general, every day that a harvested fruit or vegetable is stored before being eaten, it loses some of it’s nutritional value.
So whether you grow it yourself, go to a nearby farm for pick-your-own, or find wild foods to eat, try to take time to harvest at least a little of your food with your own hands this year, and be sure to try some straight from the plant.