fresh fruit & veg
One of my favorite weekly outings is to the Alameda Farmers’ Market — we’re lucky enough to have a twice-weekly market about a mile or so from my house. Yes, it’s a bike ride away. I take my own bags, fill up the panniers and pedal home again. Easy peasy. Even better, none of the produce that I buy at the farmers’ market has even one of those stupid fruit labels on it. Plastic! ptooey!
There was a funny Rhymes with Orange comic printed a few years ago that cracked me up: The lady is sitting in front of an x-ray machine and the doctor sees all these fruit labels in the woman’s belly. “I think I know what’s bothering you,” he says, or some such. (Wish I could find that link!) The point is that those little stickers are inedible, indestructible, impossible. Awful. Criminal! I have seen them floating around my yard after they’ve decomposed off the fruit rind or skin in the compost, then blow away. I’ve read that these fruit stickers gum up the works in plumbing and sewage treatment plants. Can’t the grocery stores teach their checkers a few numbers or have a master list without poisoning our produce with these egregious little fiends?
The farmers’ market doesn’t use the fruit-label stickers. There’s no middle (wo)man. You get your veggies directly from the farmer (more likely his employees or family). They will happily put your fruit and veggies in a plastic bag, yes — but they’re also delighted to let you use your own bags. Yay for no plastic!
I also find that the produce prices are drop-dead affordable at our farmers’ market, though I’ve been to some markets where this isn’t the case. There is ongoing debate about affordable organic produce — how it’s an elitist luxury because it’s so expensive. But I do very well with my budget at the farmers’ market, getting heads of lettuce for $1, pounds of fruit for just a dollar or two per pound, and the vendors are generous with the lagniappe — the baker’s dozen of plums or tomatoes. One extra, no charge. They’re great about cleaning house at the end of the market, willing to bargain for crates of bruised fruit for jam or less than perfect veggies for a song. Our market accepts food stamps (EBT) as well, and in my opinion, there’s no better place to get the freshest produce. Knowing that I can avoid plastic is just one more reason to love the farmers’ market.
Another option for some people is the CSA (community supported agriculture) box which is delivered weekly, semi-weekly or monthly to your door or a central pick-up location. We get a CSA box in winter months; in summer, we don’t need it because of our own prolific vegetable garden. Here’s the link to our vendor, but there are many in the Bay Area and elsewhere. One thing I like about CSAs, or at least this one, is that you can tell them what you like and dislike (please, no garlic or mustard in my box!).
I forgot I was expecting a delivery of veggies last week and opened the door one morning to see my box of fresh produce — woo hoo! There were a couple of items wrapped in plastic in the box — endive was shrink-wrapped in Styrofoam, plus there were one or two large plastic bags surrounding the other veggies. It’s much less plastic than I would have faced at a regular grocery store or at the egregious produce-wrapper, Trader Joe’s (infamous for its clamshell packaging of four sterile apples or tomatoes and anything else that once grew on a tree). However, I plan to write an e-note to the CSA main office and request no more plastic or Styrofoam in future boxes. If that means I miss out on endive, oh well, too bad for me. I’ll also miss out on the Styrofoam and plastic.
Garbage can tally as of today, Day 9, on the night before trash pickup: just three items in the can, including the chewed gum, plus a granola bar wrapper (Mylar) and a weird piece of plasticky stuff that came on a food package. I went through our adult daughter’s trash can and it was pretty gnarly, but I wore gloves and stood next to the recycling and green waste cans to do it. I rescued 2 glass jars (gonna wash), a perfectly good orange (gonna eat it), a couple of bruised leftover lunch fruits (gave to the chickens), a bag full of fabric and doll parts (gonna give to an artsy friend), a ton of cigarette butts/ashes (argh! green waste), a bunch of plastic (moved to the plastic recycling bag that I return to the grocery store), a couple of items of clothing (washed and will give to Goodwill), a handful of new unwrapped Bandaids (put them in my pocket for later use) and a whole bunch of paper and foil from various sources (recycled). This was a disgusting job, but part of the routine now, if I plan to keep our actual waste output low. But do it in gloves. Seriously — ick.
With three small items in our new 20-gallon gray can, I have no reason to put this on the curb, thereby saving everyone a little energy. I’d call this a win over plastics for the week, wouldn’t you?
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of "Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop" and "Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News" (rep'd by Booktrope). She is the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. Her articles have appeared in Thrillist, Quill, Paste, San Francisco Chronicle, and in many magazines; her latest poetry appears in The East Bay Literary review.