I began shopping for fruits and veggies for the house only a few years ago (till then managed by another family member). This was when I began my journey of Natural Living. Buying on my own became important as food was an important element of my health transformation. I had learnt that food is a key input to support the body’s self-healing powers. From someone who was never interested in phal sabji shopping because it was a boring chore, to someone who now feels restless if she doesn’t visit fruit veggie vendors for a while.....life has come a long way!!
Over the last few years. based on my on-the-ground experience, I have made a few principles on how to approach shopping f&v - what to buy, what not to buy, how to simplify this choice and choose the best? I'm still learning and improvising, but through this blog, I would like to share what I have accomplished so far!! Sharing below my guiding principles to simplify shopping f&v.
1. Eat seasonal because what’s in-season is best for our health at that time. So how do I choose seasonal fruits and veggies?
Visit a mandi/farmer’s market. What is abundantly visible, is likely to be seasonal. Pick it.
Check the price. Anything that’s in-season is likely to be cheap. For eg: if it’s winter season, methi, peas, carrot, cauliflower will be cheap. Certain fruits and veggies are available all year round. But the moment you start following their price, you know if they are in-season or not. Bananas and papayas seem to have the same price all year round. But not the other fruits. Personally, I have a benchmark of 50 rs. It works well for veggies. If any veggie is above 50 rs in price, I assume it’s not in season yet. For fruits, this benchmark doesn’t work always. But then I set up different benchmarks for different fruits.
If I’m on the road, for intracity travel, I like to observe the roadside fruit carts. It always gives a good idea of which fruit is in-season. It’s so heartening to see carts full of mangoes, lychees, guavas, oranges. Not to forget the watermelons piled on the ground for just a few months of the year. And why just fruits, haven’t you seen carts full of singhada (chestnut) on the roadside.....only when they are in season!
I often engage in small talk with sabji phal waalas to get insights on what is in-season. Acting naive and asking the most innocent questions often reaps useful info.
Talking to my mom to leverage her experience also helps me in choosing seasonal stuff. And so do the various health groups I am part of.
2. Buy fresh
How do I choose what’s fresh? I use my instinct and check the look and smell. Look is something I am very particular about.
A few years ago a friend in marketing shared something interesting with me. He worked for a retail store and was doing a research on consumer behaviour in buying fruits and veggies. He was observing consumers through a camera and one lady caught his attention. This lady would look for insect infested f&v and buy only those!!! My friend was amused and decided to have a word with her. The lady said if insects are eating, these f&v probably have fewer pesticides!!
This was such a strong insight and always stayed in my head. From that day onwards I decided that the most good looking f&v may not be the most natural or healthiest. So I made these pointers for myself:
Good looking, glossy, shapely, big sized f&v - avoid
Average looking, average sized, inconsistent in shape f&v - buy
Not to say that natural f&v can't be good looking, but once you observe you'll know what I mean :-).
Another element of buying fresh is to avoid frozen f&v. For eg: frozen peas. There is a lot of confusing information on the internet if frozen f&v are as nutritious as fresh or not. I haven’t been able to conclude yet. But my instinct tells me fresh are better than frozen - taste the peas, fresh are sweet and cook quickly vis-a-vis frozen. And when nature wants you to eat peas in winter & other veggies in the rest of the year, simply align yourself with nature's design!!
Also, it’s not just about buying fresh, it’s also about eating fresh. No point overstocking your refrigerator!! F&v nutrients keep reducing beyond a certain time after being plucked. Hence buy fresh and eat fresh.
More the miles travelled by f&v, the more likely they are to be doused with chemicals for preserving them.
Earlier I would often buy New Zealand plums, grapes or kiwis, Washington or Fuji apples, Thai guava, etc. But now I rarely buy them. My focus has changed to local. For eg: Indin grapes and plums or apples from Shimla or Kashmir or Kinnaur. Yes, there is so much to choose from!!
4.Desi vs hybrid
This is a common one in veggies such as tomatoes and cucumber. There’s a desi variety and a hybrid, the latter is more good looking and pricier. But the term 'hybrid' itself says it all. SoI buy the desi version hoping its more natural!!
Nature has designed so much variety for us, that is the best way to get wholesome nutrition!!
If you notice, you will realise there are only a certain set of veggies that are regularly made in your house. But if you go to a mandi and look around, there is so much more you can include!! So I like to add some excitement to my veggies by trying new ones. My latest experiment has been with leafy veggies. My son is a parantha fan and I have been adding bathua, red amaranth, green amaranth to his parantha, in addition to the regular palak and methi. For my own self, the new addition this winter is saag of radish leaves.
It’s not that veggies are difficult to make, the recipes are quite simple and similar. So there really is no excuse on why you shouldn’t add variety to your veggies!!
Organic or not
I don’t buy organic f&v. A few years ago I had bought some spinach and cauliflower at a holiday resort, they claimed it was from nearby farms and was organic. When we cooked it at home, the aroma and taste were to die for. The difference was clearly visible. But my subsequent experiences with organic f&v have not shown the same results. Hence I don’t buy organic because I don’t want to spend a lot and yet not be sure of whether it’s really organic or not. I know this is an area where I can learn more and implement better, hopefully, that should happen soon!! But I feel organic is not the most important change I have to do in my life. There is so much else I did that helped me in my healing journey.
To sum it up:
For the time being, I enjoy my f&v shopping following the simple rules of buying seasonal, local, fresh and a variety. Overall my idea is to follow my instinct and enjoy the process. I hope you find my sharing of some help in your f&v shopping. I would love to hear from you and learn from your experience as well. Do share through your comments below.
Disclaimer: The health journeys, blogs, videos and all other content on Wellcure is for educational purposes only and is not to be considered a ‘medical advice’ ‘prescription’ or a ‘cure’ for diseases. Any specific changes by users, in medication, food & lifestyle, must be done under the guidance of licensed health practitioners. The views expressed by the users are their personal views and Wellcure claims no responsibility for them.
Agree with most observations and comments!
Some how buying F&V came early as a responsibility on to me and I realise that I enjoy it too!
More and more we have started to see big sized and almost seedless varieties of F&V! While they look good, I try to stick to the normal and indeed worried abt them spoiling the normal pools an produce in the long run!
Buy mostly seasonal stuff and stay away from exotic varieties!
For all of us who don’t buy F&V everyday, preserving and storing is also an important aspect!