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FEATURE

Food Wears Many Hats

David Cohlmeyer

Food Wears Many Hats  | David Cohlmeyer

Landscape photo courtesy Brad Long

Author photo courtesy Laura Berman/GreenFusePhotos.com

 

DAVID COHLMEYER is a grower and a consultant for sustainably minded farmers and food-service providers. In recognition of his many years of insight and leadership, David was honoured in 2010 with the Governor General’s Award for Stewardship and Sustainability. Visit David’s website at www.davidcohlmeyer.ca.

With capacity to endow us with sustenance, health, and pleasure every single day, food has long been celebrated for the many hats it wears. As a grower of quality produce, I relish the honour of sharing the many allures of quality food and farming.

Sustenance

The primary function of food is to provide energy (calories) to move our muscles and enliven our brains. Food also provides the building blocks (proteins) to regenerate our organs so that we can continue living, and the micronutrients needed to build catalysts (enzymes) that keep our bodies functioning efficiently. And since our bodies are colonized by large quantities of beneficial bacteria (probiotics), they require undigested food (soluble fibre) that passes through to them in the gut.

Receptors in our taste buds and nasal cavity have the uncanny ability to guide us toward making the healthiest food choices. (Note that this works best when we ignore advertising messages and cultural traditions for using excessive white sugar, refined oils, salt, and white vinegar.) Appealing flavours (tastes and aromas) indicate sources of nutrients that we (and our bacteria) require on any particular day. It behooves us to rely on our natural sensors rather than the latest (ever-changing) theories.

By adopting the best growing practices, I have learned how to reliably produce superior-tasting foods. I start by selecting the most flavourful seed varieties. I then make sure the soil has a balance of all needed minerals. And then I disturb the soil as little as possible so it becomes sufficiently porous for life-giving air, water, and soil-life (bacteria, fungi, amoeba, and more) to move through it.

“Just as plants require balanced fertility, people need nutrient-dense foods that contain all the vitamins and minerals our bodies require to sustain well-being.”

Health

The key to healthy eating is to start with well-grown ingredients. Just as plants require balanced fertility, people need nutrient-dense foods that contain all the vitamins and minerals our bodies require to sustain well-being. When attractively presented by caring cooks, we naturally choose healthy quantities of these satisfying and nutritious foods.

In a University of Guelph research project I am contributing to, we are finding a positive correlation between carrots grown with cultural practices for superior flavour and the quantity of their cancer-preventative antioxidants. Armed with this type of information, I can inform producers of efficient ways to grow them, and encourage chefs to develop appealing ways to use these healthier crops. I can also help food processors and farmers access government funding to enhance healthy local food production.

Pleasure

Food provides much more than nutrient and health benefits. Sharing food can bring pleasure in many ways:

  • Lovingly preparing meals for family and friends is gratifying.
  • Seasonal ingredients highlight cultural celebrations.
  • Revisiting foods we grew up with is comforting.
  • Ethnic ingredients inspire delightful virtual travel.
  • New (to us) ingredients add zest to our lives.
  • Attractively presenting food is art for all the senses.
  • Preparing heirloom ingredients keeps history alive.

    As a caring grower, I like to search for seed varieties with different colours, sizes, shapes, textures, and stories to provide chefs with more ingredients for their palates. I can also harvest crops at differing stages of maturity to deliver alternate flavours and textures.

    “As a caring grower, I like to search for seed varieties with different colours, sizes, shapes, textures, and stories to provide chefs with more ingredients for their palates.”

    Globalization and modern chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides have all contributed to cheaper and more readily available food. But we are suffering consequences from these “advances”:

    • The flavour of most foods is less nuanced and satisfying.
    • Less-satisfying food leads to overeating and obesity.
    • Year-round availability has eliminated seasonal delights.
    • Standardized international varieties make foods boring.
    • US government analysis shows that over 50% of our foods have declined in nutrition by over 50% from what they were in the 1950s.

      Please join those of us who do not want to pay these hidden prices for cheap food.

      DAVID COHLMEYER is a grower and a consultant for sustainably minded farmers and food-service providers. In recognition of his many years of insight and leadership, David was honoured in 2010 with the Governor General’s Award for Stewardship and Sustainability. Visit David’s website at www.davidcohlmeyer.ca.

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