Before I became an organic farmer, I saw a sign at a farmers' market that changed my life. The sign read “Concerned About Cancer? Fight It With Your Fork!” I was captivated. I
approached the booth and admired the piles of bunched kale, dark-green leafy collards, red, orange and white stems of swiss chard, red and green cabbage, giant heads of broccoli, fragrant spring onions and green garlic. On the other end of the table were bags of washed and dried spinach and mixed lettuces, condensation from the cool green leaves giving the clear plastic a smoky look.
The quality of the produce was clearly unbeatable, so I read on: “Medical experts predict that soon 50% of people in the US will get cancer in their lifetime. Longstanding medical research shows that eating cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, and cabbage help prevent cancer, and slows down the aging process. Stay healthy, look better, and help the environment by visiting your local organic/sustainable farmer or farmers’ market. That way, you food will also be your medicine.”
When I went home, I followed the links to the sources listed at the bottom of the sign (cancer.org; and naturalnews.com ) and found a wealth of information about the health benefits of fresh, healthy foods.
In addition to the research confirming the vegetables’ anti-cancer powers (including breast and prostate cancers), they have also been found to be anti-inflammatory foods (which would prevent the condition that causes pain and other dis-eases in the body), and anti-oxidants (twhich would prevent the condition that damages tissues and contributes to aging and looking old). Eating cruciferous vegetables also help support cardiovascular health (heart, blood, and blood vessels), assist with detoxification of the body, and regulate elimination of wastes.
Then a friend of mine told me about a group of doctors in New York who prescribed farmers’ market fruits and vegetables for their patients suffering from obesity and diabetes. The success rate was such that these physicians are continuing the prescription practice, and now physicians in 5 other states have also begun to prescribe farmers’ market fruits and vegetables to certain patients as well.
Vegetables available at many farmers’ markets are required to be grown by the farmer, without exception. These foods are fresh and local, often picked the day before being brought to the market by the farmer’s own hands. The work is tiring and back-bending, but the food is filled with goodness that derives from the farmer and his family’s care and devotion. No wonder people are feeling better, I thought.
While the farmer’s market is a great source for good, fresh, local foods, they still can’t compare to the foods you can grow at your own home. The red, ripe, just-picked tomato, still warm from the summer sun, holds secrets that it will only share with you, the gardener, upon eating it. Luscious orange cantaloupes, ripe and dripping with sweetness and fragrance when cut and shared, cannot be better than when well-grown at home. (Check out my series, How to Grow Your Own Food, right here on EBONY.com.)
Nutritious black-green kale, washed, chopped, and sautéed with olive oil, onions and garlic is able to transform ramen noodles into a healthy food when mixed with it. But kale will never be more fresh and nutritious than when you’ve picked, prepared, and served it within the space of 30 minutes.
If fresh, wholesome vegetables are able to keep us healthy I reasoned, then what passes for food in places like fast-food shops must share at least some of the responsibility for making us ill in the first place. And if fresh, organic vegetables is what will make us well again, then pharmaceutical drugs are a waste of money, and may even be a harmful substitute. This realization made me shudder, as I reflected on the increasing number of folks that are taking multiple prescriptions.
“It's proof of the goodness of God,” the farmer had explained when I asked him about his sign that day in the market. “The things we need to keep us healthy grow right at home in our gardens. Got greens?” he asked. Amen.
C. Bernard Obie is the steward of Abanitu Organics farm in Roxboro, North Carolina.