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December 22, 2014

A Vegetable Field Day

Being new to Southern Florida, I'm still getting a lay of the land. For instance, when leaving my development I always turn left towards the highway, malls, grocery stores, etc. I went right only a few times, but there wasn't anything commercial, so I ended up turning back.

The other week though, I was invited by Monsanto on a Vegetable Field Day for a fun day of learning and tasting in the fields located further down that rural route than I had ever traveled before. Although I was provided a stipend for travel, I only had to drive less than 20 miles to a farm that I would never have known existed otherwise. The other bloggers that attended drove from much further away coming from Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa.
Before the outing, what I knew about Monsanto was limited to the documentary Food Inc. Fortunately, I was relived to learn that out of their 2,000 seed varieties that they produce only two vegetables – squash and sweet corn – have genetically modified (GMO) varieties. Thus, none of the beautiful, fresh veggies that we picked and ate that day (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and watermelons) had GMOs.

We were given re-usable bags and free reign to pick what we wanted. It was like a grown-up version of a kid in a candy store, lol. I filled my bag to the point it was getting heavy to carry. I had never been on a working farm or really picked anything put strawberries and apples before so was enjoying the experience. I especially loaded up on grape-sized snacking tomatoes, their super sweet bite-sized orange tomatoes were my favorite. I couldn't wait to bring them home to my boys to try. I told them they were grapes and although they were skeptical of the color at first they didn't seem to notice the difference, haha.
SunSugar tomatoes
I also used the plum tomatoes that I picked to make a sauce that night with melted brie cheese. For lunch the next day, I made cucumber and cream cheese tea sandwiches and cucumber water. So fun to actually eat food that I personally saw growing on a vine. Take a look at my kitchen counter post the field trip, so healthy:
Oh, and for the first time ever, I ate a raw pepper! I was reluctant, but figured this is why I was there -- to experience new things, so I bit into the pepper like an apple. Even more shockingly, I loved it! My mind was blown. Not being a fan of spicy foods, I was surprised to discover Bella Fina peppers are sweet, crunchy and full of antioxidents, plus vitamins A and C.
Biting into a raw Bella Fina pepper for the 1st time
When speaking with the different farmers and veggie breeders, I learned the following tips & tidbits:
  • Need a tomato or avocado to ripen sooner? Put them near a banana. 
  • Never put ripe tomatoes in the fridge, but if you buy green ones, go ahead and put them in the fridge. When/if you want them to ripen up, put them in a bag with a ripe banana. 
  • When buying peppers, green color is immature and red is mature. Same goes for bell peppers, but stores like to buy them green. Bell peppers are all green from the get-go and gradually change color, getting sweeter as they ripen. 
  • To reduce the need for chemicals, growers will use reflective tarp that disorients bugs. We could see it shining in the distant fields. It costs more, but cheaper in the long run since it reduces the need for pesticides. 
  • Vegetable Breeders will breed certain veggies to produce positive traits like making them brighter in color or reduce bruising so that shoppers are more likely to select these veggies and thus reducing waste. 
Basket of veggies centerpiece, so colorful!
Disclaimer: Travel expenses, veggies and lunch courtesy of Monsanto

1 comment

  1. I can't wait to start my garden this summer. I love being able to grow and cook with my own fresh veggies. My favorite and easiest thing to grow is tomatoes.

    ReplyDelete

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