Learning to Love Fruit

At the height of my disregard for healthy eating, I told my friend E, “I don’t like to bother with fruit; it’s all sugar and if I’m going to eat sugar, I want to eat caramel or chocolate!” There’s nothing wrong with loving chocolate and caramel, but E was right to be a little flabbergasted: fruit is such a beautiful food group, and I was silly to disregard it.

Fruit, when it’s really fresh, has become one of my favorite things. When eating at the breakfast here at the hotel this week, I’ve been replacing some of my old time favorites, like danishes, with larger-than-usual piles of fruit. Sure, they also are sweet, but I feel more alert and happy instead of like I’m in a butter-and-sugar coma for the rest of the day.

I’ve noticed lately that keeping fresh fruit in the house is hard because it can spoil before I get to it, but keeping fruit smoothie drinks means I’m often reaching for that instead of more pastry or bagels. I get whatever brand is on sale and sometimes there are even ones with spinach blended in – added bonus. Obviously, this is not the whole-food solution of one’s dreams, but E would probably be pretty proud of me. I’ve also been really happy with recipes like the Apple Cake and the Zucchini Bread I’ve made over the past few months, which combine my love of pastry with a mixed in serving or two of fruit. I’m coming around to the way that fruits and veggies as the bulk of my food makes me feel a lot better and be more creative with my cooking.

Fresh fruits and veggies taste better by the lake

We didn’t have plans, for once, on a Sunday. I figured we’d do what we always do – some puttering around the house, some cooking, some home repair and lawn maintenance. But it was perfect outside: breezy and sunny after a week and a half of nearly constant rain.

We knew there was a state park less than an hour away that we have been meaning to visit for a camping trip, and I figured we’d be more likely to get there and actually budget time for a trip if we saw how nice it was on a day like today. So we threw whatever food seemed reasonable at the time into the car, along with swim gear and headed down to the park.

We swam for what must have only been an hour but which felt like so much more; the bottom of the lake was delightfully sandy and no creatures touched my legs, which made me quite happy. We dried off in the sun and turned to snacks, and realized we’d only brought two apples, two purple peppers, and a whole, enormous cantaloupe. Well, also some bratwurst to cook on a mini grill, but those took a little time.

Sometimes I think that the reason kids don’t grow up learning to love fruits and veggies is because they eat them indoors; if you sit down at a picnic shelter and hack a cantaloupe in half, then spend the afternoon digging bits of it out with a spoon and drinking the accumulated juice straight out of the cantaloupe bowl… you just can’t help but love it. The purple peppers had been an impulse purchase at the farmer’s market, and they were a bit more bitter than most bell peppers, but they were a nice contrast to the cantaloupe. Slices of crisp granny smith apples added another texture, a tart flavor.

I’m facing down a real doozy of a week, and we came home to more work and a few chores that still need doing, but today, like that wide cantaloupe half, was very sweet indeed. Though eating the bratwurst was far more filling, the fruits and veggies eaten in the late summer sun were the highlight of my day.

The Jungle in the Garden

So, I’m officially home, and to my great astonishment, the garden has mushroomed. It has exploded. It is everywhere!

Husband let me know that he’d been eating salads off the garden’s greens for the whole time I was gone, and I noticed that the basil is thick and lush again (time for more Brie-Basil Pasta, perhaps?).

The squash are almost ready to flower, and our strawberry plants remain thick and green even though they seem to have stopped flowering. The biggest growers by far, however, are the tomatoes: they’ve spread in every direction! We’ve also got two thriving pepper plants, which is good because I feel like I add bell peppers to every single recipe, and we’ve got carrots. I got impatient and tried to pull one too early a while back, so I’ve been resisting digging any of them up; I need to figure out exactly how long this variety of carrots takes to mature!

The potato barrel seems to be retaining too much moisture, but we’ve also just had a really wet month of June so far, which is bound to make them a little yellow and sad when they are in a barrel. The bush of mint seems to be thriving at the back of our yard, and our onion, while overshadowed currently by the mushrooming tomato plant, seem to still be sending up their tall thin feelers toward the sky.

When I think about how worried I was in early April that my tiny sproutlings would never take in the soil, that they’d wither immediately and die, I can hardly believe it! No matter how much fruit/veg comes out of the garden, I’m stunned at the way living things can blossom under sunshine and abundant rain. It makes me even more excited for the project we’re planning, where we’re going to add a new raised bed with a tomato trellis at the back of our yard. It gets even more direct sunlight than the current beds, which seems to bode quite well. Maybe we’ll also give our plants a little more space next year, knowing what kind of jungle can come out of just a few sprouts!