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We do what we can

February 25, 2008 - Kathie Evanoff
I am not a vegetarian, but I have always preferred a vegetable-based diet, particularly when I can grow those vegetables myself.

Winter in Ohio is a mighty obstacle for people who prefer to grow their own food. Some of our vegetable plants aren’t annuals at all, and if given the chance, will continue to produce fruit as long as we keep harvesting, at least until the frost hits. One example is green peppers. If we could keep the plants healthy with lots of light and warmth, we could be eating peppers off our plants well into winter. In fact, my husband once attempted this by bringing a healthy plant indoors in late summer and placing it under florescent lights in the basement. At one point he went so far as to put a heat lamp on the plant to keep it warm.

His pepper experiment was successful to a degree. While he was able to harvest a couple small peppers on Christmas Day, the plant was not the same picture of health as when he brought it in. It was out of its element, trying to survive in a cool basement with artificial lighting. It became stressed and didn’t make long enough to go back outside the following summer.

My husband, the vegetable-hater, will tolerate a few things. He likes carrots, both raw and cooked, as well as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, raw celery, peppers and cucumbers. He refuses; however, to eat anything from the brassica family of plants, other than cabbage when it is fermented into sauerkraut. I mentioned before that I once offered him $20 to eat a small sprig of broccoli, and he turned me down. I might have been asking him to eat a worm.

There are plenty of people who can’t get the broccoli down. For you, I ask, have you tried sprouts? Broccoli sprouts taste nothing like the mature broccoli flower head.

In the early 1990s, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore discovered that broccoli produces high levels of a compound called sulforaphane. In laboratory animals, this compound was shown to reduce the size of developing cancer cells. When broccoli seeds are sprouted, within the first three days of their growth, a compound in the sprouts called glucoraphanin, converts to sulforaphane when broken down, or in the case of sprouts, when chewed. Not only that, but in three-day old sprouts, this cancer-reducing compound is 10 to 100 times more concentrated than mature garden grown broccoli. This is not to say that eating broccoli sprouts will cure cancer, but a little extra nutrition is always a good thing.

Unfortunately, my husband won’t eat sprouts either, but I like them and I like to grow them. Keeping sprouts around for too long; however, can result in the same bacteria that food exhibits when left out too long. In 2005, about 650 people in Ontario became ill with salmonella after eating bean sprouts. Perhaps the sprouts were too old or perhaps, like the spinach of more than a year ago, that batch somehow became contaminated. No one really knows, but sprouts are still available today in restaurants and grocery stores. Anyone can grow their own sprouts; however, and it is quite easy.

Sprouts are something that can easily be grown inside in winter, even if green peppers have to come from the local market. I’ve sprouted alfalfa, mung bean and broccoli in glass canning jars with muslin lids, paper plates lined with paper towels and fancy-schmancy sprouting containers. One of those containers is pictured here with broccoli seeds I’m preparing to sprout for next week’s sandwiches and salads. I’ll photograph them every day so you can see how easy it is to grow your own sprouts. Since I’m the only one in the house who will eat them, I only start a few at a time so as not to be overwhelmed with sprouts.

Sunday breakfast was an egg-white omelet made with one whole egg and three egg whites. The omelet was filled with mushrooms and two tablespoons of cheddar cheese, and was topped with two tablespoons mild salsa. I added two slices of whole-grain toast with raspberry fruit spread, one large orange and a glass of milk. I didn’t eat again until about 2 p.m. and I wasn’t all that hungry then.

Lunch was a quick peanut butter and fruit spread sandwich, a half cup of unsweetened applesauce and a glass of milk.

I spent the day doing a bit of cooking. I found a recipe for butternut squash and apple soup that I wanted to try and I had to use up the last of the lump crab meat. I made the soup as well as a half recipe of Maryland crab cakes. I also put a beef roast with vegetables in the crock pot to simmer all day for my husband’s dinner later, as I wasn’t sure he would like either the soup or the crab cakes. Turns out I was right on the soup, he pronounced it yucky, while I liked it - no big surprise. He did like the crab cakes; however, and had two of them with his dinner.


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Breakfast: 2 ounces grains; two ounces meat; ½ cup vegetables; 1 cup fruit; 1 cup milk; 80 discretionary calories (fruit spread and cheese)