The plum tree in my backyard is awake with white blossoms that shine silver in the moonlight and cluster on the dark wood branches like downy-snow. These small, soft, flowery nests attract wobbly bees by day and at night waft currents of honeysuckle into the yard, surprising the noses of neighbors or cats with foretold hints of sweet July plums whispered in a narrow passing breeze.
The blossoms fall and soon small and cupped bright green leaves sprout. As they begin to flatten out, they start a most amazing process that is arguably one of the most important functions on the face of the earth.
Photosynthesis: Leaves are the engines that drive photosynthesis and spring time is a great time to watch the effect leaves have on the trees and plants that they serve. So what is photosynthesis? Simply put, photosynthesis is the process that a plant uses to combine water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight to produce oxygen and sugars (energy). Harold McGee notes in his book On Food and Cooking that “the most important development for the future of eating came more than 3 billion years ago with the evolution of a bacterium that could tap the energy in sunlight and store it in carbohydrate molecules (molecules built from carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen). Chlorophyll, the green pigment we see in vegetation all around us, is a molecule that captures sunlight and initiates this process of photosynthesis.” Without this bacterium (thanks bacterium, we owe you a big one!) we wouldn’t have an earth as we know it and we wouldn’t know it because there wouldn’t be an us to know. Photosynthesis allowed plants to create oxygen, which also created ozone – both oxygen and ozone (one to breathe, the other to protect us from ultraviolet radiation) are keys to our survival. As winter unwinds into spring across the country, fruit trees begin to come out of dormancy, flower, bud, and grow fruit. The energy produced—set in motion originally by that unnamed 3-billion-year-old mother of all great bacterium—is what sustains us. So remember, this year when you look at a fruit tree think about how hard it is working each day to absorb sunlight and make energy and oxygen.
To find out what the fruits of different trees labor are in your area, check out our In The Mix section by region. Click the ladybug on our home page at www.fruitguys.com.
Enjoy and be fruitful!
- Chris Mittelstaedt email@example.com
Seeds for Schools
What could be a more evocative image for our future than a child's palm full of seeds? A shipment of seeds from The Natural Gardening Company in Petaluma, CA arrived at The FruitGuys last week prompting a good deal of spring fever and joy as we sorted the seeds into little envelopes bound for the elementary students we serve. The FruitGuys supplies fresh fruit and veggie snacks to schools nationwide for the U.S. Department of Agriculture-sponsored Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and the seed envelopes carry our message of "Welcome Spring."
Each packet contains two easy-to-grow veggies. The seeds can be germinated in the classroom in keeping with the science curriculum, or can be grown in school gardens. We included a colorful assortment of radishes named, appropriately, Easter Egg, Breakfast, and Cherry Belle. Radishes are quick to grow—it only takes about 24 days until kids can pull, wash, and eat them. Heirloom Laxton Progress shelling peas were also included to give children the experience of eating fresh peas off the vine, not canned or frozen.
The mission of The FruitGuys School Program is to provide fresh, healthy foods as well as to expand children's palates with a variety of local produce. “When students are served the fruit and veggies at snack time they also receive a FruitGuys educational component encouraging children to eat healthier snacks and covering health topics," said Carol Stewart, FruitGuys’ School Program Coordinator.
Grants for the USDA program are available to elementary schools where 50% or more of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. If you are a school administrator, or think your child’s school could be eligible for the FFVP, in California contact the CDE or email Carol: firstname.lastname@example.org. She'll be glad to help you find out if your school qualifies. If you would like to order fruit independently for your child’s classroom or organize a fruit fundraising program for your school, she can help you with that too.
- Heidi Lewis
Did the change to Daylight Savings Time throw you for a loop? I saw a lot of yawns around our water cooler. Even this one-hour time change reminds us how important our sleep cycle is, and how easily it is disrupted.
Sleep is controlled by our circadian rhythm, or internal daily biological clock, which dictates recurring physical and mental changes in our bodies throughout the day, including sleepiness. This “clock” is actually a pair of pinhead-sized brain structures located in the hypothalamus. The clock can be reset based on sunlight and other external cues, including alarm clocks. But when the time suddenly changes, either through travel or daylight savings time, it takes those tiny brain structures a few days to catch up to the new schedule.
No big deal, right? But good regular sleep is key to our well being. Human beings do not adapt to getting less sleep than they need, so the “sleep debt” has to be paid off, often on weekends by sleeping in. Too little sleep leads to drowsiness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, impaired memory and physical performance, and a depressed immune system. Sleep-deprived people perform as badly, or worse, on a driving simulator or hand-eye coordination tasks as intoxicated ones. When the sleep debt gets big enough, it can cause hallucinations and psychosis. Prolonged severe sleep deprivation can even lead to death.
In the modern world of electric lights, TV, computers, and cell phones, most of us do not get enough zzzzzs. A common myth is that we need less sleep as we age, but actually our needs don’t change much unless we are pregnant or sick, when our need increases. What does happen with age is that our sleep patterns change and we tend to wake more easily and have more trouble falling back asleep. Short naps can be helpful, but more than 30 minutes daytime sleep can disrupt the circadian rhythm and create more difficulty sleeping that night.
So how much sleep do we need? Most adults require 7-8 hours of sleep a night, with the rare individual needing as little as 5 or as much as 10 hours per night. Experts say that if you feel drowsy during the day, you probably haven't had enough sleep. If you routinely fall asleep within 5 minutes of lying down, you probably have severe sleep deprivation, possibly even a sleep disorder. But each person needs to check in honestly with his or her own body to determine what is enough sleep.
Tips for a good night’s sleep include:
1. Setting a regular sleep and wake schedule and sticking to it even on weekends.
2. Exercise 20-30 minutes per day, preferably at least 5 hours before bedtime.
3. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, especially close to bedtime.
4. Relax for at least 30 minutes before bed – try a bath, a book, or warm milk.
5. Get an hour of morning sunlight to keep your internal clock on time.
And Daylight Savings Time? Next time try going to bed 30 minutes earlier for a couple days leading up to the change.
- Rebecca Taggart
Rebecca Taggart is a San Francisco yoga instructor.
Recipe: Roasted Asparagus
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound green asparagus, trimmed, & cut on diagonal into 3-inch lengths
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)
Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Arrange all asparagus on prepared baking sheet. Stir remaining tablespoon of olive oil into the minced onion and lemon peel in a small bowl. Pour over asparagus and toss gently to coat. Spread asparagus in single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast until asparagus is tender, stirring occasionally (~12 minutes).
Before serving add the parsley and toss gently. Transfer to platter and serve warm or at room temperature.
See more recipes here. Try The FruitGuys TakeHome case and you’ll receive fresh fruits and veggies to prepare dishes like this fresh, seasonal asparagus. Delivery at your office to take home or to your home. Veggies available in Bay Area only at this time, coming soon nationwide.
See what Mother Nature Network had to say about our TakeHome program in their review: The FruitGuys Make Locavoring Easy.
As part of your FruitGuys subscription, we provide you
and your employees online access to UC Berkeley's Wellness Letter, the
newsletter of nutrition, fitness and self-care. It translates leading-edge
research into practical advice for daily living - at home, at work,
while exercising, shopping, or cooking.
Highlight from the March Wellness Letter
Smile (If You Can), You’re on Botox
We can’t turn back the clock on aging. But millions of people get Botox injections, which can temporarily reduce some kinds of facial wrinkles. Here are the facts you should know if you’re considering the procedure.
The archive is available online at www.wellnessletter.com. The password for March is granola.
Great Women of the Kitchen at Rancho Gordo
Mar 26, Apr 11, Apr 24, May 1
Underground Food Scene Talk
San Francisco, CA
Basics of Seed Saving
Old-Fashioned Seed Swap
NYC Beekeepers Assoc. Meeting - Now Legit!
New York, NY
Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve - The Spring Ephemerals
Plant-a-Tree Honoring Women's History Month
Recycling Day at Gaia
South Side Chicago, IL
The Great Egg Scramble - Cosley Zoo
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