October 3, 2009

Harvest of Carotene

Or is that beta-carotene, or what's the difference? After a little research, I refreshed my memory from college days. Carotene is the pigment that makes these carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe orange. There are several forms of carotene, with the most common form being beta-carotene, and it's the one that humans convert into Vitamin A in their livers. Cooking these yummy foods (to break down the cell walls), and eating them with a little fat or nuts, both help to make the beta-carotene more available for use in our bodies. Well, I can certainly think of a few ways to use a little fat and nuts on sweet potatoes! Cantaloupe - don't know about that.

I was amazed to learn all the conditions believed to improve with beta-carotene consumption:
prevention against cancer and heart disease
slowing the progression of cataracts
prevention of macular degeneration
immunity boost
protection against sunburn
asthma
depression
infertility
Parkinson’s disease
psoriasis
arthritis
high blood pressure

So back on my soap box here, if you're able to grow these kinds of vegetables (add leafy greens, pumpkins, collards, etc. to what we harvested in the picture) you're almost certain to have a higher concentration of beta-carotene, and so many other nutrients, than you will by getting them at your grocery store. You can compensate by buying produce from a farmer's market, or asking your grocery stores to offer produce from local sources if at all possible. The farther it's had to travel to get to you, the earlier it's probably been harvested, and the less time it's had to develop the nutrients that you're trying to get from it. I'm totally aware that not everyone can grow their food, but it's worthwhile to get serious about what alternatives you may have - for your health and that of your family, it's really worth it.

On a different kind of harvest note, it's getting really close to that time here in Iowa, and we've seen a little bit of corn harvested already. As you can see from the clouds, rain has put a little bit of a hold on harvest at the moment. I just loved the checker board illusion in this soybean field near us. The rows are planted in a back and forth manner, but the undulation of this field breaks up the long stripes that are really there and instead you get this checked affect from a distance. I know, I'm easily amused and entertained, but maybe you are too!

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