One of the concerns that we have about our food (beyond the use of pesticides) is how fresh the vegetables we eat are.
In Goa, most of what we eat is coming a fair way before it reaches our tables – and the thing to worry about is how much of that freshness is lost before we consume it.
Admittedly, the issue of freshness is difficult to quantify in terms of the nutritional value of the food. There are a wide range of highly conflicting views on the relative performance of fresh, refrigerated and flash-frozen produce (results of studies depend on who sponsored them). However, as growers it provides us with an opportunity and also forces us to make decisions and set benchmarks for getting our produce across to the markets.
Clearly most of us can evaluate the freshness of leafy vegetables and herbs — palak, methi, dhaniya, lettuce — much better than we can the freshness of other vegetables like brinjals, pumpkins and tomatoes. Obviously this is because the loss of moisture is quicker and more visible. But the fact is that even refrigeration doesn’t necessarily eliminate – because the ‘fridge’ tends to dehydrate produce too (try it). Even organically grown food – which tends to have less excess moisture and therefore age better – cannot escape this reality.
Our conclusion for produce on our farms is:
- The fresher the better, especially for leafy produce – its clearly better.
- How fresh? We’ve set ourselves a benchmark of 3 hours from our harvest to our outlets
- Freshness is at least as important as organic (especially for leafy vegetables)
- Grow in Panjim, to sell in Panjim (no exports for leafys)
- If you want to go to new markets, take your farm with you