Finally! Strawberry season in the Northeast—a few short weeks of locally grown bliss: strawberries eaten over the sink, juice staining my fingers; strawberries sliced in a bowl when I’m feeling a bit more elegant; strawberries in my yogurt and on my cereal; strawberries in a green salad when I’m feeling downright fancy; and strawberries rescued before they turn too soft, whirred into a smoothie.
But what of the smoothie, if—heaven forfend—a banana should find its way into my locally produced treat? Is it okay to consume a fruit that was shipped across the country or around the world from a tropical climate, using fossil fuels, supporting a farmer who works the land not in the next town, but possibly in another hemisphere?
In her memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver describes how her local diet changed her view towards this formerly innocuous-seeming fruit: “Our banana-free life was now just our life. So much so, in fact, I sometimes found myself a bit startled to run across things like bananas in other people’s kitchens—like discovering a pair of Manolo Blahnik sandals in the lettuce bed. Very nice I’m sure, just a bit extravagant for our kind.”
The humble banana strikes her as extravagant because she believes the environmental costs to produce and ship a banana are the equivalent of high couture footwear. Ouch. But it turns out that the carbon footprint of shipped fruit is not necessarily any worse than local. See this New York Times article for more details. And the conventionally produced banana she refers to is also not the banana in my smoothie. Mine is organic, meaning it is produced with less impact on ground water, if not my personal health.
So I’m not going to feel guilty about the banana in my smoothie. First of all, how unhealthy for us all that we spend so much time feeling guilty about what we eat. We feel guilty about the impact on the environment, workers, farmers, animals, our bodies, and the way other people are judging our diets. Sheesh. That’s enough to give us permanent indigestion. My feeling is: prioritize, decide, and then enjoy. The banana, for instance, is an inexpensive source of potassium, and makes a darn good smoothie base.
We do have to make decisions, though, about our food. So which is best, local or organic? Ideally, of course, both if you can afford it and find it. Around here, the farms are small with diverse crops, so it is much more common to find the designation Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) than the USDA’s Organic seal, but CNG is pretty equivalent (see these CNG FAQs for more info). The advantage of locally grown organic or CNG produce is you can talk to your local farmer—visit the farm, even—and see how the land, the water, the workers, the animals, and the food are treated. Being local, it is also fresher, picked ripe, and may contain more nutrients. At the very least, it is tastier. That’s why the fancy restaurants like local food—not for ethics, but taste.
But what if it comes down to a pint strawberries, either conventionally produced local or organic, shipped to your supermarket? True, the local strawberries support a local business and are probably fresher and better tasting and textured, but if they are conventionally grown, they are likely to be laced with pesticides. (The strawberry, by the way, is one of the 12 most contaminated produce items, according to the Environmental Working Group’s findings. See their “Dirty Dozen”). Personally, my farmer’s market dollars go to the CNG farms. After that, I buy organic from the supermarket.
So make your choices, and then make your smoothie.
Strawberry-Banana Smoothie (for one)
- Start with your smoothie destination glass (This way you’ll make sure your smoothie will fit into it at the end. Clever, no?)
- Fill 1/3 glass ice cubes
- Top with 2/3 glass of fruit—one banana and as many strawberries (rinsed and tops cut off) as you can fit. The fruit can stick out over the top of the glass. (If you freeze the fruit first—especially a banana—it comes out super smooth and thick. Peel it first and wrap it in plastic before freezing.)
- Pour milk or soymilk up to halfway in the glass.
- Transfer to your blender
- Squeeze about a tablespoon of honey or agave syrup (vegan sweetener)
- Blend, beginning on a low speed and work up to a higher speed until the whole thing is smooth and creamy. You may need to add more liquid.
- Enjoy, guilt free!