Thursday, May 12, 2011

Customer to Farmer: "Why Does the Arugula Have Holes?"

I find it a little disconcerting when every peach in a supermarket display looks exactly alike. Sure, our store-bought fruits and vegetables may appear perfect, but what measures have been taken to create such uniformity?

With that in mind, I wasn’t too surprised when, while at the farmers’ market the other day, I heard a shopper ask a farmer, “Why does the arugula have holes?”

The farmer happened to be my friend Nevia No, one of the best farmers in the New York City farmers’ market system and the energy behind Bodhitree Farm. No, instead of relying on pesticides, works to improve her soil’s health through non-chemical means, which gives her food the utmost in flavor and nutrition.

Sometimes, though, nature—in this case, dressed as flea beetles—wins the battle, leading to holes in arugula and other greens. Yet, No’s holey arugula is spicy and sweet, flavors usually lacking in soulless (and holeless) supermarket arugula.

“I can spray pesticides to make them look more presentable without holes, but I choose not to,” says No. “Unless entire leaves are gone, I believe it’s minor damage without any change of flavor.”

While No may hear the “Why does the arugula have holes?” question several times an hour, she stays true to her mission, which is to grow food with spirit. Bodhitree Farm is the antithesis of our omnipresent factory farms.

“If it's a choice between chemicals and holes, I will choose the latter,” says No. “I just hope that people understand why and don't put too much importance on appearance.”

(Find Nevia, Debbie and Bodhitree Farm's arugula in Union Square on Wednesdays and Fridays, plus in Abingdon Square and in Greenpoint-McCarren Park on Saturdays.)

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