Grower's Row: Welcome to Summer (almost!)

Grower’s Row: Welcome to Summer (almost!)
By Lauren McDonald

We’re excited (and maybe a bit overwhelmed!) to be back in the full swing of summer on the farm. It’s hard to believe we’re harvesting again; we only had about a month break between the last chard in Tunnel 2 and the first harvest for May Share. Despite the crazy weather swings over the last few weeks, from frosts to 95 degree days, everything is looking beautiful and bountiful, especially the arugula, kale, mustard mix, Tokyo Bekana heads, and radishes.

After recovering from two successful (if slightly soggy!) plant sales, we’ve been madly planting the last few weeks to get the longer season summer crops, like peppers, eggplant, and winter squash, in the ground. With the start of the full CSA just around the corner, we’ll be working longer days and are excited to welcome our three interns for the season- Sarantia, Liz, and Fiona. We’re also looking forward to having Workshare members back in the fields to help with harvest and weeding projects and appreciate those of you who have jumped in early!

With the start of distributions we’ll also begin our weekly Food Share donations. Our goal is to donate 20% of our produce to organizations and families who do not have access to fresh, healthy food. Our list of partner organizations is up to 15 this season!

We will work with returning partners:

  • Dutchess Outreach
  • Grace Smith House
  • Bread of Life
  • Salvation Army
  • Hudson River Housing
  • River Haven Youth Shelter
  • Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie
  • Victory Bus Project
  • Poughkeespie City School District

New this year will be:

  • Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Food Pantry
  • Beulah Baptist Church
  • Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Poughkeepsie
  • Community Family Development
  • Long Table Harvest (a gleaning organization in Dutchess and Columbia Counties)

We’re grateful for financial support from United Way and Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, and we are very appreciative of Workshare members who deliver produce and the partner organizations who work to incorporate the fresh produce into their pantries and meals.

Many institutions want to use more fresh produce but struggle with the added cost and prep time. Last year we started the Green Machines program to allow PFP members to do their Workshare hours at the Lunchbox or Hudson River Housing. Members help prepare greens, often blanching and freezing them for later use, or assist with other kitchen activities. This is a great option if you have challenges with sun, heat, or kneeling in the field, so check for an announcement from German: we’ll post these shifts on in the next few weeks. It’s an exciting time to be on the farm just on the cusp of summer, and we’re looking forward to sharing the bounty with you and the wider community!

Your Chance to Join a Great CSA, by's Anne Maxfield

Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on It is reprinted here with permission from the author.
We would like to thank our super-CSA-shareholder Anne Maxfield for this post.

If you've ever thought about joining a CSA, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project has a few spots open for the 2017 season and here's why you should grab one.  
There are a couple of things that make this CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) different. 
First of all, you get to choose what you want each week.
There's a board that tells you what the options are that week and how much of each you get. It's usually 5 different things for a small share and 10 for a large one.


If you're like me and hate beets, they only have to end up in your bag if you're trying to be nice to your husband. 
If you want to have zucchini every week in the summer, you can do that too. Up to you.
The second great difference is that they offer additional pick-your-own options.
Early on there are strawberries, followed by blueberries with raspberries closing the season.
Besides the berries, there are always herbs--basil, cilantro, chives, dill and some  less familiar herbs to pick.
Throughout the summer you can also pick a weekly small bouquet of flowers to add to your bounty. 

If you're like Janet and love peas, they're usually available to pick in season, with cherry tomatoes and all sorts of peppers and chiles coming later in the year.
You also have your choice of pick-up days--Tuesday evenings or Saturday mornings, so choose whichever is the most convenient for you. The farm is located on the Vassar campus, just off of Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie.
There are also lots of other perks--a plant sale early in the year so you can grow your own (but why would you would want to?), other CSA shares including meat, coffee, fruit and more. 

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The staff is friendly and helpful. If you have questions about what do make with an odd piece of produce, there is always someone around with recipe suggestions and recommendations.
For more information about joining or donating contact them at: (845) 516-1100 or
If you sign up for the CSA share, tell them you saw it on, they will toss in a folding shopping bag, so you'll never be without on a pick-up day!

Grower's Row: Spring Update

By Patrick Lang

We're on the precipice of something that feels big... This is at least the sense I get as we push through April and begin the month of May on the farm. The feverish work (for the most part) of April and early May are entirely dedicated to Plant Sale/Open Farm Day and the start of the CSA season, including May Share.

What has the farm crew been up to? In the weeks leading up to the plant sale, PFP's small greenhouse has been packed with both plants and people; one is forced to move deftly given the many precariously situated trays and pots of growing seedlings! While plant growth has generally been good this spring, we have experienced far more overcast skies than we are used to. Cloudy conditions demand that we be very attentive to moisture in the greenhouse, since standing water will evaporate slowly, a condition that can favor the spread of disease.

Other plants that would benefit from more bright sunlight are this season's tomatoes, which were transplanted into the high tunnel in mid-March! In this case, the slow growth may help us a little bit, as a tremendous amount of work will be needed to maintain these growing plants: pruning each plant and setting up 1 to 2 trellis lines for each plant are both priorities these days. Of course the promise of red and orange slicing tomatoes, as well as over 20 varieties of heirlooms, makes this well worth the effort.

Finally, as we think especially about extending the beginning of the CSA season, we've shifted our thoughts somewhat to perennial crops on the farm. There are many reasons to consider perennials as a complement to our favorite annual veggies, and chief among those is greater reliability in an era of climatic instability. The first May Share distribution of 2016 was postponed several months because of uncharacteristically cool spring weather, and relying more on perennials will make such postponement less likely in the future.

As some folks know, asparagus was planted a few years ago as a reliable, perennial spring crop. Unfortunately, the very early harvest does not correspond with any of our distribution times, which makes it unsuitable for CSA (fortunately, though, our education team is able to use it throughout the harvest window, sharing the beauty and deliciousness of asparagus with PCSD students!). This spring, we directed our attention to rhubarb; the 200 plants we've tended in the past 2 years yielded 600 new crowns when we dug them up, and each one has been replanted in a new rhubarb patch that is near the pick-your-own entrance. Rhubarb is wonderfully productive and demands almost no maintenance, and the plants recently transplanted should be large enough to provide delicious early season food one to two years from now.

If you will be here for Plant Sale and Open Farm Day (and we hope you are!), check out the perennial patch near the PYO gate, where the new rhubarb patch rests alongside raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries that all have a fresh, thick layer of woodchips, helping to ensure their continued health. We look forward to helping to get your garden going and to welcome the 2017 farm season this May. See you here soon!

Explore the Farm With Your Preschooler

By Lia Harris, Little Sprouts Instructor,

Digging in the dirt.  Eating carrots fresh from the farm.  Looking for bugs.  Planting seeds and watching them grow.  Singing songs and listening to the birds.  These are just a few of the things we’ll be doing this spring on the farm with our brand-new kids program, Little Sprouts! 

We all need to slow down a little bit more, take the time to look around and learn about the beautiful place in which we live, and build relationships with each other.  Kids are really good at doing those things, and this class is a way to encourage them to become comfortable outside, both on the farm and in the woods.  Alternatively, if your child is already comfortable outside, this class will help him or her work in a group setting and learn some ways of exploring the outdoors with science.  Through a mix of carefully planned activities and open inquiry, your child will have a chance to learn how the plants we love to eat grow, and why.  The more we get our kids outside, and the earlier we do it, the more likely they will be to develop a positive emotional connection to nature.  Through Little Sprouts, we will also explore where our food comes from and enjoy eating fresh, local food.  This is the ideal way to develop a positive community where kids enjoy eating healthy and are excited about growing their own food, which will also guide them on to a lifetime of eating locally! 

I can’t wait to be your family’s guide on this journey.  I’ve been a middle school science teacher and an environmental educator for over 15 years.  I developed my love of working with pre-school children through teaching ecology programs at the Cary Institute, and am currently pursuing my PhD in science education at the University at Albany. As a mom to two littles, I feel very strongly that we need to allow our children the space to explore the outdoors safely.  I also believe that little ones are natural scientists who just need a little bit of guidance to set up some fun and engaging experiments.  And finally, as a parent, I know that I’ll learn from our classes too as our children challenge me to look at the world differently.  I look forward to seeing you on the farm and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions!

Open Farm and Plant Sale Days 2017

Editor's Note: We have changed the text below to reflect our new plans for a wet first weekend. Even if you read our first edition of this blog post, please read on for new scheduling info and you won't miss out on a great day!

Rain or Shine Plant Sale Open Farm Day at PFP returns Saturday May 6th and 13th from 9am – 2pm!

Everyone is welcome, bring friends and family!
Below are the schedules for each day:

May 6th – Rain or shine, thanks to the Environmental Co-op letting us use their barn!

  • Of course a bounty of beautiful hand grown flowers, herbs and veggies to take home and plant or give to important people in your life.
  • Guest CSAs: North River Roasters, a local Community SupportedCoffee Roaster and Back Paddock Farm who provide 100% grass fed beef and log grown mushrooms.
  • Live Music with our very own farm crew member, Lauren McDonald, and guests.
  • Workshare hours sign up (get the good spots!).
  • New PFP Member Booth: Get “insider tips” for a more thorough orientation explaining the myriad benefits of what you’ve actually just signed up for!
  • Multi-purpose art for your garden, yard, deck, windowsill or other interior places: Nine local artists will be selling handmade bird feeders, bird baths, wind chimes, vases, pots, berry bowls, baskets & other containers. You’ll recognize these artists as PFP members and some of the most dedicated volunteers who make the amazingly beautiful and collectible bowls for Soup A Bowl (our annual fall fundraiser).

May 13th – Everything above will return, but a few more activities will be offered if we are outside and back on the farm!

  • Kids events: a Veggie piñata, make your own smoothies, arts and crafts and scavenger hunt.
  • Little Brays of Sunshine – Miniature donkeys from Little Brays of Sunshine who serve as therapy donkeys and donkey ambassadors will be visiting PFP for Open Farm. These sweet calm donkeys are looking forward to meeting you.
  • Make your own polenta: with Patrick and Nicholas on PFP’s bicycle powered grist mill.
  • Make your own silkscreen print created by local artists: BYO clothing or cloth accessory, or we’ll provide t-shirts and aprons for a small extra cost.
  • Le’Express Farmers and Chefs Food Truck.
  • Guest CSAs: North River Roasters, a local Community Supported  Coffee Roaster and Back Paddock Farm who provide 100% grass fed beef and log grown mushrooms.
  • Celebrity Farm Tours: including the Meditation and Discovery Gardens(a tour every hour beginning at 10am with one of PFP’s staff).
  • Live Music: with our very own farm crew member, Lauren McDonald, and guests.
  • Tours of the Vassar Community Gardens: Not a lot people realize there are over 70 Poughkeepsie community members who have their own garden plots immediately adjacent to PFP. Each of the plots has their own unique design and purpose for the steward who has chosen to utilize this invaluable space. Some are novice gardeners, some are actual certified Master Gardeners, and several gardeners hail from a long history of family agriculture. Some of the plots are strictly used for maximum and most efficient produce consumption, some are artistically designed with long-time family heirloom flowers and vegetables, and some are experimental “works in progress” as that member explores and learns the ins and outs of gardening.  This is truly a community of neighbors convening and expressing themselves using nature in some form or another.

Staff Highlight: Kate Dayton (aka PFP's own superhero)

Staff Highlight: Kate Dayton
By Ellie Limpert

Here at Poughkeepsie Farm Project, it’s no secret that our team of coworkers truly feels like a family. Our shared dedication to this work has helped forge strong, meaningful connections with each other. In an organization with a core team of only five full-time employees spread within three fast paced departments, this principle is both essential in operating effectively with continued vigor, and astonishing to genuinely maintain. Just how do we do it?!

Truth be told, running the show behind the scenes of Poughkeepsie Farm is our Office Manager Kate Dayton! Kate is our number one advocate, celebrating our good work with gusto, as well as our voice of reason, helping us affirm boundaries. She is authentic, unwavering, eager to share her gifts, and never afraid to say no. Since she has joined our team, we have witnessed an extraordinary flowering of human potential on the farm. Let’s be honest, we all admire her, are inspired by her, and want to grow up to be her!

I had the sincere pleasure of sitting down with Kate to explore her role, her responsibilities, and learn more about her journey to our farm family. As I prepared to commence the interview in a quiet room at Oakwood Friends School (home of our winter office), Kate didn’t waste a minute; she sat down at a piano, and began to play. The fact that she just began piano lessons a year ago is a true testament to her determination, confidence, and enthusiasm for life and learning.

What brought you to PFP?
In 2004 I left work in Manhattan after 15 years as an executive assistant for a full service real estate firm. I really truly loved this work, but the commute from my new home in Cold Spring was too far. After having some trouble finding a job up here, I decided it was my time to change the world! I started a business called “Green Courage” that sold healthy and sustainable interior building materials. A little shop in water street market in New Paltz! After this rewarding and challenging endeavor it was very clear to me that I needed to be connected to doing good in the world. When I read the Office Manager position for PFP I could not believe that for the first time in one job description there were so many diverse tasks – so many skills that I could contribute to help move this good work forward, while being a part of such a unique team. One of the goals in my job search was to be a part of a team and a community, and I really could not have landed in a better place in this regard. Be it our community of staff, our CSA community, or the Poughkeepsie community at large, I always feel such compassion and support each day and that is just so awesome. It is such an honor to work here, I feel so darn lucky!

What does your job entail behind the scenes?
An important part of the work that I do is in making sure that the money that comes in to the organization is recorded and processed in the best possible way, that we are meeting good financial bookkeeping practices, and we are constantly improving. The other area is in the management of that income in the CSA, and coordinating and organizing the list of members. If someone has committed to participate in our CSA community, it is very important that we welcome them when they come to pick up their share, and having their name correct – is an important part of expressing that acknowledgement and appreciation. 

What do you love about your presence at PFP?
What excites me and brings great satisfaction is looking at ways to improve systems and processes. I like to explore what is not working and create ways to improve on it...for instance when I arrived we processed CSA Registrations, Education Program fees, expense recording etc. differently from how we process them now. The way I came about the current method was from taking a look at tasks, efficiencies of time, accuracy and results and rearranged how the work flow took place. It is never perfect, but it is now manageable within the lean resources we operate within. 

In addition, I cannot put into words how grateful I am to eat the fresh delicious food that comes from our farm. It makes me think back to my childhood in Vt. when our milk came from our landlord's dairy farm in gallon jars with cream on the top and fresh corn was just picked in a neighbor’s field. I have great respect and admiration for our farm director and crew as we all know that growing food and negotiating the environment is a big undertaking. Prior to coming to PFP, I did not remember how amazing a fresh cucumber tasted. My husband and I sit at our dinner table feasting on this tasty bounty in food ecstasy! 

What do we love most about Kate’s presence at PFP?
Kate is a task master with keen emotional intelligence. She anticipates needs of the team, listens attentively, and is attune to the profound impact of empathetic leadership. We have witnessed firsthand the trust, group identity, and group efficacy cultivated through her ideals and integrity. Kate may say she was drawn to this position by the strength of our community, but it sure is hard to picture this community without Kate.

Fun Facts about Kate:

  • Kate grew up at the base of Stratton Mountain in Bondville Vermont!
  • She is a first generation college graduate!
  • She comes from a family of seven! (Four sisters and two brothers!)
  • Kate spent 8 years working as an Actress in New York City!
  • She owned her own business in New Paltz on Water Street! (Green Courage!)
  • She loves watching the Voice!
  • She just got cast in Anne of Green Gables!
  • If she were a vegetable she would be an eggplant…

Grower's Row: Snow, Seeds, and Sale (Plant Sale, that is)

Whoa, March. We might be tempted to "pretend it didn't happen," due to the cancellations, unexpected snow removal needs, and general inconvenience precipitating from the big winter storm, but I think it's helpful to be reminded that we're never in complete control. Arriving at PFP the day after the major snowfall, I fell down at least 5 times during a walk that normally takes 2 minutes; it was surprising and hard, and was accompanied by lots of audible (if only to me) laughter. The great news from the farm following this return of winter is that everything has held up wonderfully, and we are still lucky to have some greens in the tunnels, as well as thousands of healthy seedlings growing for CSA, plant sale, and meditation garden.

That's right! It's the busy and exciting season around here when the greenhouse is buzzing with seeding and re-potting activity and becoming utterly packed with plants. Our greenhouse manager, Merle, is beginning her third season at PFP, and continues to develop and implement systems that maximize available space and plant health, which means healthier transplants and even more plant sale awesomeness in May.

Some of the improvements you're likely not aware of include:

  • Potting mix that is now supplied from Vermont Compost (very high quality potting mix ensures good water retention and plenty of available nutrients for seedlings)
  • A reconstructed end wall of our greenhouse that helps retain heat (a new, wider door also makes seeding considerably more efficient)
  • Germination chambers that we constructed last April/May (a substantial increase in germination space, and a more ideal environment, compared to the old fridges we used in previous years)

With these tools available, the farm crew has been sowing seeds and giving careful attention to seedlings, especially the flowers and herbs for the plant sale that are challenging to start from seed, compared to field crops. We plan to offer some new herbs at this year's plant sale, including lemon mint, summer savory, and lovage, which is one of Merle's personal favorites: a perennial, it has an aromatic smell and taste that is quite reminiscent of celery. The leaves, seeds, and root are all useable and have medicinal qualities.

Tomatoes are another focus in the greenhouse this time of year, and we are excited to expand our selection of heirloom tomatoes, both for the plant sale and grown in our high tunnels for CSA. Here are some of the varieties we're anxious to see and try:

  • Bull's Heart: a productive Russian heirloom producing sweet, flavorful pink fruits
  • Green Berkeley Tie-Dye: featuring green/red/amber stripes, a tangy, tasty, small- to medium-size tomato
  • Dr. Wyche's Yellow: large fruits, and supposedly some of the tastiest gold tomatoes available
  • Black Cherry: beautiful red-to-black coloration and a rich flavor
  • Copia: I grew this heirloom in my garden last season, and loved the sweet, juicy fruits that are streaked with red and gold inside and out

To hear and see a bit more about our spring adventures at the farm, check us out on Facebook and Instagram, where we’ll continue to share photos, videos, and updates from the greenhouse and beyond. And, of course, join us on May 6 and 13 for the 2017 Plant Sale and Open Farm Day! It’s a wonderful chance to see each other again and to celebrate the beginning of the growing season.

Would you be willing to eat dirt?

Would you be willing to eat dirt?
By Sevine Clarey, Education Intern

Believe it or not, there is a French restaurant in Tokyo, Ne Quittez Pas, where people come and pay large amounts of money to be able to try an entire course featuring this very thing: dirt. The restaurant buys the ingredients from Protoleaf, a company that makes organic compost using coconut husks imported from Sri Lanka and India.(1) According to those bold individuals who have tried this dish, it is actually quite delicious.

Surprisingly, eating dirt, known as geophagia, has been around for centuries, and some experts say that it may actually boost your immune system. This may be linked to why babies spend the first year of their life putting things in their mouths.(5) Dr. Joel V. Weinstock, the director of gastroenterology and hepatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said in an interview that the immune system at birth “is like an unprogrammed computer. It needs instruction.” (2) Soil is naturally teeming with trillions of microorganisms that research is discovering may successfully treat things like allergies, bacterial infections, asthma and other autoimmune diseases. Findings show that soil-based organisms can nourish cells in the colon and liver, create new compounds, antioxidants and enzymes, destroy harmful pathogens and kill off bad bacteria.

At Poughkeepsie Farm Project, it is clear that so much attention is paid to the soil. A fertile and healthy soil is the basis for healthy plants, and whether it be through cover cropping, crop rotation, compost, organic fertilizer, or reduced tillage, our farmers cherish and cultivate the huge diversity of life in the ground. See Patrick’s awesome article on the subject for further emphasis on the topic. Though we wouldn’t necessarily recommend chewing on handfuls of dirt from your backyard(3) we certainly encourage eating food straight from the ground at PFP.

Learning of a restaurant serving “pure dirt” on a menu raises some very interesting questions though.

What do we consider food?
What is edible and inedible?
What about trash?

At a United Nations meeting in the fall of 2015, world leaders dined on what some would call trash.  Professional, world-renown chefs cooked up a meal with plates called “landfill salad” which consisted of vegetable scraps and chickpea water and others which had ingredients like repurposed bread and cow corn. They created a lunch that was made entirely of food that would have ended up in garbage bins. Things like bruised beets, off-grade vegetables and rejected apples would have gone completely to waste had they not been salvaged. This was done with the goal to highlight the incredible waste in modern diets and society and the detrimental effects it has on our environment. (4)

Movements like the “ugly food movement” are also aligning with our health and our planet’s health and changing the mentalities on what we should consider food. So much food is wasted whether it is in the process of growing, harvesting, transporting, buying, cooking or eating. Using foods that may not necessarily look “pretty” and salvaging parts of the food that are still healthy are two simple things ugly-fooders promote that can help reduce waste. 

Whether it is eating dirt, “trash” or ugly food, it is important to take a moment to realize how we look at food and how we may be categorizing based on appearance. Like humans, food comes in all shapes and sizes, and, by broadening our horizons, we can start to make changes that can help us and our environment become healthier.



Dan Gets into the Swing of Things

By Dan Salisbury, Education Intern

Getting back into the swing of things here as an Education Intern has been completely refreshing. As the new semester begins, I think I speak for all of the interns when I say we’re extremely excited to test brand-new recipes, come up with new lesson plans, and, of course, see the lovely kids again. While it was great to see our families and loved ones back home, it’s invigorating to see our PFP family once again.

We have been perusing various seed catalogues, carefully selecting vegetable crops for use in the Discovery  Gardens. Fun and whimsical produce is going to come into play; the students love working with all kinds of funky fruits and vegetables. We are setting aside a plot of land for a DIY plant Tie-Dye garden, another for the ever-popular Obstacle Course, and we’re always thinking of ways to further engage the throngs of happy and excited students as they make their way around the farm.

As a culinary student at the Culinary Institute of America just down the road, I always feel at home in a kitchen. A lot of recipe-testing has been going on inside the farm kitchen, and brand-new recipes are going to be making their way into classrooms and homes in and around Poughkeepsie. On a personal note, getting the chance to work with some amazingly fresh and delicious produce is something that I absolutely cherish about my time here at Poughkeepsie Farm Project; when the ingredients you’re using are of this caliber, it doesn’t take much to elevate them – all I’m doing is making sure things don’t burn!

I’m extremely excited to be involved with the return of Farm Fresh Home Chefs. These workshops are a chance for us to work directly with the students in the local schools of Poughkeepsie - best of all, the parents are there right beside their kids the entire time. Passing on some basic cooking tips and making kids smile with the occasional deft flick of a knife or a sauté pan is something that I’ve come to deeply enjoy; it doesn’t hurt that the parents leave with some cool ideas for easy, nutritious, and delicious meals.  

I’m also looking to get the CIA more engaged with the local communities of Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park. One of the projects the senior Applied Food Studies students are planning involves establishing an education garden in one of the local schools in Hyde Park. We’ll be looking to follow some of the successful models established by PFP, and I’m excited to lend the experiences I’ve gained here to the other students and faculty at my school. I’m also working on getting The Brewery at the CIA (yeah, we have our own brewery…the scotch ale is absolutely delicious!) to donate their spent grains to PFP for use in compost. Spent grains are a by-product of the brewing process, and it only makes sense to utilize this by-product that otherwise would be thrown out. In a way, everything comes full circle: CIA students learn how to brew beer, a small percentage of spent grains are used in baking and other cooking applications (think a sort of nutty/malty flavor profile) and the rest will be donated to PFP’s compost pile, where school-aged students will learn all about the process of decomposition. This kind of small-scale community impact becomes a sort of cyclical endeavor that I strive each and every day to reach in all aspects of my work at PFP. Now, it’s time to get cookin’!

The Power of Purple

The Power of Purple
Ellie Limpert

Interesting things are happening in the winter garden!

Ever wonder why some normally green plants turn purple in the winter? We did too! That’s why we decided to do a little research to see why many of our crops this winter including kale, salad greens, cabbage, and many asian greens develop a vibrant purple color in cold weather.

All plants produce pigments that determine the color that we see in the fields and on our plates.  You can find all the colors of the rainbow in plant foods alone which make some pretty delicious  meals!  These pigments do much more for the plant (and for us!) than just visual appeal, however. Chlorophyll is the substance that is responsible for photosynthesis which converts sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugars and starches which the plant uses for food.  In the summertime, there is an abundance of sunlight with longer days and shorter nights. Because of this, there is also an abundance of chlorophyll which turns the grass, leaves and trees a bright green during the summer months.  In the fall, the days begin to get shorter and colder, and the chlorophyll becomes less prominent in most plants. Therefore other pigments that we could not see before, start to show their colors- giving way to the reds and yellows of deciduous trees and the purples in winter greens!

The purple comes from the pigments called anthocyanins which we see as bright red- orange, and blue-violet in many fruits and vegetables including berries, black currants, red grapes, cherries, plums, blood oranges, eggplants and red cabbage.  They are a part of a subclass of phytochemicals (or plant substances) called flavonoids which have many beneficial properties for both the plants and the animals that eat them!  Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anticarcinogenic are some of these properties.  Many anthocyanin- rich foods are often considered “superfoods” because of their incredible health benefits which help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer and improve overall neurological and visual health.

So why do anthocyanins make an appearance in the colder weather?


Anthocyanins in particular have shown to protect the plant from rotting due to intense ultraviolet light, drought and cold weather.  They also help protect the leaves by using extra sunlight that would normally be absorbed by chlorophyll which is less available in the winter.  Although winter greens grow more slowly in the cold, the protective properties of the anthocyanins allow the plant to continue to thrive.

While many functions of anthocyanins are still unknown, it is clear that they play an important role in the health of the plant and in humans that eat them as well.  So, as the winter months go by, get those colorful vegetables into your garden beds and then you will be able to enjoy the flavor, visual appeal AND the health benefits of eating out of your garden through the colder months. Just because it is cold, does not mean we cannot still enjoy all the colors of the rainbow!

FLAVONOIDS - FOOD SOURCES AND HEALTH BENEFITS. Aleksandra Kozłowska , Dorota Szostak-Węgierek