Fresh Green Beans or Not?

An aide told me today that she was going to get green beans from her son’s wonderful garden. We chatted about the fact that this facility has never prepared fresh green beans for the residents. During my first summer here, a resident’s family member asked if he could bring fresh cantaloupe from a roadside market. He was told that state regulations did not allow uninspected food to be prepared in dietary. He was told that activities could cut up the cantaloupe and serve it to us. I remember him shaking his head in disbelief. He had our mouths watering for the cantaloupe that we never got. He did continue to bring us in sweet treats bought from the day old stock of a local bakery. We were pleased to have these goodies on Saturday … and for quite a while it was every Saturday.

But for many years the lack of locally grown produce put me in a quandary. I wondered if anyone had even considered how we could get fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruit. I felt fresh cantaloupe had to be better than the anemic variety that the food company delivered.

Over the years friends and resident family members brought in tomatoes and gave them to any resident who wanted them. I even tried a locally grown peach. I have to admit it did not look like much, because they are quite small and white. But they were very sweet and delicious.

A couple of months ago at Resident Council I asked the activities director if we could have fresh locally grown strawberries in June when they are plentiful. I thought maybe she could prepare the strawberries for us. I checked with a friend who works in a local grocery store. He told me that most grocery stores do not buy local strawberries because they just are not plentiful enough to keep up the supply. He said that California berries and others that are shipped in were the best he could do. But I felt local berries had the best flavor.

A few days before July 4, the activities director told us we would have a Strawberry Fest on July 3. A friend and I eagerly headed to the dining room that afternoon to see what activities would serve. The California berries were not sweetened with sugar or artificial sweetener. I knew from my childhood that mother usually cut and sweetened them hours before they were served. We both added sugar to ours but the berries were still tangy. However, the angel food cake and the vanilla ice cream made them a bit sweeter. The other residents were really surprised with the strawberry treat. The activity director said they ate 8 pounds of strawberries and 3 gallons of ice cream.

At food committee a couple of weeks ago we asked if we could have fresh green beans cooked with ham and potatoes for the Resident Choice Meal this month. But our dietary manager is not sure that she can purchase fresh green beans and that situation is still up in the air.

I am hoping that since the schools are trying to figure out ways to have fresh and even locally grown produce, that someday long-term care will do the same thing. Then residents will get to enjoy the fresh produce that we remember.

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