Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Veggie Delight or Dilemma??

So my days of riotous living and eating all the foods I missed is winding down. I've eaten at just about every restaurant around and it's been fabulous. BUT, I miss home-cooked food. Not to mention half the foods I missed are gone or just don't taste the same. Now I must get back to my healthy eating lifestyle just like I was better able to maintain in India.

I wrote several times about food and vegetables and the issues I had in India. In the beginning of living there I was excited by all the fresh choices. Now I've had time to evaluate both here and there and thought I would share what all I've learned.

Vegetables and fruits are seasonal and there's a limited import from other countries. The availability and freshness of fruits and veggies varies between each state and (I'm told) the freshest specimens are found closest to the railway system.

There are no refrigeration trucks transporting vegetables. So, the further you move away from the transportation system and the further the transportation is from the farms the food was grown at, the less fresh your fruits and veggies are.

Most veggies and fruits are bought from the local street bazaars but are also available at larger stores like Hyper City. From my perspective, they are similar in quality at both locations HOWEVER, you need to be careful as Hyper City has been reprimanded more than once for selling foods that were past their expiration or not fresh. 

Fruits and veggies are smaller. In some cases they are not much smaller but in others they are a lot smaller. For example lemons. In Amritsar, lemons weren't much bigger than an American quarter. There are many good points to this. It means you don't cut up half a veggie and the rest goes bad before you can use it. The bad point is you seem like you have to buy more to prepare meals.

Purchasing veggies and fruit is mostly by the kilo. You can get a half kilo too and sometimes a quarter kilo. Still, this can be a lot more than you realize. Think about garlic for example, you know how much garlic there is in a quarter kilo (1/2 pound)?? Lol. It's a lot. Tomatoes on the other hand, you can get a kilo and it gets used really quick.

Veggies are insanely cheap. Especially in comparison to US prices. A kilo of tomatoes is only about 25 cents when you convert rupees to dollars. You can't even buy one tomato for that price in the US.

Veggies MUST be bought at small stores, farmer's markets or other local produce stores unless you want to eat hormone filled, monster sized specimens. The good thing is that there are farmer's markets in just about every city and they are regulated by the government so you're not being sold old, rotten or nasty food.

Most fruits and veggies at big chains like Wal-Mart are frozen and transported. This greatly reduces their freshness and decreases their life expectancy once they hit the shelves. It's not uncommon to find rotten produce at Wal-Mart in any city.

In smaller towns it may be quite difficult to find good produce. This has nothing to do with transportation issues as produce is transported in refrigerated vehicles from farms all across America. It's really more about the laws of supply and demand. What this means is I can't find good mangoes in my city because they only import the hard ones from Mexico that aren't ripe yet in hopes that what they do order will sit on the shelves longer and not rot. This sucks and means I don't have access to fresh mangoes.

Some fruits and vegetables are limited by seasons. (As opposed to many/most in India). This includes watermelon and strawberries (unless you buy frozen but I'm only talking about fresh in this post). I am noticing a trend towards importing and freezing less fruits and veggies but at this moment, most are still available almost year round. We import them from all over the world to keep it that way.

There's more variety available. In Amritsar almost all the tomatoes were roma style/size. I did find round tomatoes once but there were only a few of them. Here in the US we have about 10 different varieties at even the small produce shops. Roma, beefsteak, cherry, grape, hydroponic, vine-ripened, etc. And yes, they all have different flavors.

What are some things I missed? What do you find good about fruits and veggies in either country? What challenges did you face when adjusting to the differences between grocery stores after moving to a new country?


  1. yeah pretty much like inthe US very few produce are seasonal in Switzerland, as they get imported the rest of the year, but I am not sure there is more variety back home than I found in India. Sure int he early years of expatdom the choice in India even in big cities like Mumbai and Bangalore was VERY limited, it was all one needed for the regular homecooked desi fare nothing else, many fruits that are grown in India almost never made it to supermarkets back in the days, and they are now common when in season, strawberries just to name one...
    In Switzerland you find more than just one type of potato and onions, and mushrooms are a thing people will cook commonly with and you find a wide variety of fresh muchrooms in supermarkets. In India you are pretty much limitted to the good old white button mushroom, though I heard some markets in cities do portobello mushrooms now, and I found dried shiitake mushroom last winter which is a local produce too it seems, so as the demand for world food ingredient increase in cities, so does what regular supermarket will stock, so it's looking very good on that front :-)
    Organic produce is something that is common in Switzerland and no longer so ridiculously costly that people sneer at it. In India that is still a novelty thing, I try to get organic stuff when we can, and I am at a point of agreeing to shell the money to buy orgnic lentils and grains rather than the regular, because they are a staple in our home, we might as well get the good stuff. Ironicall my maid thought they had gone bad and wanted to tell me to throw it away, because the toor dal had a powdery finish, far from the glossy polished waxed grain she is used to, had to tell her it was organic and healthy and pesticide free, which I am not sure she quite got. She was also at first puzzled by my "red poha" grain which is healthier and organic, to her it was phoa gone bad LOL

  2. Thanks for the insight on Switzerland. It's really interesting to see how each country is. I think the reason we carry so many varieties in the US is because there are so many cultures here. I live in a tiny, tiny town (I'm talking smaller than Shimla lol) and we have Koreans, Indians, Mexicans, Germans and Irish that are well established here. I'm sure there's more I just haven't met yet too. Because they're here, there's a market for these things and I've noticed several produce items saying they were specifically from these countries. It's quite interesting to be able to truly appreciate these things now.

  3. The last time I lived in India we had a vegetable garden and grew a lot of the things that I missed like lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sweetcorn,orange carrots, broccoli etc... Other things I bought at the local market. I love guava, pink grapefruit, lychees so I was good there.
    In New Zealand I always shopped at the supermarket or sometimes the farmers market. There was a wide range but since I only like buying locally produced and seasonal produce I didn't really utilise all of it anyway. I plan to start a garden ASAP once I get to India in december.

  4. I wish I had thought to bring vegetable seeds with me to start a garden. I like the local Indian produce but I missed things like squash and zuchinni which I could find but only in one store and they were not always fresh. Celery wasn't even worth buying. I really missed fresh garden salads.