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The Time is Ripe

June 2nd, 2012 - By Lari Robling

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When it comes to healthy eating moving from “should” to “want” can be a challenge. First Lady Michelle Obama has made that a priority and chronicles her experiences in a new book,   American Grown. Her quest to improve our food choices set the stage for Cheryl Sternman Rule and photographer Paulette Phlipot. Their book, Ripe, A fresh colorful look at fruits and vegetables, offers home cooks inspiration. Good for you” doesn’t have to be a chore.



If you’ve ever watched the scene from Portlandia that mocks the diners ordering local chicken, it’s sure to give you a giggle. Still, it’s no joke that there is a true interest in growing and eating fruits and vegetables.

Even First Lady Michelle Obama is celebrating three years of the White House kitchen garden. She chronicles the seasons and the reasons of this– her first attempt at gardening– in a new book, American Grown.

In her book she says, “As both a mother and a First Lady I was alarmed by reports of skyrocketing childhood obesity rates and the dire consequences for our children’s health. And I hoped this garden would help begin a conversation about this issue. A conversation about the food we eat the lives we lead and how all that affects our children.”

And the conversation is growing at community gardens, farm stands, and co-ops, where you’ll find the inexperienced like this father—

“My mom used to dust the stove and never really cooked much so I’m a work in progress you know we have two little kids now. I don’t know if we are that good at it but we try to eat good fresh farm food.”

And you’ll also hear about traditions passed down the generations such as this—

“I learned this from my grandmother. It’s something that is health now but before it was just what she did. She lived to close to 100 and never had an operation or seen a doctor.”

Not everyone has a grandmother to learn from and many of today’s home cooks are looking for know-how. Cheryl Sternman Rule and photographer Paulette Phlipot tap into this need in their book, Ripe.

They share a belief that we should be eating fruits and vegetables not because we are told, to but because we want to. So they used exquisite photography, luscious recipes and entertaining stories to cultivate desire and curiosity.

Observes Sternman Rule, “There are certain vegetables that are considered a tough sell that are more intimidating that if you haven’t watched somebody cook them,  you really have no idea what to do. So if you pick up a beet at the store you really don’t know if you are supposed to eat the leaves, the bulb and how you are supposed to prep it.”

And, Sternman Rule doesn’t underestimate what pretty pictures and tasty simple recipes can do for marketing the vegetable kingdom.

For example, she says, “Kale used to be one of those vegetables,  but its really become the darling of the  produce world fairly recently and people are excited about kale probably more than any other vegetables right, now which I think is funny because its been around for a long time.”

But let’s say someone …maybe someone like me… really despises kale, no matter how much good press it gets? Sternman Rule suggests a cucumber salad.

“I’ve tossed them with seared haloumi cheese,” she says. “That is a cheese from Cyprus that you can actually cook and it won’t melt but you get a nice sear you get a nice crust when you cook it in a pan or on a grill. And I pair it with toasted fennel seeds, and fresh tarragon and garlicky sherry vinaigrette and it will really make you look at cucumbers in a different way.”

So grow it yourself or purchase local… the time is ripe. Just like in the book.


Photo credit ©Paulette Phlipot 2012

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Photo by Flicker user Chiot's Run / CC BY-NC 2.0

Move Over, Kale Chips! Kale Buds Are Here

By Lari Robling - April 18th, 2012

High Tunnel farming caught my eye because its extended growing season adds to the amount of local produce we get. While farm manager Aviva Asher was tidying up the winter crop to make way for spring, I discovered another benefit of local growing: use what you’ve got.

More wisdom »

December 2014
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Philly Food Bucks are coupons that help ACCESS/food stamp customers save money on fruits and vegetables. Philly Food Bucks can be redeemed for $2 worth of fruits and vegetables for every $5 spent in ACCESS/food stamps at a participating farmers' market. Learn more about Philly Food Bucks at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health's recently expanded web site Food Fit Now also accepted at the West Oak Lane Weaver's Way Food Coop.