Nowalijka, What Is It?

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Lettuce, radish, cucumber, and tomato testified to the coming of spring and the beginning of the season for fresh products. However, it is worth holding back and considering whether you want to take advantage of the benefits of spring vegetables.

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Thirsty for vitamins, we are tempted by red tomatoes in the middle of winter, and we are disappointed to discover that they are complex, not sweet, and odorless. It is not surprising, however: from December to February, more than 80% of vegetables sold in Poland are imported from countries where the field season is currently underway.

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Tomatoes from Morocco or Israel are picked in the so-called lit state: only whitening, bright, orange. They have not yet managed to produce sugars, organic acids, aromatics, and therefore everything that determines their taste and smell. After arriving in the destination country, they undergo rapid maturation, most often by gassing with three or carbon dioxide. During the day, vegetables take on appetizing colors but do not taste, smell, and softness during the day. They are also devoid of most nutrients.

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Domestic products are sold from March to May but grown under covers and in greenhouses. Nowalijka requires long insolation, and the early spring day is still too short for their needs. To speed up the harvest, farmers use intensive nitrogen fertilization because plants need nitrogen to produce biomass. They correlate it with light – so the shorter the day, the less time they have to use it. They store the excess in the form of nitrates, which are not harmful, but the products of their transformation: yes. During transport and storage of vegetables, especially at high temperatures and with low oxygen supply, nitrates are reduced to harmful nitrites. These, in turn, contribute to the increased production of carcinogenic nitrosamines.

Due to the ability to accumulate nitrates, early vegetables are divided into two risk groups. The first includes lettuce, radishes, spinach, and other leafy vegetables that can easily store large amounts of compounds. Plants with fruit as an edible part are less likely to be at risk. The fruit is a seed cover – the guarantor of the species’ survival – therefore, there are fewer harmful substances in tomatoes or cucumbers.

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Only the turn of May and June is the time of the appearance of the suitable early vegetables – those growing in the fields. Of course, it is not the case that if the crop comes from the area, it automatically has a health-promoting effect. Some farmers abuse pesticides that are not harmful, provided that a few basic rules are followed:

  • Compliance with the grace periods and prevention
  • The use of appropriate doses
  • Not spraying on the stock

As consumers, we cannot distinguish a plant grown to standards from one that has been over-treated with agrochemicals. How to deal with it? Each package should bear the manufacturer’s information, based on which it can be checked whether it is reliable.