Drink your garden this summer

We might be in the home stretch of summer, but there is still time to drink up the season’s flavors – literally. “It’s our window of opportunity for eating local,” Lisa Storch, co-owner of Catch A Healthy Habit, a raw café and juice bar in downtown Fairfield, said.

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And for drinking local.

Fruit and vegetable juicing and smoothies are becoming increasingly popular. But if you are new to liquefying your produce, it might take a bit of trial and error.

“Don’t get discouraged,” Storch said. “My rule of thumb is, you know what you like — it’s the same thing with juicing.”

In fact, she suggests trying things that might not typically be thought of as drinks.

“A lot of the time people don’t consider non-conventional fruit and vegetable juice,” Storch said, pointing to ingredients that might typically be in a Greek salad, like tomatoes, cucumbers and oregano, as one option.

Glen Colello, co-owner of Catch A Healthy Habit with Storch, his wife, said that people might initially have negative thoughts about green drinks. But he said that there are a lot of ways to discover what fruit and vegetable drinks you like.

“There are tons of online resources, recipes, videos,” Colello said.

Or, you could experiment at their café.

Catch A Healthy Habit has a food and drink menu that includes 26 smoothies and 12 juices. But, really, the menu is infinite, since patrons are invited to create their own drinks from available ingredients.

However, the staff might try to steer you away from one particular kind of combination. “Leafy greens don’t produce a ton of juice,” Storch said.

If someone walked in to the café and wanted an all-greens drink like kale, spinach and romaine lettuce, the staff would suggest adding juicy ingredients. Choices to add liquid to your drink include lemon, carrot, cucumber, celery, apple or beets.

But you shouldn’t shy away from the leafy greens, especially not this year.

“This has been a great summer for lettuce, with the cool nights,” Colello said, cautioning that people shouldn’t get stuck on just lettuce. With leafy greens, variety is the way to go, according to Colello.

“You should rotate your greens,” Colello said. “With any of the leafy greens.”

Juices vs. Smoothies

And variety is also good for the way in which you take in your vegetables, according to Storch and Colello. They said that fruits and vegetables have benefits in both their whole, juice and smoothie forms.

What is the difference between a juice drink and a smoothie?

When you make a juice drink, you use a juicer to extract the fibrous pulp from the fruit or vegetable, leaving just the liquid. When you make a smoothie, you combine ingredients in a blender, retaining the pulp.

“There are pros to both,” Storch said. “They are just different.”

In a smoothie, you get the benefits of the fiber, including slower absorption of the ingredients into your system, which lowers the amount of natural sugar your body has to process. It makes the same fruit or vegetable lower on the glycemic index than if it were juiced.

When you use a juicer, the nutrients in the fruit and vegetables are more readily absorbed, according to Storch.
“You’re getting much more in,” she said.

“You’re getting more quantity of what the carrot [for instance] has to offer,” Colello said. “You don’t need to get your fiber every time you drink.”

And maybe you shouldn’t, according to Storch. “It’s good to mix it up,” Storch said.

Storch said the café’s Grateful Green drink, which contains a selection of kale, pear, date and banana or kale, pineapple and banana, is their most popular green smoothie. The café’s most popular juice is the “Tara,” which contains green apple, celery, cucumber, kale, romaine lettuce, lemon and ginger.

“It’s the most balanced and has the most juice in it,” Storch said.

Catch A Healthy Habit offers a five-day juice cleanse once a month, with the next one scheduled for September.

The café sources a lot of their ingredients locally in season from Sport Hill Farm in Easton, Fort Hill Farm in New Milford, Riverbank Farm in Roxbury and Grant Farm in Fairfield. The food they get from these farms is organic, according to Storch.

“There are a few items we have trouble sourcing organic,” said Storch, such as “the young Thai coconuts.”

The right equipment

Catch A Healthy Habit is equipped with five machines for making smoothies, soups and juices.

They have one machine for wheatgrass, one small centrifugal juicer machine just for beets, one large centrifugal juicer machine for everything else and two Vitamix blenders.

According to Colello, the Vitamix is the Rolls Royce of all the blenders on the market, with great versatility and the ability to make even soup.

The top tier blender has a price tag to match its status. A Vitamix blender can easily run north of $500.
If you are looking for something a bit more economical but less fancy, Colello suggests trying a Nutribullet, which he said has been on the market for about two years.

“It’s a better version of the Magic Bullet,” Colello said. The Nutribullet runs about $100 and is small, with a one serving cup on top. Another less expensive option is the Breville juicer, which Colello said is good for home use and runs about $150 – $500.

The Bride and Groom

Storch and Colello celebrated their first wedding anniversary last month after several years of togetherness in and out of business. They started serving raw food in West Haven in February 2008 and moved to Unquowa Road in Fairfield in November 2009.

“We always wanted to be down this way,” Storch said. “We found a space down here and made the move.”

Colello focuses on event planning, website maintenance, social media and advertising, while Storch handles menu development, sourcing, ordering, staffing and accounting.

The café has had a positive reception in town – particularly as the raw food movement and more mindful eating have taken hold.

“Our business has been pretty steady for the past three years,” Storch said.

In addition to food for the body, they also have offerings for the mind, in the form of movie screenings and talks in evenings on topics to do with nutrition.

For more information about the café and to learn about upcoming events, visit catchahealthyhabit.com or call 203-292-8190.

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