Blog | Rainbow Co-op Grocery in Jackson, MS




Posted by Patrick on September 18, 2013

People love apples. It’s the most popular fruit in our produce department, and the second most popular fruit item in the US, rarely beating out the mighty banana.  I’ve always heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but I do have a pretty good throwing arm. While they certainly won’t cure blunt trauma from thrown fruit, each apple packs a serious punch of fiber and nutrition in a package that contains very little sugar.

This apple stole this table from a doctor.

I have seen sugar-phobia scaring people away from the fruit, and that is a shame. Your average apple contains approximately 20-25 grams of sugar. This can sound like a lot, but it’s not (and the apple comes in under 100 calories) - especially when you consider the fact that each apple provides you with about 20% of your daily fiber intake, and zero fat.

Plus, the burst of fiber the apple gives allows the body time to properly absorb and utilize the all-natural fructose contained within, giving you sustained energy in a nutrient-rich package.

You see, when you consume fructose (the sugar in fruit), it doesn’t metabolize like glucose and your other sugars. Glucose and sucrose go into the blood and get used by the body directly. Fructose has to go to the liver first, where unused sugar is rapidly turned to fat on the liver, which is a bad thing.

But eating an apple is not a bad thing, despite the fact that it’s loaded with fructose. Why?

Well, when you eat an apple, it’s full of fiber, which keeps the fructose moving slowly through the large intestine, which pulls it into the bloodstream. Therefore, the fiber prevents the sugar-spike that’s so detrimental to your health, all while providing you with sustained healthy energy throughout the day.

So the lowly apple is as ever-deserving of the “superfood” moniker as are many high profile high-dollar meal-makers.

Plus, they’re portable, delicious, and can stand short periods without refrigeration, making them an excellent supply for school lunches and mid-day snacks.


Sometimes, they’ll gang up on you.

But, where do apples come from?

Apple trees.

Okay, so, that’s easy. But apple trees are not. Most seeds from an apple tree do not “breed true,” an apple seed may grow a fruit that does not at all resemble it’s parent apple - throwing out seeds from one variety may result in fruit that is sour, inedible, or gnarled. These wild types are often referred to as “spitters,” which is what you’ll do if you take a bite.

Old timers had a use for these sour apples, squeezing out the juice and fermenting it into delicious apple cider. These days, apples are grown specifically for cider cultivation.

Now when an apple farmer finds a particularly good wild variety, or breeds an interesting hybrid, or even finds a magically delicious branch on an otherwise un-tasty tree, he doesn’t go to the apple to save the seeds. No, he takes a cutting, creating a genetic clone of the original tasty fruit-bearing plant.

Entire farms are made from the cuttings of a single tree, endless rows of identical plants putting out the same fruit each time.

Well, almost. You see, plant genetics can be as intertwined and variegated as a Pearl River briar bog. So while an entire tree might produce nothing but pure bred Fuji apples, a single branch might suddenly mutate into something tastier, plumper, or suddenly green. It’s called a “Bud Sport,” which is not a game you play with friends.


The cast of ‘‘House’’ was here a moment ago.

Those of you who have an inkling into the evolutionary arms race between plant and pest may see a problem with this arrangement: The pests constantly come up with new exciting ways to prey on the identical apple trees, which, all being the same genetic specimens, are always vulnerable.

So in many a farm setting, apples are heavily treated with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and more, including antibiotics. This routinely places apples in “dirty dozen” lists of fruits and vegetables of which it is most important to buy organic.

You may ask yourself, “Wait, antibiotics in trees?”

Yes. The disease Fire Blight,which is caused by bacteria doing what they do, can wipe out an entire apple or pear orchard in a single season. Since it takes 12 years to get a pear tree to maturity and six for an apple tree, most orchardists rely on antibiotics to sustain their crops. This is currently leading to antibiotic-resistant strains of fire blight, and the use of antibiotics is so widespread that, currently, even organic operators are allowed to use two types of antibiotic on apple and pear crops, under the National Organic Plan.

You may have heard about this, for example, in our good friend Jim Pathfinder Ewing’s piece in the Jackson Free Press.

However, I should stress that most crops of organic apples are not treated by antibiotics at all. Even when they are infected by fire blight, under the National Organic Plan there is a strict permitting process for determining need and making sure that other controls are attempted first.

While the overuse of antibiotics is a real social and scientific concern, you the eater shouldn’t worry about getting these antibiotics into your system from eating organic apples. Fire blight occurs at blooming time, not at fruiting time, so the fruit itself is never sprayed. The antibiotics used have an incredibly short life in the field, breaking down into harmless compounds within the day. Tests to find these antibiotics and their residues in fruit have never found any, either.

So, I wouldn’t let this worrisome news prevent you from enjoying a nice healthy organic apple. But if you’re concerned, as I am, about antibiotic overuse and resistance, you can feel better knowing that, thanks to concerned citizens and public pressure, the rules allowing antibiotic treatment of pears and apples are going to end after the 2014 crop, after which you can be sure that your organic apples and pears have never been treated with antibiotics.


This is not the first time I’ve stopped an entire class of medical school students from graduating.

Health and Beauty

September Employee of the Month

Posted by shelby on September 06, 2013

Rainbow’s Employee of the Month is Cass from our Health & Beauty Department. Cass has worked extremely hard during the renovation of her department, and the work isn’t finished yet!

cass small

Rainbow Real Meals- Week 1

Posted by shelby on August 26, 2013

The school year has started! We know that providing healthy meals for your kids can involve a lot of work and planning, so Patrick and Shelby created Rainbow Real Meals to help make your job a little easier.
Real Meals are wholesome lunch ideas that feature our organic Rainbow produce and our favorite recipes.
All Real Meals are plant-based, but can be adjusted for your child’s dietary preferences.

Carribean Red Beans and Rice
Dinosaur Egg Pluot (Dapple Dandy Pluot)
Wilted Dinosaur (Lacinato) Kale
Cook covered for a few minutes in a lightly oiled pan on medium heat until kale is wilted.

dinosaur egg pluot small

Dinosaur Egg Pluots

Quinoa Salad with Apples and Almonds
TIP: Try this salad with our tart and crisp pink pearl apples. They are delicious and are pink inside!
Cooked Broccoli

Pita Bread Sandwich with Hummus and Sliced Veggies
(Try thin slices of carrot, cucumber and red or yellow bell pepper)

Sesame Noodle Salad
Tip: try adding cashews or other nuts for extra protein. You can also add tofu chunks or veggie chicken! Our favorite chicken substitute is made by Gardein and available in the frozen section.
Flavor Grenade Pluot

flavor grenade pluots small
Flavor Grenade Pluots

Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich
Sliced Bell Peppers
Baby Carrots

Until next week- Bon Appétit!



Rainbow on the news

Posted by shelby on August 16, 2013

Rainbow was featured on WLBT’s “Small Business Matters” segment this week. Watch the video here.


Fermentation Madness

Posted by Patrick on August 16, 2013

With the arrival of the new coolers, the produce department certainly enters the new millennium, but at the very heart of the our operation is an ancient technology.

Lactic acid fermentation in stoneware crocks.


Not pictured - my immense excitement

Humans have been using controlled fermentation to preserve and enrich foods since the neolithic era (that’s about 10 thousand years ago, if you’re one of our rare dear readers unfamiliar with archeological nomenclature). Cato mentions fermented cabbage in his work De Agri Cultura, the oldest surviving work of Latin prose, which also includes a lot of recipes for wine.

Since then, Sauerkraut has undergone a wide variety of permutations - modern recipes may include juniper berries, bay leaves, carrots, wine, garlic, onions, and pretty much anything that will ferment.

Vegetable fermentation is also a worldwide phenomenon. Germany is famous for sauerkraut, Korea for kimchi, miso in Japan, gundruk in Nepal, and of course there are plenty more.

And what did these people use to make their fermented vegetables? The time-honored stoneware crock.

Just like ours.

You see, the fermentation environment provided by the stoneware crock is ideal for controlling the invisible bacterial legion that does most of the work. To get it going, we first clean, then slice and shred our vegetables, to release their pure and precious water into the mix. To further this transportation of liquid, we add salt, which pulls more water out of the ruptured cells. This juice and water mix enriches the brine in which the entire batch will stew for the next thirty to ninety days.

But before we hand-pack the mix back into the crock, we season it and add a starter brine. Our starter brines are not store bought, they’re just pulled from a previous, successful batch of ferment.

This inoculates the mix with a healthy microbiological flora, containing any number of the hundreds of known species from the lactobacillus genus, the dozens of species from leuconostoc , and a wide variety of wild type fermenters that give us the healthy sour flavors our customers desire.

Keep in mind - when I say lactobacillus,  I’m talking about more than 100 species, each of which has multiple strains, sometimes one or two, sometimes a dozen. And there’s a lot of these guys in a jar. How many? I’ll give you an idea, later. It’s going to take a minute to count.

Now, once we’ve set our ferment safely away in the stoneware crock, leuconostoc  is the first bacteria to get rolling. Thankfully so! They produce copious amounts of carbon dioxide in the process, creating an oxygen-free environment that helps our microscopic fermenting minions while inhibiting spoilage and preserving precious vitamin C.

It’s the design of these crocks that allows carbon dioxide to displace oxygen - which is vital to a proper pickle. You see, each crock has a “lip” which is filled with water. The heavy stone lid is set into that lip, below the level of the water. There is a tiny hole at the bottom of the lip which allows the building pressure of produced CO2 to push out of the container, until it eventually displaces all the oxygen, saving our friendly bacteria and our vitamin C.

After the three day mark, lactobacillus kicks into action - it thrives in a slightly lower pH than does leuconostoc, so the lactic acid that leuconostoc produces provides a wonderful environment for the workhouse lactobacillus.

Unfortunately, leuconostoc has brought about it’s own demise. Lactobacillus thrives by creating an environment in which only it can survive. This is why lactobacillus is so useful in preserving food - it’s harmless to us, but deadly to harmful microorganisms. So poor leuconostoc either dies out or goes into hibernation. Then lactobacillus takes over. It ferments more, and more, dropping the pH to a point at which it can no longer use it’s own enzymes to eat. The crocks stop bubbling, the kraut stops churning, and lactobacillus drops into a hibernation phase, waiting for someone to eat it, pour in more food, or transfer it to another more delicious environment.



A more delicious environment

When the ferment is ready, the crock is quiet. An active ferment shelf is a burping, bubbling thing. I like to pretend that it’s talking to me. Telling me things. Happily gurgling about what’s going on inside the crock - new colonies springing up, dying out, moving on to new nutritious leaves, or coming back to old feeding grounds to find new bacteria taking up residence. It’s the sound of invisible war, minute empires the size of a pinhead going through birth, magnificence, and decline.

So, why am I telling you all this? Is it because I constantly consider the bubbling microbiomes lurking in our midst as the true microbial masters of the planet? Because bacteria in our gut outnumber the cells in our bodies? Because bacteria are Earth’s most enduring form, around which all known biomes have been arranged for billions of years? Have I lost my mind?

It may have something to do with the earlier question of “how many bacteria are in your product?” We get this question a lot, and it’s rather difficult to answer. You often see commercial probiotic supplements and yogurts give an estimated guess of how many bacteria are in a serving. We don’t have the biology lab equipment to do this sort of work, but I came up with a workaround.

I asked a microbiologist to make a wild guess.

Her guess was about 150-200 million cells in every milliliter. There’s 946 milliliters in a quart, which puts us at about, one hundred sixty-five billion five hundred fifty million bacteria in a quart of ferment. Give or take a few, here and there. She may have missed a couple in the corner.

Still, that’s more people than have ever lived and died on Earth.

But yet even that factoid is not the real reason for this lengthy musing! The real reason I’ve told you of this is merely to prime you for a second, much shorter tale, a bit of news with which you may whet your appetite for sour, savory fermentation.

We’ve doubled our number of crocks! You see, we have 3 small and 4 large crocks (15 and 30 liter crocks. It’s in liters because the crocks are made in Germany, but it amounts to about 4 and 8 gallons, respectively).

Now, we’ve got 6 small and 8 large crocks. So in the coming months we’ll be doubling up on the amount of delicious fermented goodness. All in our brand new ferment-only cooler.



Pictured: About 5 trillion bacteria, hard at work


Fitness Fest community event

Posted by shelby on August 12, 2013

One of my favorite parts of working as Rainbow’s Community Builder is experimenting with new ideas to further educate our community about eating good food, supporting our local economy, and caring about the environment.

Last month we had the privilege of running a miniature grocery store at Fitness Fest, an event coordinated by Parents and Kids Magazine. Fitness Fest is all about families getting more active and making healthy choices.

Our grocery store was full of food containers donated by Rainbow customers and employees, and kids were able to fill their baskets with whatever foods they liked. At the “check out,” myself and nutritionist Deane Peck talked about their choices and why they were healthy and unhealthy. What a fun way to teach nutrition!

Thank you so much to our Assistant Manager Leigh Anne for all of her hard work on our mini grocery store. Thank you to Parents and Kids for the opportunity!

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