Harvesting Health on the East End

Autumn has arrived and leaves are falling like confetti heralding the arrival of old acquaintances returning for their annual visit. Mother Nature, outfitted in gold, orange and fiery reds, is waiting with open arms to share the bounties of the season. Apples and pumpkins are ready for picking at dozens of East End orchards and farms. Roadside stands beckon passersby with scrumptious displays of tomatoes, peppers and broccoli. And wine tasting opportunities abound. It’s prime time to step outside your front door, get some fresh air, gather a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies — and best of all — embrace the beauty of harvest season on Long Island.

By Diana Erbio


A review of studies on exercise and its effect on brain function conducted over the last 40 years was presented at the 2006 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. The conclusion? Exercise can have a positive influence on cognitive and brain functions in older animals and human subjects. A few of the studies, which examined men and women over the age of 65 showed that those who exercised 15 to 30 minutes at a time, three times a week were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. Further study is required to determine which fitness training regimens will have the most significant benefits, but walking is a great way to ease into a more active lifestyle. According to a Johns Hopkins Health Alert, it is one of the easiest exercise regimens to begin with, the health benefits being: better cardiovascular health, a reduction in risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Walking also strengthens bones and reduces bone density loss. A walking program is encouraged to reap a multitude of physical and psychological benefits.

Long Islander, Carol Goldberg, Ph.D., hosts the TV show, “Dr. Carol Goldberg and Company” on Channel 20, which strives to help people be healthier and more productive. She stresses the importance of exercise for people of all ages and says that building exercise into a pleasurable activity like hiking with friends and family adds social benefits.

For most people moderate walks will not pose a problem, but as with all physical activity it is best to check with your physician first to be sure the activity will be safe for you.

…and Enjoy the View

So, if you want to burn some calories but need a scenic view to keep you motivated, consider hiking. Tom Casey, Vice President of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail recommends these trails for beginners. At the Morton Wildlife Refuge in Nyack, Casey says there is a short woods walk leading to the Peconic Bay, with a woodsy headland beyond that offers more trails. He suggests bringing birdseed and says chickadees will eat right out of your hand. For a walk on flat terrain that makes for an easier trek, Casey suggests the Quogue Wildlife Refuge on South Country Road in Quogue. He says the out and back loop trail that covers about 2-1/2 to 3 miles is a pristine mini-course on the Pine Barrens that offers everything from wetlands through tall pitch pines and on to dwarf pines. Go to ligreenbelt. org for more on trails and scheduled hikes.


Why not combine walking with gathering? Apples and pumpkins are now in season! For seniors who are grandparents, Goldberg suggests an apple-picking outing with grandchildren to reap rewards such as precious time with the grandchildren, physical activity and of course sweet healthy apples. “Harvesting fruits – for seniors – is akin to harvesting what they have harvested in life and enjoying the rewards,” says Goldberg.

As for health benefits, Ben Franklin was on to something when he wrote about the apple in “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” proclaiming “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” In fact, many studies support that notion. A recent Cornell University study found that apples may protect the brain from a type of damage that is believed to trigger Alzheimer’s and Parkinsonism, and researchers at the University of California are studying how apples, which are rich in pectin, may be effective in lowering cholesterol in the blood stream. So, head East for apple country. On Route 27 between Water Mill and Bridgehampton you’ll find Milk Pail Orchards, offering 21 varieties of apples. Their dwarf apple trees make the experience easy and fun for grandparent and grandchildfriendly apple picking.

…and Get Cooking!

Jennifer Halsey Dupree who grows pumpkins, apples and peaches at the Milk Pail Orchard, became interested in farming while working in the fields with her dad. She later studied Pomology — the study of growing and marketing fruit — earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University. Which apples are best to cook with? Halsey Dupree says any apple will do depending on the flavor you like. For people who enjoy tart apples, she recommends Braeburn, Pink Lady and Gold Rush. For an in-between flavor, Jonagold cooks well. Or, you can try mixing varieties, as many of the Milk Pail Orchard’s customers do,

You’ll find a wide variety of pumpkins at the Milk Pail Orchard as well. Pumpkins are loaded with an important antioxidant, betacarotene. Current research indicates that beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancers. Halsey Dupree says Cheese and Cinderella Pumpkins are very tasty, and great pies and soup can be made with Buttercup squash. Visit the Milk Pail Orchard to pick these varieties of apples and pumpkins and go to milk-pail.com for apple and pumpkin recipes, picking times and more.

Other bright orange foods, like sweet potatoes and carrots contain beta-carotene as do green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and collard greens. Visit Long Island Farm Bureau at lifb.com for more about which healthful crops are waiting to be harvested on Long Island.


There are more than 30 wineries on Long Island’s east end offering tours, wine tasting and lectures. Go to exploreli.com for a complete directory of locations. For those who want in-depth wine and food tasting experiences, classes are held at Stony Brook University’s Center for Wine, Food and Culture. Learn more at sunysb.edu/sb/ winecenter. Or pack a bag and spend a weekend at Wine Camp. These events fill up quickly. Go to winecamp.org for details.

…and Drink to Your Health

According to The National Cancer Institute red wine is a rich source of compounds called polyphenols, which are thought to have antioxidant or anti-cancer properties. The compounds are found in the skin and seeds of grapes. Red wine contains more polyphenols than white wine because when making white wine, the grape skins are removed after the grapes are crushed. Research on the antioxidants found in red wine has shown that they may help inhibit the development of certain cancers. Many red and white wines are produced at Long Island’s wineries. Wine of course should be consumed in moderation, but this link to good health is an added reason to head out to Long Island wine country. Visit liwines.com for more about winery events and the wines Long Island has to offer.

Diana Erbio writes about and enjoys the bounties of Long Island.
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