Are we ripe for the picking?

Published 10:53am Wednesday, April 9, 2014

If you’re wondering where the going green, label reading trend is headed, look no further than Mississippi’s newest health-conscious grocery store, Whole Foods.

The national chain opened the doors to its Highland Village location in Jackson in early February after two years of build up among food purists.

My family (regular-food-eating, Velveeta-loving non-purists) found itself there last Friday for Son No. 3′s after-matches tennis team gathering. We quickly realized there would be no pizza as we knew it for this group of carb counters. Oh, no. Hold the gluten, bleached flour, and non-organic tomato sauce, please.

And yes, Whole Foods is a grocery story, but it is more – much more, and prepared foods -like pizza, sushi, and a living foods salad counter – are a big part of the offerings in its 34,000 square feet, as are aisles dedicated to “whole body products” like organic bath salts and mascara, and another providing natural choices for pet needs like flea prevention and dental care.

Even so, our initiation into the Whole Foods world began before we encountered the pizza station, while we were outside in the parking lot. There, taking up one of the prime spots, was an electric car hooked up to a charging station, and the kids couldn’t help but gawk at it from our suddenly out-of-place SUV.

But back inside the land flowing with almond milk and honey, it was my turn to do the gawking. The question was, which direction to gawk first? To the left, where counters displayed hundreds of cheese wheels, yards of fresh fish, and 32 different freshly-made sausages from “free-roam pigs”?

Or to the right, with its wooden racks of perfectly stacked, locally grown lettuce, cabbage and carrots? That scene alone, in all is symmetrical glory, was enough to command my OCD attention.

Simply put, Whole Foods is the fanciest supermarket I’ve ever seen. They take eating right and recycling your plastic shopping bags beyond smart to glamorous. It is the “Apple-ification” of the grocery industry.

According to John Mackey, the brains behind Whole Foods, the demand for fresh, healthy foods is continuing to grow, and his words have weight. The business he started in 1980 with one store in Austin, Texas, now includes 350 locations. In fact, many in the green scene point to his chain as the main reason most Americans understand what the word organic means.

Personally, I think I have that definition down, but I’m not so sure about HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), which evidently is another poison to avoid when choosing soft drinks. I learned this while searching for something to help our whole wheat pizza crust (which was, by the way, very tasty) go down.

I also learned something else while pilfering through their bin of store brand drinks made with pure cane sugar: Guayaki Yerba Mate tea (located next to the lemon-lime sodas) claims to have “the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate” all in one beverage.

Now I must tell you, that line stopped me in my carbon footprint tracks. Any label bold enough to list “euphoria of chocolate” is of great interest to me, so the next time we’re at Whole Foods with a whoIe paycheck, I just might have to try the Yerba Mate tea. Yes, I’m going to try that tea and one other thing – the store’s email-your-list-in, curbside-pickup concierge service.

Grocery shopping is hard work.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at