Are Juicers a Judicious Use of Our Hard-Earned Cash?

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To juice or not to juice -- a question we have been asking ourselves for quite some time. "Juicing" seems a bit faddish to me, but a few months ago my husband did a brief juice cleanse and he really enjoyed it*. A few weeks ago our friends Pete and Dolores came to visit from Austin, and brought along with them their super-fancy juicer. Pete and D are vegetarians, and they are pretty enthusiastic about their new juicer. I can't lie -- they both look great, and a combination of working out more and juicing has them in the best shape I've ever seen them.

We purchased approximately a thousand pounds of produce at Urban Harvest Farmers Market and H-E-B that weekend with the intention of juicing ourselves into hangovers (champagne cocktails with fresh fruit juice) and out of hangovers (Bloody Marys with fresh veggie juice). By Sunday, I was seriously considering purchasing a juicer -- but where to start?

*He did not really enjoy it. He says now he really enjoyed it, because he enjoys purchasing expensive kitchen equipment we may or may not really need.

The first thing I learned is that juicers are expensive. The Omega VRT350 Vert Low-Speed Juicing System (Heavy Duty!) that our friends invested in is listed -- on sale -- at Zappos.com for $380 (marked down from $430). Dolores told me the story of how Pete spent an entire Saturday researching various juicers, and the reasons he chose this one in particular: It is relatively easy to clean and use, and a vertical mastication system (like the Omega VRT350) can process more fruits/veggies, and do it faster than a horizontal mastication juicer.

Then I had to learn what the hell the difference was between vertical mastication and horizontal mastication, and why that made a difference.

There are two categories of juicers: centrifugal and masticating. Masticating juicers are then divided into two more categories: horizontal and vertical.

The difference between centrifugal and masticating juicers is simple enough: Centrifugal units grind fruits and vegetables while a spinning chamber removes juice from pulp, and juice drips or pours into a bowl. Masticating juicers work like teeth, grinding fruits and vegetables to force out the juice; these juicers do not spin, and are "low speed" compared to centrifugal juicers; fans of masticating juicers claim that this is more efficient and results in juice with more health benefits -- vitamins, minerals and the fiber that is left by producing a more "pulp-y" end product. The Omega has various screens so you can control the texture of the juice.

There is another benefit that fans of masticating juicers claim over centrifugal juicers: oxidation. Specifically, the belief is that centrifugal juicers add air when they are spinning the juice out of fruits and veggies, which speeds up oxidation, shortening the shelf life of your juice. Pete and Dolores say that they can keep their juices, refrigerated, for up to three days, which means fewer juicing sessions -- and fewer cleaning-the-juicer sessions.

After Pete and Dolores left, we had juice to consume over the next few days. I am a person who doesn't really drink juice -- coffee, tea, water and milk are all I drink on a daily basis -- but it was nice to have all-natural juice around the house. Normally I wouldn't buy orange juice with pulp, but it didn't bother me in the fresh stuff. I spent a few days happily drinking a pint of fruit juice for my mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, rather than my standard piece of fruit and milk, or veggies and hummus.

Am I convinced? I don't know. Since we ran out of juice, I haven't exactly craved any, but when it was on hand, it was nice. And, unsurprisingly, the difference between fresh juice and store-bought is enormous. Four hundred bucks is a lot of money to spend on a single appliance, especially for two people who have been pining over a KitchenAid stand mixer since the beginning of time. It's become a bit of an either/or proposition that we continue to debate, which reminds me of a story from when we first started living together.

Josh came home and said, "I saved $500 today!" Since we were broke twentysomethings, I was thrilled, and asked, "How?" as I imagined perhaps he challenged the utility company on a heating bill or turned in his too-expensive truck for a winter beater. With a grin he exclaimed, "I bought an $800 bow for deer season for just three hundred dollars!"

If I know my husband (and I think I do), I'm pretty sure KitchenAid stand mixers are about to become the new crossbows around here.

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