Category Archives: garden


Is It Coriander Or Cilantro?

Many people may not realize that coriander and cilantro are actually the same thing. An herb that is part of the same botanical family as carrots and parsley. Sometimes it’s even referred to as either Chinese or Mexican parsley.

Can you taste it?

Coriander and cilantro are actually both part of the same plant. Cilantro refers to the leaves while cilantro is the seeds. Cilantro is used a lot in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine but can also be found in Middle Eastern dishes.  One of my favorite ways to use it is in Quinoa Tabbouleh. Coriander is also used in Mexican dishes but also tends to feature heavily in curries.  Adding it to a stew or soup is a great way to spice it up and add a new level of flavor.

One of the most unusual things about cilantro is the taste. While many people love and enjoy it, there are those to whom it tastes soapy. It turns out this may be due to a particular genetic trait. They examined this on SciShow

Why Does Cilantro Taste Like Soap

Health benefits

In addition to being tasty, cilantro and coriander have some wonderful health benefits.  High in vitamin K, A, and C, as well as folate and potassium. It’s also a powerful detoxifier and anti-inflammatory herb.  And it is being studied for it’s ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure while supporting cardiovascular health.

The infographic below lists some more health benefits for this amazing herb.  Easy to grow at home, put it in an 8-10″ deep pot in a sunny, easterly or southerly window.  Plan new seeds every two to three weeks to ensure a constant supply of cilantro.  Let some go to seed in order to harvest coriander.

coriander

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Infographic courtesy of http://www.medicinalplants-pharmacognosy.com/

Boost Nutrition With Herbs

When it comes to fresh product most of us think fruits and vegetables.  Not everyone remembers to include herbs in that category, however they are a great added source of nutrients.  Herbs boost nutrition because they are a nutrient dense food with vitamins and minerals. Many of them are even a source of anti-oxidants.  Aim for 2-4 tablespoons of herbs per day for a healthy boost to your diet.

fresh vs. dry

When using herbs it’s important to remember that there is a big difference between fresh and dry.  The ratio is one to three; one part dry or three parts fresh.  So if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh herb (such as basil) you can substitute 1 teaspoon of dry.  Remember there are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon.  Be sure to read your recipe carefully and scale up or down properly.

nutrition boosts

As mentioned above, different herbs have different nutrient values.  The table below shares the health boosting properties of ten common herbs used in the kitchen.
 

Herb
Nutrition
Health Benefits
    Parsley
    high in vitamins C, K, and iron, this is also an antioxidant and a powerful detoxifier
    an immune system booster, parsley is supportive for bones, the nervous system.  also beneficial for kidney health and blood pressure
    Sage
    high in vitamin K, highly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
    memory enhancing  benefits
    Rosemary
    rich in vitamins B6, C, A, folate, calcium, iron, and potassium, is also highly anti-inflammatory and antiseptic
    beneficial to reduce swelling and aching, rosemary has also been shown to soothe an upset stomach. studies also show it’s benefits for lowering the risk of asthma, liver disease, gum disease, and heart disease
    Thyme
    contains vitamin C, iron, and manganese with anti-microbial, antibacterial, and anti-parasitic qualities
    studies show thyme is supportive for coughing, bronchitis, chest congestion, and other respiratory ailments
    Oregano
    a good source of vitamin K, iron, manganese, and calcium.  a good source of antioxidants, oregano is also antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic
    supportive for relieving colds and congestion.  also shown to be helpful against menstrual cramps, fatigue, bloating, and acne
    Tarragon
    a rich source of vitamin C
    stimulates and supports the digestive system and has been shown to be beneficial for flatulence and constipation.  also beneficial for oral health and supporting gums
    Dill
    high in vitamin C and manganese, a good antibacterial herb
    supportive for bladder health, dill is also a natural diuretic.  appeas to be effective for supporting blood sugar levels and reducing cholesterol
    Basil
    rich in vitamins A, K, and manganese as well as having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
    supportive for digestion, basil also has been shown to reduce swelling and pain in joints, to promote circulation, and is a mild diuretic
    Mint
    contains vitamins A, C and folate
    has benefits for digestive support against gas, upset stomach, and indigestion.  studies have also shown benefits for congestion
    Cilantro (aka Coriander)
    good source of vitamins K, A, and C, cilantro is highly antioxidant, antibacterial and a power detoxifier
    studies have shown benefits for blood sugar and cholesterol levels

 

growing herbs

Many herbs are easy to grow at home.  They can be grown either in a container or directly in the garden.  The infographic below provides planting instructions, flavor profiles, and suggested uses.  Add a nutrient and flavor boost to your diet by incorporating herbs.

Herb Your Enthusiasm Infographic
“Herb Your Enthusiasm” on Health Perch

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Making A New Compost Bin

IMG_4534

In a recent newsletter post I shared the picture above. It’s a compost bin that my husband built because we needed another one in the yard.  We had two, a tumbling bin, which we use to put kitchen scraps into, and a fixed bin which we use for finishing the compost when the tumbler gets too full for me to turn it easily.  This way we always have a bin for household scraps and the finishing bin is great to let it sit a while longer either until it’s done or until we can use it.

Now that we have a larger yard though, we’re generating more compost from weeds and such.  The tumbling bin can only hold so much and the finishing bin works best if we put partially decomposed stuff into it.  So we needed a new one.

My husband went searching online and found this bin and the plans.  He easily made ours following the instructions given on the website.  The challenge with a lot of bins is getting to the compost when it’s done.  We love the stackable/unstackable feature which will make it very easy to access compost when it’s ready.  You add layers as the bin gets higher.  Then you unstack them as you’re using it.

Several people asked for more information about compost.  Here’s what I know and what works for us:

In the house we have a small, lidded kitchen trashcan (with foot pedal because when your hands are full of kitchen scraps you can’t open the lid at the same time).  My mom taught me a good trick and we line the bottom with a paper towel, shred some newspaper into it and top with another paper towel.  This serves a couple of purposes.  First, it soaks up most of the liquid if you put wet-ish things in there like melon rinds.  Second, it adds some brown matter and improves the brown to green ratio (more on that below).  And compost needs both brown and green matter in order to break down properly.  Third, it makes things slide out of the bin and into the compost tumbler very easily.  In the past if things started to break down too quickly they got a little sticky and it wasn’t so pleasant to have to scrape the bin clean.

What do we put in our compost bin?  Everything we can.  Egg shells, potato peelings, fruit and veggie rinds, and things that are past their prime (although we try to not have too many of those).  As long as it is not dairy or meat it goes in the bin.  We don’t put my husband’s coffee grounds in there, although we could, because we use those straight on the roses.  We also do not add grass as we have a mulching attachment on our lawn mower and use that to help fertilize the lawn.

We do use dry leaves in the compost bin.  If you just have green matter your compost gets very stinky.  It also attracts a lot of flies.  An ideal bin would be 30 parts brown matter (which provides carbon) to 1 part green matter (which provides nitrogen).  Most websites that I’ve found seem to indicate that kitchen scraps are about 12 or 15:1.  Dry leaves are 50:1.  I think my paper lined bin is possibly closer to 20:1.  Sometimes my husband has sawdust leftover from a project (like making a compost bin) and we can add that.  We try not to over-think it but if we notice it’s not breaking down well we try to adjust.

I do not compost manure in the bins.  While I am expecting a trailer-load of horse manure any day now, that will sit in a separate pile to do it’s thing until it’s ready; it needs to rest for a while as horses are not very efficient digesters and if you use it right away it’s too hot and too weedy.  It needs to break down for a while.  I don’t use pet manure in the compost, that gets buried in the yard in an area where we don’t grow food.

Compost bins also need moisture.  We’ve been getting enough rain and it seems to seep into the bins.  And I figure there’s enough moisture in what we’re putting into the bin.  If it looks a little dry as the summer progresses and the heat increases we’ll adjust the moisture content as needed.  Again, we try not to be too picky about it but to pay attention to what things look like.

Once your compost is done (and there’s something really amazing and wondrous about turning garbage into rich, crumbly soil) it’s great to use in the garden.  I top dress my garden beds with it in the Spring and the Fall.  It’s also good for putting into containers when I repot them.  At this point I have more of a need than I have available supply.  This new bin is definitely going to be put to good use.

What are Safe Seeds

What Are Safe Seeds?

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Seeds vs. Plants

Spring is just around the corner. Many people start thinking about planting a garden. Dreaming about fragrant, flavorful tomatoes, mouthwateringly delicious sweet corn, and abundance of greens and herbs and more, all from their garden. For some, this thought process is accompanied by doodlings of garden plans, frantic searchings for last year’s crop rotation chart, or just dog-earing a few pages in the latest garden supply catalog.

Some folks will buy seeds. Some will buy plants. But are they, and you, thinking about the environmental and biological impact of the plants? Are you considering non-genetically modified (GMO-free) plants and seeds? If not, it’s time to consider making the switch. Yes, GMO-free can be more expensive. However, it comes with some important benefits.

Understanding the Safe Seed Pledge

But first I’d like to clarify. While organic seeds are great, and in some cases, depending on the crop, necessary, not all crops require it. What is of vital importance is the use of non-genetically modified seeds. In order to support a move away from GMOs, more companies are signing the Safe Seed Pledge.   Created in 1999 it was started as a way for companies to share their position when it comes to genetically modified seeds.  Companies who have signed the pledge, and there are over 70 at this point, pledge that their seeds are free of genetic modification.  The Safe Seed Resource List can be found online at the Council for Responsible Genetics.  At a minimum, safe seeds from companies who have signed the pledge should be what you’re looking for when choosing seeds. Here’s why:

  • Seeds from genetically modified crops are often heavily sprayed with pesticides to keep down the weed population. This pesticide residue has a very sharp impact on the environment.  Increased pesticide use appears to be reducing butterfly populations.  It can also pollute the water and causes birth defects in water animals such as frogs and fish.
  • The most common pesticide ingredient, glyphosate, is a chelating agent and binds with nutrients from the soil, effectively blocking them from the plants. With no nutrient uptake, that means less nutrition in your diet.
  • New studies are showing a significant impact on human health and changes to DNA from exposure to pesticides.
  • Seed crops spend more time in the ground that food crops, this increases the amount of pesticide potentially taken up into the seed and then passed on to you through the food grown from those seeds.
  • Non-GMO crops and especially organic crops are often grown in healthier soil, creating a healthier end product.
  • According to information found from the Institute for Responsible Technology, there are studies which show that animals ingesting GMO diets have organ damage and gastrointestinal issues as well as accelerated aging and infertility.

Starting Your Garden

Starting vegetables from seed doesn’t require a lot of room. Essentially you need a container of some kind, good quality dirt, safe seeds, water, and sunlight. The truth, however, is that many of us feel nervous about how to start a vegetable or herb garden from seed. We’ve gotten so far away from that habit that it seems foreign and perhaps a bit overwhelming.  The following are good resources to get you started:

  • Starting Seeds: How to Grow Healthy, Productive Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers from Seed (Storey Basics)
  • The New Seed Starters Handbook (Rodale Organic Gardening)
  • Seed Starting Kit – Complete Supplies – 3 Mini Sturdy Greenhouse Trays with Dome fits on Windowsill, Fiber Soil Pods, Instructions. Indoor/Outdoor Gardening. Grow Herbs, Flowers, and Vegetables.
  • 4-Tier Mini Greenhouse, Gardman R687 27″ Long x 18″ Wide x 63″ High
  • Winjoy Grow Light, 30W LED Grow Lamp Bulbs Plant Lights Full Spectrum, Auto ON & Off with 3/6/12H Timer 5 Dimmable Levels Clip-On Desk Grow Lamp for Indoor Plants

While it’s certainly easier to plant vegetables are ready to go in the ground, you need to know what you’re getting. If you’re planning to start your garden from plants that someone else has sown from seed it would be a great idea to find out where the seeds originated and if they are part of the safe seed pledge program.  

Source Info:

Koller, VJ, et al. Cytotoxic and DNA-damaging properties of glyphosate and Roundup in human-derived buccal epithelial cells. Arch Toxicol. 2012 May;86(5):805-13
Mertens, M, et al. Glyphosate, a chelating agent—relevant for ecological risk assessment?. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2018; 25(6): 5298–5317

 

photo:  eco-warrior-princess

On My Mind Monday 04.22.13

on my mind -- what's in the news

It’s never the same two weeks in a row. A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health. Here’s what’s on my mind.

Potato chips are addictive – We’ve all seen the ad that promises, “Bet you can’t eat just one.”  Now it turns out that there may be something to it.  A new study scanned the brains of mice while they ate different foods including potato chips as a means of understanding why people overeat, especially on snack foods.  It turns out that even though the mice consumed chow with the same caloric and fat content as chips, when they ate the chips they engaged in hyperphagia.  This is a state where the subject gorges, or over consumes, past the point of satiety.  The study found that, “chronic intake of a high-fat diet decreases the rewarding effect of food, leading to disorganization of the feeding pattern which eventually results in overweight.”  Furthermore, it appeared that eating potato chips (and, the resultant overfeeding behavior) was correlated with a reduction in brain activity as related to sleep.

Cook Your Cupboard – A new project by NPR that seeks to help people who are on pantry overload.  You know…those oddball jars you bought in a moment of inspired indecision at the ethnic market.  Or that strangely eclectic gift basket you received for on occasion or another and there are  a few stragglers left over.  Now you can plan the online version of Chopped in your home with your own basket of goodies.  [ed. note: before you use them be sure to #ReadTheLabel.]

 Bluefin Tuna Almost Extinct  – Overfishing, illegal fishing, and the rise of sushi have contributed to the severe reduction in population numbers of Bluefin Tuna in the Pacific Northwest.  If we are to stop destroying species we need to be more mindful of our impact on our environment.  If you eat fish consider downloading the Seafood Watch App from Monterey Bay Aquarium which will help you make ocean friendly choices for seafood and sushi.

Speaking of Sushi – Many people around the world eat bugs. Oddly enough when we look at the global map of entomophagy we see that it mostly occurs in the southern hemisphere. There have been an increasing number of articles about eating bugs and how they are more environmentally friendly to raise, a more concentrated source of protein, a better use of resources, and pound-for-pound, an inexpensive source of food.  Now a young group of entrepreneurs has come up with the idea of repackaging various insects into a more sushi-looking form to sidestep the squeamishness many people face when seeing something on their plate with legs, wings and antennae.  While not an acceptable food source for those who are vegetarian, vegan, or kosher, it will be interesting to see if this concept takes off.

Pruning tomatoes, cucumbers and melons = this video clearly shows and explains how and why to prune for best results in the garden.  If you haven’t started your vegetable garden it’s not too late, this is a great time of year and when you’re enjoying the bounty of the season you’ll be glad you planted food.

We have a rather challenging situation in our back yard with a lot of shade, sunny areas that have, in years past, burned the plants once they get to a certain point in the season, and several pine trees that make for very acidic soil.  So this year I’m trying an experiment and growing  my tomatoes in pots.  This will give me the flexibility to move them around and find just the right location as well as having better control of the soil.

Need help figuring out how to clean out and clean up YOUR pantry?
Schedule a Pantry Party with Mira.

photo: alvimann

On My Mind Monday 12.24.12

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Wangari Gardens – Yet another great example of community gardens growing out of unused space.  I love that it was started by a student who envisioned a way to bring a garden to  an area that was previously considered a food desert.  Overcoming bureaucratic red tape and a variety of setbacks what now exists is a beautiful community space.

Farmer’s worried about GMO contamination?  USDA says “get insurance.” – This article is eye opening on many levels.  Even more so than the issue of GMO contamination, which is huge, is that GMO’s do not work.  As the article mentions, we are now breeding superweeds which are roundup resistant, having somehow, mysteriously (read with snark) picked up the trait from the plants which were bred to be roundup resistant.  This is in spite of the fact that Monsanto in the beginning assured farmers that resistance would not be a problem.  Looks like they were wrong on that count.  And if that issue were not bad enough it turns out that we are ruining, depleting, our earth to an unsustainable point by mining minerals needed to make chemical fertilizers.  Time to wake up and stop the chemical cocktail we are pouring on and in our food.

Are your kids eating too much salt? – If you buy package, processed foods, don’t read the labels, and eat out frequently chances are you and your kids are getting far too much salt.  Learning to read the label is the first step to controlling in the home sodium intake.  Thinking about where and what you eat when you eat out is next.  For young kids 1,200 mg is considered the recommended limit but some foods can provide a whopping amount of your daily intake.  One example is a two ounce serving of pretzels which could provide up to 900 mg of sodium.  But don’t go no sodium either, your body needs it for metabolic function as well as to manufacture digestive fluids.  Moderation, but not avoidance, is definitely the key when it comes to salt.

The year of the liver – Apparently 2013 will be the year that liver makes it’s way back into the American diet.  This could be a good thing it’s a good protein source that is also high in iron, riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin B12.  Soaking it in milk is one way to temper the flavor for those who are not used to it.  Made into pate it’s delicious, but sauteed in onions it’s also tasty.  The best choice is to choose liver from pasture raised animals as there is no exposure to GMOs, pesticides, chemicals, antibiotics, or added hormones.

C. Difficile sniffer dog – Those cute little beagles (and other breeds) are everywhere.  Not just roaming the airports in their working dog jackets sniffing out contraband produce, not just detecting diabetes and various types of cancer, but now also identifying cases of a bacterial infection that can be difficult to treat and which may spread rapidly if not contained.  C. difficile can overtake the intestinal environment causing severe pain, cramping, diarrhea and even ulcerations.  With the help of Cliff (there’s apparently only one sniffer dog at the moment) detection is quicker and easier.

And this video shows the Minister for Public Health and Sanitation of Kenya at a public briefing.  Kenya has just banned all GMOs while they evaluate their safety.

Don’t forget to “like” The Pantry Principle to stay up to date and 
get news and information about what’s really in your food.

photo: mconnors

On My Mind Monday 09.10.12

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition and holistic living.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Meditation in the corporate world – According to this article more major corporations are recognizing the value of having employees take a break — to meditate.  Meditation is known to have a variety of health benefits including lowering blood pressure as well as allowing the mind to refocus.   While we don’t teach meditation techniques (and there are many) in the US, it may be something that becomes more and more common in response to this sort of corporate acceptance.

A new twist on urban gardening – in Chicago city lots are not just being used for urban farming.  Some are being converted to orchards where heirloom varieties will be grown.  The time investment to plant, nurture, and eventually harvest an orchard is significant.  The hope is that residents and even restaurants will be able to use and eat these heirloom fruits.  This will be an interesting project to watch, it could be a novel way for other cities to make use of public spaces.

Corn syrup in what? – This very cheap sugar finds it’s way into an amazing array of foods, even those that would not necessarily be thought of as sweet (such as pizza).  The only way to avoid it in your food is to read the label.  Another important thought to remember, corn is one of the most highly genetically modified crops in the US.  So any products with corn in them (unless marked organic or non-gmo) are quite possibly genetically modified.

National Yoga Month – is September.  And there are lot of different kinds to choose from.  Yoga is a great form of exercise for people who cannot do impact exercises all the way up to those looking for a vigorous workout.  It also offers a wide range of health benefits.

Calorie restriction may not extend life – starving mouse studies seemed to indicate that mice fed 30% less than “normal” lived as much as 40% longer.  There are a number of people who follow calorie restriction in the hopes that the results will be the same for people.  Recent studies appear to indicate that it doesn’t work for Rhesus monkeys.  However the monkeys did have a better quality of life with lower rates of diabetes and cancer.  I wonder what would happen if results were examined again to look at the quality of the food that the monkeys ate.

It’s back to school time.  Unfortunately for a lot of teens and older kids that may mean a temptation to reach for energy drinks to try to stay on top of their hectic schedules.  Unfortunately this is not a good choice.  Here’s a video from my friend Karen that talks about energy drinks and their effect on the adrenal glands.

photo:  mconnors

On My Mind Monday 5.28.12

news | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting regarding food, nutrition, and holistic.  Read what’s on my mind.

Flame Retardants Could Affect Our Bodies For Generations – The more we pollute our environment, sadly, the more we pollute our bodies.  And the effect is cumulative (and in some cases exponential) from one generation to the next.  In her book Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape The Rest Of Our Lives author Annie Murphy Paul talks about how the placental barrier is not as impermeable and protective as we had previously thought.  And with the growing number of chemicals in our environment our bodies are taxed even more.  As the article highlights, there are a growing number of studies that show the results affect DNA and last for generations.  This is a very scary issue and one that needs to garner more attention both from the public and from industry.

The Garden Summer – a new twist in reality t.v., the main person invited four other people to join her in living on a farm.  None of them had any experience.  The documentary highlights their journey.  I would be interested in seeing the movie although I’m not sure how wide the distribution will be.  I envision this as a modern day version of Frontier House, a PBS series where several families were given a little training and then put into a setting reminiscent of the late 1800’s.  It’s a sobering thought, however, that so many of us no longer know how to raise our own food and how to live a more environmentally connected life.

Sunflowers to clean radioactive soil in Japan – The fallout from Fukushima is serious and likely to last for generations.  I was glad to hear that phytoremediation (the use of plants to clean up the soil) was an option being encouraged in this disaster.  Apparently this method was used after the Chernobyl accident back in the late 1980’s.  In addition to sunflowers other plants such as mustard, alfalfa, fennel, and barley are effective choices.  One important issue is the fact that plants used this way cannot be consumed due to the high level of heavy metals they extract from the soil.  I am a little puzzled that Japan is asking local citizens to grow sunflowers and then plans to harvest the seeds and plant them at Fukushima.  To my mind it would make more sense to ask for donations of sunflower seeds from around the world and the phytoremediation could be started one growing year earlier.  Research on the internet, however, failed to turn up an address where sunflowers seeds could be sent.

Tainted Spinach Detected By A Program Budget Cuts Will Axe – Given the increasing number of food recalls and contamination issues I am very surprised to see that this program will be going away.  The governmental agencies already do a poor job at monitoring the food supply, I have to believe this will only make the situation worse.  The best solution in this case is to consider shopping more locally and get to know your farmer.  Know where your food comes from and how it gets to you.

Composting is wonderful; it’s almost magical how you can take leftover coffee grounds, egg shells, potato peels, lawn clippings and other green matter and turn it into a high quality dirt so your garden will grow better.  We’ve finally discovered (after three prior attempts) how to keep the dogs out of the compost bin (really they’re pigs in disguise).  An off-the-ground tumble style container.  Locked behind a gate.  We’re finally starting to generate enough decent compost to be able to use it in the garden and that’s a great thing.

What I’m reading:

Savor by Thich Nhat Han This is a book incorporating information about nutrition with the practice of mindfulness as applied to weight, health, and our relationship with food.  An interesting blend of science and spiritual practice I am enjoying it so far.\

disclaimer: cmp.ly/5

On My Mind Monday 4.9.12

news | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same thing two weeks in a row.  This is a snapshot of what I find interesting; information about health, nutrition and holistic living.  Read what’s on my mind.

World’s Largest Rooftop Farm – Farming is changing and no is no longer only the traditional large acreage farm.  Bringing fresh food to the city by utilizing spaces differently is a great idea.

Michigan calls heritage pigs invasive – It’s beginning to look like BigAg is trying to control your food even further by potentially driving small heritage pig farmers out of business. Not content to allow these smaller farmers a share of the market they’ve found a way to class their pigs as part of an invasive species and to get the government to buy in to it.  I hope that this is overturned…we need genetic diversity in all populations and I am a firm believer in preserving heritage breeds.

Food Adulteration – Food adulteration has been around for millenia.  It is a sad truth that when someone makes money selling a food product the temptation to make more money by stretching the product is there. Some examples include:

  • using cheaper oils like corn in premium, more desirable products such as olive oil
  • honey, there is a huge adulteration of honey, often with high fructose corn syrup
  • coffee can be stretched through the use of chicory, roasted corn, and even legumes
Because the adulterants are not listed on the label it can be difficult to know what you are getting.  Sadly the Food Fraud Database is difficult to use and results are not clear. This once again highlights the need to know where your food is coming from and to, whenever possible, know your producer.
Gleaning – There appears to be a growing number of gleaning operations as a way to finish off the harvesting of fields with the food collected often going to food banks and soup kitchens.  In many places that I have traveled in the US I am often startled to see food going to waste.  A recent trip to Austin, TX revealed loquat trees bursting with fruits that were falling off the trees and rotting on the ground.   Many homes in California have citrus trees and don’t use them all, to the point where the food goes to waste. Farms often leave the last bit of produce because it’s not worth the effort to go get it.  Yet the ability to deliver fresh food to those in need is a priceless gift.  It does however require labor to collect and distribute the food.  Finding gleaning organizations where you can donate your extra produce or labor can be a little difficult to find.  Here is one, you can also run a local search to look for more in your area.

This is a fascinating idea. Being still relatively new to Texas I find that I have a difficult time growing vegetables in my backyard (we seem to be doing okay with fruit trees so far which is great) and would love a concept like this where someone who knows the area could help. The video is from a few years ago but Your Backyard Farmer is apparently still going strong in the Portland, OR area.

To read:

I just heard about Make the Bread, Buy the Butter and am adding it to my get-and-read list.  I’ll be interested to see what the author recommends.  It’s true that there is a lot we can make but is it worth the effort and do we want to take the time to do it.  Fermented foods are high on my list but I truly can’t see myself making butter.  I do make pickles and jams but not nearly as much as I used to (mostly because we don’t go through them as fast now that the kids are grown).  What I’ve always found fascinating is how many things can be made by hand that we’ve forgotten or lost the art of doing.  One of my little cooking friends was astounded one day when they were visiting and we made pudding together.  In their experience pudding always came from a box.  Part of my interest in this book is not only about the time however.  Some things I make, such as mayonaise, because I object to the added ingredients and homemade is a way to avoid that.

disclaimer: cmp.ly/5

On My Mind Monday 4.2.12

news | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  This is a snapshot of what I find interesting; information about health, nutrition, and holistic living.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Light It Up Blue – Today is World Autism Awareness Day.  With rising rates of autism, which many believe has strong ties to chemical influences in our food and environment, it is important to be more understanding and supportive of those families affected by this disease.  I’ll be wearing blue today to show my support.

Beekeepers say we’re running out of time – There appears to be more evidence that pesticides are behind the tragic decline of bees.  Bees are so important to our agricultural system, without them there is no pollination, and without that many crops cannot reproduce.  A recently filed lawsuit claims the EPA violated   the law on several counts.  We need to think more about what is good for the planet rather than concentrating only on the bottom line.

Kale is not chikin – Chick-Fil-A continues to press it’s lawsuit demanding that Bo Muller-Moore, a t-shirt artist in Vermont, cease and desist in the creation of his t-shirts.  This multi-billion dollar company apparently feels that they own the rights to the words “Eat Mor” and that folks will be very confused when presented a choice between his “Eat More Kale” t-shirts and their Eat Mor Chikin campaign.  I’m happy to say Bo is going to make a documentary about this corporate bully.  I’m also happy to say that I helped to fund this documentary and I’m looking forward to watching it when it comes out.

Artichoke – I’ve just planted one and am looking forward to seeing how it grows in my Texas garden.  Aside from being delicious, artichokes are a great source of vitamins, K, C, and folate.  They’re also a good source of magnesium, manganese, and potassium. One delicious artichoke also provides a lot of  fiber.  For those of you just starting your gardens or starting seed for later crops, here’s a neat tip on making your own bio-degradable plant pots.

Governors supporting pink slime – leaving aside the financial contributions that BPI has made to these political leaders who are trying to put a positive spin on this product the fact remains that this is not a good food choice.  It is the leftover bits that the company is trying to eke a profit out of an then hitting up with ammonium hydroxide.  In many countries this product is only considered fit for dog food.  I don’t even think it should be fed to animals.  The original term Lean Finely Textured Beef makes it sound like food however it doesn’t override the fact that now consumers know what it is and THEY DO NOT WANT TO EAT IT.  I know I’m shouting there but I find it very frustrating when companies feel that their corporate profits are more important.  I choose not to eat this product, I encourage others not to eat it and I’m thrilled that fast food restaurants and grocery stores are bowing to consumer demand and removing this product from their shelves.  Now we need to get it out of the school system and out of the food supply.

Hopping for health – I confess that I no longer have a gym membership.  I never made it to the classes because my schedule never seemed to work out and I get bored by the machines after a while.  For some people gyms work well and that’s great.  I’ve been using walking, bike riding, yoga, and strength exercises at home as my form of exercise.  I know that I’m not getting enough impact exercise which is important for bone health and to help prevent osteoporosis.  This looks like a lot of fun and I’m going to make one on my patio and see how I like it.  Either that or start borrowing neighborhood kids and playing hop scotch.

Luckily we had a very mild winter.  My eggplant and pepper plants did really well and managed to last through the winter.  Now they’re loaded with blooms.  I’m going to try to help it along by pinching, as he suggests.  My hot pepper is already producing lots of peppers and I’ll let that go, but my bell peppers and eggplants will get a trim.  We’ll see what happens.