Category Archives: locavore


On My Mind Monday 01.14.13

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.

Diet Soda Linked To Depression – As the article mentions, this study only shows a link, not a definitive correlation.  However, sadly, what the article fails to note is that caffeine is highly linked to anxiety.  Trudy Scott, Food Mood Expert and the author of The Antianxiety Food Solution talks about this connection and points out that for those who are sensitive to it, the more caffeine one consumes the higher the anxiety.

Top 10 Dining Out Trends for 2013 – I’m always interested in the idea of food trends and wonder how many of them are true.  Perhaps this year I’ll remember to go back and “check it out.”  In the meantime I am happy to see a number of things on this list as I believe they represent a positive direction.  Locally sourced foods are always a good pick in my book.  Hyper-local (meaning the restaurant itself produced them) is a fascinating concept and it will be interesting to see if this does happen.  A focus on environment and sustainability is another positive thing.  And, of course, I love the idea of kid nutrition but I’ll be watching this one as it can be tricky to do with the vast majority of children so used to a Standard American Diet.

Junk Food Sugars a Plague on Adolescent Teeth – For those who are paying attention to their diet (and to the overwhelming amounts of sugar that have become part of the modern diet) this is a no-brainer.  However getting this message out to kids is difficult.  It is, however, very important.  While dental hygiene certainly plays a part, the diet is also extremely important.  To get a good look at how much sugar is in a wide variety of foods visit SugarStacks.com.  Be prepared to be surprised.

2013, the International Year of Quinoa – apparently this high-protein pseudo-grain has hit the big time.  The challenge is that, as with many food trends (at least in America) once we learn about something we decide that if a little bit is good a lot must be better.  This is concerning for a few reasons, not the least of which is the quinoa grows best in a specific environment in the Andes mountain region.  But it has become so popular that what was once a staple food for indigenous people has now become a profitable export crop.  So popular that those who are farming it cannot afford to eat it.  Attempts are being made to grow it in the Rockies.  If successful this will reduce some of the pressure but reduce profitability for Andean farmers.  It’s a tricky question and a difficult balance.

Food Safety Rules Implemented Slowly – As with many things related to the government, the new food rules which have been put into place are there but not there.  The implementation is very slow and may not represent a significant protection for consumers until it is fully implemented.  Signed into law two years ago, starting implementation now, full implementation expected to take five years or more it’s a travesty for the consumer.  Once again this simply serves to highlight now important it is to know your farmer and to build a relationship with them.  If you are looking for a farmer near you consider signing up for FarmMatch.com.  This is a new, free, website putting consumers and their local farmers on the map so they can find each other.

I just started watching a British t.v. show called Supersizers Go…  It’s an interesting look at how people ate during different time periods in British history.  Lighthearted and somewhat silly it’s still a fascinating look at food from a different time.  The first episode focused on wartime Britain.

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photo: mconnors

On My Mind Monday 3.05.12

news | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  My snapshot of what I find interesting.  Information and news about health, nutrition and/or holistic living.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Growing protein with fewer resources – There are lots of different ways to look at our protein needs and how we get them.  Algae is certainly one way which could be very sustainable; algae of all kinds can be used to provide protein for animals as well as for humans.  Many vegetarians and vegan’s eat it now.  Potentially part of an aquaculture solution it would be a very efficient use of resources.  Truthfully whether you’re using algae or insects (another source of efficient protein) as an alternative source of food the problem is not how much protein we produce but how we produce it.  Well that and the fact that when it comes to animal protein those of us in developed countries often consume more than we need.  Current commercial methods appear to be mostly inefficient with large scale use of fossil fuels, unhealthy (read unsanitary) conditions,  unhealthy methods (GMO feed, over use of antibiotics), and waste.   So while this is a good thing and an idea that I think is worth following, I also feel we need to look at current protein production methods and clean up after ourselves.

Monterey County Say No To Methyl Iodide – YES!  I’m so happy to see this and hope that other counties in California will follow suit.  Some of you may remember that this appeared in an OMMM post in January.  This is a horrible, known cancer-causing agent.  I’m so happy to hear that the folks in Monterrey County are standing up to BigAg and saying no.

Eating citrus fruit may lower women’s stroke risk – many foods have flavonoids, antioxidants that help promote health.  Apparently the flavonoids in oranges and grapefruit, called flavanones, are especially beneficial for women in helping to prevent ischemic strokes.  It is important to note that if you are trying to increase your intake of oranges and grapefruit eating whole fruit is a better way to go.  There are approximately 5 oranges in a glass of orange juice, adding lots of sugar and not much fiber.  Eat the orange or the grapefruit and get the benefit of the vitamin C, the flavanones, and the fiber.

Seattle plants a public food forest – I’m happy to hear about more public food resources and stewardship of public lands that does not include turning it into a parking lot.  This could give a whole new meaning to the word locavore.  It will be interesting to see how this develops and how it is managed over time.  It is an added dimension to urban agriculture that I think brings a lot of benefits to the community.  Considering our shift to a more urbanized population these sorts of measures are to be welcomed and encouraged.

Push to label GMO’s gains ground – I am firmly in the no-GMO camp.  I believe that they are harmful to our bodies, our planet and their use should be discontinued.  However that is a larger battle.  In the meantime I very strongly support labeling of GMOs because I believe that consumers have the right to make an informed choice when it comes to their food.  GMO producers disagree, of course, because this would, in all likelihood reduce their sales.  I hope the labeling of GMO moves forward and becomes mandatory.

Enjoy Nature

What I’m reading:

The Magnesium Miracle by Carolyn Dean.  It’s been a busy week so I’m still reading this book.  Learning a lot about why magnesium is such an important mineral for our health.  For example, it turns out that magnesium is important in helping to support health when it comes to osteoporosis.  So it’s not just calcium, we also need to be looking at our magnesium levels.

Eating In The Woods

Merriweather | photo: miradessy

My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to take a Wild Edibles Foraging Tour with Merriweather today.   He’s always interesting and engaging, offering an amazing depth and breadth of information about edible, non-edible, and medicinal plants.

The ground was very wet and muddy at the Spring Creek Greenway Nature Center due to all of the rain we’ve had lately.  And trust me, all of that rain is a good thing after the drought we’ve had for the last two years.  However the muddy terrain didn’t hold back our eagerness to follow Merriweather over log and trail in pursuit of the knowledge he had to share.

There are rules to wildcrafting or edible foraging:

1.  Respect the law – in Texas it is a crime, carrying fines of up to $500, to rustle.  That includes plants.  So if you’re going to harvest you need to ask permission first.

2.  Respect the land – just like I learned in Girl Scouts all those years ago, leave it cleaner than you found it and if you packed it in, pack it out.

3.  Respect the plant – make clean cuts so the plant can stay healthy and do not over-harvest.

4. Respect yourself – know, definitively, what you are picking and planning to eat.  Don’t assume because you could be risking your health.

It was a fascinating class and I think everyone was struck by the vast number of edible plants in our environment that we are not aware of.  There was a mind-boggling amount of information.  Although there are other books out there, I’m waiting for Merriweather to write one of his own because I’m sure it will be good.  He has a unique point of view when it comes to sharing this information.

luna moth | photo: miradessy

There were lots of neat things to see during the class, not just plants.  One was this beautiful luna moth which patiently clung to the branch, allowing us to turn it over so everyone could photograph “the pretty side.”

In spite of the chilly weather, overcast conditions, and muddy terrain everyone appeared to enjoy the expedition tremendously.

News Review…or…it’s On My Mind Monday

in the news | photo: mconnors

I’m always looking up information about food, health, and what’s in the news.  Just as an experiment this is a posting of what’s I’m reading right now, some of which may or may not turn into a blog post, but all of which is of interest to me.  I’d be curious to know if any of this is of interest to you.  In no particular order (other than this is what’s open across my browsing window) here’s what’s on my mind:

The little county that could get CA to rethink methyl iodide – I’ve written about this before.  Essentially CA agreed to let agricultural companies use a known carcinogen (so effective that it is used in laboratories to reliably cause cancer) on strawberry crops.  In spite of massive protests CA went ahead and approved it anyway.  Turns out the fight is still on.  This gives me hope that this awful carcinogenic chemical will be banned.  Until then I have essentially fought back the only way I know how.  I purchase no strawberries from California at all, even the organic ones.

Public Park Helps Feed 200,000 People Every Month –  I love this.  What a great solution to help feed those who are hungry and also make effective use of public lands.  This ties in to a video I shared on my Facebook Page about Suburban Homesteading/Urban Victory Gardening.  Looking at the info I see it’s the same guy, John from Growing Your Greens.  I’ve subscribed to his YouTube channel and am looking forward to more good info.

Low Vitamin D Ups Diabetes Risk in Kids – One more reason to check your vitamin D levels.  I think sometimes people tune out the vitamin D message believing that they are getting enough from their milk.  Sadly that’s often not enough, especially if you are drinking skim milk.  Vitamin D is important for so many different reasons and across different populations.  Are you over 65?  Check your vitamin D.  Is it wintertime and you live in a Northern latitude?  etcetera etcetera etcetera.  Check your vitamin D.  I’m not saying everyone needs to supplement, but it’s easy to check and if you are low you probably do need to supplement.  Always get the 25 hydroxy test rather than the 1,25 dihydroxy – it’s a better indicator of your vitamin D status.

Apple Juice Made In America?  Think Again – This one surprised me.  Because I know we have so many apple orchards in the US I just assumed that our apple juice was made here.  Turns out it’s not.  Given that so many children drink it (and the recent fungicide contamination of orange juice) I’m even more convinced that getting our food from abroad is not necessarily a good idea.  I believe the best thing is to get to know your farmer, buy locally, and grow your own.  I’m blown away by the idea that apples which are grown in China can be juice and fossil fuels expended to bring a liquid product (very heavy) all the way around the world to us, and somehow it’s cheaper.  There is something very very wrong with that equation.

Programmed To Be Fat? – This looks like a fascinating program and I am going to try to see if I can borrow a copy through my local library.  Given the increasing number of obesogens in our environment (I wrote an article some time back called Is Your Plastic Making You Fat?) and  the rising toxicity levels for newborns this is an issue that really needs to be looked at and worked on.   We are poisoning ourselves, our environment and destroying our future.

Goats being used, instead of pesticides in Eastham – I love this.  What a great way to solve a problem.  Instead of throwing chemicals at the issue of weeds, use goats.  The goats are happy, they get fed, the town gets less toxic chemicals in their environment, the residents have less exposure and, presumably, less potential for illness.

tomato - eating seasonally

Seasonal Eating For Best Health

I regularly teach a class on seasonal eating.  What the benefits are and why we should look to consume more seasonal (and local) produce.   Obviously part of the benefit is that seasonal foods are picked when they are fully ripe, especially if they are local, rather than being picked under-ripe and either stored or transported before being force ripened.  This means that the nutritive value of the food is fully developed as well as it’s flavor.  Anyone who has ever eaten a truly fresh tomato knows what I am talking about.  

Benefits of seasonal eating

  1. Better for the environment: Eating seasonal, locally produced fruits and vegetables also helps to reduce the environmental impact of your food.  If you think about it, why eat tomatoes from 2,000 miles away when you can get better tasting ones closer to home without burning massive amounts of fossil fuels?
  2. More flavor: as mentioned above, food that is picked when it is ripe, rather than when it is convenient to harvest, is going to taste better. The texture (which contributes to the taste and the enjoyment) is also better because the produce is not artificially chilled and then force ripened, all of which changes the produce.
  3. Support your local farmer: most often when you’re buying local, in-season produce you’re buying it direct from the grower. This helps to cut out the middle man. Farmer’s markets and CSA’s are a great way to meet those who are actually growing your food and to be able to talk with them about how they are growing your food.
  4. Less pesticides and toxins: most local, small farmers don’t use massive amounts of pesticides, insecticides, and other chemicals. This is where getting to know your local farmer is a big benefit. They’ll tell you what they’re not doing and explain why. Most often it’s because they’re growing your food in a way that nourishes the soil and that is more beneficial for the plants. Sure it may not look as consistent or “pretty” as what you see at the grocery store but it smells and tastes far better and has more nutrients.

 

Defining the seasons

At my last class I got a question that I’ve gotten a couple of times before and I wanted to address it because I think it’s an issue that tends to get a little confusing for folks sometimes.  It’s about the seasonality of food.  I live in Texas.  We have a very different growing season here compared to most of the rest of the country. We essentially have the equivalent of two spring-like seasons, one very hot season sandwiched in between them, followed by a cold, often rainy season.  Learning to grow food here has proven to be a bit of a challenge. It’s nowhere near as easy or intuitive as what I’m used to having grown up in the Northeast.  Luckily I have several local CSAs and Farmer’s Markets that help supplement our supply of seasonal foods with their expert skills.

One question that comes up a lot is about what constitutes a season.  The answer?  Well, it depends on where you are living.  I think the first, most important place to start is to understand the concept of seasonal eating and decide if this is something that you want to follow.  We try to do so in our house for most things because we then get the ripest, best tasting produce by waiting for the season.  It also means that we more fully appreciate our food by having to wait for it.  I’m going to be honest and put in a disclaimer here to say that there are certain foods that we do not eat seasonally because we use them too much (such as onions, garlic, carrots, and celery) but in general we eat berries in the spring and summer, squashes in the winter and so on.

Resources

In addition to learning to appreciate the seasonality of your food, you need to learn what exactly your seasons are.  If you’re not sure of what’s really in season in your area here are some websites that  can help:

If you’re looking to find a farmer’s market and get fresh, seasonal, local product a great resource for the United States is Local Harvest.

Of course, once you’ve gotten all this fabulous seasonal produce you’ll need to know what to do with it. Here are a few cookbooks to help with that: