Something happened about fifty years ago that was amazing. At first it was a bit costly, but over a couple of decades, as more and more consumers wanted it, the price came down. In fact, very few of us may remember the difference in the way things used to be and because of that lack of memory, people think it always was the way it is now. But this is a pretty new thing in the scheme of eating…..
I’m talking about having produce available the entire year.
With a wide spread rail system crossing the United States by the end of the 1800s, some produce from Florida and southern California made it to eastern markets, but it really wasn’t until air travel became more common in the late 1950s and early 1960s that green grocers and then the new supermarkets started stocking fruits and vegetables out of season. Air travel was fast, getting the produce to the densely populated parts of the nation quickly and with little spoilage. Soon we became used to eating produce from other countries.
In reality, the United States is not the only nation that imports most of its fruits and vegetables. The European Union and Asia does as well. Basically, any area with more income receives produce from the less wealthy areas of the Southern Hemisphere who are eager to sell us what they easily grow in their warmer climates. The United States also exports a lot of the produce it grows.
International trade in fruits and vegetables has expanded more rapidly than
trade in other agricultural commodities, especially since the 1980s.
If you’d like to read more, this report issued by the USDA is interesting.
Today we typically don’t even think about where the bell peppers come from when we purchase them at the supermarket, or the grapes, or the apples. While the major grocery store chains are making efforts to source more of the produce “locally” much of what is available in our area is from outside the U.S. even when we are in the middle of our growing season.
If you want to eat fresh produce that was harvested when ripe and hours before you eat it, you have to shop at a farmers’ market. Not only will you enjoy the flavor more, but you probably will pay less AND the farmer will be paid more.
Check this out….and enjoy local food!!
Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. Some of the best recipes are simple, classic recipes. My Mom was a simple, classic cook. She made things like mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken with noodles, ham loaf, meat loaf, green beans, and Lima beans. She cooked quite often using the crock pot. When I was growing up, she didn’t use recipes in her daily cooking. She cooked from memory. She had made those dishes thousands of times. When she wanted to make something a little extra special, though, like chocolate crinkles for my sister’s birthday, she relied on another simple, classic: the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.
As Stephanie informed us in her post last Friday, strawberry season is upon us. I picked up a carton of Furhmann Orchards’ strawberries at The Wild Ramp on Saturday. They are ripe, red, sweet, and delicious, and moving quickly off the shelves at The Wild Ramp. They didn’t last long at my house either. I made individual strawberry shortcakes and used my Mom’s old standby to find the perfect recipe.
STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE (from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book)
- 6 cups sliced strawberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (You can purchase Weisenberger Flour Mill flour at TWR.)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 beaten egg (You can purchase a variety of farm fresh eggs at TWR. I used an Avalon Farm egg.)
- 2/3 cup milk (You can purchase Snowville Creamery milk at TWR.)
- 1 cup of whipping cream (SEE RECIPE BELOW.)
In a small bowl stir together the strawberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar (Furhmann Orchards’ strawberries are so sweet, you won’t need to use that much sugar.) Set aside. Stir together remaining sugar, the flour, and baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine egg and milk; add to flour mixture. Stir just to moisten. Spread the dough into a greased 8 x1 1/2-inch round baking pan. Bake in 450 degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Split into 2 layers. Spoon half of the whipped cream and strawberries over bottom layer. Replace the top layer. Top with remaining berries and whipped cream. (I used a drinking glass to cut out single servings to be served in small, round ramekins.)
WHIPPED CREAM (from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book)
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla (You can purchase Bellissima Cakes Vanilla Extract at TWR.)
Chill a medium mixing bowl and the beaters of an electric mixer. In chilled bowl beat whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
If you are looking for a simple, classic recipe for your Memorial Day celebration, this is it.
Emily is a wife, mother, and attorney, living on the banks of the Ohio.
When I started writing the blog for the Wild Ramp as well as the blog for the Collaborative for 21st Century Appalachia, I needed to educate myself about the food industry, farms, and farm markets. I subscribed to a lot of news feeds as well as websites that send information to help me learn.
I admit I am biased. I was raised by my parents, a nurse and a pharmaceutical research chemist, to know what it meant to eat a balanced diet. I was told never to eat at McDonald’s or the other fast foods that sprung up in the late 1960s and I was told that Wonder bread was baby food, or as my mom put it, “store bought pap.” Like most people, I did not comply with everything my parents said.
As it turns out, my parents were right about a lot of things but they never foresaw how the FDA has moved away from its primary mission to protect the public health. They would be first in line protesting about some of what I have learned in the past two years.
As I have learned I have gotten more and more dismayed. I want to tell you about something I learned this week without this blog sounding like one more SCARY thing happening in today’s world. I think we all hear so many things that scare us or anger us that we get a bit numb and feel lost to do anything about it.
So before I start I want to say there is an answer…and it is one that you can do.
So, the problem: It appears that the feeds that factory farms have been using for chickens, turkeys and hogs has, among many other good and some questionable things, arsenic. Yup. The word brings to mind an old movie about murdering people but in this case, it had been deemed to be safe by the Food and Drug Administration.
One formula for the arsenic is called Roxarsone. It was approved by the FDA in the 1940s to help chickens grow faster, kill stomach parasites, improve the color of the meat and result in bigger breasted birds and is still in most commercial chicken feeds today. While the dose is very small, it apparently does not all pass through the chicken into its waste, although a lot of it does.
The reason this has become much more of an issue now than before is the way most chicken is raised today. Factory farming is far removed from the idyllic image of a farm with a barn and happy animals all wandering around. That is what the farms that bring food to the Wild Ramp look like. Factory farms look like……factories, with the motivation to raise as many animals as quickly as possible at the least expense. Profit is the goal.
People who eat a lot of factory farmed chicken (the kind you buy at supermarkets and eat at most restaurants) tend to have arsenic add up in their bodies. People who live near factory farms and drink local water also tend to get arsenic in their bodies because the waste leaches from the large waste holding ponds into the groundwater and pollutes it.
This hit the news recently is that a group of nine consumer groups have filed a case in the Federal Court in San Francisco against Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. They state that the FDA and HHS knew about the issue in 2011 and have not removed Roxarsone and other similar arsenic additives from the animal feeds. The article can be read here: http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/05/02/57250.htm
Some people say this arsenic issue means you should be vegan. But there are problems with chemical sprays to repel insects and weeds as well as genetically modified produce. And chemicals that enter the water systems affect everyone. So it is not just animal proteins that have these food safety issues. Basically, we need all our food to be safe to eat, no matter what diet you prefer.
I did not want this newest irritant to my knowledge to turn into a rant nor did I want it to turn into another scare essay. We are bombarded by so many things to scare us from something. I think most people get numb to it all and give up.
But you should NOT give up. Making food choices can really affect your health. And, if your choices feed children, their health.
So, here’s what I did: I figured out about two years ago, the only way to really eat healthy food is to stop eating processed stuff. To stop going to fast food outlets. To restructure my life and my budget to buy whole foods from farmers I know and spend time in the kitchen cooking so I can control the additives.
The expression KNOW YOUR FARMER is the answer. By understanding the farmer’s practices, knowing how he or she raises their animals and grows their produce, you can feel certainty that you are purchasing food that will be healthy for your body.
At the Wild Ramp market we know our farmers. Each producer is visited and their practices are explained in this blog. In Huntington, West Virginia we are very lucky to have a market like this. If you do not have a source like this, ask the farmer at the farmers’ market. Ask them when you can visit. Ask them to explain how they raise their food. Ask open ended questions and let them talk. If you don’t understand, ask. And if they won’t talk to you, move on to another farmer.
Aimee Figgatt of Tyler Creek Farm says ” The feed we get is locally mixed and is also locally grown and does not have these additives. Our chickens eat only grass, bugs and straight cracked corn grown in Mason County.”
Barney and Annette Sigman at Twin Maples Farm don’t use any medicated feeds. ”In fact, the majority of the grains in our feeds come from Ohio and the border counties of West Virginia that do not even distribute Monsanto varieties. Ohio is one of the few (probably because of OSU and a strong agricultural heritage) states that still disseminates their own varieties of seed stock.” Annette also cautions that there are a lot of toxins that occur naturally in some of the plants that we eat but their feed does not have an arsenic additive.
Martin Schaffer of Four Seasons Farm is surprised that more people are not angry about the food they are offered in the supermarkets. “As a guy from Europe where it seems people are much more concerned about what they eat, I put an extremely high priority on what I feed my animals. Who does what I do? Having movable chicken houses and portable chicken fences? Who feeds grass clippings from orchards to their cows, goats, sheep, and pigs as I do? All this require extra work but I know the day will come when at least some people here will realize that all the food coming from my farm is far above average.”
Stephanie Pauley of Pauley’s Rowdy Acres has checked her feed and says it “doesn’t contain any of those ingredients. Our laying mash is mixed for us through our local feed store. We feed the chickens a little bit of the mash to keep their egg shells hard. Otherwise they are free-range and eat bugs and grass. We will be switching to a non-gmo chicken feed within the next two weeks.”
I started visiting farms for the blogs I write just about 18 months ago and knew next to nothing. I learned, besides a lot about the food, that farmers are passionate about what they do and love to share that passion with anyone who will listen. So ask…..listen….and learn……and live better.
Sorry….a little cross action of my life today…my weekend has been filled with track. My husband and I are the team photographers for Huntington High School’s running program. Friday and Saturday 22 of our athletes qualified to participate at the State Meet. Here you see my son Sam (in green) in his last high school race, the 3rd leg of a 4×400 relay. While the team did not place their collective time was fantastic and Sam did well in both this and his 800 meter race where he set a personal record. Sorry, a little shameless maternal pride showing here. *G*
I scanned this from a 1939 copy of the New Wonder Book of Knowledge and thought I would share it with you. It clearly shows that at that time, before World War II and at what we know now was the end of the Great Depression, that there were amazing technological advances, with many people still using the “old way”.
Farming-horse and tractor
On the road- horse, electric and gasoline driven
Air travel-dirigible and biplane
The list goes on….take some time and study it and then share it with a kid….we need to remember that all we are used to is very very recent.
Strawberry season is upon us! I am so excited! I love to eat a big bowl of fresh strawberries, and then there is strawberry pie, strawberries and cream, strawberry freezer jam, and oh so many delicious ways to enjoy these beauties!
I would almost say that strawberry season is my favorite season, but then you might call me out later in the summer when I claim that there is nothing better than first green beans of the season, or the first blackberries, tomatoes, corn, or melons for that matter. Eating seasonally brings new excitement to your taste buds weekly, and I get excited for each new, fresh item that our garden and local farms produce.
But for now, I plan to fully enjoy and indulge in the season that is upon us. Pass the strawberries please!
A couple of months ago my daughter Lisa (27 years old and married 3 years now) posted an enigmatic “Guess What?” on Facebook. Since Graham, Sam and I were all in the room when I saw that we immediately began to fire one word answers. “Pregnant?” was the first one and it deteriorated from there because we got no response for hours and hours.
Okay, who was this man and why was my daughter looking for happy to be next to him? That was how I “met” Jeffrey Smith. Actually I had become aware of him before but since then I have been paying more attention to him.
Jeffrey Smith is a major activist trying to make people aware about GMOs, genetically modified organisms, in our food. It was stumbling across one of his posts that made me aware, in the first place, that our food had been modified in strange ways since the mid 1990s. Now, after 20 years of Americans being lab rats, he is showing again and again the link between GMOs and their effects on us. For example, the use of increased herbicides (Round-Up in particular) and a whole slew of illnesses.
Yesterday I watched a video of an interview with Stephanie Seneff, PhD, a research scientist at MIT. You can watch it here. (http://action.responsibletechnology.org/p/salsa/web/common/public/content?content_item_KEY=11129)
Among many other side effects that can cause debilitating illness, I learned that one of the damages is that it removes the effectiveness of how our body accepts seretonin. That is an enzyme that is has a calming effect on us. Dr. Seneff believes that the anger we see so persuasive in society now is because of this disruption.
The anger people use when you ask them to explain the reasons they like this candidate or that. The anger we see demonstrated each time there is a horrific killing or bombing in this nation. So much anger. Has anyone besides me noticed that there seems to be so much more anger and lack of self control than even five years ago?
And perhaps it is all because people eat food, unknowingly, that has a GMO that helps the farmer grow corn or soy or whatever while spraying the entire field to kill weeds. It saves the farmer time. It supposedly, according to Monsanto who makes both the Round-Up as well as the seeds for the vegetables, and also according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), no effect on us. But their tests are limited to only a few months.
We lab rats have been eating this stuff for 20 years and now have higher levels of diabetes, autism, obesity and more.
Go to Jeffrey Smith’s website Institute for Responsible Technology ( http://responsibletechnology.org/) to learn more. But get some camomille tea or some other calmer to help you through it. You will get very angry.