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Food Sunday: Yes, This Works

8:07 am in Food by TobyWollin

Good day, my little weapons of mass destruction…. we are BACK (and the food news about the trip will be for another time – I’m just getting you guys some ‘breaking’ stuff today because we have to take off momentarily to drive some guests to the airport — which is three and a half hours away so what you see…ahem..).

Several posts ago (June 26th to be exact – here’s the link June 26th- go ahead and reread it), we discussed grow bags – or rather the lack thereof and the DH’s crafting me a couple from old feed bags and compost for the amazing number of basil plants we had. And the picture at the top is what we had at that time.

One month later, after one of the worst heat waves the Mid-Atlantic States have had in a very long time, that looks like this:

Now, we could have easily come back to dead plants. But here is why this worked:
1) The bags were filled with really good, compost, which has a really spongy water-retentive structure.
2) Our son, The Boy, was home to take care of the chickens, make sure Chez Siberia was not invaded by marauding Zombies, interface with Septic Man and his evil minion Electrical Pump Person, and water what looked as if it needed watering (i.e., things in pots or hanging off the hooks in the front and the back). He watered the basil-in-a-bag.
3) The location of the bags was pretty auspicious: During the hottest part of the day, those bags get shaded by a monstrous maple tree which happens to be about 25′ away – the edge of the shade just covers them and they otherwise get sun when things wheel around. So, the contents of those bags were cooler than they ordinarily would have been.

So, he saved the basil, which is really good because my plans for it include freezing, drying and turning it into pesto for the freezer. The Boy got definitely two thumbs up for this.

So, in other words – the grow bag technique works.

Also — and this is where Aunt Toby reaches out to anyone who knows anything about this: Espaliered fruit trees. Anyone have any experience with this? Due to Septic Man, we now have a 50′ stretch on the south side of our property which looks positively naked now and we’re thinking that a good use of that area would be a living fence of fruit trees. Anyone know what the plant spacing is for espaliered fruit trees? Any weird requirements? Wire better than trellis? The necessity for gun towers?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Have a great week and remember: wash your hands, wash your fruits and veggies and eat something good!

Food Sunday: Food News You Can Use

10:16 am in Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

Happy Sunday, my little boysenberries. Here is all you guys need to know about food safety this (or any other) week:

Don’t eat commercially produced sprouts. Period. No matter where they come from; no matter how the growers say they are grown.

Just say no. Grow your own at home. Don’t use Thompson and Morgan seeds (supposedly their seeds are one of the major sources of the E. coli scourge in Europe). That…is…all.

And in slightly more useful news:

We have, as expected, completely run out of prepared growing space at Chez Siberia. No place to tuck a seedling or sprout. Zippo. So, I went to our local home and garden center (one of the horrible huge national chains – sorry; this is all we’ve got at the moment now) to ask if they had ‘grow bags’.

You’d have thought I’d asked if they carried dope. “Never heard of ‘em”.
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Food Sunday: What I Got From My Dad

12:49 pm in Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

I frankly don’t have any food news for you all today because the past 24 hours have been filled with other stuff and we went off to a picnic at a park in Ithaca, New York (lovely, as always; I think Ithaca, NY has the largest per capita number of state parks anywhere and they are all spectacular). So, I am going to weasel my way out of this by writing about (as a two-fer Food and Father’s Day gig) how my father affected my food choices, cooking, and my relationship with eating. I think dads are largely ignored when it comes to the role that they have in terms of food. When the DH talks about his childhood and food, the person he mostly talks about in terms of that period is HIS father, who died when he was 13. After his father’s death, the family’s whole menu changed and his mom’s Costa Rican dishes came center stage.

But, I digress.

My father was a first generation American; his father came from (depending on what period you are referring to) Austria/Russia/the Ukraine, and married a woman whose parents were basically from the same area as he was from (when you come to a new country, marrying someone who’s a ‘landsman’ is sort of a piece of security, I guess), so the selection of family dishes was pretty consistent: lots of dairy food, lots of onions, cabbage and potatoes, chicken or fish, and when the family got a little bit ahead, ‘gedempte fleisch’ (boiled meat – what is referred to now in that chic way as ‘brisket’ because the back end of the cow can never be Kosher, no matter what you do). Eating cheap was basically all my dad knew how to do — even after he became a doctor, his favorite meal was cottage cheese with pepper and onions.

But, he had really strong feelings about food and I think a lot of it was what he got from HIS father. “Let me tell you something,” he’d say (as if I would ever have had the nerve to say, “No, Pops; I’d rather you didn’t.”); “When you are traveling, always get ‘gedempte fleisch’ (and HE meant pot roast, frankly). If the meat’s gone bad, you’ll be able to smell that right away and if the meat’s good, then the dish is great.”

How can you argue with THAT?
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Food Sunday: Food News You Can Use and a Tomato Problem

9:06 am in Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

OK, all my special peoples – Aunt Toby is back and if not better than ever, at least not still installed on a semi-permanent basis in the F-gate lounge at Phil-tha-delphia Airport. Air travel is NOT better than ever. But we ARE back home and the horrific heat seems to have been broken. So…to the news!!

You Always Knew Blueberries Were Good – Lab animal studies appear to show cholesterol lowering benefits from eating blueberries. “..Yokoyama and his co-investigators reported that all the hamsters that were fed blueberry-enhanced rations had from 22 to 27 percent lower total plasma cholesterol than hamsters fed rations that didn’t contain blueberry juice byproducts.
Levels of VLDL (very low density lipoprotein—a form of “bad” cholesterol) were about 44 percent lower in the blueberry-fed hamsters.” Eatcher Blues

Cabbage Family Veggies Proven to Fight Cancer: “Sulforaphane, one of the primary phytochemicals in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables that helps them prevent cancer, has been shown for the first time to selectively target and kill cancer cells while leaving normal prostate cells healthy and unaffected… It appears that sulforaphane, which is found at fairly high levels in broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables, is an inhibitor of histone deacetylase, or HDAC enzymes. HDAC inhibition is one of the more promising fields of cancer treatment and is being targeted from both a pharmaceutical and dietary approach, scientists say. “Cabbage Good

German E. Coli Outbreak: Sprouts – yes…Cows? Not necessarily.
“As we have heard before, the report cited above says that the current strain is probably a recombinant of two pathogenic E. coli types, and that “(B)ased on the strain analysis of the serotype O104:H4, BfR believes that it is likely that the transfer of the pathogen to the affected food could have been caused in the current outbreak event via humans or from humans via the environment.” In other words, we’re back to: Use the toile and then wash hands thoroughly, people. German E. Coli Strain Human? Read the rest of this entry →

Food Sunday: Food News You Can Use

7:27 am in Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

To the news!
You Knew Green Tea Was Good – Here’s another reason why: “One of the beneficial compounds found in green tea has a powerful ability to increase the number of “regulatory T cells” that play a key role in immune function and suppression of autoimmune disease, according to new research in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University… This may be one of the underlying mechanisms for the health benefits of green tea, which has attracted wide interest for its ability to help control inflammation, improve immune function and prevent cancer.” green tea

Let ‘em Eat Dirt: “ Overall, the protection hypothesis[of why people eat dirt] fits the data best, the Cornell researchers found. The database shows that geophagy is documented most commonly in women in the early stages of pregnancy and in pre-adolescent children. Both categories of people are especially sensitive to parasites and pathogens, according to Young and her colleagues. In addition, geophagy is most common in tropical climates where foodborne microbes are abundant. Finally, the database shows that people often eat earth during episodes of gastrointestinal stress. It’s unlikely the intestinal problems are caused by the dirt itself because the type of clay people usually eat comes from deep in the ground, where pathogens and parasites are unlikely to contaminate it. Plus, people usually boil the clay before eating it.” dirt eating

Cut out the salad bars:” According to Allison Connolly of Bloomberg, people sickened by the E. coli outbreak in Germany ate more salad than healthy individuals in two epidemiological studies, Germany’s disease control agency said today in an e-mailed statement. About 95 percent of the patients who became ill had eaten either lettuce, tomatoes or cucumbers, the Robert Koch Institute said. The agency’s advisory against eating the three products remains in place, according to the statement. Employees who ate at a salad bar at an unnamed office cafeteria in Frankfurt where illnesses were reported were nearly seven times more likely to experience frequent bloody diarrhea as those who didn’t eat salad, the agency said.” Restaurant salad bar appears to be location of infection of German E. coli

And more on the German E. Coli Outbreak: “Although the source of the outbreak still is unknown, press reports say its onset may be linked to a festival last month in Hamburg, which was attended by about 1.5 million people. And eight women and a child who were infected with the outbreak strain, along with six Danish tourists ill from O104:H4, reportedly ate at the same restaurant in the city of Luebeck. The restaurant’s suppliers are said to be a focus of investigation.”
More German E. Coli

And the Chinese are decoding the E. Coli for Europe: “Chinese scientists at the Beijing Genomics Institute, the world’s largest DNA sequencing center, announced late on Thursday that the E. coli spreading through Europe was “a new strain of bacteria that is highly infectious and toxic.” The researchers, who obtained DNA samples of the bacteria from collaborating scientists in Germany, managed to fully sequence its genome in three days — becoming the first in the world to do so and lodge its full sequence on the Internet. They also identified genes in the bacteria that gave it resistance to at least three major classes of antibiotics, which helped explain why doctors in Europe have had such a hard time fighting the bug, that has killed 17 people and made more than 1,500 others ill.”
German E. Coli appears to have genes that make it resistant to major antibiotics
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Food Sunday: Food News You Can Use

8:50 am in Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

Well, I’m here but if you aren’t, then you aren’t reading this…
It started off very unpromising this morning but has settled down and the sun has come out, so the DH has gone off to check on the bee hives (ordinarily, he’d have been out weeks ago except that it’s been raining and raining and raining and when it’s like that, bees just stay home, watch the tube, and play with the kids and get very testy if you open up the hive when they are all in residence). So, with any luck, the workers will all be out trying to find something flowering, which will make it a lot easier for the DH in terms of opening up the hive, and checking out what’s going on. OK – To the news!

From the Why Does Anyone Think This Will Work Desk: “China’s top court has ordered capital punishment for food safety crimes that result in fatalities, as the nation battles a wave of scares over tainted foodstuffs. In a notice on Friday the Supreme People’s Court urged harsher penalties for manufacturers who produce tainted foodstuffs and for food inspectors convicted of dereliction of duty. “Those food safety crimes leading to fatalities or any other serious aftermath should be sentenced to death in accordance with the law,” the notice said.”
Death for Food Crimes?

For the baseball score fanatics out there: ”With 1,000 sickened, 300 with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and 10 deaths, the ongoing E. coli outbreak in Germany (and several other European countries) will be quickly joining the list of the most severe outbreaks in history.” Worst E. Coli Outbreaks. Worst E. coli Outbreaks

And for that German E. Coli Outbreak – bad, getting worse and appears identified with ‘organic’ grown vegetables from Spain. Again – Aunt Toby repeats: JUST BECAUSE IT’S SUPPOSEDLY ORGANIC DOESN’T MAKE IT F*CKING CLEAN, PEOPLE. WASH YOUR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES – A LOT!!!! European E. Coli Outbreak Blamed on Spanish Veggies

From the ‘So, You’re Thinking About Raising Your Own Chickens” Desk: “ A least 25 people in 11 states have become sick from human Salmonella serotype Altona after handling their backyard chicks and ducklings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says a traceback investigation implicates a national mail-order hatchery, Feed Store Chain A, which supplies poultry for people raising flocks at home for fresh eggs, as the source of the birds. Seven people have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella in Ohio; four in North Carolina; three in Kentucky; two in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Tennessee; and one in Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Virginia, the CDC said.” Does Aunt Toby need to remind people about the health reasons for washing hands? Like, all the time? And especially after handling livestock, pets, or infants? Hello?
Salmonella Outbreak Connected With Mail Order Birds
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Food Sunday: Food News You Can Use

6:13 am in Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

And, we’re back.
From the “You’re making your own pesticides whether you want to or not” desk: “EXTRACT: CryAb1 toxin [was] detected in [pregnant women], their fetuses and [non-pregnant women]. This is the first study to reveal the presence of circulating [pesticides associated to genetically modified foods] in women with and without pregnancy, paving the way for a new field in reproductive toxicology including nutrition and utero-placental toxicities.


NOTE: Bt corn (maize) was developed by transferring cry1Ab from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) into corn. It is to be found in the most common GM corn – Monsanto’s Bt MON810 (marketed with the trade name YieldGard) – a corn genetically engineered to resist corn borers by producing its own insecticide, the Cry1Ab toxin. Global production of Bt corn takes place on many millions of hectares worldwide and many different types of foods contain Bt corn. In the European Union, seven countries – Austria, Hungary, Greece, France, Luxembourg, Germany and Bulgaria have banned Mon810.” Another reason to ask your local milk, meat, and egg producers what they are feeding their animals, where it comes from, and who is in control of it. Most people specialize – for example, people who do chicken and eggs (even pasture raised, folks), are also supplementing with feed of some sort and DO NOT GROW AND MILL THEIR OWN, which means that they are not in control of what is in their feed stocks. Unless they are feeding organic, at a controlled source mill, their feeds can be contaminated with this stuff. So, ASK.
BT toxins in pregnant moms and the unborn

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Food Sunday: Mother’s Day Confessions

11:07 am in Food by TobyWollin

I realize that a lot of people are celebrating their Moms today and rightfully so. I also realize that a lot of people are waxing poetically about the meals that their moms put before them — the Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving meals on the snowy white linens, the best china, the best, unlumpy gravy.

The fragrant and wonderful apple and cherry pies, the breads, cakes and muffins, the hearty soups and stews. mmmmmmmmm.

My mother was the ‘Mommy Dearest’ of the kitchen. That woman not only could not cook her way out of a boxed mix, she also made my kids sick on several occasions because she used to leave food out on the counters and then used to serve it up. I will not even try to count the number of times we had to stop by the side of the road on our way home from a meal at her house.

Chicago had Mrs. O’Leary and her cow. In our family, we had my mom.

Strangely enough, though, my father thought she was the Julia Child of our little universe because the women in HIS family were even…worse. And having eaten the chicken soup and flanken that my great aunties produced, I have to say that even my mom’s cooking was a step up.

How did we survive? Well, my mother was also a great appreciator of convenience foods. Now, she is no longer with us and would certainly not recognize all the hubbub and broohaha over eating local or worries about ingredients or chemicals. She was born in 1917 and survived the Influenza pandemic, the Great Depression, and WWII (and that in Glasgow, Scotland, which was the UK’s ship building center, so the Germans were bombing them all…the…time). My memories of her in the 1950s and 1960s were that there was not a bag, box, or can that she did not love. Any new food technology was grabbed up like a teenage girl mooning over the star football player. I remember her romance with TSP – textured soy protein. It was during a period when meat was very expensive but she thought this was amazing and wonderful – she put it in hamburgers, meatloaf, etc. (and so did your folks, too if you ate Hamburger Helper(tm). She also loved frozen anything, cake and muffin mixes, you name it. Now, she was not uncreative; I recall a vacation at the beach where we were holed up in the cottage in a mild hurricane, huddled over the battery operated radio and the Scrabble(tm) board and she managed to turn out all sorts of goodies with whatever she had, thrown together with the cake and muffin mixes. Gourmet, they were not – but when the wind and the rain are howling outside and mutiny is in the air, cookies made from lemon cake mix is a big deal, believe me.
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Food Sunday: Food Fairy Tales You Can Use

7:04 am in Economy, Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

Once Upon A Time, there was this organization in Los Angeles which wanted to promote kids’ growing organic gardens at their schools. Let us call this Organization A and it has people such as Rosario Dawson and Ed Begley Jr. working with it to promote this worthy cause. And because there is Organization A, there must, per force, be an Organization B, which is a company which produces fertilizers and compost products which are labeled as organic and which are described as “products you can trust.” A high level manager (and it would seem family member) of Organization B is on the Board of Directors of Organization A (you’re hearing the scary “Jaws” music too, right? Me, too.).

Organization A is: Environmental Media Association. Organization B is Kellogg Garden Products, the chief sustainability officer of which is Kathy Kellogg Johnson, who sits on EMA’s Board. The problem is that 70% of their fertilizer mixes contain (cue scary organ riff) UNLISTED treated sewage sludge from city of Los Angeles and as we all know by now, this is toxic stuff filled with heavy metals, chemicals, broken down plastics and so on. Now, Kellogg has the right to put anything they want into their products, but you can’t call something with heavy metals ‘organic’ and you can’t call something with heavy metals in it ‘safe’ or ‘products you can trust’, especially if you don’t list it as an ingredient.

And the reason this has come out is that Organizations C and D, The Food Rights Network and The Center for Media and Democracy, blew the whistle on Organization B to Organization A. EMA 1

This is making Organization A extremely uncomfortable and the saga rolls out here. EMA 2

Now, the interesting thing is that I can’t find a thing in the LA Times covering this story and the other thing is – it is not just that growing veggies in this stuff will have the result that the kids will be eating veggies that have taken up such ‘healthy’ items as chromium and arsenic and other heavy metal contamination. It’s that the kids will be having direct physical contact with this stuff and we all know that kids are not exactly surgeons when it comes to washing their hands and so on. So, the chances of their ingesting this stuff is also pretty good too. Sounds like some people need to start calling not only the EMA but also the school district and get the kids out of the gardens before someone gets sick.

Fairy Tale Numero Due: Goldman Sachs Controls This Too. Want to know why food prices have gone through the roof over the past couple of years? There’s a lot of talk about Russian wheat crop failures and weather and climate issues but a large part of the truth is that Goldman Sachs devised (I know you guys are getting GS Guilt Fatigue but) a product that, along with the deregulation of the Futures Markets, changed everything.
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Food Sunday: Ruminations on an Easter Sunday

8:54 am in Food by TobyWollin

Hey – anyone in the mood for food-borne diseases this morning? Nope. Me neither. So today we get ruminations (you knew I’d get farming in here someplace, right?) on this day. To wit:

No matter what glorious spiritual tradition you follow, it’s spring and we’re really happy for it. Whether you follow the return of the Son…or the return of the Sun, it’s still spring, which this year especially is a very good thing (do I have to trade mark that? I think Martha Stewart owns ‘good thing™’ or something like that), considering that for folks in the Deep South, this has been the Winter With No End™. The return of longer days and warmer weather is something we can all celebrate (where the rabbits came from is beyond me; fertility or something like that, I think – just pick up Watership Down).

Another thing that has returned are the farmers markets to a large part of the country. Our big local one basically went on a winter schedule, with two markets a month from November on in the basement of our local County Cooperative Extension building, Over the past month, consumers have been offered not only potatoes, onions and garlic as veggies, but also several different types of salad greens and spinach, courtesy of a grant that one of the growers got last year to buy and erect a ‘high tunnel’ (sort of like a semi-permanent plastic covered greenhouse) at her place. She started greens in it last fall and they have come back mightily over the past several weeks (even in our horrific weather here in Upstate NY) and in accordance with the grant, will be growing the same sorts of things inside the high tunnel and outside it in beds. I hear she is working on tomatoes and peppers which, given the long term weather prognostications, might be a very good idea, indeed.
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