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What Happened to the Essential Nutrients in Our Food?

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Everyone needs vitamins and minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium and others to stay strong and healthy. In the following excerpt from Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country, author Courtney White explains why these essential nutrients have decreased in our food and how we can get them back. 

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Essential Minerals: Cover Crop Workshop, Emporia, Kansas
by Courtney White

It must have looked silly. Twelve of us were hunched over in a corn field under a blazing July sun, a few miles north of Emporia, Kansas, swishing butterfly nets among the corn stalks like deranged collectors chasing a rare breed of insect—deranged because it was a record-breaking 105 degrees! The federal government announced two days before I arrived that the Midwest was in the grip of the worst drought since 1956. Legions of farmers had begun plowing under or chopping up their stunted corn and soybean crops, already writing off the year as a complete failure. There we were, however, swishing our nets back and forth fifty times in a good-looking corn field owned and farmed by Gail Fuller, with nothing between us and the blazing sun except our determination to follow instructions and find spiders.

We found lots of spiders.

Back under the shade of a large oak tree, we handed our nets to our instructor, an affable entomologist with the US Department of Agriculture, who searched through them enthusiastically, pulling out spider after spider with his bare fingers (most spiders are poisonous, he told us, but very few can pierce human skin). Peering over his shoulder, I was amazed not only by the quantity of spiders in my net but by their diversity. I never knew so many odd-looking spiders existed! And who would have expected it from a corn field, in a record drought, during midday heat … which was exactly the point of the exercise, of course.

In a conventionally managed, monocropped Midwestern corn field, planted with genetically modified (GM) seeds, fertilized with industrially produced nitrogen, and sprayed with synthetic chemicals, there would be no spiders, the entomologist told us— drought or no drought. There wouldn’t be much of anything living, in fact, except the destructive pests that could withstand the chemicals. The corn field we had just swept, however, was different, and I knew why. Fuller’s field was no-tilled, it had a cover crop (and moisture in the soil as a result), it didn’t use GM seeds, its corn coexisted with a diversity of other plants, and livestock were used to clean up after the harvest—all the things I had learned in my travels so far. All in one field, all under a broiling sun.

Seeing them together, however, wasn’t the reason I had driven across humid Kansas in mid-July. I came to hear Jill Clapperton, an independent soil scientist and cover crop specialist, and to ask her a question: What happened to the nutrition in our food? And a second one: How can we get it back?

These questions first formed in my mind two years earlier, when I heard pioneering Australian soil scientist Christine Jones say at a conference that it was possible to buy an orange today that contained zero vitamin C. As in zilch. It got worse. In Australia, she continued, the vitamin A content of carrots had dropped 99 percent between 1948 and 1991, according to a government analysis, and apples had lost 80 percent of their vitamin C. She went on to say that according to research in England, the mineral content of nearly all vegetables in the United Kingdom had dropped significantly between 1940 and 1990. Copper had been reduced by 76 percent, calcium by 46 percent, iron by 27 percent, magnesium by 24 percent, and potassium by 16 percent. Furthermore, the mineral content of UK meat had dropped significantly over the same period as well—iron by 54 percent, copper by 24 percent, calcium by 41 percent, and so on.

This is important because all living creatures, humans included, need these vitamins and minerals to stay strong and healthy. Iron, for example, is required for a host of processes vital to human health, including the production of red blood cells (hemoglobin), the transportation of oxygen through our bodies, the conversion of blood sugar to energy, and the efficient functioning of our muscles. Copper is essential for the maintenance of our organs, for a healthy immune system, and to neutralize damaging “free radicals” in our blood. Calcium, of course, is essential for bone health. And every single cell in our body requires magnesium to function properly. Vitamins are organic compounds, by the way, composed of various chemicals and minerals, including carbon.

A deficiency or imbalance of these minerals (necessary to us only in small amounts) can cause serious damage to our health, as most people understand. That’s why taking vitamin pills has become such a big deal—and big business—today, especially where young children are concerned. But few people stop to think about why we need vitamin pills in the first place. It’s not simply because we don’t eat our veggies, or because we drink too much soda, but because the veggies themselves don’t have the amount of essential nutrients that they once did. As Jones quipped, for Aussies today to gain a comparable amount of vitamin A from carrots that their grandparents could, they’d have to eat themselves sick.

What happened to the nutrition in our food?

Well, the quick answer is that industrial agriculture happened. The hybridization of crops over the decades for production values—yield, appearance, taste, and ease of transport—has drained fruits and vegetables of nutrients. But the main culprit is what we’ve done to the soil. As a consequence of repeated plowing, fertilizing, and spraying, the top few feet of farmland soil has been (1) leached of its original minerals and (2) stripped of the biological life that facilitates nutrient uptake in plants. Some farms, especially organic ones, resupply their soils with mineral additives, but many farms do not, preferring to rely on the Big Three—nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus (NPK)—to keep the plants growing. According to the industrial mind-set, as long as crops are harvestable, presentable, digestible, and profitable, it doesn’t matter if their nutrition is up to par. If there’s a deficiency, well, that’s what the vitamin pills are for!

However, it was the next thing that Jones said that spun my wheels. There was another way to remineralize our bodies without having to rely on pills or their corporate manufacturers: restore essential elements the old-fashioned way—with plant roots. With carbon, specifically. Building humus by increasing the amount of carbon in the soil via no-till agriculture, planned rotational grazing, and other practices that stimulate mycorrhizal fungi/root activity and the production of glomalin, she said, would (1) increase the availability of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sulfur, copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, and boron to plant roots (which are good for plants); (2) reduce availability of sodium and aluminum (which are bad for plants); and (3) increase the pH in the soil (from acidic to neutral—good for everything).

Access to these essential minerals in combination with carbon means vitamins and other types of nutrients, including acids, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, can be produced within a plant.

One key to building soil carbon on farms is cover cropsplants that keep the land covered with something green and growing at all times, even in winter. I went to Kansas to find out more.

“A feast for the soil”

Clapperton, who hails originally from Canada but lives today on a Montana ranch, told the workshop audience that the key to rebuilding soil health is to start a “conversation among plants.” Cool-season grasses (such as barley, wheat, and oats) and cool-season broadleaf plants (such as canola, pea, turnip, lentil, radish, and mustard), she said, need to dialogue constructively with warm-season grasses (including millet, corn, and sorghum) and warm broadleafs (such as buckwheat, sunflower, and sugar beet). Who gets along with whom? Who grows when? Who helps whom? If you can get these plants engaged in a robust conversation in one field, she said, you’ll be creating “a feast for the soil.” That’s because increased plant diversity, as well as year-round biological activity, absorbs more CO2, which in turn increases the amount of carbon available to roots, which feeds the microbes, which builds soil, round and round.

This is exactly what happened on Fuller’s farm. When he took over the operation from his father they were growing just three cash crops: corn, wheat, and soybeans. Today, Fuller plants as many as fifty-three different kinds of plants on the farm, mostly as cover crops, creating what Clapperton called a “cocktail” of legumes, grasses, and broadleaf plants. He doesn’t apply any herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers either, despite the recommendations of his no-till neighbors and chemical manufacturers who advise them. That’s because Fuller considers “weeds” to be a part of the dynamic conversation as well. Besides, chemicals kill life, Clapperton reminded us, including spiders, dung beetles, and even grasshoppers.

As a result of this big, robust conversation, Clapperton said, the carbon content of the soil on the Fuller farm has doubled from 2 percent in 1993 (when they switched to no-till) to 4 percent today. That’s huge. But what about the mineral content of Fuller’s crops?

That’s risen dramatically too, she said, and it’s done so for two reasons: First, no-herbicide/no-pesticide no-till means the microbial universe in the soil remains intact and alive, and if the soil dwellers have enough carbon (as an energy source) they will facilitate the cycling of minerals in the soil, especially earthworms, who are nature’s great composters. Second, a vigorous and diverse cover of crops will put down deeper roots, enabling plants to access fresh minerals, which then become available to everything up the food chain, including us. And by covering the soil surface with green plants, or litter from the dead parts, Clapperton said, a farmer like Fuller traps moisture underground, where it becomes available for plants and animals (of the micro variety), enabling roots to tap resources and growing abundant life.

“Aboveground diversity is reflected in belowground diversity,” she said. “However, soil organisms are competitive with plants for carbon, so there must be enough for everybody.” Predator-prey relationships are also important to nutrient cycling, she said. Without hungry predators, such as protozoa and nematodes, the bacteria and fungi would consume all the nutrients in the soil and plants would starve. Predators aboveground play a positive role too, including spiders and especially the number one predator, ants!

How do essential minerals get into plants?

There are two principal paths: First, minerals can dissolve in water, and when the water is pulled into the plant through its roots, the minerals are absorbed into the cells of plant tissue. Whichever minerals the plant doesn’t need (or doesn’t want) will remain stored in the cells. Second, mineral nutrients can enter a plant directly by being absorbed through the cell walls of root hairs. Some minerals, such as phosphorus, can also “hitch a ride” with mycorrhizal fungi, which then “barter” them for carbon molecules from the plant roots. Of course, if there aren’t any minerals in the vicinity, no uptake into plants is possible!

It all begins with a dynamic conversation at a cocktail party for plants—where everyone is gossiping about carbon!

Standing under the oak tree at the end of the workshop, after we had oohed and aahed over a giant wolf spider someone discovered under a shrub, Clapperton reminded us why using nature as a role model—for cover crops in this case—was so important: we need to recycle nutrients, encourage natural predators to manage pests, and increase plant densities to block weeds, which in a natural system are all integrated and interconnected strategies.

This reminded me of something the great conservationist Aldo Leopold once wrote:

“The black prairie was built by the prairie plants, a hundred distinctive species of grasses, herbs, and shrubs; by the prairie fungi, insects, and bacteria; by the prairie mammals and birds, all interlocked in one humming community of cooperations and competitions, one biota. This biota, through ten thousand years of living and dying, burning and growing, preying and fleeing, freezing and thawing, built that dark and bloody ground we call prairie.”

One biota. With carbon at its core.

 

Photo: Ben Collins, Wikimedia Commons

We’re Hiring! Join our Team as the Production Intern

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Chelsea Green Publishing, independent Vermont book publisher, seeks Production Intern to start September 2, 2014. This will be a paid internship for 3-4 months if full-time, potentially longer if part-time. Applicants must have attention to detail and the ability to prioritize; experience with Adobe software is a plus.

Email cover letter and résumé to Patricia Stone, [email protected] No phone calls please.

Production intern assists Production Manager in handling reprints of Chelsea Green books and provides general assistance in all aspects of editorial production from manuscript to bound book and eBooks. Working independently and in support of the Production Manager, the ideal candidate will be able to focus on details of projects in a fast-paced work environment.

Responsibilities of the Position Include:

  • Provide general production assistance (scanning, file transmission, photocopying, filing, mailing, etc.).
  • Proofread corrections to pages and revised pages.
  • Review and reconcile author and editorial changes in manuscript and page proofs.
  • Upload files to printers and e-book distributors.
  • Format/tag manuscripts for submission to typesetter.
  • Participate in weekly project schedule meetings.
  • Request reprint corrections from authors for first reprints.
  • Copyedit and proofread reprint corrections, coordinate corrections with typesetter.
  • Review reprint corrections in printer proofs.

Position details:
24 to 40 hours/week for 3 to 4 months, paid, based in White River Junction, Vermont

Position Requirements:

  • Excellent organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Excellent writing and editing skills
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office applications Word, Excel, Outlook, and Acrobat Reader

About Chelsea Green Publishing:
For 30 years, Chelsea Green has been the preeminent publisher of books on the politics and practice of sustainable living, including organic gardening and agriculture, renewable energy, green building, eco-cuisine, and ethical business. We are a mission-driven, socially responsible company offering competitive salary and benefits. In 2012, we became employee-owned. We are a founding member of the Green Press Initiative and have been printing books on recycled paper since 1985, when our first list of books went on sale.

We’re Hiring! Join the Team as our Media & Publicity Intern

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Main Focus of Internship:

Communications/Media/PR

Position Description:

Since 1984, Chelsea Green has been the publishing leader for books on the politics and practice of sustainable living. We are a founding member of the Green Press Initiative and have been printing books on recycled paper since 1985, when our first list of books appeared. We lead the industry both in terms of content—foundational books on renewable energy, green building, organic agriculture, eco-cuisine, and ethical business—and in terms of environmental practice, printing 95 percent of our books on recycled paper with a minimum 30 percent post-consumer waste and aiming for 100 percent whenever possible. This approach is a perfect example of what is called a ”triple bottom line“ practice, one that benefits people, planet, and profit, and the emerging new model for sustainable business in the 21st century.

The Marketing and Publicity Intern will assist with outreach for all new Chelsea Green books, including author events, publicity outreach, and marketing research.

Tasks include:

  • Assisting with regular updating of upcoming author events and media appearances
  • Assisting with research of media and specialty sales outlets within distinct communities of interest
  • Assisting with data entry both using MS Excel as well as company databases
  • Assisting with maintaining our social media profiles
  • Assisting with writing content for our company blog
  • Taking meeting minutes
  • Assisting with publicity mailings to media, key industry VIPs

Top Three Qualifications for Intern:

  • Strong writing and communication skills
  • Detail oriented
  • Ability to multitask and meet deadlines

Skills, Attributes and Knowledge Desired:
The right candidate should be comfortable on the phone, using email and working in MS Word and other Microsoft Office products. A familiarity with Chelsea Green’s mission and focus on sustainable living, permaculture and environmental activism are a plus. The candidate should also be comfortable with doing computer research work, be a team player but able to work on independent-driven projects. Strong writing skills are also a plus, as well as being comfortable talking with people at events and conferences.

Additional Information/Comments:
Chelsea Green’s marketing and publicity department in Burlington is a fast-paced environment but supportive work environment. We are an employee-owned company and a pre-eminent publisher of books on sustainable living. Since 1984 we’ve held ourselves to high environmental standards and ethics and urge our competitors to do the same.

Position Details:
Start Date: September 3, 2014
Hours per week – 15-30 hours/week
Length: Fall Semester (possibly longer)
Pay: $10/hour
Location: Burlington, Vermont.

Email cover letter and résumé to Shay Totten, [email protected] No phone calls please.

We’re Hiring! Join the Team as our Editorial Intern

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Chelsea Green Publishing, independent Vermont book publisher, seeks Editorial Intern for help with administrative and editorial tasks, to start September 2, 2014. This will be a paid internship for a duration of 3-4 months if full-time, potentially longer if part-time. Applicants must have attention to detail, the ability to prioritize, an interest in sustainability and the following areas: sustainable agriculture, food, green building, renewable energy, social justice.

Email cover letter and résumé to Michael Metivier, [email protected] No phone calls please.

General Description
Editorial Intern is responsible for assisting the Assistant Editor in handling administrative, database, and clerical responsibilities for the Chelsea Green editorial department as needed.

Responsibilities

  • Support Assistant Editor with tasks including, but not limited to those listed below. Position will have opportunity to improve and expand skills/knowledge in day-to-day operations of an editorial department, and its function within a small independent publishing company.
  • Determine, under the guidance of the Assistant Editor or other editors within the department, the appropriate response to unsolicited submissions (slush), i.e. passing them on for further review or preparing a letter of rejection.
  • Assist editors with maintaining and updating book specs, blurber copy requests and other mailings, and other information on Quickbase.
  • Handling permissions inquiries and requests in a timely, organized manner.
  • Maintain Awards database in Quickbase and review it regularly, deleting awards that no longer exist or are inappropriate for our titles. Make award submission recommendations to the editors and handle all aspects of submissions and awards won.
  • Handle timely mailing of all complimentary copies on receipt of bound books.
  • General administrative tasks, including: conducting mailings (either from here or in concert with Sales Assistant and the warehouse), various editorial projects (manuscript organization, fact checking, research as requested); taking notes at editorial meetings and then distributing them to participants for review.
  • Assist sub-rights manager with administrative tasks related to: mailings; sending out and tracking review copy requests and payments; helping to maintain Quickbase systems for subrights as requested.
  • Provide general clerical support as requested.

Position Details: 24 hours/week for 3-4 months, paid $10/hour, based in White River Junction, Vermont.

Reports to: Assistant Editor

Qualifications: This is an internship for a motivated self-starter with a demonstrated interest in sustainability issues and publishing. Duties combine administrative and editorial functions and require the ability to work within a team environment as well as work independently. Must have: strong communication, writing, and interpersonal skills; ability to work in fast-paced, deadline-driven environment; strong computer skills and proficiency in Word and Excel; comfort with administrative tasks.

About Us: For almost 30 years, Chelsea Green has been the go-to publisher for people seeking foundational books on the politics and practice of sustainable living, including organic gardening and agriculture, renewable energy, green building, eco-cuisine, and ethical business. In 2012, we decided to practice what we publish and became employee-owned. We are a founding member of the Green Press Initiative and have been printing books on recycled paper since 1985, when our first list of books went on sale. We print our books on paper that consists of a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer waste and aim for 100 percent whenever possible. We also don’t print our books overseas, but rather use domestic printers to keep our shipping costs (and impact on the environment) at a minimum.

What is a Plant Guild?

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Technically speaking, a plant guild is “a beneficial grouping of plants that support one another in all their many functions,” and “support animals and humans for all their food, medicine, and utility needs.”

Ok, but…what exactly does that mean and, more importantly, how do you create a guild that is right for your food forest or permaculture project?

Enter three plant experts and permaculture designers, Wayne Weiseman, Daniel Halsey, and Bryce Ruddock, who have it all figured out and are in the mood to share.

“Each niche, yard, lot, or field has a long list of potential plants that will thrive there, and it is our task to define them, and design an ecosystem to support our and nature’s abundance,” write the authors.

Their book, Integrated Forest Gardening: The Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems is the first of its kind and will be of immeasurable benefit to permaculturalists of all abilities for years to come. A comprehensive book about plant guilds that answers specific questions like how to actually configure a guild, how to select the plants, what function each plant serves, and more.

Called “a rich feast of nature love” by Peter Bane (publisher, Permaculture Activist), Integrated Forest Gardening benefits readers of any scale.  Whether you are a permaculture designer and professional grower, or backyard gardener completely new to the concept of permaculture, you’ll find a wealth of information along with extensive color photography and design illustrations in this detailed guide to developing what is most basic to any permaculture system—plant guilds. Read Chapter 1 in the excerpt below.

Award-winning author Toby Hemenway believes, “Integrated Forest Gardening fills a major gap in the canon of permaculture books.”

“No longer is this subject mysterious and daunting,” writes Hemenway. “In this book we now have specific instructions for designing and installing multispecies plant groups. Chapter 7, which describes fifteen guilds and their plant members, is a golden nugget worth the price of the book alone.”

The idea of being able to take this book and replicate its principles in one’s own community, whether that be on a rural farm, or in a town or city, is exactly what the authors envisioned when they set out to write it. Their hope for this book is to cause a ripple effect, encouraging more people to embrace the vast potential of our plant world.

“Plant guilds are not limited to a few simple functions. You have ample opportunity to design and develop diverse guilds that focus on specific modalities: animal foods, oils, fibers, medicines, spices, endlessly. You might embed yield functions in a broad services guild, or you can design based on a particular theme that meets basic needs. Experiment, explore, ask yourself, What do I need for my family’s sustenance? Proceed from here.”

For more from the authors, check out their permaculture month where they answered questions submitted by readers. Learn about water harvesting ditches known as swales, the research behind plant guilds, and notes on implementing plant guilds based on differing water requirements:

Are Swales Right for You? – Wayne Weiseman
Plant Guild Research and Development – Bryce Ruddock and Daniel Halsey

Integrated Forest Gardening: Chapter One

One Man, One Wheel, and the Open Road

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Mark Schimmoeller’s Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America is about more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a way of life that Americans find increasingly rare: one that practices a playful, recalcitrant slowness. Award-winning author Janisse Ray (The Seed Underground) identifies with this pace.

“Schimmoeller’s narrative—of his slow and deliberate journey across the country, of his homesteading off-the-grid life in rural Kentucky, and of his battle to save old-growth forests from the developer’s ax—demonstrates that one’s worth is not defined by how much can be accomplished in five minutes, days, or even years, but by what is done with that time,” writes Ray in her foreword to Slowspoke.

She goes on to impress how important a book like this is for our throw-away society. “I really love Slowspoke. It has made me happier than any book in a long time, because it’s the kind of thinking that humankind needs right now, in that it asks that we claim what we value—what we believe in, what we call precious—and divine how to preserve it.” Read Ray’s full foreword, along with all of chapter 2, in the excerpt below.

Author Bill McKibben echoes Ray’s sentiment, “This is just the kind of epic we need right now—humble, sweet, and very deep indeed. As good a travel story—within and without—as you’ll read anytime soon!”

Schimmoeller’s writing style engages you right from the beginning. You feel an intimate connection with him as he guides you seemlessly through his past, present, and even subconscious recollections. “There are books like this that are so nice that, like Holden Caufield, you want to call up the author and tell him (or her) what a great job he (or she) has done,” writes a reviewer from RALPH Mag (The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and Humanities).

“This is not only the tale of a man on a unicycle, one who has turned his back on freeways and power plants and supermarkets and television. More, it’s a man who has honed a fine edge to what he has learned: what works, what doesn’t work, what you need, what you don’t need in life; details that end up making Slowspoke a classic.”

Why a unicycle? Why a cross-country trip? Why leave a prominent New York magazine and return to the simple life in Kentucky?

These are all logical questions you might find yourself contemplating when settling in to read Slowspoke. However, as Schimmoeller introduces you to his slow pace and draws you in to his simple world, answers are revealed.

“My parents gave me a unicycle for an Easter present when I was twelve,” Schimmoeller writes. “About the time my classmates began focusing on four wheels, I became obsessed with one. Unicyclists, it occurred to me, experience arrival less often than others. They must become devotees of anticipation. Rushing, I learned under the tutelage of my unicycle—whether down the driveway or toward adulthood—would cause a fall. Instead, after school and on the weekends, my task was to dwell in inefficiency, to wrinkle speed, to arrive somewhere only after much ambling about.”

Written with poise and humor, Slowspoke earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who described it as a, “profoundly simple, funny, and sincere memoir.”

Anyone who has gone back to the land or wondered if they could, who has slowed down to experience life at a unicycle’s speed or who longs to do so, who has fallen in love, who has treasured tall trees or mourned their loss, will find a voice in Slowspoke.

Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America is on sale for 35% off until August 7th.

Slowspoke: Foreword and Ch 2

“Marijuana is Safer” Authors Influence The New York Times

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

The New York Times has launched a seven-part editorial campaign urging a repeal of the nation’s prohibition on marijuana, making the case that “marijuana is safer” than alcohol. In fact, the bold quote at the center of their editorial stated even more bluntly: “Marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol.”

Chelsea Green authors, and nationally recognized marijuana-policy experts Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert, wrote the book on the “Marijuana Is Safer” message. Literally. In fact, they were consulted by Times’ editorial writers in the months leading up to the launch of this important call-to-action by one of the world’s most influential media outlets.

First published in 2009, Marijuana is Safer: So Why are We Driving People to Drink? was updated and expanded in late 2013 with a first-hand look at the historic Colorado marijuana legalization campaign and new information about how supporters can model similarly successful efforts in other states. The book also provides updated research that supports the position that marijuana is safer than alcohol. You can read an excerpt from this game-changing book below.

In 2012, voters in Colorado shocked the nation’s political establishment by making the commercial production, personal use, and retail sale of marijuana legal for anyone in the state twenty-one years of age or older.

The New York Times said Washington should take its cue from Colorado and the growing list of states that have also legalized marijuana. In their opening salvo, the paper’s editorial board writes: “It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol. … “There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults.”

The board backs legalization for ages 21 and older only, and believes that a national solution is needed rather than left to the whims of a particular occupant in the White House or state-by-state piecemeal approach to what is a national issue. The Times is examining and dispensing with many of the myths related to marijuana use, including public safety and health—key issues explored in Marijuana is Safer.

In Marijuana is Safer—through an objective examination of marijuana and alcohol, and the laws and social practices that steer people toward the latter—the authors pose a simple yet rarely considered question: Why do we punish adults who make the rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol?

Marijuana Is Safer introduces readers to the cannabis plant and its effects on the user, debunks some of the government’s most frequently cited marijuana myths, and, most importantly, provides persuasive arguments and talking points for the millions of Americans who want to advance the cause of marijuana policy reform and educate friends, neighbors, family, coworkers, elected officials, and, of course, future voters.

Now, one of the world’s most widely read and influential opinion pages is adding to the growing chorus of voices calling for an end to the nation’s prohibition on marijuana.

In an AlterNet article, Tony Newman summed up why this is such a big deal: “The Times’ editorial has the feel of legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite coming out against the Vietnam War. They dropped a bomb on our country’s disastrous war on marijuana with unprecedented force. Some people think of the Times‘ editorial page as a liberal mouthpiece — but when it comes to marijuana prohibition and the drug war, they’ve been extremely cautious and conservative. In previous decades, the Times did as much as any other media outlet to legitimize drug war hysteria and its disastrous policies.”

Along with its ongoing series, the Times has included a fun graphic illustrating its own editorial evolution in regards to marijuana.

Earlier this year, Pres. Barack Obama told The New Yorker‘s David Remnick that he doesn’t think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol.

The times they are a changin’.

 

Chapter Two: Pot 101: Understanding Marijuana by Chelsea Green Publishing

DIY: Make Whole Fruit Jam

Monday, July 28th, 2014

The supply of fresh summer fruit is about to be in abundance and before you know it, apples and pumpkins will abound.

If you’re lucky and berries or stone fruits are providing a bountiful array of flavor, try this easy method of preserving them: whole fruit jam.

This recipe relies on the natural sugars in fruit to provide a balanced flavor and sweetness in this complimentary spread.  Preserve the last of your seasonal fruit simply – no added sugar and no freezing.

The following is an excerpt from Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning by the Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante:

Sugar is a practical and economical method of food preservation—so much so that we tend to overindulge, and make jams that contain more sugar than fruit! When we discover that excess sugar is one of the great scourges of the modern diet, we might think it best to renounce jams completely. Besides, replacing white sugar with brown sugar is only a relative improvement. Whole or raw sugar (evaporated juice from sugar cane) would be a better substitute, but its strong flavor often masks the taste of the fruit.

The solution to this problem is twofold: avoid eating too much jam and other sugary foods, and make these foods using far less added sugar, or none at all. Knowing and applying these techniques, we can continue to preserve food properly and successfully. For example, certain jams made with very little sugar must be refrigerated once opened, preferably in small jars, to prevent premature spoilage. For those recipes that require sugar, we will use either brown or whole sugar. Other recipes are “sugar-free,” or use honey instead.

Note that the term “sugar-free jam” in essence is a contradiction in terms, since by definition, sugar is the preservative agent in jams. To be more precise, we should discuss “jams with no added sugar.” In reality, jam already contains sugar: both glucose and fructose, which naturally occur in all fruit.

Jams with no added sugar were not invented by health-food advocates wanting to reduce their sugar consumption. These preserves are an old tradition dating back to a time when sugar was scarce and expensive (or even nonexistent). Three classic examples, and the most commonly known jams of this type, are pommé (apple jelly), poiré (pear jelly), and raisiné (grape jelly). The first two have been made for centuries in certain regions of northern Europe, particularly Belgium and Germany, whereas the raisiné is a tradition of Périgord in southwestern France. Carob “honey” is a similar preserve that is found in the Middle East, Galilee (recipe follows in this chapter). All these preserves share this common feature: They are made from the juice only, and not from the whole fruit. Thus, they are jellies or thick syrups, rather than jams. Their preparation is based on this simple principle: Prolonged cooking evaporates enough water to concentrate enough of the naturally occurring sugars for preservation to take place. Jams from whole fruit can also be prepared by following the same principle. In general, after pouring hot jam or jelly into a jar and sealing it, turn the jar upside down. This will sterilize any air remaining in the jar and ensure preservation. It’s also a good idea to store the jars upside down.

Whole Fruit Jam
Very ripe fruit (any type)
A preserving pan or large saucepan
Canning jars and lids

This method is good for all types of fruit, including grapes, greengage plums, and so on. Use fruit that is very ripe; simply cut and crush it roughly. Bring the fruit to a boil; then cook it over very low heat for a very long time.

It is impossible to recommend a precise cooking time, since this depends on the type of fruit used, and its ripeness and water content, both of which vary from one year to the next. In any case, you should allow as much water as possible to evaporate. Stir often, because certain fruits have a tendency to stick during cooking. The jam is ready when it does not run off of the spoons but forms a bead that sticks to the spoon. At this stage pour the jam into scalded screw-top jars. It will keep for at least two years.

Recipe: Ginger Beer

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Ginger is a spice perfect for any time of year. Its fragrance can perk up everything from chai tea to apple pie. This humble root can also add a gentle kick of heat to stir fries or soups.

The natural yeasts in the root can also be used to kick start a bubbly ginger beer. Give it a try!

The following recipe is from Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, by Sandor Katz.

This Caribbean-style soft drink uses a “ginger bug” to start the fermentation. I got this idea from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. The ginger bug is simply water, sugar, and grated ginger, which starts actively fermenting within a couple of days. This easy starter can be used as yeast in any alcohol ferment, or to start a sourdough.

This ginger beer is a soft drink, fermented just enough to create carbonation but not enough to contribute any appreciable level of alcohol. If the ginger is mild, kids love it.

TIMEFRAME: 2 to 3 weeks

INGREDIENTS (for 1 gallon/4 liters):

  • 3 inches/8 centimeters or more fresh gingerroot
  • 2 cups/500 milliliters sugar
  • 2 lemons (or limes)
  • Water

PROCESS:

  1. Start the “ginger bug”: Add 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) grated ginger (skin and all) and 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) sugar to 1 cup (250 milliliters) of water. Stir well and leave in a warm spot, covered with cheesecloth to allow free circulation of air while keeping flies out. Add this amount of ginger and sugar every day or two and stir, until the bug starts bubbling, in 2 days to about a week.
  2. Make the ginger beer any time after the bug becomes active. (If you wait more than a couple of days, keep feeding the bug fresh ginger and sugar every 2 days.) Boil 2 quarts (2 liters) of water. Add about 2 inches (5 centimeters) of gingerroot, grated, for a mild ginger flavor (up to 6 inches/15 centimeters for an intense ginger flavor) and 11/2 cups (375 milliliters) sugar. Boil this mixture for about 15 minutes. Cool.
  3. Once the ginger-sugar-water mixture has cooled, strain the ginger out and add the juice of the lemons (or limes) and the strained ginger bug. (If you intend to make this process an ongoing rhythm, reserve a few tablespoons of the active bug as a starter and replenish it with additional water, grated ginger, and sugar.) Add enough water to make 1 gallon (4 liters).
  4. Bottle in sealable bottles: Recycle plastic soda bottles with screw tops; rubber gasket “bail-top” bottles that Grolsch and some other premium beers use; sealable juice jugs; or capped beer bottles, as described in chapter 11. Leave bottles to ferment in a warm spot for about 2 weeks.
  5. Cool before opening. When you open ginger beer, be prepared with a glass, since carbonation can be strong and force liquid rushing out of the bottle.

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Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

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