Food & Health Archive


RECIPE: Veggie Mandala with Chervil Aioli Sauce

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

With the birth of spring comes its profusion of gifts—the warm sun, higher temperatures, and (best of all) fertile soil. With each day, more colors seem to burst forth—both in nature and on our plates.

This is certainly true of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center—one of California’s first certified organic farms. Spring not only brings color and life into their gardens, but also an abundance of diverse crops to add to their daily meals. In their new book, The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Cookbook, kitchen manager Olivia Rathbone showcases the biodiversity of all four seasons with over 200 inspired vegetarian recipes.

A favorite spring dish, popular at OAEC parties and celebrations, is the Veggie Mandala with Chervil Aioli Sauce. This brightly colored assortment of vegetables and edible garden leaves is traditionally served directly on the surface of the entire length of the farm table. But, whether you use serving platters or eat right off the table, this light dish will be welcome shift from the heavier foods of winter. Check out the recipe below and see how easy it is to make!

If you’re still hungry, here are a few additional sample recipes from The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Cookbook.

*****

Veggie Mandala

An OAEC tradition for parties and celebrations is to create a giant colorful mandala out of diverse garden veggies served directly on the surface of the entire length of the table. An assortment of raw, blanched, and roasted elements adds to the diversity of the flavors.

Serves 4-6:

2 ½ pounds assorted brightly colored veggies: brassica florets, roots, and whatever other veggies are happening in the garden or at the farmers’ market

1 bunch large edible garden leaves: Rainbow chard, variegated collards, fig or grape leaves, the large side leaves of cauliflower or broccoli—whatever looks big and healthy

Serves 30-40:

15 pounds assorted brightly colored veggies: brassica florets, roots, and whatever other veggies are happening in the garden or at the farmers’ market

5 bunch large edible garden leaves: Rainbow chard, variegated collards, fig or grape leaves, the large side leaves of cauliflower or broccoli—whatever looks big and healthy

Directions:

Wash, peel, and chop the vegetables into attractive flippable spears and keep separate. Decide which vegetables make sense to blanch, roast, or leave raw, choosing a few for each category. For example, in the summertime, leave juicy vegetables like cherry tomatoes and cucumbers raw. In the winter, roast the fennel and winter squash. Parboil or roast the remaining roots or florets, depending on your mood.

Spread the vegetables to be roasted in a single layer on separate cookie sheets, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake in a 375° oven for 20 minutes, flipping as needed. Meanwhile, blanch each type of vegetable separately (see below for how to blanch veggies). To serve, clean your serving table well with soap and water. Cover the surface with large edible leaves, then thoroughly arrange the assortment of veggies in a beautiful pattern with a bowl of Chervil Aioli (see recipe further below) or an herb pistou for dipping. Circle around the food and meditate on the abundance!

Blanching Veggies

One of the secrets to getting people to fall in love with vegetables, especially green ones, is blanching. By locking in the vivid color, fresh texture, flavor, and nutrients, veggies are elevated to center stage rather than being relegated to a forgettable side role. When cooking for a crowd, this is also a convenient way to prepare veggies ahead of time to be reheated or incorporated into a dish later.

Get a big pot of water (the higher the water-to-vegetable ratio, the better) to an aggressive boil on the stove. Add lots of salt, about ½ cup per gallon of water—this helps prevent the color from leaching out into the cooking water and perfectly preseasons the vegetables. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and cold water. Slice and stage the raw veggies.

Note: Be sure to blanch each vegetable separately, as cooking times will vary.

Put your first round of raw-cut veggies into the basket and lower gently into the rapidly boiling salt water. For small veggies like peas, 30 seconds should do; with larger cuts or root veggies, like julienned carrots, you may need to cook them for 4 to 6 minutes. Keep a close eye on them because a few seconds can mean the difference between vibrant al dente and mushy gray. When the color brightens up and the texture is cooked but still retains a hint of firmness (stick a fork in or taste one), pull the colander basket out, draining out as much of the hot water as possible, and then submerge the colander in the ice bath to halt the cooking process. When the veggies have completely cooled, remove the colander and drain completely. Let the pot of water come up to boiling again before starting the next round and add more ice to the ice bath as needed.

Blanched vegetables can be frozen like this or stored in the fridge for a day.

To serve immediately as a simple side, return the vegetables to a clean pot on the stovetop and reheat on medium-high either covered with a dash of water or uncovered tossed with oil. Serve with simple olive oil and salt, a dash of tamari, or a tab of herb butter.

Chervil Aioli

Serves 4-6 (makes a little over 1 cup):

1 farm-fresh egg yolk from clean, healthy chickens (don’t use factory-farmed eggs for this—or any—recipe)—room temperature

1 very small clove garlic, less than a teaspoon crushed (optional)

1 cup oil

Salt

Squeeze of lemon

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chervil, or substitute a combination of tarragon and parsley

Serves 30-40 (makes 4 cups):

4 farm-fresh egg yolks from clean, healthy chickens (don’t use factory-farmed eggs for this—or any—recipe)—room temperature

2 very small cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon crushed (optional)

4 cups oil

Salt

Squeeze of lemon

1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chervil, or substitute a combination of tarragon and parsley

Directions:

Let your egg sit out on the counter until it comes up to room temperature. Separate the egg and reserve the white for another use. If you’re using garlic, crush it with a garlic press or mortar and pestle into a smooth paste and stir it into the egg yolk. Add about a quarter of the oil and whisk until a very well-incorporated mixture forms. Drizzle in the rest of the oil in a thin stream while whisking it all the while. Add salt and lemon to taste. Stir or blend in the chopped chervil. Use right away.

 

A Mini-Festo for Earth Day – Rebuild the Foodshed

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

For the past month, author Philip Ackerman-Leist has been on a Twitter MiniFesto campaign – each day sending out a new tweet designed to spark conversation and pass along some lessons he learned whilst working on his last book, Rebuilding the Foodshed.

You might also know Philip as the author of his memoir Up Tunket Road or as Director of the Green Mountain College Farm & Food Project and the Director of the Masters in Sustainable Food Systems at Green Mountain College. Or, from his carbon offset approach to commuting to work.

We know that Philip spends some of his time answering tweets and questions from his PastureFone (a mobile phone that doubles as a cattle herding device we think), and we all know that some of our best thinking can come when we’re away from devices, and getting dirty, or frustrated, with our daily chores.

So on this Earth Day we’re offering up the full Minifesto of Ackerman-Leist below, and a link to a downloadable and printable file that you should feel free to print and download, and then put up in the nearest outhouse wall, bathroom stall, or other popular, quiet reading places.

Your Revolutionary Minifesto Friends at Chelsea Green Publishing

Minifesto: Tweets for Rebuilding the Foodshed

I. Start from the grassroots—and move all the way down to the highest levels of government.

II. Sustainable farms are run by the sun: the rest of the food system needs daylight, too.

III. When thinking about farms: management first & scale second. You figure out where location fits. (Hint: about 1.5)

IV. Fully understanding the expanse between farm to plate demands the full distance between one’s ears.

V. Local was never intended to be universal.

VI. Small successes are easier to manage than big failures.

VII. Success leads; policy follows.

VIII.Crow tastes like chicken: Be prepared to eat some.

IX. Main ingredient in a recipe for disaster: sticking to the recipe when you don’t have all of the ingredients.

X. Two ingredients not needed in a recipe for success: us and them.

XI. Leave the selfie at the door. Shift to panorama mode.

XII. All white ain’t alright.

XIII. PC quickly becomes passé: Do what’s right, not necessarily what is correct.

XIV. Get off the can (BPA, dude!) and out of the box!

XV. Change comes more from victual sharing than virtual sharing.

XVI. Food is neither left nor right of center, but in our politics we are left with the right to food question.

XVII. Food system as economic driver: A job doth not a fair wage make.

XVIII. The divide is less urban/rural than it is have/have not.

XIX. Trust the windshield view more than the dashboard indicators.

XX. Don’t just move the needle. Bend it a little bit. When all else fails, consider a new dial.

XXI. Nuance provides precision–and it’s too often the victim of well-intentioned advocacy.

XXII. Numbers & values: sometimes the same thing, sometimes in opposition.

XXIII. Behind every label lies a story…some are fairy tales.

XXIV. Fields of expertise: Farmers & fishers need to be at the table, too—not just profs, chefs, wonks, & good intentions.

XXV. Finitude sucks. Prioritization rules.

XXVI. Don’t forget to dig! (We might even require ag in school if it weren’t so complex.)

XXVII. Old dirt, same story: New horizons in soils help cultivate common ground, common sense, & uncommon potential.

XXVIII. Food system waste is nothing more than a lack of ecological imagination.

XXIX. Tomorrow is only 1/3 of the answer.

XXX. Impatience is your most important ally; patience is your best friend.

To follow Philip on Twitter go to @ackermanleistp

Anno MMXV “Twitterus rebuildum”

 

Download the Minfesto, print it and spread the revolution!

 

Minifesto-RebuildingTheFoodshed Day30 by Philip Ackerman-Leist

Wild Edibles: 5 Tips for Beginner Foragers

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Ever spotted a dandelion growing in your backyard and wondered, can I eat that? According to wild plants expert Katrina Blair, the answer is a resounding yes. And there are plenty of other commonly found weeds that fall into this category as well.

In her book The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, Blair introduces readers to thirteen weeds that can be found growing all over the world—especially in densely populated areas like cities and suburbs. These nutritious “survival plants”, as she calls them, can be eaten from root to seed and used for a variety of medicinal purposes to achieve optimal health.

If you are new to foraging, below are a few beginner tips from Katrina Blair to get you started on your hunt for wild edibles. And, next time you are taking a walk around the neighborhood keep your eyes peeled for these thirteen plants: dandelion, mallow, purslane, plantain, thistle, amaranth, dock, mustard, grass, chickweed, clover, lambsquarter, and knotweed.

For more information on edible weeds and how Blair uses them for food and medicine listen to her interviews on Sierra Club Radio and Heritage Radio Network’s “Sharp and Hot”. Or if you’re ready to eat now, check out her suggestions for how to use lambsquarter.

*****

5 Tips for Beginner Foragers

  1. Ask for help. Seek the guidance of a local plant expert who can help you identify the subtle differences between various plant species.
  2. Stay close to home. The wild plants that grow closest to where you live are the ones best adapted to support your ability to thrive in your current environment. Wild plants are extremely resilient and they help us embody those same qualities of excellence.
  3. Be mindful of where you harvest wild weeds. Use your observation skills to determine if an area may have been sprayed with herbicides or heavily fertilized with chemicals. If a plant is discolored or curls downward in an unnatural way it may best to harvest elsewhere.
  4. Start off simple. Look for the common simple plants first that are easy to recognize like dandelions. Dice them up finely and add to your dinner salad along with something sweet like apple slices.
  5. A little goes a long way. Wild plants are very potent so it is best to start by ingesting small amounts. Begin by nibbling a taste of a common wild edible plant and slowly introduce it to your body and taste buds.

 

New Cookbook Offers Hundreds of Garden-to-Plate Recipes

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Are you a gardener interested in finding new ways to cook with your vegetables or a farmers’ market shopper looking to expand your repertoire? Maybe you are a home cook who wants to prepare healthy meals for your family and friends or a professional chef looking for inspired recipes using wild edibles? Or are you a member of a community-based organization who cooks for crowds on a regular basis?

If you nodded your head to any of these questions, then The Occidental Arts & Ecology Center Cookbook is for you.

This unique cookbook is a beautifully illustrated collection of 200 inspired vegetarian recipes using fresh-from-the-garden seasonal ingredients from the OAEC, a renowned farm, educational retreat center, eco-thinktank and home of the Mother Garden—one of California’s first certified organic farms.

You’ll learn how to incorporate a diverse array of ingredients including weeds, flowers, herbs, nuts, fruits, mushrooms, and other forages, into your family’s everyday meals. The recipes also provide the quantities and measurements necessary to cook for a crowd—making each dish perfect to cook at home, or to share at parties, potlucks, and community events.

The OAEC has a passionate ethos about eating seasonally, and their book shows readers how to cook based on what is available in the garden at any given time of the year. Nothing illustrates this concept better than their signature dish, the Biodiversity Salad Mix, which frequently features more than 60 varieties of greens and wild edibles.

Acclaimed chef and author Alice Waters writes in her foreword, “It is a testament to the remarkable biodiversity of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center that something as ostensibly simple as a green salad can be such a revelation. But a revelation it is.” Pretty impressive for a bowl of greens.

Most likely you don’t have the resources to incorporate 60 ingredients into a salad, but lead author Olivia Rathbone encourages us to experiment with the biodiversity available in our own regions.

“We are not seeking out rare and endangered food crops of the world in order to ‘discover’ and profit from the next exotic ingredient to be marketed and consumed by the industrial food system,” writes Rathbone in her introduction. “Through trial-and-error research, we are taking full advantage of our regional growing conditions to find what works, and we encourage you to do the same kind of experimentation in your own backyard.”

And, for those less adventurous eaters, fear not, a reviewer from Booklist points out that many of the recipes “demonstrate simple techniques that work with many different vegetables.”

In The OAEC Cookbook you’ll find seasonal menus that offer a wide range of dishes such as: Carrot and Chamomile Soup and Pepita-Encrusted Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Mint. There are a variety of delicious salad dressing recipes, sauces, and pestos for garden-fresh greens. There are comfort foods like pots of savory Biodiversity Beans and Winter Sourdough Pizza and crowd pleasing desserts like Fresh Fruit Fools and Cardamom-Rose-Plum Bars.

Is your mouth watering yet? Check out the sample recipes below and start planning your next dinner party. Can we come?

Sample Recipes from The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Cookbook

Chelsea Green to Revolutionize Industry with Edible Books

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Move over Gutenberg: In advance of Earth Day 2015, environmental publishing leader Chelsea Green Publishing is announcing the introduction of an entirely new type of book – the completely biodegradable, and in certain instances edible, book.

While some publishers tout the recycled content of their papers, or use of soy-based inks, Chelsea Green, which turned 30 in 2014, is embarking on a new type of book that promises to revolutionize how we think of books as objects. These books are designed to nourish the mind, and the body. Literally.

Using all-natural and organic ingredients as their base, similar to the methods used in a new line of plantable coffee cups by a California entrepreneur, and these coffee cup makers in North Dakota, our limited line of biodegradable books will allow readers to use their books to:

  • Make healing bone broth;
  • Grow mushrooms;
  • Plant heirloom squash and other select varietals;
  • Reforest areas degraded by those “other” book publishers, and much more.

Each of these limited-edition books will come with a free, companion eBook, to allow you to return to those pages you’ve now planted, or eaten. These books are designed to help do more than just put seeds of knowledge into people’s hands, but the seeds themselves.

The broth-brewing books, based on the recent top-selling book The Heal Your Gut Cookbook, will come in three flavors —Beef, Chicken or Fish. Why stand in line at Brodo waiting for a cup of broth, when you can simply make it yourself in the comfort of your kitchen.

How does it work? For the bone broth book, it’s simple: Since each page is made from a combination of finely ground bones, marrow, and a vegetable seasoning powder, when you’re done reading a section of the book, simply tear out the book’s pages at its perforated edge and drop into boiling water. Within minutes you’ll have a delicious steaming hot bone broth. The more pages you use, the stronger the broth!

Other titles to be released in our new biodegradable series include:

  • Organic Mushroom Farming: Pages from this book are inoculated with mushroom mycelium. Just place the pages on top of a growing substrate—some cardboard or an old pair of jeans— and it’ll start growing fungi! You can use those mushrooms for food, or as author Tradd Cotter points out in his book, for a variety of health and environmental mycoremediation projects.
  • The Tao of Vegetable Gardening: Grow some of Carol Deppe’s amazing heirloom varietals, including squash and corn by planting pages from her book. Select pages will help you seed an “Eat-All Greens Garden,” her revolutionary way of growing greens that can raise enough fresh, leafy greens for a small family for a year.
  • Farming the Woods: Pages from this book will help you reforest deforested northern woodlands by planting a mix of deciduous and conifer trees. Techniques in the book laid out by authors Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel will show you how to then add plantings of wild garlic, ginseng, and more to augment the production of food from your forest.
  • Holy Shit: With the subtitle of “Managing Manure to Save Mankind,” need we say more? This treatise on all things bowel-related and how we can harness its richness to fertilize the land—including the use of humanure. This book is edible enough to become compost after you chomp it, yet biodegradable enough for the less adventurous who merely want to toss it on the compost pile when they’re done. If neither appeals, it does make for a great bathroom read.

Unlike the creator of the K-Cup, we have no regrets about bringing books into the world, and want to ensure that no one makes a viral video accusing us of “Killing the Planet” with our hefty how-to tomes because people may have concerns about their environmental impact.

For more information about this revolutionary publishing technology, visit www.eat-this-book.com.

And … Happy April 1st!

Building a Sustainable Community: The D Acres Model

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

If you were going to create a community-based homestead or farm from scratch, where would you start? What building materials would you use? What crops would you grow and what animals would you raise? How would you develop an organizational structure and connect with your community? And, how would you make sure all of this evolves in perpetuity and is truly sustainable?

For the past twenty years, Josh Trought, founder of D Acres of New Hampshire, has been asking himself these very same questions and has come up with a model to help others seeking practical alternatives to the current environmentally and economically destructive paradigm.

D Acres is an ecologically designed educational center located on the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains in northern New Hampshire. In addition to it being a fully operational farm, it serves multiple community functions including a hostel for travelers, a training center for everything from metal- and woodworking to cob building and seasonal cooking, a gathering place for music, poetry, joke-telling, potluck meals, and much more.

In his new book, The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm, Trought describes not only the history of the D Acres project, but its evolving principles and practices that are rooted in the land, its inhabitants, and the joy inherent in collective empowerment.

Booklist calls it, “An immensely useful guidebook for organic farmers, cohousing advocates, and anyone interested in learning about a place where sustainability is truly possible.” Trought hopes this book encourages more people to become involved in the land-based service movement. He writes,

While the book may be valuable to most anyone, my purpose in writing was to offer a compilation of information that I wish was available when I began farming. By providing a basis of understanding of the farm system, I hope that readers can use this model as a platform for their own innovation and creative living.

From working with oxen to working with a board of directors, this book contains a wealth of innovative ideas and ways to make your farm or homestead not only more sustainable, but more inclusive of, and beneficial to, the larger community.

For more insight into Josh Trought’s work building a sustainable community at D Acres, check out the author interview below.

*****

A conversation with Josh Trought— educator, farmer, author, builder, community organizer, dreamer

A key aspect of D Acres that comes across in this book is its flexibility, and that it evolves based on the changing needs and ideas of both the onsite members and the surrounding community. Is there a project or idea that has surprised you because at first it seemed unlikely to work, but has instead flourished? 

JT: Transforming the land with pigs has been an eye opening process that we are continuing to explore. Experimenting with the number of animals, age of the critters, what time of year, in what soil conditions as well as rotational opportunities allows for continual observation and ongoing evaluation. At first it seemed that the compaction pigs caused would limit subsequent annual production without mechanization, but we had heard about planting potatoes in thick mulching of wood chips on compacted soils so we just tried to build the soil from the ground level up. At this juncture it has proven effective beyond our expectations and continues to yield benefits throughout the process.

I am also amazed at the attraction of people to tree houses and the playground is a super element I would not have foreseen when we began this project.

This book covers a lot of ground, from alternative building techniques, renewable energy, and holistic forestry to hospitality management, organic gardening, and more. All of these specialties require skilled labor. What are your strongest skills and what are you most excited to learn more about right now?

JT: I am really humbled by this whole process. I feel like a novice in so many ways.  grew up in the suburbs and have learned a lot by both doing that which I am passionate about and that which is necessary. I am excited about being part of a cultural continuum that will span into the future. I am excited to be part of a permaculture movement that will enrich the ecology for the next thousands of years. I imagine a future record/book such as Farmers for Forty Centuries that documents the evolution as members of this vibrant ecology on Earth. I am excited to be a very small part of this immense movement towards an ecological society.

My strongest skills are probably in construction design building with an emphasis on natural and reclaimed materials improvisation. I am really excited to continue seasonally improving my skills in the garden and the woodshop. I am necessarily compelled to learn more about human nature and our relations to one another.

As a child, you spent many summers with your family on this property in northern New Hampshire and now you have been living on it full-time for the past 17 years. What do you love most about the D Acres landscape and is there anything new about it that you have recently learned even after all these years?

JT: Every year I try to get more in tune with the natural cycle and rhythm of the land. The farm is so seasonally dynamic.  I like to notice the seasonal shifts as they occur.  I have started documenting these changes using my senses as well as journal and videography to view not only the seasonal changes, but also those that differ year to year.

I like getting more in touch with the water resource. I enjoy swimming in our local rivers and appreciate the resource for its ecological value. I have been more focused on how the water works on the land and our role to clean and purify this resource.

What advice do you give people that want to start their own community-scale farm?

JT: While I encourage them to do so, there are several comments I like to share with them. I think while it is important to start and initiate projects of this nature everywhere, it is also important to nurture existing projects. It is a good idea to join an existing project to learn from models that are up and running as well as support the projects in place.  We are proud of the people who have participated in our project and then gone out to start their own family farms or projects unique to their locales. I also think it is important to recognize that the D Acres model is a response to a wide array of circumstances. Any new entity would naturally be a reflection of the surrounding variables including the individual personnel and their strengths, land base, and community needs.

Book Exposes Scientific Fraud, Collusion on GMOs

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth is an important book that is long overdue in the United States, and Chelsea Green Publishing is proud to distribute this book to consumers who need to read the whole story behind how government officials and chemical companies have colluded to mislead the public about GM crops and foods.

With a foreword by Dr. Jane Goodall, this book is being praised by scientists for finally lifting the veil and exposing the collusion that has gone on behind the scenes between politicians, regulators, select scientists, and global seed manufacturers. Together they have joined forces to promote genetically modified organisms (GMOs) while ignoring the negative effects GMOs are having on our public food supply, health, and in the process has subverted scientific protocols.

The book was announced this week at a press conference in London, featuring Goodall.

“Without doubt, one of the most important books of the last 50 years,” writes Goodall in her Foreword. “It will go a long way toward dispelling the confusion and delusion that has been created regarding the genetic engineering process and the foods it produces. Steven Druker is a hero. He deserves at least a Nobel Prize.”

Frederick Kirschenmann, distinguished fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and an expert on sustainable agriculture had this to say of the book: “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth is a remarkable work that may well change the public conversation on one of the most important issues of our day. If the numerous revelations it contains become widely known, the arguments being used to defend genetically engineered foods will be untenable.”

This book uncovers the biggest scientific fraud of our age. It tells the fascinating and frequently astounding story of how the massive enterprise to restructure the genetic core of the world’s food supply came into being, how it advanced by consistently violating the protocols of science, and how for more than three decades, hundreds of eminent biologists and esteemed institutions have systematically contorted the truth in order to conceal the unique risks of its products—and get them onto our dinner plates.

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth
gives a graphic account of how this elaborate fraud was crafted and how it not only deceived the general public, but Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Barack Obama and a host of other astute and influential individuals as well. The book also exposes how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was induced to become a key accomplice—and how it has broken the law and repeatedly lied in order to usher genetically engineered foods onto the market without the safety testing that’s required by federal statute. As a result, for fifteen years America’s families have been regularly ingesting a group of novel products that the FDA’s own scientific staff had previously determined to be unduly hazardous to human health.

By the time this gripping story comes to a close, it will be clear that the degradation of science it documents has not only been unsavory but unprecedented—and that in no other instance have so many scientists so seriously subverted the standards they were trained to uphold, misled so many people, and imposed such magnitude of risk on both human health and the health of the environment.

“If you have even the remotest interest in this topic, I would strongly encourage you to get a copy of this book,” urges Dr. Joseph Mercola in an interview with Druker. ” It is, without a doubt, the best book on the topic and provides a treasure trove of facts that will help you decimate anyone who believes that GMOs are safe.

“For close to 20 years, the American public has been exposed to these largely experimental, untested foods, which its own scientists said entail unique risks and could not be presumed safe,” adds Mercola. “The FDA claimed GMO’s could be presumed safe, and that there was an overwhelming scientific consensus backing up their decision, yet the evidence shows that is a bold-faced lie.”

Watch the full interview with Dr. Mercola and Druker:

 

Roadkill 101: An Insider’s Guide to ‘Asphalt Hunting’

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

We’ve all come across one while driving — a doe, a deer, a female deer — dead on the side of the highway. Admit it, carnivores and omnivores alike, you’ve often thought to yourself, “I wonder how long it’s been there … and … boy, am I hungry!”

After checking the rearview a couple times and being thwarted by oncoming headlights, you probably speed off with the smells of an imaginary venison stew giving your stomach pangs. Your trunk? Also empty.

Face it, lean times financially mean many of us seek inexpensive, yet still wholesome, ways to feed our families.  Author and homesteader Ben Hewitt asks us to consider roadkill as an option of putting meat on the table. Yes, honestly and truly – roadkill. And, why not? In many instances, the animal has been freshly killed, and if it’s a sizable deer (or even moose), that’s a lot of meat that can be stored away into the freezer for another day.

In his new book, The Nourishing Homestead, Hewitt offers some basic tips on the etiquette and edibility of “asphalt hunting.” One thing is to be sure, there is an upside to the deep freeze of a winter that many of us are experiencing.

Read on, and start searching the side roads for your next meal.

*****

Determining the Edibility of Roadkill

This excerpt is adapted from Ben Hewitt’s The Nourishing Homestead (March 2015).

Folks who hear of our fondness for “asphalt hunting,” which has netted us three deer over the past four years, frequently ask how we determine whether or not a piece of roadkill is prime for the stew pot. Like so many aspects of food production and processing, such a determination depends on a number of factors.

First and foremost, what time of year is it? While we have harvested roadkill during the warm months, doing so requires much more luck (to have come across the kill shortly after it met its fate) and a bit more discernment (to know what safely constitutes “shortly after”). For that reason, I can only recommend harvesting in winter, with the exception being if you are unfortunate enough to be the one who hit the animal or if you actually witness its demise.

When we come upon roadkill, the first thing we do is to assess the level of bodily damage. This is not always obvious, because severe internal injuries are not generally visible, although they also don’t preclude harvest, as there’s still likely to be a fair bit of edible meat. Generally speaking, if we find a deer that’s really torn up, with a fair amount of visible blood, we leave it. Shattered and twisted legs look dramatic but are actually a sign that the animal took the hit down low, rather than directly to the body, where the majority of the meat is contained.

Regarding freshness, the colder it is, the less you need be concerned. That said, anything that’s frozen stiff suggests to me that (1) it’s been there awhile and (2) it’s going to be a real hassle to transport and dress. The ideal situation is exactly like the one I came across last October, when I rounded a corner on a rural road to find an SUV pulled to the side of the road and a fellow in designer jeans hauling a dead doe into the ditch. I hit the brakes and hopped out of the car. “Are you planning to do anything with that,” I asked. It was a rhetorical question, because I could see that his plans for the deer ended the moment he reached the bottom of the ditch. He looked at me quizzically: “No, why? You want it?” He sounded skeptical, but was kind enough to help me load the animal into the back of our Subaru. Ninety seconds later, I was on my way home with a freezer full of fresh venison. I doubt more than 10 minutes passed between impact and loading the deer into our car.

That doesn’t happen too often, so you should be prepared to make a judgment call. In general, what I like to see in cold weather is a body that’s still limber and maybe even a little warm. That’s a sure sign it was a recent hit. Of course, if there’s snow on the road, you can usually tell whether any spilled blood is fresh and bright red or congealed and duller in color. I suppose it goes without saying, but when it doubt, leave it for the birds. Which brings me to another simple rule: If birds or animals have been feeding from your quarry, it’s been there too long. Or too long for my taste buds, anyway.

Do expect some internal damage. A burst stomach is not uncommon, and while its contents can appear to have spoiled a lot of meat, it’s actually pretty easy to clean up the resultant mess, via either a vigorous scrubbing or a careful cutting away of affected areas. Fortunately, there’s not much meat directly around the stomach cavity, so contamination of prime cuts is unlikely.

Finally, you might want to check state wildlife laws before gleaning any roadkill. Here in Vermont, it’s actually illegal to glean roadkill without notifying a game warden; the deer herd belongs to the state, a fine example of how the common wealth of the land has been commoditized. The truth is, most wardens are happy to see the meat go to good use. The other truth is, damned if I’m going to let a perfectly edible animal rot in a ditch while I try to track down a warden for permission.

Get Ready for Maple Sugaring Season

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Everything is better with maple syrup. At least that’s what you’ll hear when you ask Vermonters. So what better way to solidify your love for all things maple than to learn how to make it yourself?

If you only have a couple of trees nearby — say in your backyard — author Michael Farrell (The Sugarmaker’s Companion) has some simple advice for you to get started tapping a few trees and collecting the sap by bucket. The following excerpt is adapted and condensed from Chapter 5 of his book.

If you have access to a larger grove of trees you might also want to read these additional excerpts from The Sugarmaker’s Companion on producing value-added products from your collected tree sap.

*****

Maple Syrup 101
by Michael Farrell

Backyard Sap CollectionWhen to Tap

One of the most difficult decisions you have to make from year to year in your sugaring operation is deciding when to tap. I always recommend tapping just a few trees in January and February to determine what is going on with sap flow conditions. In relatively cold areas, even when the temperatures get above freezing in January and February, the amount of sap flow can be negligible. The trees are basically frozen, and it takes an extended period of warm temperatures to induce substantial sap flow. In warmer regions where the winter isn’t as severe, optimum temperature fluctuations usually happen all winter and the trees may be producing a decent amount of sap in January and February. If you see this happening in your test trees, you’ll want to tap the rest of your sugarbush to catch the early sap runs.

How to Tap

Finding the Right Spot

The first step in tapping is to find a good spot to drill the hole. It doesn’t matter how nice a hole you drill, what type of spout you use, or what level of vacuum you are pulling if you have drilled into a bad section of the tree. To get a decent amount of high-quality sap, you need to drill into clear, white sapwood. It is important to avoid previous tapholes and the associated stain columns as well as other defects and rotten areas on the trunk. Large seams and wounds are easy to identify and avoid, but it takes a trained eye to locate old tapholes.

Drilling the Hole

Sugaring Tap

Some people advocate drilling the hole directly into the tree whereas others recommend drilling at a slight upward angle. I usually try to achieve a perfectly straight hole but always err on the side of making it at a slight upward angle whenever necessary. No matter how you drill the hole, be sure to use a relatively new, clean, sharp drill bit that is intended for drilling into maple trees.

When you are pulling the drill out of the tree, always examine the shavings to make sure that they are pure white. If you get brown or dark-colored shavings, you have drilled into a bad part of the tree. Your sap yield will be negligible, and any sap that does flow may have a yellow tinge to it and impart off-flavors to your syrup.

Setting the Spout

The final step is placing the spout in the tree. It takes some practice to figure out how hard to tap on the spout to get it nice and snug without overdoing things. Not tapping in hard enough can cause the spout to be too loose, creating a vacuum leak. On the other hand, tapping too hard can potentially cause the wood to split, which in turn leads to vacuum leaks, lost sap, and increased wounding at the taphole. Most sugarmakers use regular hammers to set the spouts, but you don’t necessarily hammer the spouts in. Just a few gentle taps will usually do the trick until you hear a thumping sound. As soon as you can hear the difference, stop tapping on the spout.

Row of Sugaring buckets

Kvass: A Nourishing, Fermented Beverage

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Looking to add another recipe to your fermenting repertoire? Try your hand at kvass. This nourishing beverage calls for just a few simple ingredients and only takes a couple of days to ferment. Use beets or get creative with various fruit combinations like Blueberry Lemon Mint or Ginger Apple Lime.

According to Sally Fallon Morell, co-founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation and author of Nourishing Traditions, beet kvass is valuable for its medicinal qualities and as a digestive aid. Beets are loaded with nutrients. One 4-ounce glass, morning and night, is an excellent blood tonic, cleanses the liver, and is a good treatment for kidney stones and other ailments.

Below are recipes for both beet and fruit kvass from The Heal Your Gut Cookbook by Hilary Boynton and Mary Brackett.

Related Links:
Be Good to Your Gut: Nourishing Food for Better Health
Make Your Own Bone Broth
Chop, Salt, Pack, Wait: Four Simple Steps to Making Sauerkraut
Starting and Maintaining Sourdough

BEET KVASS
Makes 1 quart

3 medium or 2 large organic beets, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt
1⁄4 cup whey or fermented pickle juice
2 cloves garlic, smashed or minced (optional)
Filtered water

Place the beets in a clean 2-quart widemouthed glass mason jar; add the salt, whey, and garlic, and fill to the shoulder with filtered water. Cap and leave on the counter for 2 days. Once you have drunk almost the entire first batch, you can add more filtered water, cap, and leave on the counter for an additional 2 days. After this you must throw out the beets and start fresh. Save 1⁄4 cup liquid from your previous batch to use as an inoculant instead of the whey. The easiest way I find is to pour what you wish to drink, replace it with filtered water, and return the jar to the fridge. Do this each time you drink some kvass. When the beets are “spent,” throw them out and start a new batch.

FRUIT KVASS
Makes 1 quart

1 cup organic fruit (fresh or frozen)
1-­inch fresh ginger, peeled (optional, but I usually add to my ferments as it is so good for digestion)
Filtered water
Pinch of sea salt
1⁄2 cup whey

Place the fruit and ginger in a quart-sized mason jar, filling it about a quarter of the way up. Add filtered water up to the jar’s shoulder, along with a pinch of sea salt and whey. Cap the jar tightly and leave it on the counter, at room temperature, for 2 to 3 days or until the lid is taut. Turn it upside down a few times a day. This is an anaerobic process, so be sure to keep the lid closed.

Depending on the temperature, your kvass may take a bit longer to ferment. You will see little bubbles starting to form; that means it’s fermenting and the pressure is building in your jar. Be sure to check the lid to see if you can press it down or not. If you can’t, that usually means the kvass is fermented and ready to drink.

You can strain out the fruit, if you wish, or enjoy it in your drink. This is a great way for our daughter to get a bit more fruit into her diet—following the fermentation process, the fruit’s sugar content is largely or completely gone. The kvass will last in the fridge for about 1 week.

You can also use the same process as the beet kvass, above. Simply replace the amount of kvass you drink with water, every time, until the fruit becomes colorless and flavorless.


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