Garden & Agriculture Archive


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. 

*******

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

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

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.

Putting Grasslands to Work

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

This year’s annual international conference of the Savory Institute will be held in London the first week of August, and will feature two Chelsea Green authors – Courtney White (Grass, Soil, Hope) and Judith Schwartz (Cows Save the Planet) along with Joel Salatin whose books Chelsea Green distributes.

The conference theme — “Putting Grasslands to Work” — will focus on ways in which holistic management can improve soils, increase nutrient density, sequester carbon, and reverse desertification. In other words, have grasslands do the work of healing the planet.

“The age of Holistic Management is upon us. There is an undeniable need for humans to honor the complexity of the natural world,” notes the conference website. “We’ve seen a new awakening among people to embrace living in harmony with their environment.The movement has reached critical mass and is exploding all around the globe.”

White and Schwartz will take part in a two-part panel discussion about the untapped potential of soil. As both authors point out in their respective books, soil can be seen as a way to solve some of our most intractable environmental problems.

“I don’t mean to come across as naive, or to suggest that we can throw some cattle and compost on the ground and go on wasting and polluting as before. But neither am I willing to be paralyzed by despair, nor take refuge behind that barricade of indifference, no matter how tempting at times. I know how bad things are. But we’ve got to start somewhere. Soil restoration can be done anywhere: one watershed, one community, one abandoned field. At whatever scale, attend to the needs of the soil, and the ecological cycles will begin to get back in sync.,” writes Schwartz in the introduction to her book.

As White notes in the prologue to his book, “Here’s the really exciting part: if land that is bare, degraded, tilled, or monocropped can be restored to a healthy condition, with properly functioning carbon, water, mineral, and nutrient cycles, and covered year-round with a diversity of green plants with deep roots, then the added amount of atmospheric CO2 that can be stored in the soil is potentially high. … soils contain about three times the amount of carbon that’s stored in vegetation and twice the amount stored in the atmosphere. Since two-thirds of the earth’s land mass is grassland, additional CO2 storage in the soil via better management practices, even on a small scale, could have a huge impact. Grasslands are also home to two billion people who depend on livestock—an important source of food and wealth (and culture) to much of the earth’s human population. Both these animals and their human stewards could be mobilized for carbon action.”

And mobilize for action is what the Savory Institute conference is about. Check out their website, and if you’re in London the first week of August, be sure to stop by for information and inspiration.

25% off Essential Books for Homesteaders

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

In this age of rapid change, how can we best adapt to sustain our food systems and regenerate our land?

Drawing from time-tested holistic techniques our authors show homesteaders, farmers and growers of all sizes how to remain resilient.

Whether you grow veggies and herbs on your balcony, intensively garden a half-acre on your homestead, or make a living off the land, we’ve got a book (or two) for you. Now through July 31st SAVE 25% on books for your homestead or small farm. 

Our books and authors never skim the surface – they think in systems and farm holistically, applying the wisdom of letting nature do the heavy lifting and giving the skills to empower you.

We hope you’re having a busy and abundant growing season!

Happy reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing

P.S. Don’t forget to look at our full list of sale books here: www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/sale


Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only). International orders can be placed by phone (802-295-6300) or email.


Homesteading Books: 25% off until July 31st 

The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $30.00
Keeping a Family Cow
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $14.96
The Resilient Gardener
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
The New Cider Maker's Handbook
Retail: $44.95
Sale: $33.71
From the Wood-Fired Oven
Retail: $44.95
Sale: $33.71
The Sugarmaker's Companion
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $37.46
The Small-Scale Dairy
Retail: $34.95
Sale: $26.21
The Small-Scale Poultry Flock
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $30.00
The New Horse-Powered Farm
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
The New Organic Grower
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $18.71
The Holistic Orchard
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
Market Farming Success, Revised and Expanded Edition
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
Raising Dough
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $14.96
Farms with a Future
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
You Can Farm
Retail: $35.00
Sale: $26.25
The Organic Seed Grower
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $37.46
The Grafter's Handbook
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $30.00
The Winter Harvest Handbook
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
The Organic Grain Grower
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $33.75
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol. 1
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
Compact Living
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $11.21
The Moneyless Manifesto
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $18.71
The Log Book
Retail: $12.95
Sale: $9.71
Farm-Fresh and Fast
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $18.71
Seed to Seed
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $18.71
Organic Seed Production and Saving
Retail: $12.95
Sale: $9.71
Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
Holistic Orcharding with Michael Phillips
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $37.46
Preserving with Friends
Retail: $34.95
Sale: $26.21
Natural Beekeeping with Ross Conrad
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $18.71
Year-Round Vegetable Production with Eliot Coleman: DVD
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96

~~ Coming Soon: Available for Pre-Order ~~

Integrated Forest Gardening
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $33.75
Farming The Woods
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.95

Stay Connected:

Like what we’re up to?
Don’t forget to join our
online community too.
We’ll keep you posted
with the latest in
sustainable living.

Twitter Image
You Tube Image
Do-it-Yourself Projects

So you want to be a small-scale dairy farmer

So you want to be a small-scale dairy farmer


The Seed Series: Choosing the right seed crop

The Seed Series: Choosing the Right Seed Crop


Build a wood-fired oven in your backyard

Build a wood-fired oven in your backyard


Does it pay to keep a cow?

Does it pay to keep a cow?


Un-Coop your Poop: Everything you need to know about chicken tractors

Un-Coop your Poop: Everything you Need to Know about Chicken Tractors


6 Reasons why you need to plant perennials…like now

6 Reasons Why You Need to Plant Perennials…Like Now


NEED MORE? Take a look at our list of sale books 

Sale Image

For a list of all our sale books – more than 60 on sale for 20% off or more—take a look at the full list here.



Dried Tomato Recipes: Enjoy Your Harvest All Year Long

Monday, July 7th, 2014

As your tomatoes start ripening on the vine this season, think ahead to how you want to preserve your summer harvest and enjoy it all year long.

Here are a few versatile dried tomato recipes that are easy to make and don’t require freezing or canning.

For more recipes using traditional preserving techniques like salt, oil, drying, cold storage, vinegar, and fermentation, read Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning by the Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante.

Tomatoes Dried Naturally

  • Tomatoes
  • Almond oil (or another mild oil)
  • A clean rag
  • Drying apparatus
  • A glass jar

Tomatoes are by far the vegetable most often preserved by drying in various forms.

We prefer to use the ‘Beefsteak’ variety, a pulpy tomato with fewer seeds.

Peel the tomatoes. (If this poses a problem, soak them for a few seconds in boiling water.) Cut them lengthwise (from bottom to top) into slices approximately 1/4-inch thick and remove the seeds. Place the slices on a clean rag to absorb the juice. Oil the dryer screen lightly, preferably with mild almond oil, so that the slices will not stick. When the slices are dry on one side, turn them over; they will be hard when dry. Store the tomatoes well packed in a glass jar.

To use, pour one cup of boiling water over one-half to three-quarter ounces of dried tomatoes per person, and leave them to soften for a few minutes. Add a teaspoon of olive oil, season to your tate, and serve with a purée or a grain dish. We also add these tomatoes to grains or vegetables that are nearly done cooking.

Odile Angeard, Cognin

Stuffed Dried Tomatoes in Oil

  • Tomatoes
  • Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Anchovy fillets (optional)
  • Fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • Oil
  • Drying apparatus
  • A glass jar

I dry my tomatoes in a solar dryer, cut in half and seeded (easily done with a small spoon). When the tomatoes are dry, stuff a little finely chopped parsley and garlic between the two halves. If you like, add an anchovy fillet, or a basil leaf. Place the reassembled tomatoes in a jar and cover with oil. These are delicious added to a salad during winter.

Anonymous

Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil

Variation 1:

  • 4 lbs. tomatoes
  • 1 lb. coarse salt
  • Oil
  • Drying apparatus
  • Gauze
  • A clean, dry cloth
  • Glass jars

Choose very ripe, small, oblong tomatoes. The Italian variety “Principe Borghese’ is an excellent drier, as are many smaller plum or “paste” tomatoes.

Cut the tomatoes in half, place them on a tray set in the sun, add salt, and cover with gauze to protect from insects. During the day, turn the tomatoes over twice; at night, bring them inside to protect from moisture.

A few days later, when you see that they are very dry but not totally dehydrated, remove some of the salt with a clean, dry cloth. Put the tomatoes into jars and cover them with approximately three-quarters of an inch of oil over the tomatoes, coming up to three-eights of an inch below the rim. Close the jars tightly and store them in a cool place. In Italy, tomatoes preserved in this manner are eaten as hors d’oeuvres, with no additional preparation.

Marie-Christine Martinot-Aronica, St. Dizier

Variation 2:

  • Tomatoes
  • Vinegar
  • Hot peppers, mint leaves, or whole garlic cloves (optional)
  • Oil
  • Drying apparatus
  • A glass jar

Choose tomatoes that are firm and completely intact, preferably plum tomatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise. Allow them to dry on trays in the sun, bringing them in whenever it is humid, and in at night to avoid dampness. When they are dry, soak the tomatoes in warm vinegar for twenty minutes. Drain and put them in a jar, alternating layers of tomatoes with one or two hot peppers, mint leaves, or whole cloves of garlic. Press well to allow any air to escape, and then cover with oil. These tomatoes will keep for a very long time. We eat them as hors d’oeuvres or with rice, pasta, meat, or fish.

Babette Cezza, Vergt

The Best Meat Temperatures From The Gourmet Butcher

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Have plans to fire up the grill this fourth of July? Take some advice from the gourmet butcher himself – Cole Ward – and make sure your meat is at the right temperature before you serve it to family and friends.

In the following excerpt from The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat (adapted for the Web), Ward lists the proper cooking temperatures for meat ranging from beef, lamb, and veal, to poultry, fish, and pork.

For more information on meat—how to source it ethically, cut it professionally, and prepare it properly—pick up a copy of The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat. It’s on sale now for 35% off until July 15.

By Cole Ward

What’s the Best Cooking Temperature for Meat?

Storing meat is fine, but at some point you’ll probably want to eat it (just a thought). I get lots of questions about cooking temperatures for meat. Kinda matters, ’cause we’ve all suffered through one of those disastrous dinners involving steak cooked to a crisp, or a roast bleeding onto the table. The USDA has developed guidelines for cooking temperatures of the various meats, and I urge you to consult these.

Having said that, let me tell you that I don’t follow USDA guidelines for meat temperatures except for poultry, eggs, and ground meats whose source I don’t know. I feel comfortable with this because I know the provenance of every piece of meat I consume: where it was raised, how it was raised, when and how it was slaughtered, and so on. I’m comfortable cooking it as I like it. This is probably an example of “don’t do as I do.”

Beef, Lamb, & Veal

For beef, lamb, and veal, the USDA recommends an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). I prefer rare at 125 to 130°F (52–55°C). If you prefer medium rare, cook to 130 to 140°F (55–60°C). For medium well, 150 to 160°F (66–71°C). And if you prefer your meat well done, I can’t help you, because I would never order or cook meat well done. My preference is rare, and it can be difficult to convince a restaurant— hampered as they are by health inspection regulations—to serve you a truly rare (“blue”) steak.

If you are cooking burger from ground muscle meat that you are certain comes from a healthy local source, I recommend 140 to 145°F (60–63°C). For any other (unknown) source, 160°F (71°C) is safest and is the temperature recommended by the USDA.

Poultry & Fish

All poultry should be cooked to 165°F (74°C), and fish to at least 145°F (63°C).

Pork

I get a lot of questions about pork. Specifically, the correct internal temperature to cook it to before serving. I’m vigilant about buying only the best meat from a properly raised animal (which is why I like to know about the farmer behind the product), so an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) is what I recommend. This gives a tender, delicious result. However, most people prefer to cook pork to a higher internal temperature of 155°F (68°C) . . . it provides peace of mind. And I agree. If you’re uncertain about the quality of the meat, err on the cautious side.

RECIPE: How To Make Blue Cheese

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Attention moldy cheese lovers, this recipe is for you! It’s true, moldy isn’t usually a quality we look for in our food, but when it comes to blue cheese, the mold cultures contribute largely to its unique texture and bold flavor.

Try your hand at making an authentic Rindless Blue Cheese using the ingredients and techniques listed in the excerpt below from cheesemaking expert Gianaclis Caldwell.

If you are interested in making your own artisan cheeses, Caldwell’s book, Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, provides an incredible amount of detail around the intricacies of cheesemaking science with instructions for preparing a variety of cheese types.

Caldwell is passionate about cheese and has been an active contributor to the recent debate regarding FDA regulations around using wooden boards in the aging process. Get the full story here.

Her book is a must have for home hobbyists and anyone serious about the commercial artisan cheese business. Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking is on sale for 35% off until July 15.

And now, it’s moldy cheese time! Enjoy

Chelsea Green Authors Honored with National Awards

Monday, June 16th, 2014

In recent weeks, several Chelsea Green authors have earned high praise from a variety of prestigious publications and organizations for their books and writing—from books about homesteading and gardening in an era of climate change to books about creating more sustainable communities and business models. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists.

Award Winners

Ben Falk received a 2014 American Horticultural Society Book Award for The Resilient Farm and HomesteadNominated books are judged by the AHS Book Award Committee on qualities such as writing style, authority, accuracy, and physical quality. One committee member praised Falk’s book as “a thought-provoking and comprehensive resource, unlike anything else out there on the subject of sustainable living.” We couldn’t agree more.

Gary Paul Nabhan accepted the 2014 Garden Writers Association Silver Award of Achievement for his book Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land. Established 25 years ago, this national award recognizes individuals and companies who achieve the highest levels of talent and professionalism in garden communications.

Judith Wicks, Judith Schwartz, and Brad Lancaster were all winners of Nautilus Book Awards. Now in its 15th year, the Nautilus Awards is a unique program honoring books that inspire and connect our lives as individuals, communities, and global citizens. Wicks received a Gold Award in the Business and Leadership category for her book Good Morning, Beautiful Business, while Silver Awards in the Green Living/Sustainability category were given to Schwartz for Cows Save the Planet and Lancaster for Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond.

Several of our authors were also recognized with Atlas Awardsan initiative set up to honor climate heroes that are focused on building a converging, unified, and urgent voice for the climate movement. Congratulations to Jorgen Randers (2052), Greg Pahl (Power from the People), Susan Clark and Woden Teachout (Slow Democracy), and Amory Lovins (Reinventing Fire)

2014 Finalists

And, a special shout out to our authors who are 2014 finalists for these prestigious awards:

International Association of Culinary Professionals – honoring exemplary members of the culinary profession
The New Cider Maker’s Handbook by Claude Jolicoeur

Saroyan International Prize for Writing – awarded to newly published works of both fiction and non-fiction
Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America by Mark Schimmoeller

Kirkus Book Prize – a new cash prize of $50,000 given annually to three outstanding books that have received Kirkus starred reviews
Gene Everlasting: A Contrary Farmers Thoughts on Living Forever by Gene Logsdon 

 

New Books from our Publishing Partners

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Changing the world is no light undertaking. It takes a village to spread the word about sustainable living, and at Chelsea Green Publishing we partner with like-minded publishers and writers around the world to bring their books to a wider readership in the United States.

One of our strongest partnerships is with Permanent Publications, a forward thinking publisher in the UK that produces the best of permaculture media and publishes the influential Permaculture magazine.

Here’s an update on our latest selection of books available from Permanent Publications:

 

Permaculture Kitchen- This is a cookbook for gardeners who love to eat their own produce, and for people who enjoy a weekly veggies box, or supporting their local farmers’ market. It’s the ultimate introduction to economical, seasonal, and delicious cooking.

Edible Perennial Gardening- If you long for a forest garden but simply don’t have the space for tree crops, or want to grow a low-maintenance edible polyculture, this book will explain everything you need to know to get started on a new gardening adventure that will provide you with beauty and food for your household and save you money.

Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture- This completely revised and updated edition is a straight-forward manual of practical permaculture. This book will be most beneficial if you apply it to the space where you live and work. Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture is suitable for beginners as well as experienced permaculture practitioners looking for new ideas in moving towards greater self-reliance and sustainable living.

Earth Users Guide to Teaching Permaculture- This fully revised and updated edition contains a wealth of technical information for teaching permaculture design and includes new findings in emerging disciplines such as regenerative agriculture. The Earth’s Guide to Teaching Permaculture is of key relevance to teachers and students of architecture, landscape design, ecology, and other disciplines like geography, regenerative agriculture, agro-ecology, and agroforestry, as well as permaculture design. With advice on teaching aids, topics for class discussion, extensive reading lists, and tips on teaching adults, this book is bound to be an invaluable friend to the experienced and novice teacher alike.

And from one of our other long-time partners, Slow Food Editore, check out Slow Wine 2014.

For the third year running, Slow Food International offers an English-language edition of their guide to Italian wines whose qualities extend well beyond the palate. Slow Wine 2014 doesn’t simply select and review Italy’s finest bottles. It describes what’s in the glass, but it also tells you what’s behind it: namely the work, the aims, and the passion of producers; their bond with the land; and their choice of cultivation and cellar techniques—favoring the ones who implement ecologically sustainable winegrowing and winemaking practices.

 


Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com