Monday, May 18, 2015

Week 3, CSA News



Qualifiers

 

Green labeling in the retail food sector has become something of a competitive sport these days. Where on the continuum does do the various marketing claims fit? Is it better to have Grass-Fed Certification, be Animal Welfare Approved , be Certified Naturally grown, have vegetarian fed hens, and isn’t Organic Certification the Gold Standard? Whose food is greener, better for the environment, better for the farmer? Qualifiers seem to be chopping up the conversation into sound bites, rather than an all-encompassing transparent dialogue about food production and processing. With hours of volunteer work put into developing regulations and educating both farmers and consumers, we have developed a good understanding of how valuable an organic system can be, and we’re pretty passionate about Certified Organic. We include the USDA Organic logo (see above) every week as a reminder!

The marketing programs behind the tag lines mentioned above, along with countless others, are, to their credit, nudging the agricultural sustainability needle in a positive direction. Be it less harsh chemical usage, improved animal welfare standards, or decreased dependency on the GMO laden industrial grain complex, these labels are helping convert acreage to a more sustainable system of food production.  But what do they mean?

Organic is owned by the USDA by federal law, who administers a strict set of regulations that are overseen by the 15 member National Organic Standards Board, carried out by an Accredited Certification Agency, with third party inspections for verification. This is a thorough and tedious process that involves verification of every input and an audit of that process. Only producers, stores or products that are certified organic can legally use the word as a descriptor. Organic Certification has the weight of Federal Law behind it with hefty fines for operations that fail to abide by the regulations. The regulations are openly debated by the Board with input from farmers, consumer advocacy groups, food processors, and retailers. These debates are ongoing since their inception in 1995. Transcripts are available on the USDA website where you can follow the conversation on how best to produce food without using toxic chemicals and maintaining the highest animal welfare standards, verification procedures for grass-fed claims, and many, many more topics.

Sustainably Grown- This means the farm or processor decides what they consider sustainable and make you think what they want you to: is it almost organic? Who knows? Use of GMO is considered a sustainable practice in some circles – again, who knows what sustainably grown means?

Natural USDA allows food products to use this term for meats when nothing was added to the product after it was harvested. There is no oversight about how produce is produced or how an animal is raised with regard to antibiotics, genetically modified grains, hormones, or animal welfare issues, fertilizers, pesticides, etc.

Certified Naturally Grown is a membership organization where growers self-declare their interest to follow the USDA organic regulations, without the force of law and enforcement. On farm verification is performed by other members of the organization.

Cage Free, Free Range, Free Roaming are terms for laying hens that are loose in a ‘house’ that often contains thousands if not tens of thousands of birds that share an egg laying box with other hens but never go outside nor have space to exhibit their “chickenness” as Joel Salatin would say. 

Vegetarian Fed Hens – laying hens that are not fed any animal, fish, or insect proteins. However, chickens are omnivores, not vegetarians.

Pastured Poultry- Layers, broilers, or turkeys that have access to pasture and consume plants, insects, and can scratch in the dirt for dusting or can exhibit their chickenness. Extra care must be given during extreme weather conditions.

Grass Fed - The American Grassfed Association has a great program to produce heart-healthy meats with no grain in the diet. The issue for cattle and sheep is when feeding grain, it changes the pH of the digestive system, therefore altering the fatty acids in the meat in a way that tends to be less healthy for humans to consume. The audits do not take into account fertilizers and pesticides to produce the hay and pasture or use of systemic parasite control compounds, typically used in commercial agriculture.

Locally Grown- For large grocery stores this generally means an eight-hour truck drive from the distribution center, not sure about the farm location. It could also mean grown in the US. We think locally grown means you have a relationship with a farmer, such as you might drive by and see their farm, or engage them in conversation at a market, or your local grocer gives you information and possibly a photo of the farm that grows the items you purchase.

Certified Angus Beef means the animal was all or mostly black and meets a certain meat quality standard. This gives a consistency in the marketplace, but says nothing about how the animals were raised.

The list goes on and on. Many of the label claims one sees are to appeal to certain customers as they make their food purchasing decisions. It seems that in some instances, retail perception of food is driving farm policy for many claims. A Certified Organic farmer is producing food in this way because the biology speaks for itself, and the verification is strictly enforced on behalf of that consumer. With so many attributes of Certified Organic that address synthetic chemical avoidance, non-GMO seed usage, animal welfare standards, truth-in-labeling, and so much more, Certified Organic is the gold standard labeling. There is just so, so much behind it. And we are proud to bring it to you weekly.


In Your Share

Asparagus
Green Garlic
Kale Greens
Salad Mix
Strawberries
Radishes
Spinach



Recipes


Kale and Green Garlic Pizza, serves 6-8 (quietexistence.wordpress.com)
1 recipe of pizza dough, rolled out
Chopped or sliced fresh tomatoes
Mozzarella cheese
1 bunch green garlic, thinly sliced
About 5 kale leaves, de-ribbed and chopped
A handful of fresh basil
Place dough on baking sheet and cook for 8-10 minutes at 450°F for 8-10 minutes. Add toppings and bake for another 8 minutes, or until crust is crispy and cheese is melted. Alternatively, this pizza can be cooked on the grill (grill one side of crust first until charred, then add toppings to charred side and grill until dough is cooked through).  

Strawberry Cake, makes two 9-inch loaves (allrecipes.com)
2 C fresh strawberries
3 1/8 C all-purpose flour
2 C white sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 C vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten 
1 1/4 C chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Slice strawberries and place in medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, and set aside while preparing batter. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in large bowl; mix well. Blend oil and eggs into strawberries. Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, blending until dry ingredients are just moistened. Stir in pecans. Divide batter into pans. Bake in preheated oven until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes (test each loaf separately). Let cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn loaves out of pans, and allow to cool before slicing.


Roasted Asparagus and Potatoes with Parmesan
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 T olive oil
1/3 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in upper third. Toss together asparagus, potatoes, oil and ½ tsp each of salt and pepper in a large shallow baking pan, spreading evenly. Roast, stirring once, 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and roast until cheese is melted and golden in spots about 3 minutes more. Serve Immediately.

Barley Salad with Radishes and Green Garlic, ingredient amounts are flexible (honestcooking.com)
Barley
Green garlic
Radishes
Lemon juice and zest
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Pecorino cheese
Cook barley in water or stock and drain. Trim and quarter radishes; cut green garlic into thin slices on the diagonal. Sauté radishes and garlic in olive oil over high heat until the edges begin to brown. Toss with barley and season with lemon, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with shavings of pecorino cheese.

Wilted Kale with Coconut, Ginger, and Lime, serves 4 (myrecipes.com)
½ C coconut milk, divided, plus 1 T
Click to see savings
1 tsp canola oil
1 seeded minced jalapeño
2 tsp minced ginger
8 C kale, destemmed and chopped
Click to see savings
1/4 C water
Click to see savings
1/2 tsp sugar
Click to see savings
Click to see savings2 tsp lime juice
1/8 tsp kosher salt
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add 1 T coconut milk and the canola oil. Add jalapeño and ginger; cook 1 minute. Add kale; cook 2 minutes. Add 1/4 C coconut milk, water, and sugar; cover and cook 4 minutes. Stir in 1/4 C coconut milk, lime juice, and kosher salt.

Monday, May 11, 2015

CSA News, Week 2



Eating Organic – 

Proof Positive 

by Mac Stone, Elmwood Stock Farm 


Let’s start with the premise that what we eat matters to how our human body functions. Let’s also recognize that the conversion from food taken in, to resulting human health, is wildly complex. It seems to be widely accepted by the medical community that we should balance the various types of fats available to us in our diets. Bring your own view on the animal versus plant-based protein theories to the conversation. Organic farmers provide us an opportunity to consume wholesome, healthy fats in our diet. And, there is now evidence showing that how your food is managed on the farm makes a difference for your nutritional well-being.

An 18-month, national study concluded that dairy cows who consumed a forage based grass/legume diet produced milk with 25% less omega-6 fatty acids and 62% more omega-3 fatty acids, compared to cows who consumed a higher percentage of grains and less forage in their diet (Benbrook et al., PLoS One, 2013). The Certified Organic milk tested in the study had an omega-6: omega-3 ratio of 2.28, while the conventional commercially produced milk averaged a ratio of 5.77. It is generally accepted that diets with lower ratios provide us the right balance of fatty acids instead of making our bodies figure out what to do with the wrong kind of fats. All individual omega-3 fatty acids were higher in the organic milk. With encouraging ratios like these, there is no reason to avoid or limit the servings of grass-forage based dairy products, especially since they are so tasty to eat.

Certified Organic farms document and have-third party verification that they operate a grass-forage based system. These systems optimize natural resources and require much less steel, diesel fuel, and pesticides than conventionally produced food products. No genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are allowed in organic farming systems, period. Using simple electric fence technology, farmers can effectively provide grass and forage meals to livestock from pasture in a manner that benefits the pasture itself by allowing a quick regrowth for another meal after several weeks. The legumes in the pasture pull nitrogen from the air in a symbiotic relationship with a rhizobia bacterium.  In a conventional commercial system, grain crops grown with chemically produced nitrogen fertilizers are fed to the livestock. Unless you are purchasing your milk and other dairy products directly from the farmer, the process-verified Certified Organic milk is the only way to know you are getting the good stuff. When you see the organic label, that product has been carefully managed to maintain integrity throughout the processing and distribution system. 

There are other sources of beneficial omega-3 fats, but really, you can only eat so many walnuts, and fish is not so popular for breakfast.  With similar ruminant digestive systems, it stands to reason that beef and lamb would have a similar response to grass-based versus grain-based feeding programs, and the data is being collected (Eatwild.com). Look for Certified Organic beef along with dairy, as it also is verified to be grass-based or totally grass-fed. The beauty of the milk study is the consistency of the sample collection and similarity within feeding systems. 

All you vegetarians and vegans feeling like you don’t have to worry about any of this? Think again. In a study published in the Journal Food Chemistry, Bohn et al., 2013, it was determined that certified organic soybeans contain less omega-6 fatty acids, more total protein, more sugars, and less fiber than conventional systems and/or genetically modified soybean farming systems. From the 35 different variables tracked in this study, among them nutrient profiles and pesticide residues, scientists can accurately identify which of the three production systems was used to produce the beans in blind testing of their model. The vast majority of soybeans grown in this country are patented genetically modified plant varieties, as is corn grain for livestock, and increasingly vegetables. In a fruit fly study, the flies lived longer and had more offspring when consuming organic soybeans and/or organic vegetables than when consuming conventionally farmed equivalent diets (Chhabra et al., PLoS One, 2013).

So it seems conventional thought is telling us to avoid or limit our intake of animal products because of the fat content. When those products come from conventionally farmed feeding systems, that assumption is correct. When meat and dairy products are produced in organic grass-forage based systems that are closely aligned with the natural ruminant digestive tract, the resulting nutritional quality is right in line with our own dietary needs. Therefore it stands to reason, if you eat organic from the “Farm-U-see”, you can avoid a need for a pharmacy. Since we eat for our health, it’s comforting to know how to get it right. Maybe we should supplant conventional wisdom with traditional wisdom, you are what you eat.

This week’s news is a reprint of an article Mac wrote for MD-Update Magazine, a statewide publication for the medical community published in Lexington, KY.

In Your Share :


Asparagus 
One of the very first vegetables ready on the farm is the perennial asparagus spears. Interestingly, asparagus is related to onions, garlic, and other members of the lily family.  It is a good source of rutin, a substance that prevents small blood vessels from breaking.  Medieval medicine valued asparagus for the treatment of heart palpitations and as a diuretic.  Asparagus is high in carotenoids, B complex, vitamin C and vitamin E as well as potassium, iron, and zinc.  Like other vegetables, it will lose some, though not all, of its B-complex and vitamin C during the cooking process.  Asparagus contains no fat and only 35 calories per one cup serving.  Try it raw as a snack, in salads, or as a dipping vegetable to reap its full flavor and nutritional benefits!

Dried Beans: Jacob’s Cattle Beans, Black Turtle, Vermont Cranberry, White Cannellini OR Peregion
Corn Meal 
Bake some cornbread, add to homemade pizza crust, or use the meal as a dry batter for oven fried foods – a natural alternative for those seeking gluten-free. No preservatives are added, store cornmeal at room temperature for only a day or two - best storage is in the freezer.

Spinach

Strawberries

Sweet Potatoes


Green Garlic

Lettuce

Radishes 
Recipes: 



Sweet Potato Soup, serves 4-6, a Simply in Season recipe

1 medium onion, chopped

Olive oil or coconut oil

2 large or 4 smaller sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

5 C beef or vegetable broth

2 C frozen tomatoes with the juice OR a good brand of jarred tomatoes

¼ tsp ground white pepper

¾ C orange juice

Sauté onion in 1 tsp oil in a soup pot until translucent.  Add sweet potatoes and broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until sweet potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes.  Remove from heat. Stir in tomatoes and pepper.  Puree in blender or food process, or use hand blender to process until smooth.  Return soup to pot.  Add orange juice and additional water to reach desired consistency, heat gently until hot and serve.



Cinnamon-Roasted Sweet Potato & Apple Salad with Caramel Vinaigrette Chicken, recipe adapted from fat toad farm.com

¼ C balsamic vinegar

¼ C extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp ground mustard

½ T caramel sauce (melted–you want it runny)

2 chicken breasts OR half a cut-up chicken

1 medium sized sweet potato

1 large apple 

1 T extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp cinnamon

pinch (or two) of sugar

lettuce or spinach

¼ - ½ C feta cheese

¼ C candied pecans

Whisk together balsamic vinegar, oil, ground mustard and caramel sauce. Place chicken in a large zip lock bag and pour ¾ of the vinaigrette over the chicken. Let marinate for 1-2 hours. Preheat oven to 425°F. Peel and cut the sweet potato and apple into slices or chunks (whichever you prefer). Place slices in a bowl and drizzle olive oil over the top.  Toss to coat. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar in and toss until even coated again.  Spread the potatoes and apples in a single layer on baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until tender (tossing half way through). Meanwhile, rinse the lettuce or spinach and chop if desired, place in a large salad bowl and set aside. Cook your chicken over medium heat until cooked through. Cut into chunks or shred. Lay chicken, sweet potatoes, and apples over your bed of lettuce. Sprinkle with feta cheese and pecans. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.


Kentucky Asparagus, recipe adapted from the Governor’s Mansion as showcased in Kentucky Monthly Magazine. This is the most popular recipe we share with CSA members for preparing asparagus and can be used for any amount – small or large.
1 ½ to 2 pounds asparagus
½ C soy sauce (reduce slightly if using balsamic)
½ C sugar (we use honey instead)
½ C white wine vinegar (balsamic is good too)
toasted sesame seeds
Mix together equal parts of soy sauce and sugar, and white wine vinegar. Heat the mixture in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until dissolved. Cool and pour over blanched asparagus.
To blanch asparagus, bring to boil a large pot of water. Place asparagus in the boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove and immediately plunge them in ice-cold water to cool. Drain. Pour marinade over asparagus and let sit for 4 to 6 hours. Drain, place on serving tray and top with toasted sesame seeds. Recipe can be doubled or halved.




Corn Bread Recipe

Mix together:

1 C organic cornmeal

1 C flour

½ C sugar

3 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

In separate bowl, mix together:

4 organic eggs, beaten slightly

1 ½ C yogurt or sour cream or buttermilk or   cottage cheese

2 T melted butter (use from the 4 T melted in skillet, see below)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Melt 4 T butter in medium cast iron skillet in oven (use 2 T above and leave 2 T in hot skillet).  Mix wet and dry ingredients together briefly, pour into hot skillet with melted butter and bake for 25 minutes.  Check with toothpick to come out clean. Our thanks to Sunflower Sundries for the recipe.



Hearty Bean Tostada adapted from a Nourishing Words recipe

cooked beans (about 1 ½ hours in water with a carrot, garlic and small onion, for flavor; salt when cooked)

garlic (green garlic if available)

spinach

carrots, grated

green onions, sliced

salsa

corn tortillas

olive oil

cheese (optional)

Heat up the cooked beans in olive oil with a few cloves of chopped garlic. Cook the corn tortillas in a small amount of olive oil in a cast iron skillet, or brush with oil and bake for ten minutes at 400 degrees. Layer spinach, beans, vegetables, cheese if using, and salsa on the hot tortillas, and enjoy after a long day!