What’s a Little Spray?
A farmer friend and regular customer, who is also a food intellectual having fought off some insidious health issues, stopped by the farmer’s market booth recently to say she had gotten some funny answers from a few other farmers at the market to her question, “has this been sprayed?” That conversation led to this week’s topic about the low-down on pesticide use on, or in, non-organic produce.
According to a publication from the University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, there are 49 insecticides and 40 fungicides labeled as approved for use “on” cucurbits (cucumbers, squash, melons, etc). Extensive research has been done to verify their effectiveness in our climate, and specific regimens are recommended that commercial growers follow. In general, the fungicides are sprayed weekly, or more often in rainy weather, in an attempt at prophylactic protection from plant diseases. Insecticide use follows the seasonal pattern of each insect species as they multiply and mature during the growing season. Each of these highly toxic chemical compounds comes with numerous label warnings.
First are the warnings to the applicator. Bio-hazard suits and full face respirators are normally recommended. When spraying these chemicals on the food plants, personal protective equipment is no laughing matter, but it does seem odd that this is the norm. Because of the potential for wind drift, applicator safety is a concern. Additionally, there is information on the product label with regard for minimizing the impact to non-target areas adjacent to the food crop. What happens when a nozzle gets stopped up, or there is an extra gallon in the tank because the ground speed and field size was miscalculated? Then there will be a chart on the label with the re-entry interval, or the length of time before a human, or presumably pets or wildlife (bees?), should wait before entering the field for risk of exposure to excessive amounts of the toxin. But not to fear, there will also be a chart advising the grower on how long to wait before harvesting the crop for sale, anywhere from zero to seven days.
Apparently these compounds are broken down by the “environment”, which means bacteria, fungi, sunlight and diluted by rainfall. What really happens is actually unclear. How well can spray be washed off in tap water, especially off of something like a cantaloupe.
Then there are the systemic insecticides. They are applied directly to the soil, taken up by the roots, and distributed throughout the plant- including the part you eat! Really, we are not making this up. One would hope that all farmers obey the delay-to-harvest interval, as there is no on-farm monitoring. These chemicals may be applied through trickle irrigation systems or with the transplants when set out mixed with water. Technically the grower could use these products and post a “no-spray” sign or answer a question at the market, with “no” we don’t spray. But you ain’t gonna wash that off!
Which brings us to the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) version of insect control. The scientists put the toxic compound into the genetic code of the plant, so every cell replication takes the toxin with it to be ready for an attack of pests, in case it happens. You ain’t gonna wash that off either! Because of the resilience of Mother Nature, the so called “pests” adapt and/or mutate to exist in this new environment, resistant strains begin to survive, and then the geneticists have to find another toxin to stack into the gene pool to be sure nothing gets by them. The arms race is on, and it seems pretty short sighted to think science will out-smart nature and evolution. The developers of this technology disclose very little information on the basis of proprietary secrets, in fact holding intellectual property rights to the various seed lines, and the farmer is breaking the law to save seeds for next year’s crop.
In all fairness, certified organic farmers are allowed to use some sprays. The extremely short list of naturally occurring materials, have been approved by the National Organic Standards Board in a transparent and open forum. These materials can only be applied when all other cultural methods of control like site selection, air drainage, soil moisture management, rotation, etc. have not proved to be effective in minimizing pest damage. The other difference is organic farmers advise the certification agency of any sprays considered for use, and the agency inspects and verifies the farm’s compliance. As we have built up the strength of our soils through crop rotation and natural fertility enhancement, we use few if any natural sprays on our crops these days.
Next time you are shopping at a market, ask the vendors first if they grew it. Then ask if it has been sprayed, if so for what and how many times. Then ask if they use systemic insecticides or GMO seeds. At Elmwood Stock Farm we know none of this is necessary, much less a good idea, even though mainstream agriculture recommends it. This is one reason we are so adamant about the value of organic food. Just ask us, we will gladly let you know how we raise safe, healthy food for you.
In Your Share :
Grilled Yellow Squash with Fresh Dill Vinaigrette and Feta
4 yellow squash or zucchini
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp sugar
1 ½ Tbsp sherry vinegar (or any vinegar of your choice)
2 Tbsp fresh chopped dill
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Crumbled feta cheese
Preheat gas grill, charcoal grill, or stovetop grill surface. In a bowl, whisk together mustard, vinegar, and chopped dill. Slowly whisk in olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir in shallot slices; set aside. Slice squash in half, lengthwise, then add them all to the bowl of vinaigrette. Turn the over to coat all sides. Leave in marinade for at least 20 minutes. Remove squash from marinade and grill over medium-high heat for a couple minutes on each side, until grill marks appear and squash is just tender. Remove to a plate, spoon remaining vinaigrette over the squash and sprinkle with feta cheese. Serve immediately.
Black Rice and Broccoli with Almonds, serves 4 (a Martha Stewart recipe)
1 cup black rice
1 lb. broccoli, cut into small florets, stems peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¾ tsp coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 scallions, thinly sliced
In a heavy-bottomed medium pot, bring rice and 1 ¾ cups water to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender and water is absorbed, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl. Let cool slightly. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss broccoli and garlic with 2 Tbsp oil. Season with ¼ tsp salt and pepper. Roast, stirring once, until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and reserve garlic; transfer broccoli to bowl with rice. Remove garlic from skins. Place in a small bowl; mash. Whisk in mustard, vinegar, remaining 2 Tbsp oil, and ¼ tsp salt. Drizzle over salad. Add almonds, parsley, and scallions; toss. Season with remaining ¼ tsp salt and pepper and serve.
Sautéed Cabbage, serves 6 (an Ina Garten recipe)
1 head green cabbage (about 2½ lbs.)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
Cut the cabbage in half and, with the cut-side down, slice each half as thinly as possible around the core, as though you were making coleslaw. Discard the core. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, salt, and pepper and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender and beginning to brown. Season to taste and serve warm.
Lime Cucumber Salsa, serves 4 (a Taste of Home: Farmers Market Cookbook recipe)
1 large cucumber, seeded and diced
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
3 green onions, sliced
2 T minced fresh cilantro
2 T lime juice
2 T olive oil
1 tsp grated lime peel
½ tsp salt, optional
¼ tsp pepper
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
Old-Fashioned Tangy Cabbage, serves 6 (recipe from mrfood.com)
1 head green cabbage, shredded
2 apples cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ cup apple juice
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
In a soup pot, combine all the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil over high, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 25-30 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and cabbage is tender. Serve hot next to a main dish.
Squash Patties, serves 12 (a recipe from allrecipes.com)
8 medium yellow squash
1 ½ Tbsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Colby, jack)
Ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
Grate squash and onion with a cheese grater or in a food processor; place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and drain about 30 minutes, or until no longer moist. Once squash and onion is drained, mix with flour, cornmeal, egg, and cheese. Season with pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and drop squash mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls into the skillet. Cook 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Serve with sour cream and hot sauce.
Kale and Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese, serves 4 (recipe from myrecipes.com)
4 medium kale leaves, stems removed
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 medium red onions, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
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1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
8 (1-ounce) slices multigrain bread Click to see savings
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1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided (about 1/4 cup)
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3.5 ounces shredded raclette, about 1 cup, or any other cheese that melts well
Bring a small pot of water to a boil; add kale. Remove from heat and let stand 4 minutes or until kale is bright green. Drain and rinse under cold water and pat dry. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, onion, pepper, and salt. Cook 10 minutes or until onion is tender and browned, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar, tossing to coat. Coarsely chop onion. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly butter 1 side of each bread slice and toast, butter-side down, until beginning to brown. While browning, sprinkle 1 tablespoon Parmesan on each bread slice in pan. Top with 1 kale leaf, one-fourth of onion mixture, and about 1/4 cup raclette. Top with other toasted bread slice. Transfer sandwich to a baking sheet. Repeat procedure with remaining 6 bread slices. Bake sandwiches at 300°F for 5 minutes or until cheese melts.