Monday, September 24, 2012

Week 21, CSA


Sometimes We Can't Just Let Things Go By . . .

Many of you may have seen the headline on a report from Stanford University, “Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods."

A more accurate headline should have been  “Stanford research confirms health benefits driving consumers to organic.”  But would we have learned about the study if the positive sentence were the lead one? 

First, for the record, the report is a review of many different research studies, not its own designed study. It is very difficult to combine studies with differing scopes and draw single strong conclusions. In conversation with agricultural researchers from the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University, they pointed out the conservative statistical tests used in the Stanford report brought the variation of each study into the same range, therefore no differences show up, although many of the individual studies do show a positive significant difference in nutrient content of organic foods.

As we have touched on before in your weekly newsletter, insects do not pressure organic crops when they have such a strong balance of nutrients in them to produce the com-pounds needed to resist chewing and piercing insect-feeders. It just goes to reason that the produce itself would have a similar balance of micro-nutrients, and those often are not included in studies like these. The Stanford report does go on to indicate higher levels of anti-oxidants are found in organic produce, those all-important nutrients, that contribute to a healthy body and offer disease suppression. 

One major conclusion of the report showed clear benefits to consuming organic foods due to a reduced exposure to pesticides. Face it, how well can one wash broccoli or strawberries? All pesticides have a ‘days to harvest interval’ after application, but there are serious insecticides, miticides, fungicides, and growth regulators that really do not need to be anywhere near the foods we consume. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen annual list.  

Not only is organic produce not contaminated with pesticides, but also organic grains are lower in mycotoxins.  Mycotoxins are toxic compounds associated with molds on or in grains. They can invade the grains during production or in post-harvest handling and storage. Because most organic grains are handled in smaller lots, not commingled with many other producers’ grains, and often sold locally rather than stored or shipped great distances, they are less prone to coming into contact with these molds. 
The report did find that a benefit of consuming organic meat and poultry is the reduced exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, along with the beneficial elevated levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Many non-organic farms add sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics to the feed to stimulate growth of their animals. Anyone can walk into a farm supply store and purchase them with no restrictions. These antibiotics are not only showing up in streams and rivers, but also in under-ground aquifers. There is evidence that now shows human pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to treatment because of this indiscriminate use in food animals.

The higher presence of the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids is a testament to raising the animals on pasture and with grazing systems that naturally expose the animals to the fatty acids in their diets. Important is not just what the animals eat, but allowing their digestive systems to function properly at the right pH level with an optimum balance of nutrients. 

The study itself has added some fuel to the fire of organic versus conventional production methods.  Interestingly, the inaccurate, but attention-grabbing headline for the Stanford research study has generated even more follow up news reports.  This begs the question, why does organic research have to misrepresent the results to get some ‘airtime’?

Nonetheless, a thorough consideration uncovers some pretty clear evidence.  Eating organic food is much better for you and for the environment.

In Your Share

Bok Choy – organic

Lettuce – organic

Yellow Sweet Candy Onion – organic

White Onion - organic

Sweet Bell Peppers – organic

Hot Peppers - organic

Potatoes – organic
Sweet Potatoes - organic
Garlic – organic

Purple Top White Turnips with Greens – organic

Raspberries - organic

Sweet Corn - organic

Tomatoes - organic

Recipes to Enjoy

Velvet Chicken with Bok Choy our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe originally from Eating Well magazine, she recommends serving it over cooked brown rice.  If you prefer a little more spiciness, try using one of your fresh hot peppers.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into ¼ -inch-thick bite-size slices
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 T plus ½ tsp cornstarch, divided
2 tsp plus 2 T rice wine or dry sherry, divided
½ tsp salt, divided
3 T peanut oil or canola oil, divided
1/3 C reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ tsp ground white pepper
6 C water
2/3 C chopped scallions, divided
1 T finely julienned or minced fresh ginger
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
12 oz trimmed bok choy, cut into 2-inch pieces
Combine chicken, egg white, 1 T cornstarch, 2 tsp rice wine or sherry, and ¼ tsp salt in a medium bowl. Stir until the cornstarch is totally dissolved and no clumps are visible. Add 1 T oil and stir to combine.  Marinate in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine broth, soy sauce, white pepper and the remaining ½ tsp cornstarch and 2 T rice wine in a small bowl.

When the chicken has 10 minutes to go, bring water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add 1 T oil. Reduce the heat to low. Carefully add the chicken to the barely simmering water; gently stir so it doesn’t clump together. Cook just until opaque but not cooked through, about 1 minute. Carefully drain the chicken in a colander and shake to remove excess water.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in the remaining 1 T oil. Add 1/3 C scallions, ginger and crushed red pepper; using a metal spatula, stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add bok choy and the remaining ¼ tsp salt.  Stir-fry until the bok choy is almost crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chicken.  Stir the broth mixture again, swirl it into the wok and stir-fry until the chicken is just cooked through and lightly coated with sauce, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Serve sprinkled with the remaining 1/3 C scallions.

Mashed Turnips with Caramelized Onions, recipe from The Wholesome Chef

2-3 turnips, green tops removed, reserved for another dish
¼ C olive oil
1 small yellow onion
½ C unsweetened coconut milk
3 T butter or earth balance
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
Peel and dice turnips into uniform cubes, add to a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer 25 minutes until fork tender. In the meantime heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Slice onion into thin rings and add to oil, cook until brown and caramelized stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Heat milk with butter over low heat until butter is melted. Add milk/butter mixture to a food processor with tender turnips, puree until smooth. Add salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. Top with onions and olive oil to serve.

Sweet Potato Hummus, a Sarah Britton recipe
2 cups chickpeas, cooked
zest of 1 organic lemon, juice of ½ lemon
3 small sweet potatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
2-3 pinches sea salt
3 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic

:  Don't get too hung up on the quantities of ingredients with this recipe - it's hard to make a mistake! Use more or less sweet potato than called for, more or less chickpeas if that suits you (or even leave them out!), omit the cayenne or throw in more if you like it spicy. Just work with what you have and what tastes good to you.

Place sweet potatoes (with the skin on) in a baking dish in a 400 F oven and bake until very soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size.
  Let the sweet potatoes cool down so that you can easily remove their skins - they should just peel off. Place them in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend on high to mix.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of cracked black pepper, and whatever herb you have on hand. This is wonderful with raw veggies, healthy crackers, or pita bread.   This dip doubles as an amazing sandwich spread, particularly on crusty sourdough with avocado, sprouts, and fresh herbs. Finally, you can use as a thickener for soups and stews.