Monday, July 27, 2015

Week 13, CSA News

Current Event: Thought You Would Want to Know

As Congress debates whether or not foods containing Genetically Modified ingredients should be required to be labeled as such, it’s time for us to weigh in on the issue. From our vantage point there are some substantive concerns, and we thought you would want to know our thoughts on what is currently going on.

What if these foods, with genetic codes that could never have possibly occurred in nature, only in a laboratory, disrupt the human microbiome in some yet to be seen way? When genes are transferred from one species to another, the naturally occurring chromosomes are altered to allow the organism to express certain traits that before were not possible. Sure they are ultimately just proteins, peptides, and such, most likely degraded by our digestive juices and microbial partners in our gut. But ecosystems evolve over long periods of time, and sudden mutant gene sequences are an anomaly.

The jury is still out on the impact of these foods on humans, and on the livestock that consume them, then producing meat and milk for our society. The fact that there is evidence of concern by legitimate scientists is enough to cause push-back until the science is clarified, one way or the other. But, there is more to the story.

In the Wild West days of genetic engineering of food crops, foreign genes were literally splattered into the crop plant with a type of gun. The resulting mix of cells were grown out using tissue culture techniques, and the ones that expressed the desired characteristics the best were saved for seed production and commercialization. Now, a bacterium is used to deliver the genes to a precise location on the chromosome where it is known to be the most advantageous, saving years of trial and error. So, if you need worm control for your corn, simply insert a virus into your corn genetics that kills the worm, and that trait will be in every cell of that corn plant. Problem solved. In those early days, corn farmers were required to keep some percentage of non-Genetically Engineered corn in their fields to allow the worms some refuge, and slow their ability to develop resistance to this low-dose killer. These refuge areas are no longer deemed necessary, thus there is now concern whether naturally occurring viruses will continue to be effective if ever needed.

Attempting to stay ahead of Mother Nature with technology is proving futile, at best. Now, “stacking” is the norm. Depending on which weeds and insect or disease pests you have, a corn farmer can select a designer package for their farm. The idea that farmers would spray less chemical toxins because GE would replace the need to control them with messy spray mixes, has not panned out. Now the genetic manipulation is tightly tied to a prescribed spray regimen. The most commonly used herbicides, Round-up (glysophate) and 2 4-D, are being linked to serious environmental and personal health issues. Round-up resistant weeds are showing up around the country as well. Please remember, farmers that grow these crops are not the bad guys. The marketplace and farm policy drives them to this as the only way to survive in the system that they know.

And if that is not enough, if a neighbor’s GMO corn pollen blows over and pollinates an organic farmer’s corn, it cannot be sold as organic. In fact, if the farmer saved some corn for seed that unknowingly had been contaminated, they can be sued by the seed company for stealing the “technology!” What? This flies in the face of an American farming culture that is known for responsibility: if the neighbor’s bull comes over the fence and destroys the corn, the neighbor is liable for the value of the corn. There are relatively few corn strains remaining that have zero degree of GE contamination. Certified Organic is the only way to know.

Organic certification agencies evaluate their organic farmer’s ability to keep GMOs out. Whether it is planting corn at a different time to reduce the risk of contamination, or verifying the seeds purchased are free of these technologies, documents and field buffers are scrutinized to the N’th degree. Processed foods that carry the organic label have undergone an un-imaginable dissection of the ingredients to assure consumers there are no genetically altered ingredients contained in them.

You will hear various numbers, but 90+ percent of the corn and soybeans in this country are now GMO! And since these show up in many thousands of processed foods, it is virtually impossible to avoid them without sourcing organic. Virtually all the beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and dairy products are from animals consuming these genetically engineered grains.

Just a few days ago, members of the US House of Representatives passed a potential law that consumers do not need to know whether or not a food product contains genetically engineered ingredients. It is now headed to the Senate to establish a federal policy that will supersede any state laws. This is in reaction to several states that passed laws declaring that foods containing GMOs sold in their state must be labeled because their citizens want to know. Why would our federal representatives mandate withholding information that generates concerns for so many people? Making a call or sending an email might make a difference. Sadly, bad public policy will force these GE foods upon our society, our environment, and our bodies. Ultimately, sourcing certified organic foods is the only way to know you are not supporting such practices.

In Your Share :

Red Beets

Sweet Corn


Lacinato Kale Greens


Hot Chile Pepper

Sweet Bell Pepper




Potatoes and Kale Baked with Tomatoes and Bacon recipe by Katherine Deumling, Chair of Slow Food USA.  She says that “this makes quite a bit but it makes a great main dish and is excellent the next day so it’s seems worth making the whole amount but by all means reduce the quantities if you like.”
5-6 medium to large waxy potatoes (gold, red, fingerlings –use more if you’re using fingerlings), scrubbed and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 bunch kale, well washed and stems trimmed if they seem tough and then all of it chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices bacon, diced
1 ½ – 2 C chopped, drained canned tomatoes or chopped roasted tomatoes
1 ½  – 2 T olive oil
1 ½ tsp sea salt
freshly ground pepper
½ C whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a large bowl combine all the ingredients except the cream. Toss everything together well and transfer to an 8 x 13 or other large-ish baking dish. Pour the cream over everything. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and stir everything well—this is important to get the kale mixed in well and re-coated with liquid since it may still be a bit chewy. Return to oven, covered and bake another 20 – 30 minutes. If there is quite a bit of liquid in the pan you can remove the foil and bake uncovered to reduce it a bit.

When everything is tender remove from the oven and add the pepper and taste for salt.  Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

Kale Salad with Pecorino and Walnuts, smitten kitchen updated recipe.  We’ve shared several kale salad recipes in past newsletters, but there is not a week that goes by that someone doesn’t mention how they finally tried eating kale as a salad, and how good it is!  We get a lot of requests for this type of salad recipe.

½ C walnut halves or pieces
¼ C golden raisins
1 T white wine vinegar
1 T water
¼ C panko or slightly coarse homemade breadcrumbs (from a thin slice of hearty bread)
1 tiny clove garlic, minced or pressed
coarse or kosher salt
3 T olive oil
1 bunch kale, washed and patted dry
2 oz (about ½ C) pecorino cheese, grated or ground in a food processor
juice of half a lemon
freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes, to taste

Prepare walnuts: Heat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, tossing once. Let cool and coarsely chop.

Prepare raisins: In a small saucepan over low heat, simmer white wine vinegar, water and raisins for 5 minutes, until plump and soft. Set aside in liquid.

Prepare crumbs: Toast bread crumbs, garlic and 2 tsp of the olive oil in a skillet together with a pinch of salt until golden. Set aside.

Prepare kale: Trim heavy stems off kale and remove ribs. I always find removing the ribs annoying with a knife, because the leaves want to roll in on the knife and make it hard to get a clean cut. Instead, I’ve taken to tearing the ribs off with my fingers, which is much easier for me. Stack sections of leaves and roll them into a tube, then cut them into very thin ribbons crosswise.

Assemble salad: Put kale in a large bowl. Add pecorino, walnuts and raisins (leaving any leftover vinegar mixture in dish), remaining 2 T olive oil and lemon juice and toss until all the kale ribbons are coated. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and some of the reserved vinegar mixture from the raisins, if needed. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving as it helps the ingredients come together. Just before serving, toss with breadcrumbs and, if needed, a final 1 tsp drizzle of olive oil.

Roasted Beet and Barley Salad, serves 6, recipe from Substitute another healthy grain for the barley if not already in your pantry.

1 lb small red beets
6 C water
¾ C pearled barley, rinsed
1¼ tsp salt, divided
¼ C cider vinegar
2 T olive oil
1½ T whole-grain mustard
1 T local honey
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 C thinly sliced celery
1 C thinly sliced radishes
¼ C sliced green onions
¼ C slivered fresh basil
½ C walnuts or pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 400°F. Scrub beets under running water. Wrap in foil, making a packet, and place in the oven. Roast until tender, about 1-1½ hours. When cool, slip off the skins with your fingers and quarter the beets. Meanwhile, combine water, barley, and ¾ tsp salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes, until barley is just tender. Drain well and let cool. Whisk vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, pepper, and remaining salt in a large bowl. Add the beets, along with the rest of the ingredients, except for basil and nuts, and toss to coat. Let the mixture marinate in the dressing for about 15 minutes. Top with basil and nuts just before serving.

Calabacitas Soup (Cheesy Squash and Corn Soup) Our thanks to a CSA member who shares that she found this soup more than 10 years ago on the Cooking Light community board. She says, “I have altered it through the years and I have found it to be extremely flexible. Have lots of corn? Use more. Like less heat, opt out of the jalapeno, etc.” Some versions call for canned green chilies.

1 T olive oil
1 C chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and diced
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground cumin
At least 2 C of chicken or vegetable broth
1½ C chopped tomatoes
4 medium squash and/or zucchini, diced
2 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob
3 oz light cream cheese, cubed
½ C shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil and sauté the onion until tender. Add garlic and jalapeno and cook 1 minute longer. Add the squash and/or zucchini and corn and cook an additional 1 minute. Add chicken broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, or until squash is barely tender. Reduce heat to low and stir in cream cheese and shredded cheese. Stir until cheeses are melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and top with additional shredded cheese and cilantro.

Five Minute Beets, Deborah Madison recipe, serves 4-6
3-5 beets, about 1 pound
1 T butter
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
Lemon juice or vinegar to taste
2 T chopped parsley, tarragon, dill, or other herb

Grate beets into a coarse shred. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the beets, and toss them with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Add ¼ C water, then cover the pan and cook over medium heat until the beets are tender. Remove the lid and raise the heat to boil off any excess water. Taste for salt, season with a little lemon juice or vinegar—balsamic or red wine is good—and toss with the herb. Stir in a tablespoon of yogurt or sour cream if desired.