Friday, July 30, 2010

Turkeys at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

There is a scene in "Food, Inc." in which a chicken farmer discusses the putrid, awful conditions in which she previously raised chickens for a multinational "food" company.

The turkey shed at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a much different animal. The young turkeys in the video below have plenty of space to roam and there is absolutely no smell.

By the way, the turkey meat (from adult birds) is delicious; I bought two drumsticks and sautéed them that night.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Foraging Pig at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

Here's an up-close video of a Berkshire pig (an heirloom variety) foraging for food in the woods at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

Thankfully, there is no genetically modified corn and soy in sight.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Scene at Stone Barns: Will Climb for Lunch

An important player in the recent farm-to-table movement is Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, which we visited the other day.

The Center’s mission:

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a farm, a kitchen, a classroom–an exhibit, a laboratory, a campus. The mission of this unique, nonprofit, member-driven collaboration is to celebrate, teach and advance community-based food production and enjoyment, from farm to classroom to table.
Each time I go, I learn something new. This visit’s highlight was seeing the livestock up close and appreciating the civil manner in which animals can be raised. It was a starkly different scene than what was portrayed in “Food, Inc.,” the Academy Award-nominated documentary.

Mother Nature is amazing, as witnessed from the two photos. What to do if you are a hungry sheep not tall enough to reach your meal (leaves on the tree)? Simple; use your friend as a step stool!

I’ll post videos of the turkeys and pigs in action tomorrow and Friday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No Future for Fish? Elizabeth Kolbert: "The Scales Fall"

Eating fish isn’t as simple as it used to be, with decisions to be made about sustainability issues and wild vs. farmed (choose wild).

To say the future of fish (and fishing) is threatened is an understatement, according to “The Scales Fall,” Elizabeth Kolbert’s article in the current issue of The New Yorker.

Kolbert writes:
"If the Atlantic bluefin tuna were the first species to be fished into oblivion, its destruction would be shameful. But, of course, its story has become routine. Cod, once so plentiful off the coast of Newfoundland that they could be scooped up in baskets, are now scarce. The same goes for halibut, haddock, swordfish, marlin, and skate; it’s been calculated that stocks of large predatory fish have declined by ninety per cent in the past half century."
Click here to read the entire story.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Junk Food Advertising: What Next?

I recognize that the days of people churning their own butter from their own cows are done, but I’ll never accept how moneyed interests dictate our food choices and, by extension, our health.

An article in The New York Times this weekend addressed the battle over food companies’ marketing of junk food to kids. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, consumers and our health care system are the losers.

How many more billions of dollars will we waste treating avoidable obesity and type 2 diabetes because “ . . . a hard-nosed effort by the federal government to forge tougher advertising standards that favor more healthful products has become stalled amid industry opposition and deep divisions among regulators”?

To those who think that government should be minimized and personal responsibility is the answer, I’ll argue that trusting the big food corporations—whose main purpose is to make money—has gotten us into the mess we find ourselves healthwise.

Junk food marketing campaigns are created by brilliant people utilizing cutting-edge psychology and extensive budgets, all to get our three-year-olds to kick and scream (literally). I believe that there should be no marketing aimed specifically at children.

While I agree that certain measures proposed by readers who commented on the article—getting rid of our televisions, saying “no” to our kids, etc.—would be effective, I’m not sure how feasible they are.

Click here to read “Ad Rules Stall, Keeping Cereal a Cartoon Staple.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

How to Freeze Berries (Easily)

I picked several pints of wild blackberries and wineberries on Wednesday. Being that I had made jam with the previous batch, I made a crisp yesterday. But I still had a boatload (not a technical term) of berries, so I froze the rest.

Freezing is a great way to preserve food, especially abundant in-season fruits and vegetables that are not as tasty and much more expensive during the non-growing season.

To freeze the berries, I washed and dried them, laid them in a single layer on a baking sheet, put the baking sheet in the freezer, waited for the berries to freeze and then put the frozen berries into plastic bags.

The single layer prevents the berries from sticking together, but if your freezer is too small for a baking sheet, use a bowl or container. You should be able to break apart the frozen berries.

And don’t forget to label the bags. Trust me, you probably won’t remember what’s what come December.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How to Make Jam (Easily)

I made a jam from the blackberries and wineberries I discussed in Monday’s video blog.

It’s as simple as:

Washing the fruit, putting the fruit in a pot with sugar and lemon juice, cooking the mixture over medium-high heat so the fruit breaks a
part and releases its juices, and continuing to cook the mixture until it thickens to almost the desired consistency.

Other points of interest:
  • How much sugar? Many recipes call for equal amounts of sugar and fruit. I usually use one part sugar to two parts fruit, and if the fruit is really sweet, I go even less on the sugar.
  • Transfer the still-warm mixture into a glass jar; it will thicken further as it cools. (This is easier and less messy than letting the mixture cool in the pot and then transferring it to a jar.)
  • Pectin, a natural thickening agent, is found in fruit, so there’s really no need to buy powdered pectin.
  • Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to Store Fresh Basil

Fresh basil is abundant and cheap this time of year, but it is also very delicate. Basil doesn’t do well in the refrigerator—it will wilt and/or develop brown spots.

The basil in the photo is three days old but looks as fresh as when I cut it. All I’ve been doing is storing it in a glass of cold water, left on the kitchen counter. I change the water daily.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Senator Chuck Schumer on Genetically Engineered Food

I just received an email from one of my senators, Chuck Schumer, in response to an email I sent him several months ago asking his stance on genetically engineered food. Can anyone translate?
Dear Mr. Endelman:

Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about genetically engineered food. I agree that food safety laws should be able to respond to the possible consequences of genetically engineered crops, particularly those crops that contain antibiotic-resistant genes, viral promoters and foreign proteins never before consumed by humans.

Agriculture is being transformed by rapid advances in technology, and techniques to enhance the genetic makeup of agricultural plants and animals are constantly evolving. Producers are interested in the application of new technologies to improve productivity, consistency, and quality; to introduce new food, fiber, and medical products; and to protect the environment.

The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council produced a report assessing the food safety risks of consuming genetically engineered food. The report concluded that unexpected and unintended compositional changes arise with all forms of plant and animal genetic modification, but found that, so far, no genetically engineering related adverse human health effects have been documented. However, the report's authors cited "sizeable gaps" in the ability to identify compositional changes caused by all forms of genetic modification—whether genetically engineered or conventional—and their relevance for human health, and they recommended new approaches for assessing the safety of new foods both before and after they enter the market.

The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world due to the hard work of government regulatory agencies and the precautions taken by the food industry. Our country’s track record of success does not mean, however, that now is a time to rest on our laurels. We must be vigilant in addressing food safety issues as they come, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to protect consumers from potentially harmful agricultural products.

Again, thank you for contacting me about this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me again if I can ever be of assistance to you on this or any other matter.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

Friday, July 16, 2010

BP's Oil Spill and Its Effect on the Oyster Industry

Wondering about the effects of the BP oil spill on the fishing and seafood industries in the Gulf?

Click here to read Dan Barry’s great piece from The New York Times this week, which detailed the interconnectedness of those involved in the water-to-plate journey of the Gulf’s oysters.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Buy Our Chicken: No Razor Blades Added!

I was in a big box store yesterday and was amazed at how often “all natural” was slapped onto packaged food, even when less than healthy ingredients were present.

However, the labeling that really pissed me off came from our friends at Perdue, who were selling “All Natural” chicken marked “No Hormones or Steroids Added†.”

Finding the ”†” on the package, I read that “† Federal Regulations Prohibit the Use of Hormones or Steroids in Poultry.”

(Perdue, please accept my heartfelt thanks for following United States law!)

But there was no mention anywhere on the package of antibiotics, which we also must avoid.

REMEMBER: Federal regulations allow antibiotics to be used in poultry, pork and beef.
Beef is also allowed to be administered hormones and steroids.

Thankfully, chicken free of antibiotics is becoming easier to find. Two popular brands are Bell & Evans and Murray’s, plus many supermarkets’ house labels now offer antibiotic-free chicken.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lycopene in Watermelons

Because it’s been so hot in New York City the past couple weeks, I’ve been eating a ton of watermelon.

Most of the time I don’t buy organic, since watermelon ranks toward the safer end of the
Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.

I’ll usually purchase a half or quarter of a melon. I am looking for flesh that is a deep red color and not mealy.

A redder melon usually signifies more lycopene, a powerful antioxidant (also found in tomatoes) that counters free radicals (the bad guys) in our bodies.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Methyl Iodide in California: Concern for Everyone

There’s a battle taking place in California and we should all be concerned, especially those of us who love strawberries.

Methyl iodide, a pesticide, is close to winning approval by California. If that happens, it will be used by the state’s strawberry growers. (California grows 90 percent of the country’s strawberries.)

Click here to read an informative article from Rodale News about the issue. Everyone—not just residents of California and strawberry lovers—should know about methyl iodide, since it has been approved for use in 47 states and is employed for a variety of crops.

Here’s one important paragraph from the article:

The concern is that it will harm people living near strawberry fields because of the chemical's ability to cause miscarriages and ailments linked to neurotoxins. There's also worry that since the fumigant is injected into the ground before planting to kill organisms in the soil, it could contaminate water supplies. Since methyl iodide was only registered in 2007, there's no long-term data looking at the health and environment implications of using the substance on such a large scale or in more populated areas. After all, strawberries like to grow where people like to live—where it's not too hot and not too cold.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Continual Picking and Cutting = Abundance of Vegetables

Once I started gardening in 2004, my knowledge of food increased tremendously.

Sure, I knew what a radish was, but I had no idea what a radish seed looked like, how long a radish took to grow, that its greens became tougher as the radish grew bigger and that small flowers appeared from its greens if the radish stayed in the ground too long.

I’ve also learned that it’s better to keep cutting and picking certain vegetables in order to increase production. For the most part, any vegetable that grows on some sort of vine—cucumbers, string beans, tomatoes, peas, summer squash, etc.—will put its energies into new growth if existing growth is picked.

If older veggies are left on the vine, the plant’s energies will be focused on these, allowing them to get very big, but at the expense of newer growth and flavor (most will get tougher as they get bigger).

I am still amazed at how many dozens of (pick a veggie) a couple plants can put off if I am vigilant about cutting and picking.

The photo above is of yellow squash plants (today at 7:30 a.m.). I cut the squash in the middle, while I'll probably cut the one on the right tonight and the one on the left tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It's 100 Degrees; Do You Know What's In Your Sunscreen?

For further discussion about the safety of sunscreens, click here to read several experts' points of view.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yesterday's Pickings From the Garden

In the photo to the right are some of the vegetables I picked from my garden yesterday.

I roasted the beets and had some for dinner, while the extras will be a part of a salad today for lunch.

I used the zucchini to make a chilled zucchini soup, similar to the cucumber soup I made several weeks ago. (I also used my garlic, scallions and parsley in the soup.)

I ate some of the carrots, turnips and radishes raw. I also made a quick sauté of the three, using their greens in the dish as well.

I also cut some mesclun greens and flowers (zinnia and sunflowers).

Not a bad eating day.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy July 5th!

One quick tip for the holiday:

Remember about
carryover cooking when grilling your hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken today!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Another Reason to Rethink Pesticides

A recent note from the Pesticide Action Network:
Residents of Drexel, Missouri, got to taste the effects of corporate influence on chemical regulation firsthand last week when a spike in atrazine levels made their water undrinkable.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources told residents not to drink, cook with, or wash dishes with the local water after finding atrazine at ten times the "acceptable" exposure level set by U.S. EPA. Atrazine, a broadleaf triazine herbicide used primarily on corn, is the second most heavily used pesticide in the U.S. (after glyphosate-"Roundup"), and the most-frequently detected pesticide contaminant in ground and surface water. (Approximately 94% of U.S. drinking water samples tested recently contained atrazine, according to

The EPA estimates that 76.4 million pounds of atrazine are used in the United States every year. The chemical is currently under re-review by the agency. During the previous review in 2003, the chemical's manufacturer, Syngenta, held over 50 private, closed-door meetings with regulators.

Drexel officials blame the spike on recent heavy rains in the Midwest, but a study released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) earlier this year found that the problem is systemic: "of the 153 water systems that were sampled between 2005 and 2008, 100 ... had spikes of atrazine in their untreated water that exceeded [the federal standard] of 3 ppb. Two-thirds of these 100 systems had spikes of atrazine greater than 3 ppb in the treated water."

Drexel's water was declared "safe" again last Friday - the state health department said it's unlikely that the brief exposure will have any negative health effects, despite the fact that atrazine's toxicity at extremely low levels has been well documented.

NRDC's Andrew Wetzler points to several studies that link atrazine with female sex characteristics in male frogs, impaired reproductive systems in fish, and low sperm count and motility in farmworkers exposed to the chemical. Prenatal exposure to atrazine may increase the risk of birth defects, and Syngenta recently revealed that it had been tracking cases of prostate cancer in workers involved in manufacturing the pesticide. The company admitted it found rates more than three times the regional average.

In March, PAN delivered a petition to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees in support of Midwest farm organizations who have been urging transparency and independent public science in the current review.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

How to Make Lemonade

Last week I gave a nutritional talk at a luncheon. I stole a quick peek into the kitchen to see what the “green” caterer was preparing. In addition to some salads and vegetable-based dishes, there was lemonade.

Except it wasn’t really lemonade. One of the servers was mixing powdered Country Time Lemonade with water. Needless to say, I passed on the lemonade that day.

I know why this stuff exists but making real lemonade is easy and the flavor is a million times better than any powdered mix.

To make enough lemonade to fill a standard pitcher, I mix the juice from three large lemons with four cups of water, a handful or two of ice and a simple syrup concoction. To make the simple syrup, dissolve four tablespoons of sugar into four tablespoons of water over low heat.

As with anything, readjust the taste as needed by adding more lemon juice, water and/or simple syrup. For additional flavor and color, throw in some fresh mint.