Tag Archives: fruit & vegetables

The True Story of Baby Carrots

[image via Bent Objects]

Did you ever wonder where those perfect little carrots come from?
Those marvels of the produce aisle, so uniform in shape, size, and color, like no carrot found in nature. You’ve had your suspicions; you’ve heard the rumors.
It’s all true: carrots- yes; babies-no.

True baby carrots are a specialty crop that’s grown to be harvested before maturity. The supermarket version is a manufactured product. It starts with full-sized, fully-grown carrots that are snipped into 2-inch sections, pumped through water-filled pipes into giant whirling peelers, whittled down to lovable niblets, and bathed in a mold retardant before they’re packed in plastic bags for shipping. Organic carrot growers use a citrus-based product called Citrix, but the conventional baby-cuts in your supermarket were treated with chlorine to prolong shelf life.

The baby carrots we’ve come to know were invented in the late 1980′s. Supermarkets have always demanded carrots of uniform size and shape, with no lumps, bumps, spots, or twists. One California carrot farmer had grown tired of culling the imperfect and irregular carrots from his crop. Up to 70% of his harvest would end up discarded or sold at a discounted price for juice and animal feed. He started experimenting with green bean trimmers and potato peelers, dabbling first with 1-inch rounds that he marketed as ‘bunny balls’ before settling on 2-inch thumbs, and an industry was transformed. Ironically, we now pay a premium price for the former cast-offs.

The baby-cut boom has changed the way carrots are grown. The ideal carrot used to be bulky-topped and steeply tapered, grown to a standard 6½ inches for the best fit in 0ne- and two-pound plastic bags. Now growers shoot for long, narrow cylinders. The length gets them more cuts—it’s gone from the original two cuts per carrot to three and even four cuts from 8+ inch behemoths. Straight and narrow means they can be planted closer together for more yield per acre, and less is wasted when they’re carved into the baby carrot shape.

Before the advent of the baby-cut, annual carrot consumption in the U.S. was a steady 6 pounds a year per person. It started climbing in 1986 and topped 11 pounds per person by 2007. We snack on them, throw them into soups and stews, entertain with baby-cuts and dip, put them in lunch boxes, and order them at fast food restaurants. The carrot industry’s Eat’em Like Junk Food campaign has even pushed ‘scarrots’ as a dubious alternative to Halloween candy.

I know what you’re going to say.
Of course it’s cheaper, healthier, and better for the environment to buy whole carrots from a local grower. But we’re eating twice as many fresh carrots as we used to. It’s hard to argue with that kind of success.

 

 

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Cat-Pork, Latex-Fruit and other Cross-Allergies

image via BuzzNet

Hay fever sufferers should take a pass on the swiss chard and sunflower seeds. No celery sticks in the shade of a birch tree either. Skip the dill pickles if you react to latex, steer clear of tropical fruit if dust mites make you sneeze, and yes, pork and cat dander can be problematic.

These are all examples of cross-allergies (also known as Pollen-Food or Oral Allergy Syndrome), and like the recent rise of food allergies, they are becoming more common. About a third of seasonal allergy sufferers will cross-react to the wrong foods, but the number is closer to two-thirds if birch or alder pollen are your triggers.

Here’s how it works: the same chemicals that cause hay fever and other airborne allergies can also be found in some foods. There’s a whole grocery list of reactive foods, but the culprit is usually a raw fruit or vegetable that has the same protein as the airborne allergen. Eat the wrong food, and it sends the immune system into overdrive and triggers an allergic reaction. Instead of the sneezing and itchy eyes you get when you inhale the allergen, you’ll end up with a tingly mouth, hives, difficulty swallowing, or even anaphylaxis—all food allergy symptoms.

These are the most commonly occurring cross-allergies and their offending foods:

  • Dust/Dust Mites: mangos, shellfish, plums, melons, tomato, avocado, pawpaw, pineapple, peaches, and kiwis.
  • Latex: almonds, apples, bananas, kiwis, avocado, dill, oregano, ginger, and sage.
  • Birch/Alder Tree Pollen: celery, apples, apricots, cherries and other stone fruits, parsnips, buckwheat, caraway seeds, and coriander.
  • Hayfever (Ragweed/Grasses): cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, bananas, sunflower seeds, zucchini, cucumber, and chamomile tea.
  • Cat Dander: pork.

Some foods contain more of the troublesome proteins than others—peaches more than plums, apples more than pears. And there can be differences between varieties—Gala and Golden Delicious apples cause more allergic reactions than Braeburns, and Crenshaw melons are benign while cantaloupe and watermelon are powerful triggers.

Not every pollen produces cross-allergies; some trees like maple, oak and poplar, don’t share reaction-causing proteins with foods. Nor does having one of these allergies mean you’ll necessarily cross-react with any of the implicated foods. And, if you do react, you may not be allergic to every food on the list.

 

 

 

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Masquerading as Blueberries

Blue Man Group image via John Mottern

There are no blueberries in Betty Crocker Blueberry Muffins.
You won’t find any in Blueberry Pop-Tarts or Special K Blueberry Fruit Crisps either, and Total Pomegranate Blueberry Cereal is missing the blueberries and the pomegranate.

Instead of real blueberries, some manufacturers create little berry-shaped clumps of various sugars, starches, gums, and oils, and coat them with (often petroleum-based) blue food dye. They’re usually labeled as blueberry-flavored bits or particles. For its Blueberry Muffin Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal, Kellogg’s concocted an entirely new food classification, identified in the ingredient list as crunchlets.

The labels don’t lie.
Food marketers have gotten away with the blueberry bait-and-switch by complying with FDA nutrition labeling requirements. The box can be decorated with lush photography of plump berries, and the product’s name can trumpet berry goodness—it never needs to cross paths with an actual berry as long as the dirty details are all revealed in the fine print of the packaging.

The labels might not lie, but they sure do skirt the truth.
The consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest plans to put an end to these dishonest and deceptive practices. Attorneys from the CSPI have filed a complaint in federal court against General Mills, one of the biggest practitioners of this form of marketing. The complaint contends that General Mills misleads the public about the healthfulness of its products when it depicts fruits that they don’t contain, and in doing so, the company  violates various state laws governing deceptive advertising and fraudulent business practices.

You can follow the lawsuit’s developments on the Center for Science in the Public Interest website.

The attorneys from the law firm Finkelstein Thompson are seeking public input from consumers who may have been misled by these products. If you purchased any products that you believed were made from real blueberries but actually contained derivatives or no blueberries, you can contact them about joining the class action—they expect potential plaintiffs to number in the millions.
[email to contact@finkelsteinthompson.com]

 

 

 

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Tired of fumbling with round fruit? Try a Square Watermelon.

http://www.crown-melon.com/The%20square%20watermelon.files/kaku-mae-big-shiro1.gifOur first glimpse of a square watermelon was in a cartoon. In Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo, our favorite television family was vacationing in Japan when Homer Simpson squandered so much of their vacation money on Japanese novelties, including a square watermelon, they were nearly stranded there forever.

It took a few more years for Japan’s farmers to catch up with Homer’s prescience.

Leave it to the Japanese to come up with this one. From bonsai trees, to compact cars, to miniaturized electronics, they have demonstrated their mastery of making things work in small spaces, and population-dense Japan is full of them. Homes are compact, the kitchens within them are tiny, and the refrigerators are positively Lilliputian.

Watermelons are big, roundish space hogs that have never fit well in Japanese refrigerators. This has been a particular concern in Japan, where melons hold a special place in society. The rarest and most exotic are sold as high-end gifts in luxury fruit shops. The nation tracks the springtime fruit harvest like baseball stats, when first-of-the season melons sell for astronomical sums—this year, a pair of Yubari cantaloupe fetched the top price of one million yen (about $12,400).

Square watermelons were created to accommodate Japanese refrigerators. While still growing on the vine, a farmer puts each immature melon into a square, tempered glass box that exactly matches refrigerator dimensions. The full-grown watermelon, once it’s removed from the box, fits precisely on refrigerator shelves.

Growers in California and Panama plan to introduce square watermelons into the American market. Even with our big, American-style refrigerators, we can appreciate the space savings—square melons take up less room, and therefore less energy, to cool, transport and display in stores. Less space means a smaller carbon footprint.
If you want round, you can always pull out the melon-baller.

Not just square: one Japanese grower has been fooling around with other shapes. See the watermelon heart, the pyramid, and more at Crown Melon.

Instructables has step-by-step instructions that show you how to grow your own square watermelon.

 

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Where’s Our Tickle-Me Loris?

We sure could use a loris.
Cute-as-a-button with beseeching, animé eyes, a homemade video of a slow loris luxuriating in a good tickle session has been viewed nearly 10 million times, bringing loads of attention (and donations) to the plight of this endangered species.
Where’s the poster child for endangered food?

We’re not talking about endangered foods like lobster thermador and cube steaks, though sightings are rare.
Or the truly extinct, like Kellogg’s Banana Frosted Flakes, the McDonald’s McDLT, with its hot-cold styrofoam overkill, and the products that suddenly disappear from Trader Joe’s shelves.
We’re concerned with foods that are on track to disappear from the face of the planet—irretrievably, irrevocably, and completely.

A century ago, we were growing and eating 14,000 apple varieties—nearly every state and region, town, and even neighborhood had its favored, distinct varieties. They came in all sizes, shapes, and colors, with different flavors and textures to suit each community’s taste and cooking style. Today, we’re down to 100 commercially-grown varieties- nearly all of them red, round, and sweet- but you’ll only find around 5 or 6 in your neighborhood supermarket; the same 5 or 6 varieties you’ll find in any neighborhood’s supermarket in any part of the country.

And we call ourselves foodies.
95% of the U.S. cabbage diversity, 91% of corn, 94% of peas, and 81% of tomato varieties have been lost. All in all, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates  that 75% of the world’s agricultural diversity has been lost in the past 100 years. There were those we liked too much and over-harvested, those we didn’t like enough and abandoned, and those that succombed to blight, pests, or climate change; but most were merely poorly suited to today’s large-scale, mechanized farming and long-distance shipping.

Of course quality of life suffers when choices and pleasures are limited, but more importantly, it puts our food supply at risk. There is always the possibility of crop damage  from factors like weather, pests, and blight, plus modern dangers posed by the still-unknown consequences of unleashing genetically modified organisms into the environment. The lack of diversity means that an entire plant species will be susceptible to the same threat—we could see global crop devastation from the spread of a single risk factor.

The solution is unthinkable for the World Wildlife Fund, but when charbono grapes are endangered instead of giant pandas or slow lorises, it helps to eat the species. We can encourage farmers to grow heirloom varieties by creating demand for them at farmers markets, produce markets, and supermarkets.

The genetic diversity of heritage varieties is well worth preserving. Their variations might prove to be the only answer to the crop tolerances and adaptations needed to weather the unknown and unforseeable conditions of farming’s future, and they restore forgotten flavors and pleasures to our tables.

We need to shop for selection and variety beyond the standard, hybridized strains and say no (very loudly) to genetically modified foods.

The US Ark of Taste is a catalog of endangered and threatened foods maintained by Slow Food USA. The website can help you locate growers, producers, and seed exchanges.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is nature’s backup plan, buried deep in an Arctic mountain 700 miles from the North Pole.

 

 

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Rewire Your Tastebuds

Go from yuck to yum with the miracle berry.

About a year ago synsepalum dulcificum, known as the miracle fruit or miracle berry made some ripples in the food press.
In case you missed the story the first time around, these are berries that rewire your palate so that sour or bitter foods will taste sweet. Dark beer tastes like a chocolate milkshake, goat cheese turns into cake frosting, and ketchup tastes like maple syrup. Tequila goes down like apple juice, vinegar becomes wine, and wine tastes like a melted Popsicle.

What’s going on is that a protein in the miracle fruit binds with and alters the flavor of the acid in whatever foods you eat in combination with it. Low-acid foods like bananas and zucchini are unchanged. Vanilla is just vanilla. Tangy foods like onions and horseradish retain their astringent aroma but taste disorientingly bland, while worcestershire sauce will surprise you with its complexity.

The miracle fruit itself is pleasantly sweet and berry-like. It takes effect almost immediately and lasts for an hour or two. It took a first run at the American market in the 1970s. The fruit’s growers promoted its potential to sweeten foods with fewer calories than sugar and none of the health risks of artificial sweeteners. Its commercialization was abandoned when the FDA classified the fruit as an “additive” rather than a food. Recently interest has been revived by cutting-edge chefs and bartenders exploring its culinary potential and by food enthusiasts who make the fruit the centerpiece of experimental tasting parties.

Keep in mind that miracle berries change only the perception of taste, not the food’s chemistry. Your teeth, mouth, and digestive tract are as vulnerable as ever to the effects of highly acidic and spicy foods. If you want to experiment with a Tabasco-pickle juice-vermouth cocktail (and you know you will), just remember to follow it with a Tums chaser.

You can order miracle fruit online as fresh berries or as freeze-dried berry tablets.

 

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Five to Try

With something like 50,000 different items in your neighborhood supermarket why are you still buying the same dozen or so fruits?

Get out of your rut. Try something new. This is a low-risk and high-reward proposition. It’s fruit—what’s the worst that can happen?

Cut open a passion fruit and it’s a confusing mass of juicy, seedy pulp. It’s all edible, although you might want to strain out the seeds. Passion fruit is boldly tropical, and the sweetness and assertive flavor make it versatile in cooking and baking. There is a Passion of Christ/passion fruit connection that makes a whole lot of symbolic hooey, likening the vine’s tendrils to whips and its petals to the Apostles. Not Judas and Peter, though.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_SRY2opiU_Fk/S7eG4_JL_eI/AAAAAAAAAEQ/znQIsTjlDCg/s1600/pineberry-461x450.jpg Yes, you are looking at a strawberry. The pineberry looks like strawberries and cream but smells and tastes just like pineapple. Tiny white berries with red pips, it’s a wild variety that was rescued from extinction, rechristened as the pineberry, and is now grown commercially.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_T6LuIHCdMDE/S75KH3gm09I/AAAAAAAAAOc/0aicG2zS6ro/s1600/IMG_0271.JPG I suggest that you find someone with a backyard pacay tree and make them your friend. Technically a legume, pacay pods don’t travel well, and you’ll only find frozen ones in the market; the fresh pods are worth the hunt. Crack open the hard shell and inside you’ll find a row of black seeds nestled in a bed of fluffy white flesh that tastes like vanilla ice cream with a hint of cotton candy.

Mangosteen Mangosteen is not at all mango-like. It’s sweet, tangy, and somewhat fibrous. Skip the astringent purple rind and go for the juicy white flesh around the seeds that comes apart in segments like a tangerine. It’s rarely baked into desserts, but fresh, uncooked mangosteen works well in sorbets and smoothies.

Durian Who knew fruit could stir controversy? Fans of the durian describe it as a rich, smooth, custardy fruit with an alluring aroma and the taste of almonds. Others have compared the taste and odor to sewage, gym socks, skunk spray, and moldy onions. Well-known as a durian lover, Anthony Bourdain famously described the fruit as “like you’d buried somebody holding a big wheel of Stilton in his arms, then dug him up a few weeks later. Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.” And he likes durian.

Be flexible and adventurous. Experience the thrill of the unknown. And while there might be Five to Try, feel free to stop at four, with apologies to Mr. Bourdain.

 

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How Smart is Your Package?

How about a cantaloupe that signals when it’s ripe and milk that tells you when it’s spoiled?
That’s right, in the future no one will ask “Does this smell funny to you?”

Intelligent packaging is coming soon to a grocer near you.

Meat and fish can look fine even when they’re spoiled or tainted with bacteria and toxins. A new smart plastic wrap can sense the molecular changes that indicate decay, and a label will change colors to signal its status. There’s a wrap for produce that can sniff out ethylene gas, which indicates the ripening of fruit and vegetables, and hexanol, which signals spoilage.

Other packaging will be printed with temperature-sensitive inks that can change colors to signal when food has been improperly shipped or stored. They’ll turn the bar code red so that it can’t be scanned at the checkout. And there are refrigerators in the works that will be able to read the smart packages and can text or email food status updates.

It’s not just about spoilage. There are plenty of convenience and marketing applications in the works like self-heating soup cans, self-cooling beer cans, and attention-grabbing, light-up cereal boxes; but the real action is in food safety. That’s because all of the best if used by and sell by labeling we rely on is little more than a security blanket for consumers.

Freshness dating is not required by federal law for any food products except infant formula and certain baby foods. Some states require dating for dairy products, but there is no agreement or uniformity for freshness standards. For all other foods, labeling is voluntary. Producers can choose to slap on expiration dates, but there are no accurate or consistent freshness standards, and except for dairy products and formula, the retailers are free to keep the expired products on their store shelves.

Until the new, intelligent food packaging hits the store shelves, your best bet is the old tried-and-true: “Does this smell funny to you?”

For more information:

The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture has Fact Sheets covering many facets of safe food handling and food spoilage.

Still Tasty is a complete guide to the shelf life of commodity and brand name foods. It offers storage and handling tips, creates shopping lists, and can alert you to looming expiration dates. Still Tasty is also available as an iPhone application.

 

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Brace Yourself: Your Man Might Be a Vegan

image via Vegan Soapbox

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The tell-tale signs:

Does the man in your life know the proper pronunciation of quinoa?
Has he ever come home with a guilty look and the smell of wheat grass on his breath?
Does he think it’s cute when you refer to lentils as legumes (Silly girl, they’re pulses!) and get hot and bothered when you wear your organic cotton t shirt?
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your man is a vegan. [...]

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Are There More Pigs or People Where You Live?




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Eccentric. Arcane. Kooky, even. It’s the 2010 Census.

The big count takes place every ten years.
It’s a snapshot of us at a point in time, and when we compare it to the baby pictures of past census-taking, it says a lot about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re heading.

Since the census is only held once each decade, it leaves us with plenty of time to sift through the data; and there’s tons of the stuff. Naturally, it’s full of demographics: it tells us who lives where and how they voted. We know how wealthy the neighbors are and what the kids are majoring in at college. We can see who’s getting married, having babies, and moving to the suburbs; who needs public assistance; and where the hot retirement communities are located (Sarasota, Florida; Fort Collins, Colorado).

The census is also full of curiously chosen data: we can see that people in their 20′s vastly prefer bowling to bicycling; white and black adults attend jazz concerts at nearly the same rates; more men get a good night’s sleep than women; and in the decade since the last census, what we lost in bookstores we gained in pharmacies (500).

The census data contain plenty of fascinating, food-related factoids:

We’re eating less red meat (but drinking more red wine), less fruit (down by 36 pounds per person since the 2000 census), and fewer vegetables (down by 33 pounds), and most of the vegetables we do eat are canned, frozen, pickled, or otherwise processed.
We’re eating way more cheese and yogurt; we’re drinking less milk, but are six times more likely to demand that it be organic.
We’re drinking twice as much alcohol as we did back in 1990, and for the first time, it’s most likely a woman serving us our alcoholic beverages.

Texas has the most farms; Alaska and Rhode Island the fewest. We’ve added more than 3 million acres of organic farmland since the 2000 census— but also 244% more genetically engineered varieties of corn, and 72% more soybeans.
The honeybees really are disappearing—they were counted too.

And yes, there are five states—Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, and South Dakota— that have more pigs than people.

It’s like a family photo album crossed with the Guinness Book of Records. The Statistical Abstract of the United States, published annually since 1878, takes piles of government data from the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and other federal agencies. The numbers are crunched to give an authoritative and comprehensive summary of social, political, and economic status. You can download earlier editions (dating back to 1878) from the Census Bureau’s website, or order your own copy of the current edition (it’s the government’s perennial top-seller) from the U.S. Government Bookstore.

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Kids are Bad for Your Diet

[image via Mojo Mom]

For breakfast, you pour a glass of organic milk to go with a bowl of steel cut oats with honey and sliced banana.
You pack a brown bag lunch with turkey and sprouts in a whole wheat pita and an apple.
That’s how the kids are eating. You, on the other hand, grab a latte on your way to work, and if you’re lucky someone brought in donuts today. Lunch? Who has the time?

It’s official: kids are bad for your diet.
It seems counter-intuitive when you’ve made the house an official soda-free zone and your refrigerator overflows with free range chicken, carrot sticks, and lowfat yogurt. But a study published in the December issue of the European Review of Agricultural Economics found that households without children are healthier eaters. A lot healthier.

7,014 families were involved in the study. After controlling for income, age and other socioeconomic factors that sway purchasing decisions, it found that in a two week period, each member of a childless household consumed 4.4 more pounds of fruits and vegetables than their counterparts with kids.

What’s going on here?
Are parents just big hypocrites who pop Swedish fish by the hand full while they scrutinize labels for hidden sodium and trans fats? Maybe parents are skimping on time and money for their own diets to afford the best for their kids; certainly time and money need to be stretched further in households with children.

It doesn’t matter as much as you might think.
A Johns Hopkins University study that appeared in November’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health claims that contrary to popular opinion, parents aren’t really much of an influence on what their kids are eating. Government guidelines and policies that regulate school meals, peer influence, advertising, and a host of factors in the broader food environment all play important roles in forming children’s eating habits.

Don’t run for the Swedish fish just yet.
This doesn’t let parents off the hook. A permissive manner and a house stocked with junk food are still ill-advised, and positive modeling does matter—just not as much as we might wish. And the benefits of good nutrition are kind of like the oxygen masks on an airplane: parents still need to put theirs on first so that they can be there to take care of their kids.

 

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The Tyranny of Perfection: Botox Apples

image via Mercola.com

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How about a round of Happy Birthday to You for your apples?

That’s right, the ‘fresh’ apples you buy at the supermarket could actually be a year old. [...]

Posted in food safety | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Ugly, Unloved, Unappreciated

Oh, grow up!
Do you have an allergy? Do you object on political grounds?
No? Then shut up and eat your vegetables!

It’s time to stray outside of your comfort zone of carrots, green beans, zucchini, broccoli, and spinach. You will encounter unfamiliar tastes, odd textures, and the occasional aroma of feet. But there will be no pouting, food phobias, or knee-jerk reactions. These are vegetables for grown-ups, so act your age.

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Food Traceability: Fed Ex for the food chain

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I just ate a banana.
It was grown by the Molina family on their farm in Ecuador’s El Oro province on the southwest coast.
I saw its organic certification from the USDA, and when it was loaded onto a ship in Guayaquil Bay, I could see that it was joined by bananas from two other organic farms.

I know all of this because Dole practices traceability, a concept that is being embraced by more and more growers and manufacturers. Traceability lets consumers trace the origins of their food—not just to a country, but to a specific farm or processor. [...]

Posted in food safety, health + diet | Tagged , | 5 Comments

It’s in season, but what is it? Three fall fruits to try.

Can you name this fruit?

It’s called the ground cherry, but it’s not a cherry and it doesn’t grow on the ground.
It’s a fruit but it’s got plenty of savoriness.
It looks like a tomatillo, tastes like a strawberry crossed with mango, and is usually mistaken for a cape gooseberry.
Is there an identity problem here? [...]

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No Cash? No Problem. How to Barter for Food

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My This for Your That

You used to do it as a kid. You had an innate sense of the relative value of Twinkies and would broker a lunchroom exchange.

In recent years, barter has been making a comeback. This ancient form of trade is alive and well in e-commerce. Combining the DIY ethic with social networks, online barter exchanges are flourishing in the current, shaky economy. [...]

Posted in food trends, shopping | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Lazy Food

image via BBC News

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Fast food for slow cooks.

Have you looked around the supermarket lately? The garlic has been peeled, the pineapples have their cores removed, and the onions are already chopped. There are pre-cooked slices of bacon and shrink-wrapped potatoes— washed and poked and ready to bake.

The ease and convenience are undeniable, as is the waste: a minimally-packaged, shelf-stable food is transformed into a product that is now encased in plastic and requires refrigeration. It has lost nutrients and gained preservatives, and its price has risen exponentially. [...]

Posted in cook + dine, food trends | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Grow Your Own White House Garden

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You can’t get any more local than your own kitchen garden.

Already popular with anyone with a hankering for freshness, superior taste, good health and nutrition, and saving money— which pretty much includes everyone— interest in kitchen gardens really took off when Michelle Obama oversaw the planting of the first White House vegetables since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden during World War II. Even Queen Elizabeth II succumbed to the ‘Michelle factor’ ordering a yard bed for Buckingham Palace. [...]

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Food Can Make You Pretty

If only there were a magic potion.

One gulp and blemishes are gone, wrinkles are smoothed, and a youthful glow radiates from every pore. If only. Until that scientific break-through or rainforest miracle plant discovery, there are foods you can eat that will improve the health and appearance your complexion.

Eat your wrinkles away [...]

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Locavore? Try one-block-avore.

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Forget about the 100-mile diet. How about the 100-yard diet?

Sunset Magazine has taken local foods to a whole new level with its One-Block Diet. With a long history of expertise in cooking, gardening, and DIY, and utilizing just the open space on their Menlo Park, California campus, the magazine staff is attempting to grow, cultivate, brew, ferment, breed, and distill everything needed for a complete diet.

Not exactly soup to nuts (no nut trees planted yet), the goal is not total sustenance. There is some daily eating that reflects ripening, harvests, and cooking schedules, but the bulk of the food production is geared toward a series of seasonal feasts that are meant to inform, educate, and inspire the magazine’s readership.

Responsibility for the One-Block Diet has been assigned to teams of staff members in more than a dozen categories.

  • Honey, wax candles, and mead, a traditional honey wine, come from a team of beekeepers.
  • Beer brewers and winemakers go from garden to bottle, with enough left for cooking and salad vinegar.
  • There is a cow for milk and cheese, and eggs to collect from the chickens.
  • The mushroom team germinates spores, the olive growers run a press for cooking oil, and the salt crew learned how to harvest from the ocean and nearby salt ponds of San Francisco Bay water.
  • A gardening team grows and harvests fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, culinary herbs and teas, aided by the garden snail removal provided by Team Escargot. It’s all put together in a series of seasonal meals by the kitchen team.

By now, the virtues of going local are well known. In fact locavore is so much a part of the modern lexicon that it was named word the year for 2007 by the Oxford American Dictionary.

Even if you don’t plan on milling your own grains or getting honey from a backyard hive, the One-Block Diet is more than a lark for a bunch of magazine editors playing at farming. At a time when supermarkets sell fish from Viet Nam, plums from Chile, and apples from New Zealand; and the safety and integrity of our food supply is under attack from genetic modifications and food borne illnesses, an experiment like the One-Block Diet opens our eyes to the possibility of fresher, healthier foods and varieties that just taste better than what the supermarket offers.

Any volunteers for Team Escargot?

Team blogs, how-to manuals, menus, recipes and more are found on Sunset Magazine’s One-Block Diet website.

The Locavore app, available through  Apple’s iTunes store, tells you what’s actually grown near you and what’s ripe and available at any time of year.

Eat Local Challenge covers the local foods movement in communities spanning the U.S.

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