Tuesday, December 15, 2009

For the Love of Green Goliath

I am always really excited this time of year when the seed catalogues roll in and I can discover some items that perhaps I know little about or have never grown before, (although as I grow more and more I am surprised less and less.)
There are also some staples that I don't always save enough seed for , so I depend on certain seed companies willingness to continue to offer my tried and true favourites.
So it was with great dismay that I opened my hot off the press William Dam catalogue today and saw...horror of horrors, that they don't offer Green Goliath Broccoli anymore! To many people I'm sure this doesn't sound like a big deal, it is only broccoli. But to me it is THE broccoli.
I have trialled many , many open pollinated and hybrid broccolis over the years and for me, on my soil, this is the standout. Imagine if you couldn't buy your favourite wine anymore, or your favourite snack food. To me it is that bad.
So, onto Google I go. Seeds of Diversity lists other companies that(used to) carry it, but from what I can tell, all Canadian seed companies, and a good number of American ones have dropped it. I ended up ordering a whole whack of it from Oregon of all places, so if anyone is interested in trying it I will have a bit of extra seed for sale.
Thank goodness though it is open pollinated, because now I know I have to save seed from it for next year, because it seems clear to me that one day in the not too distant future, it may not even be available in Oregon, and I will need to be self reliant in producing and saving this seed if I want to have it. There really are so few good open pollinated broccolis, that losing this would in my humble opinion, be tragic.
New broccoli hybrids are popping up everywhere, but if I choose to love one of them, then I am reliant on seed companies. I can't save and reproduce hybrid seed, and of course if I found a hybrid I loved nearly as much as Green Goliath, and then the seed company dropped it, back to more trialling.
And of course so many wonderful varieties of vegetables have been lost over the years...most varieties in fact. This loss of diversity is tragic, and an over reliance on huge multi-national chemical and seed conglomerates is scary in it's own right.
I choose to offer support to and sell seeds for Seed Savers Exchange, based in Iowa, because as an organization and a movement, they have done more to bring vegetable varieties back from the brink of extinction than any other organization world wide. Many small seed companies would have limited offerings if Seed Savers had not done all their good work first.
Some people bristle at the fact that this organization is not Canadian, and I sell their seed. But good has no borders, and proceeds from the sales of this seed goes back into this non-profit organization so they can continue with their mission, which is to stop this loss of vegetable diversity worldwide and circulate the seed as widely as possible.
I have been to Seed Savers Heritage Farm in Iowa several times now and am always so taken with the level of commitment and expertise of this organization. I am so pleased to be a member and to list seeds in the exchange, as well as offer some fabulous seed for sale. I grow all varieties I offer, and have for years. Try some yourself...you only have to buy it once- then it is yours to save and safeguard forever!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The big picture

I must say, my enthusiasm about the local food movement is waning somewhat. Oh, no doubt I'll continue buying what I don't grow from people I know, like and trust, but in the scheme of things, it isn't seeming as important or stirring me up as much as it has in the past. There are much , much bigger food issues that we need to push on and solve.
Concentrating on local food as a burning issue makes me feel a bit like a spoiled child in a "have " world, as opposed to a "have not" world.
It isn't right that we worry so much about where our food comes from when 1 billion people quite simply don't have enough food, and so very many will die of starvation.
So as we worry about whether or not our cheese is imported or local, many ,many mothers in Africa are wondering how to feed their children just to keep them alive.
People seem to have the ability to organize themselves to "Run for the Cure", to support building campaigns for hospitals, and to support school fundraising efforts.
But as a world community that we truly are, we turn a blind eye to those in third world countries who do not have enough food to eat.
Government officials get together, seemingly unable to do anything to solve this crisis.
As Canadians and Americans get fatter and suffer more debilitating disease because of overconsumption, people starve.
It is estimated that we waste,( as in throw away) 27% of food that is available for consumption. That amounts to 1 lb of food per day, per person. Think of all the people that could feed if governments and people worked together to make it happen.
There are so many causes that become popular and raise incredible amounts of money. Cancer seems to be one at this point...pink ribbons are everywhere, and corporate support abounds. Why not feeding starving people? Why is it not worthy enough to merit our attention?
Many agencies try to work to erase world hunger, but they struggle with inadequate funding and a lack of government commitment.
So as we enter int the season of excess and worry about where to purchase our goodies and gifts, think about what a difference you could make. In very real terms, you can save lives.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Now for sale

It may be fall, but for me this is the beginning of another growing season, with both greenhouses planted and coming along nicely.
So now available are many different greens, particularly arugula, mustard greens, chards with more winter specialty greens not far behind.
I am still selling individual baskets of veggies ,including these items and can also add beautiful brown eggs from my girls for $4 a dozen (they are happy chickens). Additionally for restaurants I can custom grow microgreens , which I cut as well. Most chefs I deal with find this more cost effective than trays of uncut microgreens and they tend to have a 2 week shelf life when refrigerated. Lead time of 1 1/2 weeks minimum is needed on this, but they are available year round.
Give a call!

Let them eat apple pie!!!!

Best Apple Pie Recipe

Apple Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon salt

Apple Pie Filling:
6 Apples, cored & sliced
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Apple Pie Topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 butter

1. Preheat oven to 350*
2. Mix together all crust ingredients, press into 9inch pie tin. Set aside.
3. In bowl, toss together filling ingredients then place in crust.
4. In separate bowl, mix together flour and sugar for your topping. "Cut" in butter (to make a crumble like crust).
5. Bake for 45mins-1hour, or until pie is golden brown.

6. Eat and enjoy the best apple pie recipe!

The above recipe is from the Idea Queen website, and it is simple and good, although not low calorie I am sure. I made it yesterday with spy apples that I bought around the corner here in Wellandport at Robbins red hut. YUM. The no-roll pastry recipe was a cinch and it really didn't take long to put together at all>

It is worth a try!

Friday, October 16, 2009

World Food Day

Today is World Food Day and I found these numbers interesting to consider as I read them in my Kitchen Gardeners Newsletter,written in honour of this day. Hope you find them interesting too.

1: number of new kitchen gardens planted at the White House this year
1943: the last time food was grown at the White House White House
20 million: the number of new gardens planted in 1943 LA Times
40%: percentage of nation's produce coming from gardens in 1943 LA Times
7 million: estimated number of new food gardens planted in the US in 2009
$2000: amount of savings possible per year from a 40' x 40' garden
90%: percentage of fruit/vegetable varieties lost in the US the last 100 years
3500: number of vegetable varieties owned by Monsanto Monsanto
18,467: number of new small farms counted in the last agricultural census USDA
4,685: number of farmers markets nationwide USDA
4,100: number of Wal-mart stores and clubs in the US Wal-mart
187,000 ft2 : average area of a Wal-mart superstore Wal-mart
60,112 ft2: average area of a farmers' market USDA
9.5 million: number of imported food shipments arriving in the US each year Huffington Post
226,377: number of establishments registered to export food to the US Huffington Post
200: number of on-site inspections of these establishments conducted by the FDA last year Huffington Post
76 million: number of people who fall ill each year due to food poisoning CDC
50 gallons: volume of sugared beverages consumed per person in the US each year LA Times
22,727: number of Olympic-sized swimming pools those beverages would fill Answers.com
$15 billion: annual estimated revenue of a penny-per-ounce tax on soda LA Times
$20.5 billion: Coca-Cola's gross profit in 2008 Coca-Cola
72 million: number of American adults considered obese CDC
33%: percentage of US children likely to develop obesity or Type 2 diabetes CDC
10-15 years: average number of years their lives will be shortened as a result CDC
57 years: average age of the American farmer USDA
25 days: average shelf-life of a Twinkie Snopes
350 parts per million: sustainable level of CO2 in atmosphere 350.org
390 parts per million: current level of CO2 in the atmosphere NOAA
31%: percentage of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions attributable to food and agriculture IPCC
2020: year by which many geologists feel the world will have reached "peak oil" production UK Research Centre
10 calories: average amount of fossil fuel energy required to produce 1 calorie of food energy in industrialized food systems Cornell
29,100 calories: estimated fossil fuel calories required to produce one order of Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries Men's Health
1 billion: number of hungry people in the world in 2009 FAO
9.1 billion: projected world population in the year 2050 US Census
70%: percentage increase in global food production required to feed that projected population FAO
70%: percentage of world's fresh water used for agricultural purposes UNESCO
1.8 billion: number of people expected to experience "water scarcity" in the year 2025 UNEP
0: number of new, oil-rich, water-rich, fertile and inhabitable planets we are likely to discover in the next 40 years
1: number of people needed to make a positive difference in any of the above: you!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September 29 baskets and farm notes

The picture on this note is a picture of a Sept 29 basket deconstructed...baskets today contained potatoes, cabbage, onions, garlic, carrots, soup celery,tomatillos, jerusalem artichokes, chard or collards,white currant tomatoes and Fordhook Acorn squash. Also the smaller Lantern fruit are Cape Gooseberries, not ground cherries. These fruit are a true challenge to grow here, as they are actually native to Peru. I begin the seed for these fruits inside in March to give them the long growing season that they require. I would say that these are my favourite fruit that I grow, I love the tropical tang they contain. Baskets also contain peppers, generally more hot than sweet.
Next week is the last week of veggie deliveries, completing 20 weeks of food I have grown for CSA members. Although it has been a difficult growing season because of the weather there has been a fair bit of food produced here. Please accept my thanks for your involvement and support this year. I appreciate all the positive feedback and comments and it has been wonderful meeting some of you that are new this year,
I think the veggies in your arsenal today could create a wonderful soup. A recipe follows. Pair this with a wonderful homemade bread ( see Eating Niagara blog for my no-knead recipe) and you should be cozy and content.

Hearty Potato and Vegetable Soup

Recipe By : Taste of Home, Premier Issue/Roberta Banghart
Serving Size : 8

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
6 medium potatoes -- peeled and sliced
2 carrots -- diced
6 stalks celery -- diced
2 quarts water
1 onion -- chopped
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
6 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups milk

In a large kettle, cook potatoes, carrots and celery in water until tender,
about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid and setting vegetables aside. In
the same kettle, saute onion in butter until soft. Stir in flour, salt and
pepper. gradually add milk, stirring constantly until thickened. Gently
stir in cooked vegetables. Add 1 cup or more of reserved cooking liquid
until soup is desired consistency.
We are up to about 6 eggs a day from my young hens which is very exciting, With 22 laying hens, I should soon be up to 22 eggs a day!
And the eggs are fantastic, no pale yellow yolks, but brilliant orange yolks which sit high. Once you eat eggs from happy chickens, it is very difficult to go back to factory farm eggs, even if they are organic.
Both greenhouses are being planted for the winter now and I continue to dig out the remaining roots still in the ground, such as potatoes, carrots,sweet potatoes and jerusalem artichokes.It is pretty much time to plant the garlic for 2010 too, once the ground dries up a little bit again. Fall is a pretty busy time,with clearing out the garden, and preparing for winter.
Till next time...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

September 22 baskets and farm notes

We have had some lovely warm weather the last few weeks, so it has been really pleasant working in the greenhouses and getting them planted up for the winter. It is amazing when conditions are just right how quickly seeds germinate and grow.
Planted now are salads, arugula, all kinds of mustards, chards, kales, beets and carrots.
I am anxious to get the garden turned over for winter too, but surprisingly despite all the dry weather, the soil underneath is actually still rather wet. Wow- who would have thunk it.
It is pretty exciting now for Mollie to pop off the school bus and head to the chicken coop to collect eggs our young chickens are laying. At 4 1/2 months old, they have started laying the cute little pullet eggs,and I am expecting very soon there will be a LOT of eggs with 22 laying hens.
There are just 2 weeks left for baskets in the CSA now.Please could members please remember to return your baskets as the end of the season is approaching. All further deliveries will arrive in bags.
Baskets today contained mostly these ingredients with a few variations from basket to basket.....
Pie pumpkins,peppers, tomatoes, beets (or Broccolini)carrots, garlic,basil and chard.
Here are some recipes to enjoy...to cook the pumpkin, simply cut in half, score and bake in oven or microwave till soft

Swiss Chard Curry



* 1 diced onion
* 2 minced garlic cloves
* 1/2 inch ginger, peeled and diced
* 1 pinch coriander
* 1 pinch cumin
* 1 pinch turmeric
* 1 diced green chilis
* 6 ounces tomato paste
* 1/2 cup water or stock
* 4 cups stock, of your choice
* 1 cup dried garbanzo beans
* 6 swiss chard leaves


Saute the onion with the garlic and the ginger in a splash of olive oil over medium low heat until soft, about 10 minute.

Add the spices, the chili and the tomato paste and heat over medium for two to three minutes.

Cool mixture and transfer to food processor or blender and add the water or stock and blend until smooth.

Transfer back into the pan. Cook on low for 15 minutes or until its brownish and pasty in texture.

Add stock, bring to a boil and then simmer.

Meanwhile, cook the chickpeas and add to the mixture. Simmer for about 15 min(the longer the simmer the better). Finely chop the Swiss chard and stir in the curry at the end for about five minutes.

Serve over whole brown rice with a dollop of yogurt. If you like, add cooked yams or potatoes to this mixture.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

1/2 cup butter. margarine or shortening
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup pumpkin - make your own
3/4 cup milk
powdered sugar

In a large bowl cream the butter. Gradually add sugar and cream till light and fluffy. Blend in beaten eggs. Sift together the dry ingredients. Combine pumpkin and milk. Add dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin mixture.
Pour into a greased bundt pan and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Cool for at least 1 hour.
Drizzle with sugar glaze (1 cup powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon milk, mixed until smooth) .

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hamilton Spectator, September 17th/09

Whether you pronounce it toe-mato or tu-mato, call the late-summer staple mostly gone.

Blight has wiped out many crops, leaving consumers scrambling to find tomatoes, particularly the Roma variety that is preserved for sauces.

"We've taken a $30,000 hit," said Melanie Golba, who owns plan b Organic Farms in Flamborough. "We had to plow under all of our two acres and that's a lot of tomatoes."

Golba said a wet summer meant it was the worst growing season for the crop in 13 years.

Some who used fungicides survived the blight, and are fielding calls from across southern Ontario.

"I've got four acres that are 100 per cent clean because I sprayed on a seven- to 10-day schedule," said Jeff Tigchelaar of Tigchelaar Berry Farms in Binbrook.

He heeded Ontario Ministry of Agriculture warnings that a wet summer could mean blight this month, and also planted in raised beds to keep roots above the soggiest soil.

The blight is the same disease that caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s which resulted in the death or flight of millions of Irish. Tomatoes and potatoes are both members of the nightshade plant family.

The late-season blight can destroy a crop within two days given ideal conditions for the disease, cool nights with dew and warm days.

"It's been a bad season for many vegetables because of all the rain," said Imran Mian of Hamilton Farm Market, adding the hit on the Roma tomato crop has distressed many in the city's Italian community.

They can find Romas at Simpler Thyme Farm in Flamborough, but prices have jumped to $20 a bushel from $16 last year.

Owner Ana Lanigan said she was able to save half the crop, but salvaged just five bushels of heirloom tomatoes from 2,000 plants.

Karen Burson of Eat Local Hamilton said the poor crop makes it tough to find alternatives.

"I've tried sweet potato and beets as an alternative to make spaghetti sauce and believe me, nothing replaces tomatoes."



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September15 baskets and farm notes

My computer crashing two weeks ago prevented me from adding any notes to either blog for the last little while, but now it is back we'll see how long it lasts.
One note about the baskets last week. If you received the white carrots, they are a very unrefined old heirloom carrot, and are(were)best eaten cooked. They have a very carrot-y flavour and aren't overly sweet.
This week there is squash in your basket, as well as potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos,peppers(watch out for hot),eggplants,beets, cooking greens, some have broccoli, ground cherries, herbs.
There are 3 weeks left to go in the season, with the final delivery being on October 6. Please remember to return your baskets, although the last few weeks veggies will come to you in bags.
Since July now I have been working alone here in the garden, my help unaffordable for me because of the crop losses I have had.
I thank people for their support and know that most of you accept that this has been a difficult year to get the veggies out to you. I have definitely done the best I can and have not at any point given up. I try to look at the baskets each week and give you the best value I can for the money, considering what is in the garden at the time.
Losses this year have been overwhelming. Multiple planting of beets, onions and carrots were washed out. Chard, salad died in the rain, as did kale and leaf broccolis. Thousands of lbs of tomatoes succumbed to the weather and blight. Ditto for the eggplants and peppers. We did the work, bought the seed and supplies, I paid for labour...and it rained.
Inherent in joining a CSA is the fact that you share risk with the farmer, and sadly this year despite my best efforts, I have been unable to control the weather yet again. I thought for sure when I won THAT award this ability would be forthcoming, but alas , no.
Squash have done well!
Try this recipe for a lovely soup-best with butternut!
Feel free to sub the chicken broth with veggie broth

* 2 tablespoons butter
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 1 stalk celery, chopped
* 1 medium carrot, chopped
* 2 medium potatoes, cubed
* 1 medium butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and cubed
* 1 (32 fluid ounce) container chicken stock
* salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Melt the butter in a large pot, and cook the onion, celery, carrot, potatoes, and squash 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Pour in enough of the chicken stock to cover vegetables. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 40 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
2. Transfer the soup to a blender, and blend until smooth. Return to pot, and mix in any remaining stock to attain desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

(Hey, it's September 1st) baskets!

Boy, summer is nearly over and you know what that means....tomatillos are sprouting everywhere in my garden. There are lots of very good recipes on the internet for them, and they are also so easy to freeze. Just husk them, wash them and let dry, then bag up and put them in the freezer.
Here is a tasty soup recipe to try as well;

Tomatillo Soup

This is a yummy soup that can be made with chicken broth or vegetable broth. If you are looking for an alternative to gazpacho try this cold with lump crab meat. The recipe serves 6.

* 3 T. vegetable oil
* 3 shallots, minced
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 lb. tomatillos, husked and diced
* 6 C. chicken stock or vegetable broth
* 1 jalapeno chili, seeded and minced
* 2 Anaheim chilies, roasted, peeled, cored, seeded and diced
* 1 Poblano chili, roasted, peeled, cored, seeded and diced
* 3-4 T. fresh lime juice
* 2 T chopped cilantro
* 1/2 C. light sour cream
* 1/2 C. 1/2 & 1/2
* 1 T. fresh lime juice
* Toppings:
* lump crab
* grilled chicken
* grilled shrimp


Heat the oil over medium heat and then add the shallots and garlic and sauté until softened, stirring frequently to ensure the garlic doesn't overcook. Add the tomatillos, the chilies and the stock. Boil and then simmer 10-15 minutes. The tomatillos should be soft. Let cool and then transfer to a food processor or blender and puree with the jalapeno, lime juice and cilantro.

Combine the light sour cream, 1/2 & 1/2 and 1 T. lime juice. Either drizzle onto soup or put in an old fashioned ketchup bottle or pastry bag and pipe a design onto the hot soup. This is wonderful as is or if serving as a main course, you may want to consider one of the toppings.

If time is of the essence, add one small can of mild diced green chilies and one small can of hot diced green chilies and omit the chilies and jalapeno. If it isn't spicy enough, season with a few drops of hot sauce.


Lots of heirloom tomatoes are continuing to appear in the baskets, also peppers, ground cherries, collards or chard, beets or broccolini,potatoes, garlic, peppermint, basil.
If the tomatoes are not getting used up, they as well can be frozen in the form they arrive in, just make sure they are clean.
The garden is looking pretty overgrown right now...I search for veggies in the oats that have sprung up from the oat straw I mulched with. I just read in the paper that this has been the second wettest summer on record. We have had nearly the same number of dry days as the average summer, but when the rain has come, it has really come!
It has been very hard on the gardens in Niagara, and many growers find themselves short of produce and frustrated with their chosen career. My sense is that this turbulent and unpredictable weather will be the way of the future, an effect of global warming?
Please continue to check in with the blog for notes about the ending of the season. I'll continue to get things out to people as long as it is possible...

We had much to be thankful for this past weekend, when my friend Tiffany got married here on the farm. Amazingly, despite warnings of rain and thunderstorms all week, Saturday cleared and the sun even shone here in Wellandport- a good omen for sure.

It is wonderful the friendships that doing the CSA has afforded me. I met Tiffany years ago when she signed up for my CSA for the first time. Now it is an honour to consider her a friend and to have been witness to her wedding to Steve. You never know where vegetables will lead you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 25th baskets and farm notes

Stacked Tomatoes and Mozzarella with a Roasted Tomatillo Dressing
Roasted Tomatillo Dressing:
14 purple and green tomatillos, husked and rinsed
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 red onion, cut into quarters
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil plus 1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons verjus
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
For the salad:
1 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
4 heirloom cherry tomatoes, yellow, green and red
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 pint crabmeat, picked over for shells
1/4 cup tomatillo dressing
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the tomatillos, garlic and onion on a baking sheet. Drizzle the vegetables with the 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables in the oven until browned and softened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the oven and place the tomatillos and onion in a food processor. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their peels into the food processor. Add the verjus, vinegar, and parsley leaves. Pulse until the mixture is pureed, drizzling in the 1/4 cup olive oil to thin dressing. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

To complete salad:
Arrange tomatoes, cheese and crabmeat, alternating to create a stack on serving plates. Drizzle the top with the dressing.

Thanks to Leslie for sending me the above recipe created by Emeril. She says it is a good one and even better of course because it uses heirloom tomatoes as well as the tomatillos.

Baskets were pretty heavy with the potatoes,tomatoes and heavier non-greens items in them.
Not much to say really in terms of the garden that hasn't been said before. The rain has been overwhelming and has clogged my soil badly, causing lots of losses. One of my friends who works on a computer all day said it is like beginning a project in March, working steady at it and then in August someone pushes the delete button, Well, that is what has happened here to many crops. Deleted.
It is clear to me that the CSA season will not last 20 weeks, the food isn't there, despite all the seed planted and replanted and work done. CSA people, stand by for more word on this.
The big event is this weekend, we are praying for sun on Saturday despite a forecast for rain. Tiff, a CSA member is getting married here. Flower gardens are actually looking really good. Strangely it seems for the most part that the flowers are happy this year! My sister Susanne has been spending her spare time getting everything cleaned up and it is awesome. Too bad more flowers aren't edible, we'd be laughing.
Oh to be less practical!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August 17th baskets, farms notes

Baskets for the 17th included an ever widening assortment of heirloom tomatoes, beans( mostly an italian slicing bean, green and wide),peppers, cukes or summer squash/zucchini/patty pans, tomatillos and ground cherries, potatoes, herbs including basils, papalo(cilantro taste),a savoury mint,garlic....what did I forget?
If you are unfamiliar with tomatillos and ground cherries, they look like their relatives, the chinese lantern but of course are edible.
Just husk the smaller ones, the ground cherries, and eat as is,
The tomatillos are used in salsa and a recipe follows, thanks to Suzanne. As well I will share Suzanne's zucchini recipe which can be used also with the summer squash or patty pans.
The tomatoes make a fabulous salad. I like to cut them into bite size pieces, add a bit of vinegar (any kind), a bit of sunflower oil,salt and pepper to taste and chopped basil. If you have some good mozzarella it is a great addition.
It was nice to feel the heat over the past week or so. Aah, summer has arrived!
Sadly, it makes no difference to many of the crops in my garden. Once they start to go, they aren't coming back. Carrots have rotted out, eggplants ditto, some of the peppers and brassicas.I suspect as well that late blight has hit my tomatoes here, as it has many other areas around us. There are lots of tomatoes, but the plants are dying. Potatoes and garlic are two very good looking crops however.
Please note we have cancelled the tomato festival because of slow ticket sale. Thanks to everybody who expressed an interest in attending....who knows, maybe next year.

Grilled Zucchini Roll Ups with Herbs and Cheese
3 small zucchini *about 0.5 lb each, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices.
1 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp salt, plus more to taste
PInch of freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 oz fresh goat cheese.
1 tbsp minced fresh parsely
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium heat.
Discard the outermost slices of zucchini and brush the rest with oil
on both sides; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until tender,
about 4 minutes per side. You can make the grilled zucchini a day
ahead and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, parsley and lemon juice,
mashing them together with a fork.
Put 1/2 tsp of the cheese mixture about 1/2 inch from the end of a
zucchini slice. Top with a couple of basil leaves. Roll up and place
seam side down on a platter. Repeat with the rest of the zucchini

Roasted Tomatillo-Serrano Salsa (adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen)

1 lb (10 to 12 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed.
Fresh serrano chiles to taste (can substitute jalapenos), roughly 5, about 1 oz total
2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 small (4 oz) white onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup loosely packed roughly chopped cilantro
Salt, about 1 generous teaspoon
Sugar, about 1 scant teaspoon (if needed)

1. Lay the tomatillos, serranos/jalapenos and garlic cloves on a baking sheet and place 4 inches below a very hot broiler. When the tomatillos blister and blacken and soften on one side, about 5 minutes, turn them over and roast the other side. Cool completely on the baking sheet. Cool, then pull the stems from the chiles and peel the garlic.

2. Scrape the roasted tomatillos and any juices that have accumulated into a food processor or blender, along with the roasted chiles and garlic. Pulse the machine uintil everything is reduced to a rather coarse-textured puree.

3. Scrape the salsa into a serving bowl, then stir in bteween 1/4 and 1/2 cup water to gie the sauce an easily spoonable consistency. Scoop the onion into a strainer, rinse under cold water, shake off the excess and stir into the salsa, along with the cilantro. Taste and season with salt and a little sugar.

Note: those of you with less tolerant tastebuds could probably only stand to use 1 to 2 chiles instead of five.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August 4 baskets and farm notes

A little bit of summer crept into today's baskets. Yes, heirloom tomatoes are now beginning to appear, as well as peppers, summer squash/zucchini, some nice heirloom beans. Also broccoli, cutting celery, African Blue Basil, peppermint, collards or New Zealand Spinach.
I hope folks tried the Rich Zucchini Soup recipe, if not, it is worthwhile. I have made all the other recipes to date on the blog, but my sister chastised me for not making that one, so I did. Yum...it was good, and Gary even looked forward to the leftover soup the next night.
I hope you like the variety of beans. Clearly I like to grow some that are a little bit different, but please use them all in the same manner. My favourite bean always used to be Dragon Tongue, that marvellously fleshy pale yellow bean with purple striping. Great to snack on raw even! But I think the last several years of growing Bobis Albenga have convinced me to give it the number one spot. Great green bean flavour, slim with purple striping. I love this bean! It is quite a rare bean- if I don't save my own seed I won't have it.
One great way to enjoy beans other than the obvious steaming or boiling is roasted. Coat them with a bit of olive oil, add sea salt and roast in a 400 degree oven until cooked through. Also try the following recipe from "Farmer John's Cookbook"


1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 lb green(or any colour) beans
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 TBSP lemon juice
3 TBSP olive oil
4 oz Parmesan cheese , thinly shaved, about 1/2 a cup

Toast the walnuts in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over high heat until they start to brown in spots and become fragrant. Transfer nuts to a dish to cool.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the beans and salt and cook until tender but still firm, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the beans to a colander in the sink and run cold water over them. Trim the beans if necessary.
Toss the beans and walnuts in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a small bowl, whisk the lwmon juice and olive oil until well combined. Pour this mixture over the beans and toss until well coated. Transfer to a salad bowl and sprinkle cheese over top.

Farm notes
Again, a difficult growing year with cool temperatures and rain pummelling us on a regular basis. Lots of new plantings have been washed away, and the soil isn't really having a chance to dry out before the next rain comes along. The garden was reasonably well weeded 3 weeks ago, but now is very weedy and I can't take the tiller into it because of the wet soil. So hand weeding, an impossible task is taking up some time, but I won't get ahead of it.
Because of this, I won't be having my farm open house...it ain't pretty here!
But some crops do seem quite okay with it all, particularly the potatoes, which need to grow a bit more before they appear in your baskets and the cole crops seem to like it too. Oh yes, and the tomatillos which are sprouting like crazy everywhere on this property! When they come, they will really come, so start looking up recipes now!
If anyone has any recipes they would like to share, or comments about the ones I have posted, please be my guest. My preference is for vegetarian recipes, in case you didn't notice.
Stay well and eat your veggies!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Garden notes and July 29 baskets

Todays baskets included one of my favourite, yet I think one of the most underrated vegetables going, cabbage. Cabbage is juicy, and fresh...great just sliced for a snack, but a recipe follows for it's use. Also pattypans,zucchini or summer squash, peppers, cutting celery.onions, garlic, a mix of heirloom beans (which are just starting), chard, collards,lemon cucumbers. Hopefully everyone recognizes everything and I am throwing in another recipe for the zucchini (summer squash , patty pans).
All recipes are from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian"


3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP minced onion
1 TBSP minced garlic
1/4 cup short grain rice
1 lb zucchini, or summer squash
salt and freshly ground pepper
6 cups vegetable stock or water
2 eggs at room temperature
1 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put oil in a medium size saucepan, medium heat. When hot add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add rice and stir to coat with oil, then continue cooking for about 2 minutes until fragrant.
Add the zucchini along with salt and pepper. Stir constantly for a couple of minutes, until the zucchini starts to wilt and release liquid. When the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pan stir in the stock, bring soup to a boil and reduce the heat so the mixture simmers steadily. Cover and cook 20-30 minutes, until the rice is tender and the vegetables are starting to melt in the soup.
In a large heatproof bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until creamy, then whisk in lemon juice. Take a ladle of broth from the pot, and slowly add the broth to the eggs , a few drops at a time at first, whisking constantly so the eggs don't curdle. Repeat once or twicce more, until the egg mixture is thick, smooth and very warm.
Make sure the soup is not boiling, but bubbling gently. Slowly add the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately garnished with parsley and parmesan cheese.

Buttered Cabbage
(simply delicious)
For extra flavour melt the butter with a clove of garlic, minced shallot, or good paprika.

2-4 TBSP butter
about 20 cabbage leaves

Put a medium to large pot of water on the stove to boil and salt it well. Put the butter in a small sauce pan and melt it, let it brown, but don't burn.
When the water boils, add the cabbage and cook, stirring every now and then, util tender, about 5 minutes. Remove with tongs and drain well, toss gently with melted butter and serve.

Garden notes
I'm feeling somewhat discouraged at this point, with my biggest crop, and my love, tomatoes. Up until a week ago, things were moving along nicely, a few lost plants in low spots due to wet weather, but that was bearable.
On Sunday morning just past it was clear that lots of rain over a short period of time was taking it's toll, and I have most definitely lost 1/3-1/2 of my tomatoes at this point. Lots for the baskets, however tomato sales are hugely important to me and it is disappointing again that the weather has taken this turn. I have clay soil,which I have lightened over the years with lots of organic material, but it is still a heavy soil which holds onto moisture. In a year of drought or average rainfall I do very well, but too much rainfall, especially in a short period of time is a difficulty.
Other crops are very happy...potatoes, beans, garlic, squash, cukes, beets,cole crops, carrots,to name a few. Peppers are okay so far, eggplants are off to a very slow start because of the lack of heat. Basil and onions are both having difficulty as they were planted in lower spots and need dry weather.
I'm not anticipating going back to market this year now unless the weather turns things around, and hope it does!
Such is the life of a grower who depends on the unpredictability of the weather....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 21 baskets and farm notes

Well it has been so far the summer that isn't and only time will tell if it is the summer that never was- weather wise that is. Certainly things would be a bit further along if we had some nice warm swimming weather.
Baskets today included zucchini,summer squash and or patty pans. Use all interchangeably. One of my favourites is to fry up a bit of onion in olive oil or butter, slice your summer squash thin into the pan and cook till softened. Yum!
Beets were also in the miz..could have been cylindrical, golden, white or chioggia. Don't forget to eat the greens...steam lightly and enjoy!.
Beets are wonderful roasted in foil. Heat oven to 400 F, wrap beets individually in foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake until they can be pierced with a thin knife, around 40 minutes for smaller beets. Cooking them this way retains all their juices and they don't get waterlogged.
Salad continues, cutting celery, basils(enjoy while you can, they are not enjoying the weather).
Beans are on the horizon,hopefully tomatoes soon too. Eggplants are not enjoying the lack of heat and I hope will carry on long enough to produce.
I am trying to plan a get togeth er for out at the farm within the next month. Please check in here for the date!

Here's a recipe to help you with the zucchini(summer squash)

Zucchini pancakes

2 lb zucchini
1 egg
1/4 cup flour or fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper
4 tbsp butter or olive oil

Grate the squash by hand or with a grating disk of a food processor. Mix together all ingredients but the butter and oil. Shape into 4-8 burger shaped patties. If time allows refrigerate for 1 hour to firm up.
Heat butter or oil in skillet over medium high heat. Dredge the cakes n flour or bread crumbs and cook until nicely browned on both sides(10-15 minutes).

This great recipe is from "How To Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tomato Blight Threat

This article originally appeared in the New York Times. If you have tomatoes in your garden, be vigilant! This is scary stuff!

Outbreak of Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop

Published: July 17, 2009

A highly contagious fungus that destroys tomato plants has quickly spread to nearly every state in the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic, and the weather over the next week may determine whether the outbreak abates or whether tomato crops are ruined, according to federal and state agriculture officials.

The spores of the fungus, called late blight, are often present in the soil, and small outbreaks are not uncommon in August and September. But the cool, wet weather in June and the aggressively infectious nature of the pathogen have combined to produce what Martin A. Draper, a senior plant pathologist at the United States Department of Agriculture, described as an “explosive” rate of infection.

William Fry, a professor of plant pathology at Cornell, said, “I’ve never seen this on such a wide scale.”

A strain of the fungus was responsible for the Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century. The current outbreak is believed to have spread from plants in garden stores to backyard gardens and commercial fields. If it continues, there could be widespread destruction of tomato crops, especially organic ones, and higher prices at the market.

“Locally grown tomatoes normally get $15 to $20 a box” at wholesale, said John Mishanec, a pest management specialist at Cornell who has been visiting farms and organizing emergency growers’ meetings across upstate New York. “Some growers are talking about $40 boxes already.” Tomatoes on almost every farm in New York’s fertile “Black Dirt” region in the lower Hudson Valley, he said, have been affected.

Professor Fry, who is genetically tracking the blight, said the outbreak spread in part from the hundreds of thousands of tomato plants bought by home gardeners at Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Kmart stores starting in April. The wholesale gardening company Bonnie Plants, based in Alabama, had supplied most of the seedlings and recalled all remaining plants starting on June 26. Dennis Thomas, Bonnie Plants’ general manager, said five of the recalled plants showed signs of late blight.

“This pathogen did not come from our plants,” Mr. Thomas said on Wednesday. “This is something that has been around forever.”

Mr. Draper said the diseased seedlings, found in stores as far west as Ohio, were at least one source of the illness, but, he added, “It’s possible that we are looking at multiple epidemics.”

Mr. Mishanec said agricultural pathogens can easily spread when plants are distributed regionally and sold by big-box retailers.

“Farms are inspected, greenhouses are inspected,” he said, “but garden centers aren’t, and the people who work there aren’t trained to spot disease.”

Authorities recommend that home gardeners inspect their tomato plants for late blight signs, which include white, powdery spores; large olive green or brown spots on leaves; and brown or open lesions on the stems. Gardeners who find an affected plant should pull it, seal it in a plastic bag and throw it away, not compost it. Unaffected plants in home gardens and commercial fields should be sprayed with fungicide to prevent the spread of the disease. (More information can be found at a Cornell Web site, http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu.)

In Rhode Island, some farmers have plowed tomato fields under at the first sign of blight, said Kristen Castrataro, an extension agent with the University of Rhode Island.

At the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., half the year’s tomato crop was infected and has been lost, said Dan Barber, the center’s chef and creative director.

Tim Stark, a Pennsylvania farmer who specializes in tomatoes, said he spotted three affected plants — he has more than 25,000 in the ground — last week and was worried enough to spray them with synthetic fungicide for the first time in 14 years of farming. For good measure, he pulled all of his potatoes out of the field.

There are two strains of late blight — tomato and potato — but the illness can jump from one species to the other. It is highly contagious: A single open lesion on a plant can produce hundreds of thousands of infectious spores.

Fungicides can protect unaffected plants from disease, but there is no cure for late blight. Organic farmers, who are not permitted to use powerful synthetic fungicides like chlorothalonil, have very few weapons against this aggressive pathogen.

On Thursday morning, Chris Walbrecht, co-owner of the organic farm Garden of Eve in Riverhead, N.Y., on Long Island, found the first signs of late blight on a row of 800 Early Girl tomato plants; he said he might have to destroy them all, a major blow to the farm’s finances.

An acre of tomato plants can produce 30,000 to 40,000 pounds of tomatoes. “At $7 a pound, tomatoes are one of our most profitable crops,” he said.

Hot, sunny weather, which can kill late blight, could dramatically slow or eliminate the fungus’s spread over the next week, experts said.

“I see a day like today that’s overcast and windy, those spores are flying around everywhere, and rain tonight will bring it all down to the ground,” Meg McGrath, a vegetable pathologist on the faculty of the Cornell horticulture research center in Riverhead, said on Thursday. “The disease loves these conditions.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article included Gramoxone in a list of fungicides. It is in fact a herbicide.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 15th baskets, farm notes

The season is moving along slowly because of the cool and wet weather. Zucchini that was 6" 2 weeks ago still isn't much more than 6 ". Things look good, but progress is so slow, hence the continued dominance of greens in your basket.
Most greens you should be familiar with now, but one new one that some of you received is Portugese Cabbage (Couve Tronchuda).This is a very LARGE leaf with a great crunchy stem. It can be cooked much as collards and kale, as well in the recipe that follows...it is another pie! But different.
This recipe is from Mark Bittman's, "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian" and you can use your lovely lacinato kale, portugese cabbage or collards in it. Heck, throw in some chard too!

Kale Pie

2 tbsp butter, plus more as needed
about 8 large kale /collard leaves
a medium onion, sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs, like parsley, thyme chervil and chives
6 eggs
1 cup whole milk yogourt or sour cream
3 tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1) preheat oven to 375. Put butter in a large skillet, over medium heat. a minute later add the kale \and onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes until tender-don't brown though. Remove from heat, add herbs taste and adjust seasoning
2) Meanwhile hard-cook 3 of the eggs, shell them and coarsely chop. Add to the cooked kale mixture and let cool while you make the batter.
3)Combine the yogourt, mayonnaise and remaining eggs. Add the baking powder and flour and mix until smooth. Lightly butter a 9X12 inch ceramic or glass baking dish. Spread half the batter over the bottom, then top with the kale filling; smear the remaining batter over the kale , using your fingers or a rubber spatula to make sure there are no gaps in what will form the pie's top crust.
4) Bake for 45 minutes, it will be shiny and golden brown. Let the pie cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing into it. Eat warm or at room temperature.

If anyone is remotely interested in helping out on the farm, that help would be greatly appreciated. It is hard to stay on top of the weeding and mulching and extra hands could be put to good use. A tomatoes for labour deal is what I have in mind. This goes even if you aren't involved in the CSA...in exchange for 4 hours labour, I will give you at least 10 lbs of tomatoes when they are ready. Any takers? The tomatoes will be fantastic! And they are looking very good.
My gal Meredith, who helps out here is getting married this weekend, to Hyland who is employed at Inn on The Twenty. My most sincere best wishes to them both and I am looking forward to attending your wedding.
Next up is Tiffany, my co-conspirator on the Eating Niagara blog. She is getting married at the end of August...here! My goal is to make it all look good for her, a daunting challenge.
Tickets are on sale for the Niagara Heirloom Tomato Festival now. Hope to see some of you there. Tickets are available through me and The Wildflower.
I am planning a CSA-garden club pot-luck here in August. This will give CSA folks a chance to see the garden, ask questions and get to know some other great people. Please stay tuned, I'll figure out a date soon!

Monday, July 6, 2009

St. Catharines Standard July 3rd Editorial

It has been tough to come up with one idea for this last column, so here is what is on my mind….

I am continually amazed by how little attention we pay to our food and food issues around us. It nearly seems to me that an elephant is sitting in our midst and we ignore it.

Multinational corporations control our seed supply, animals are treated as commodities, not the living and sentient creatures that they are. Chemical use on farms and meat production continues to be one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas.

Lots of talk about local food for sure, but some of the promoters, I am sorry to say, are more bent on self promotion… when you recognize that, and the reality that some farmers are less than honest about what they are growing and how they are growing it, some of the appeal is lost/

And organic-oops, I can't use that word anymore. It is in the dictionary, and according to the father of organic growing, Robert Rodale, I do it. But I'll be slapped down hard if I use the word. I am required to pay someone to come in and look at what I do to use the "o" word. Certification of all sorts is the order of the day, as yet other folks jump on the bandwagon to make a buck off the local food trend.

This stuff drives me crazy....all part of "the scuffling" as my husband would say...folks just trying to claw their way to the top to get their piece of the pie. All this just makes me want to garden and surround myself with things that are truly comforting and real. When I am upset, I go out in the garden and weed, and walk through some incredible marvels of nature. To feel this connection with the land and the true satisfaction of growing my own food, is truly wonderful.

I love growing heirlooms! It is something so real and important that it just makes sense Packets of seeds are true treasures-miracles waiting to happen. Seeds for produce whose fruit is striking, unusual and full flavoured. But the true beauty is the fact that these marvels from the past still exist...and that there is increasing urgency and interest in keeping them going.

Did you know that there are more than 10,000 varieties of heirloom tomatoes in existence? Only about 5 varieties, and hybrids at that, are represented on grocery store shelves. These varieties ship well, store well and taste like cardboard.

Sadly as big growers choose hybrid varieties, many of the heirlooms disappear, forever. Seed companies have chosen to drop varieties of seed over the years that are not selling well for whatever reason and thousands and thousands of varieties of vegetables that were once prominent in home gardens, no longer exist. They are extinct.

The importance of this loss of diversity cannot be underestimated. As we rely increasingly on fewer and fewer varieties of vegetables, fruits and grains to feed ourselves, our food supply becomes more at risk. Disease can wipe out closely related strains of food plants in a flash - consider for example the devastation of the Irish Potato Famine.

There is also some suggestion too that much of the nutritional value has been bred out of the food we eat, nutrition that heirlooms have maintained. There are some organizations around the world and in our own country that recognize the importance of heirlooms and maintaining them. Seeds of Diversity Canada is a truly worthwhile organization with a mission that is true. Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa has done more to maintain and save heirlooms from extinction than any other organization anywhere. These are the organizations who need our support as they struggle to make their voices heard above the din. Remember them when you dream this winter of your garden for 2010

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 30-CSA baskets, Niagara Heirloom Tomato Festival !

In addition to items in the basket you definitely recognize, there may be a few things that have you scratching your head. As I have said before, not all baskets contain all the same things, so a bit of recognition work will be necessary here.
Salad, and garlic scapes you will know...hope some of you tried the pesto.
The baskets also contained greens-collards or chard or tuscan kale. Also some New Zealand spinach. Collards are the bigger cabbage-y leaves, kale is the darker green bubbly type leaf and chard is the more oval and tender leaf. All three can be lightly sauted in olive oil, with garlic, or of course steamed. Another recipe follows my blurb here.
NZ spinach is a warm weather spinach type green which despite it's name isn't in the spinach family at all, but it can be used in just the same way. To enjoy it, eat lightly steamed, raw in salads. It is a bit of a succulent with a fuzzier texture.
The true succulent in all baskets is purslane- the domesticated version. It is either a golden, or greener colour, with smallish oval leaves. It is the only veg source of Omega 3 fatty acids, so it is tres good for you. Use it in your salads.

Also you will have received some Italian Parsley, or cutting celery-use both similarly, adding their flavour to your cooked or raw dishes. As well basils- the purplish toned one is African Blue Basil-doesn't grow from seed!
Another very strong flavoured herb you will have is the mexican herb papalo-intense cilantro flavour. Can you see the oil glands on the back of the leaves? Good used as cilantro, or sparingly in salads. Also a smallish bag of radish micro-green....rinse before using.
When the chard comes on strong, here is a really great recipe to consider from the really great cookbook, Laurel's Kitchen

Chard Cheese Pie
6 cups lightly steamed chard, well drained
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
2 eggs beaten
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole grain bread crumbs

beat together cottage cheese, lemon juice,eggs and salt.stir a cup of this mixture into the chard and press it down in a well greased 8x8 pan. Spread the remaining cottage cheese mixture evenly over the top and sprinkle on bread crmbs and paprika. Bake for 1/2 an hour or until set. Allow to stand for several minutes before slicing into squares.

Farm notes

It continues to be pretty busy here in the garden. I continue to fill in empty spots with new seed, but by far the most dominant task right now is weeding. All the rain has meant everything is growing quickly, but truly nothing as quickly as the weeds.Perhaps it is just a bit more rain than we really needed but at least watering tasks have been minimal so far....a good thing!
My 27 chicks are growing like crazy...now 7 weeks old,and pecking and scratching with the best of them. Lots of eggs are in the forecast. Also arriving a week ago was our new collie pup Ellie. Boy, puppies are full of energy, you kind of forget how much! She's a wonderful girl. I can't tell you how much we missed have a dog after Casey and Becky passed away. Not good without them.
I now have tickets available for our Niagara Heirloom Tomato Festival, to be held at Balls Falls on September 6/09. This event is presented by The Wildflower Market, and Tree and Twig, and for the tasting event I will have up to 100 varieties of tomatoes to try. The $45 ticket price also includes 2 glasses of wine, tomato-dish samples from 5 of Niagara's top chefs and entertainment. Children under the age of 6 are free. Chefs involved are Stephen Treadwell, Mark Picone, Frank Dodd, Eric Peacock and Joel from the Keefer.
That evening, a delicious tomatoey dinner with wine included will be created by Wolfgang of The Wildflower for $85. This cost includes taxes, gratuities and entertainment. If both tasting and dinner tickets are purchased you will receive a gift!
We are really excited about this event! Tickets can be purchased from either me (cash or cheque) or from The Wildflower,which will accept your credit card as well.
Hope to see everyone there!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wwoofers, scapes and spring.

Anybody want to buy a used trailer? I bought one several weeks ago in anticipation of my first wwoofer...individuals from all over the world who are looking for working vacations on organic farms.
Although it works out wonderfully well for many people, it really didn't turn out that way for me. I felt like I had taken on another child, and one that really didn't like farm work. After the first week of badgering, I knew that was enough for me. Getting a 4 hour work day out of someone shouldn't be so tough. Very nice boy, I wish him well, but it wasn't working here..Us old girls were working circles around him!
I feel very relieved actually. Now to sell the trailer so I can pay old girls to help.
The garden is looking good, certainly weedy after this rain, but I sense it will be a very good year. We have lots of tomatoes planted, lots of many things....it's big!
But it seems like it will be a late season. I heard on CBC news yesterday that this spring has been about 3-4 degrees below normal temps, with no days at all over 30 degrees. It is supposedly one of the longest "springs" we have had temperature wise.
So things are late, just how it is.
BUT, yes, they have arrived! The garlic scapes, those cute little curly tops of the garlic plant, which will, if left, turn into the flower heads, then seed.
They are in the CSA baskets now. That lovely ,lovely garlic flavour, so good in frittatas, stir fries and omelets. But here is another fantastic use- on pasta as pesto....

Garlic scape Pesto

8-9 garlic scapes, 1 cup in total
1/3 cup walnuts
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup parmigiano
1/2 tsp salt

Process scapes and walnuts in food processor till smooth.
Remove from processor, add to bowl, add cheese, salt to taste. Keeps in the fridge for one week. Use 2 TBSP with 1/2 lb pasta...YUM!

Cooking greens are coming up now too, New in your baskets on June 23 are a mix of cooking greens such as kale, collards and chards. These too are great with the scapes. Stir-fry the scapes in a bit of olive oil, add the greens and wilt.
It's good!
The tickets for The Niagara Heirloom Tomato Festival, to be held at Balls Falls on September 6th are going on sale soon. I will have up to 100 varieties on tomatoes there for the tasting as well as vino, sample dishes from some wonderful Niagara chefs and musical entertainment. Wolfgang from The Wildflower is my co-organizer and will be putting on a great dinner that evening. Tickets will be available through me or The Wildflower and I will post a notice here as to when they are available. It will be a great day and planning is in high gear!

Monday, June 15, 2009

June 16th baskets-recipes

Excerpted from Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt On Vegetables: Seasonal Recipes and Stories from a Community Supported Farm by Farmer John Peterson & Angelic Organics (Gibbs Smith Publisher). Check with your local farm or bookstore for availability. Additional recipes, charts, signed copies of this book, and quantity discounts available at www.AngelicOrganics.com/cookbook.

Salad Greens
Salad greens start early and keep coming throughout the season. Experiment with salad building! You can top greens with fruit, nuts, seeds, pasta, and whole grains in addition to numerous dressings. As nineteenth-century editor and author Charles Dudley Warner once wrote, “You can put everything, and the more things the better, into a salad, as into a conversation; but everything depends on the skill of mixing.”

Store unwashed lettuce or mesclun in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. (Wet greens will spoil quickly, so make sure they are truly dry before refrigerating them.) If you have a salad spinner, wash and spin the greens before refrigerating. Use mesclun mix within three or four days, and use lettuce within a week.

Salad greens bruise easily, so be sure to handle them gently. For lettuce, slice the head at its base with a sharp knife and let the leaves fall open. Discard any damaged or leathery outer leaves and tear large leaves into bite-size pieces. Wash lettuce and mesclun mix by swishing them in a basin of cold water. Dry the greens in a salad spinner. (Or place them loosely in a mesh bag or thin towel, then go outside and swing the bundle.)

Sweet Maple and Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

Try this dressing over a mesclun mix or tossed with grilled or steamed vegetables. You might like to add some bitter greens such as endive, radicchio, or arugula to your salad mix to complement the sweetness of the dressing. Angelic Organics Kitchen.
Makes about 1 cup

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh basil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 clove garlic, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the oil, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, basil, lemon juice, dry mustard, and garlic in a large jar. With the lid tightly screwed on, shake the jar vigorously until the oil and vinegar have thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste and shake again to combine.

2. Store the dressing in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. To serve, toss it with salad greens or grilled or steamed vegetables.

Arugula Pesto
In this recipe, the strong, peppery snap of mature arugula finds its counterpart in Asiago cheese. Blended to creamy smoothness with garlic, olive oil, and toasted pine nuts, this vibrant pesto will make something brilliant of a basic pasta meal. You can also try it tossed with roasted potatoes or steamed vegetables. If you plan to freeze it, don’t add the cheese until after the pesto has thawed. Angelic Organics Kitchen.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cups mature arugula
1/2 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed
freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. Toast the pine nuts in a dry, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat until they start to brown in spots and become fragrant. Transfer the nuts to a dish to cool.

3. Combine the arugula, Asiago cheese, oil, garlic, and pine nuts in a blender or food processor; process until thoroughly combined and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Braised Lettuces

Tired of munching bunny food? Don’t be afraid to add heat to lettuce. In this recipe, small heads of lettuce are carefully bundled and cooked like whole vegetables—first blanched to tender succulence, then braised to give them a buttery golden glow. Cooking lettuce this way brings out a natural, delicate sweetness in the leaves. The bunnies don’t know what they’re missing. Shareholder.
Serves 3 to 4

3 to 4 small heads lettuce, rinsed whole under running water, tough or bruised outer leaves removed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1–2 tablespoons butter
freshly ground black peppe

1. Tie a piece of string around each head of lettuce, just tightly enough to hold the leaves together and promote even cooking.

2. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil; add the salt and reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the lettuce heads and boil for 3 minutes.

3. Drain the lettuces in a colander and let cool. When cool enough to handle, gently squeeze them in your hands to remove any excess water. Remove the string.

4. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the lettuce heads; cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook, turning them carefully, for another 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

The Crop
Our growing manager said to me last night, “What are we going to do with all the lettuce? We’ve got so much lettuce, and it’s all big and beautiful.” I said, “Give it all. The shareholders won’t mind. It’s the first box—they’re not tired of anything yet. Just cram it in somehow.” —Farmer John

Garlic & Garlic Scapes

There are many exciting garlic preparations to choose from: zesty raw garlic, mellow roasted garlic, pickled garlic, and the savory flavor of sautéed garlic that falls somewhere in between. Garlic scapes are the curlicue flower stalks we snap off garlic plants in the spring to redirect the plant’s energy down toward the root.

Like onions, garlic can be eaten fresh (uncured) or dried. Dried garlic will keep for several months in a dark, dry, well-ventilated place at a cool room temperature. Keep fresh green garlic in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and use promptly; accumulated moisture in the bag will cause it to spoil. Store unwashed garlic scapes in a loosely wrapped plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

To separate the cloves, set the bulb, root end up, on a counter and press down on it with your palm. To peel an individual clove, trim off the root end and then press on the clove with the flat side of a knife. The skin should pop off nicely. If garlic is fresh—uncured—the skin will present more of a challenge.

To mince garlic, lay the clove on its flat side on a cutting board. With a small, sharp paring knife, make thin lengthwise slices, using your fingers and thumb to keep the slices squeezed together. Then slice crosswise, making even more tiny slices. Or, use a garlic press.

Garlic scapes can be minced, chopped, or sliced.

Garlic Croutons

The great thing about making your own croutons is that you can make them at your leisure, when the inevitable stale half-loaf of bread appears in your kitchen. While store-bought croutons are adequate in a pinch, you’ll find that the little extra time and effort it takes to make your own make this delicious homemade version an attractive option. Friend of the Farm.

stale bread, any amount, sliced (white bread is best, but any kind works)
olive oil
garlic cloves, peeled, top quarter sliced off

1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.

2. Brush both sides of the bread with a thin layer of olive oil. Place the bread on a baking sheet and sprinkle tops lightly with salt. Bake until lightly golden, 5 to 7 minutes, checking frequently to make sure bread doesn’t burn.

3. Remove the bread from the oven and rub all over with the cut side of the garlic cloves.

4. Cut the bread into smaller pieces if desired. The bread is ready to be used or stored.

Mongolian Garlic

If you find yourself lucky enough to come upon a bounty of garlic, here is a wonderful recipe to use up some of it. These intensely flavorful little gems are great as a condiment, or, for an hors d’oeuvre, stick toothpicks in them and serve in a shallow plate in a pool of the sauce. Any leftover sauce is delicious over rice or egg noodles. Friend of the Farm (adapted from The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking).
Makes about 2 cups

5 large, firm heads garlic
2/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sake or Chinese rice wine
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon hot chili oil (optional)

1. Separate the cloves of garlic from the head. Peel away all skins that fall away from the cloves, but leave the thin layer of skin that doesn’t fall away on each clove. Use only large, firm cloves.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. When the liquid is just about to simmer, add the garlic, turn the heat to low, and partially cover.

3. Stew the garlic in the liquid until the garlic is very soft, 3 to 4 hours depending on the size of the cloves and the variety of garlic. It is very important that the liquid does not come to a boil; the garlic will turn bitter if boiled. Uncover the pot frequently to check that the liquid is just barely simmering and to stir the garlic. At the end of the cooking time, turn off the heat, cover the pot tightly, and let the cloves marinate in the liquid for 2 hours.

4. The cloves can be served at this point or refrigerated for up to a week. They are best served warm or at room temperature. The cloves are still in their skins. Pop them in your mouth this way and use your tongue to squeeze out the clove (it comes out easily), or squeeze it out with the flat side of a knife.

Excerpted from Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt On Vegetables: Seasonal Recipes and Stories from a Community Supported Farm by Farmer John Peterson & Angelic Organics (Gibbs Smith Publisher). Check with your local farm or bookstore for availability. Additional recipes, charts, signed copies of this book, and quantity discounts available at www.AngelicOrganics.com/cookbook.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June 2 baskets....

Just a quick note before I eat supper and head out the door to "Lettuce, Turnip and WHine|
Baskets today included, amongst other things, the following...
Salad greens, a small bag of Daikon Radish microgreens and pea shoots, as well as some Marilyn's Salad Mint. All can be used in your salad, or on wraps or sandwiches.
Radishes, green onions, green garlic (use fresh as you would any garlic),some baskets have a "stem-my" green called celtuce, par-cel, a number of different basils.
We are working really hard to get the garden in so baskets will be overflowing come high season. In as of today are all the eggplants, peppers, some tomatoes, squash, cukes, more salad, and assorted other greens, all the onions, tomatillos, ground cherries, cape gooseberries, some carrots,some beets and some beans, cauli, broccoli, cabbages, kales and collards...
Still lots of planting to do, followed by lots of growing.
Best wishes to all. And a most sincere thanks to Bob and Mary-Beth for taking the trek out to pick up all the baskets. Incredible!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The post-tomato transplant part of the year

For the last two months, my every waking hour has virtually been consumed with heirloom tomato transplants.
I began seeding them March 15 as I usually do, and seeded for 10 days I believe. Water them, love them for a month as they sprout and grow in their little cells under my lights, then 2 solid weeks of transplanting into 3.25" pots. Another week and a half to label them. Hours of shelving them to ensure proper light and warmth, and yes, up at midnight one evening and working by floodlight to ensure they are well protected for the pending frost that Environment Canada didn't predict, but I KNEW was coming.
8,000 tomato plants, around 700 varieties, another few thousand peppers, eggplant, and odds and sods.
It is so wonderful to see the huge interest in the heirloom varieties. We had hundreds of folks through from all over on my Tomato Days event last weekend- what a great showing of spirit amongst gardeners.
And it is pretty much over now...a trickle only of plants still finding happy homes. Some donated to charities in TO. and Niagara Falls. Hope everyone is happy with their purchase and the growing season is unparalleled.
And then, boom, into the next part of the season..plant like a crazy woman. Ready now is salad,next week, spinach, radishes, onions. But I am late with some things and am playing catch up. So this week in the garden are broccolis, cabbage, cauli, kales, first carrots, beets, more salad, all the funky eggplants, all the rest of the ONYONS as we say here, as well as some beans. Yesterday the Organic Gardening Rodale test garden went in, about 30 different items including 8 different tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, spinaches, lettuces, kale, beans, broccoli, brussels, melon, squash, cukes, zucchini, and 4 flower varieties. Looks good.
CSA baskets began this week, as I wanted to get everyone's plants out to them. In the baskets was a small harvest of salad -microgreen mix, chards, green onions, some green garlic, herbs (basils, mints-which are savoury,such as a salad mint and oregano-thyme mint) and some lovely preserves of my /08 harvest created by Wolfgang at The Wildflower, and likely a few other items.
The baskets will bulge in the high season months of August and on...not so much now.
I am blessed with my help this year..Lisa my regular gal(my new BFF I tell her) and my volunteer-with-the most, Karyn. I have a WWoofer arriving next week, and am scrambling for accomodation for him. And blessed with friends and family who helped on my crazy sale weekend, my Gary, Emily and Mollie and fabulous friends Helen, Emily, and Tiffany.
Going to be a terrific year, but there is lots of work to be done.
Thanks everyone for coming out, talking tomatoes and your terrific support. It is always so great to see everyone...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

13 things in my garden this year...

Okay well.... 13 things is a bit of an under-exaggeration. But I just read a neat little note on another blog about cool things people were putting in their garden. And I must say, there are some things I am so excited about too.
So for all you CSA people out there, here are some things to look for.
Number one item that has me anxious to get into the garden is a cool little carrot from Tunisia. Without any exaggeration at all, I will say I have been trying to get seed for this for more than 5 years, without success. And now it is here! In Wellandport!
So what is so great about this carrot? It is a tri-coloured carrot- that is right, 3 colours in one carrot. Not a weird hybrid , a very old heirloom Tunisian carrot. Orange , purple and black. Can't wait to see it! It is taking the prize spot in the garden and I will save seeds most definitely. I'll never come across seeds to purchase again.
Tomato-wise, some excietment. White Wax, a waxy skinned white tomato, Goldmans' Italian American (is this Franchi Red Pear?), a cool pleated bi-colour,.
Herbs I can't wait to see would be Tree Basil, Ajwain and Toothache plant with blossoms that explode in your mouth. Thanks to Mark Picone for his interest in that one!
Now we will explore a bit more with Pirricaba, a broccoli like plant, a beet grex of multi-colours and mini yellow, white and red strawberries.
Very cool too will be the seeds I brought back from the Salinas California farmers market...purple and green tomatillos the size of my fist. Huge.
Some new physalis family members, one of my true interests....ground cherries, or cape gooseberries. Love 'em. How about Marrowfat Greens from England?
Okay I am there, that's 13. So, so many more things to be excited about, but we'll rest with that.
Stay tuned as things go in the ground! But first, we transplant....thousands of plants to do before I can be a serious planter in the soil outdoors. Gearing up for the big sale on May 23-24, counting down.... only 5 weeks to go!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It is Spring, and the certified blues....

Halleluliah- I love spring. What a fabulous time of new possibilities and growth, especially in the garden.
It is pretty busy right now . Yesterday I planted about 30 or so different brassicas, in the greenhouse for transplanting of course, and the day prior lots of different basils. I got a few of the basils from England, hadn't seen them here. One is Tree Basil, and other is New Guineau Basil. Tasting notes will follow in August, seems a long time to wait, but of course gardening isn't instant gratification.
Right now the greenhouses are producing many greens and lovely blossoms for culinary uses. I'll take samples of 14 different greens to the garden club meeting tonight (Lettuce, Turnip and Wine Club), Wildflower at 6:45. Hot, cabbag-y,crisp,mild-flavours are all over the place. Soon though, out it all comes for new crops. Tomatoes in one house, transplant sales in the other.
Getting caught up in the growing is the best part of what I do. Sometimes though I get upset about the politics of organics. Of note of course is the fact that I am no longer able to use the word organic anymore..silly, the word is even in the dictionary. Am I organic? Sure am- in the very truest sense of the word as it was used by the Rodales many, many years ago. But if I am not certified now, I can't use it.
I appreciate that many people do go to the trouble and expense of getting certified. That alone makes them different from me, but their growing methods do not. If anyone can think of a new word for me,let me know. Or perhaps it will just be Tree and Twig produce and I hope people will recognize that as a sign of my integrity.
I received an email too a few days back telling me I should consider being a "certified " farmer, for a cost. This would be so I could display my "authenticity" when I attend farmers markets. Well, I am a farmer, the government considers me that and hey, I am okay just telling people that too.
How silly, how silly. I just shake my head. I can think of 5 organizations that want to "certify " me, again for a cost. I am sure, 100% sure, that there are more.
Now organic, local food is in vogue, the wolves are circulating to get their share. As a farmer, I work really hard, and I won't be parting with my cash for these purposes anytime soon. I really would rather buy new seed, or even donate the money to some wonderful organizations that support me as I am. The National Farmers Union, Seed Savers Exchange, Seeds of Diversity, who are true to their causes.
And if you wonder HOW I grow your food, I'll tell you. Or better yet, come visit.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

March 12th Editorial- Prevent Cancer, Don't Just Cure It

There are moments in your life when you recognize that nothing will ever be the same.

One such moment occurred to me about 3 1/2 years ago on a beautiful hot August afternoon. I recall standing on my moms' patio as she looked at me and said, "Well I guess I better tell you, I have a lump on my breast. I’ve been to see the doctor". I looked at her and tried to tell her it would be okay. We didn't know, did we? All we knew was that there was a lump.

But one week later, we did know. And two weeks later we knew it was cancer – and terminal. There was nothing that anyone could do. As I sat in the surgeon’s office with her and heard that final pronouncement I was paralysed with despair.

It has been a year this month since my mother died. She lived her final years with dignity and courage. I miss her terribly.

My story I am sure is tragically familiar to many people. Most people have family, friends or colleagues who have had cancer. Cancer, it seems, affects us all.

Supporting cancer runs/walks and similar activities has become the compassionate thing to do. Research into a cure has received a big boost. But I do not support them. I don't wear a pink ribbon. I am oddly disgusted when I see this marketing ploy applied on everything from paper tissues to food products. My mother, a huge supporter of good causes, immediately discarded any requests for support from cancer causes, even as the cancer raced through her body, her lungs, her brain. Why?

I am not interested in a cure for cancer. I want cancer to be prevented. Drug companies profit from cancer drugs while manufacturers get rich using carcinogens in their products and processes.

Preventing cancer is not about eating more vegetables, fiber and exercising more. How many people do all the "right" things, like my mom, and end up with cancer? In Canada alone, 14 million kgs of known carcinogens are released into the air every year. Blood testing for adults and children can show heavy metals, pesticides, PCB, mercury, lead.

Health Canada knows Canadians are regular users of carcinogens, but allows us to unwittingly apply them in concoctions of creams, deodorants and shampoos. Not enough to hurt us they say. But daily use, long term, changes things.

Dr Sam Epstein, a cancer specialist at University of Illinois calls mainstream cosmetic preparations "a witches brew of carcinogenic ingredients." Dr Vini Khurana, a worlds top neurosurgeon suggests the radiation from cell phones may one day cause more cancer than cigarettes or asbestos. The latency time is considered to be 10-20 years, and in the next few years we will begin to see definitively the impact of regular cell phone use on brain tumour rates. Some countries have issued warnings to parents advising them against allowing their children to use cell phones. But companies keep putting them out there, and there are specialty phones with cute caricatures just for kids. It seems that for every study that says a certain thing causes cancer, there is the equivalent that says it ain't so. Its’ easy to become complacent while the scientists dither. We don't really know about some things, do we? And that, I think, is the problem.

The old adage in criminal law should not be applied by Health Canada to our health. It should not be innocent until proven guilty for cancer causing chemicals in our environment. It should be guilty until proven innocent. I resent that my tax dollar supports this branch of government whose focus should be to keep Canadians safe, but doesn't. And when the Cancer Society starts lobbying big business and government hard for real change, I'm in. In the meantime, I'll walk and run for no reason other than I can.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

plant and rant

It is so wonderful at this time of year to anticipate another year in the veggie patch.
Now we've ventured into March though it is more than anticipate: the groundwork is being laid.
This week has seen me busy with seeding indoors. Monday and Tuesday have been eggplant and pepper days, with more than fifty varieties of each being started for tranplanting out in the garden in a few months time. I'm not sure why I plant so many hot pepper varieties...they are definitely not the biggest seller, but occasionally I do come across some hot pepper fanatics, such as Omar and Brianne from Toronto. But of course I love them all, and the colours and shapes are worth growing them for alone. Yellows, oranges, purples, stripes, balloon shapes, hat shaped-fantastic!
I talk to other growers who have their tomatoes all underway, but in my mind it is a bit early. I will start tomatoes next week, and seed for 2 weeks straight until I have the expected 8,000 or so plants, 700 varieties.
I've been selling to a number of restaurants all winter, primarily Inn on the Twenty, The Keefer Mansion and now Treadwell Farm To Table. These chefs are very committed to supporting local growers and make the trek to Wellandport to pick up their fresh greens often on a weekly basis year round. I am grateful for their support and awed by their creativity and skill.
The CSA for the 2009 season is filled, but if you are still interested, please pass your name along for the waiting list. I actually do get to people on the list!

Monday, February 16, 2009

January 15th- St.Catharines Standard Editorial; The Devil is in the Details of What we Eat

The Devil is in the Details of What we Eat

If it is true that the truth will set you free, there are a great many people talking to the media and advertising such untruths these days that they may as well be holed up in a dark dungeon somewhere with the key tossed to the wind. I mean I’m not naïve. I know that my new wrinkle cream really won’t take the years off my face as the advertising suggests. Its’ just that perhaps I’m vulnerable to the thought that it could, and that very suggestion sells the stuff. No real harm done. I’m out 20 bucks and when I forget it didn’t really work, I’ll try it again.
And that restaurant that says they serve local produce? When pressed, they can’t really say where it comes from. And truth be, its’ not really THAT local. They are just riding the wave of the local food buzz. It brings in business for them, and most people won’t question it because we are taught to believe what we hear and read.
Why even our very own Prime Minister, whose role in and of itself signifies a great deal of integrity, telling the Canadian public with a straight face that an opposition coalition is undemocratic. Come on, those are the rules….you can do that!
Most of us have the ability to figure out that the truth is being stretched somewhat in these cases to sell something or to win people over.
When you know very little about something, that is when you are truly vulnerable to the selling of the untruths. When it comes to food and drink, most of us are very vulnerable. We know very little about what we eat. Not only where it came from, but truly what it is, in the case of processed and fast foods. We are very vulnerable to the advertising gods, who tell us its’ value to us, their goal being to fatten their wallets and the wallets of the food processors they work for. And who are we not to believe, we can’t confirm it isn’t so.
Years ago putting food on the table for mere survival was a huge deal. In one of the few diaries ever written by an 18th century American woman, Martha Ballard makes it clear that her daily purpose and life’s work was feeding herself and her family. Her intimate knowledge of all her food was a necessity. The chores were hard on her body, making bread, growing a garden, raising and killing her livestock, canning and preserving. She would no doubt be amazed by the fact that very few of us now make our own food, nor expend any energy at all in the creation of it. Or in many cases even know what it is.
We work elsewhere and choose our food in boxes, and bags from shelves with its worth being loudly proclaimed on the outside. We buy images, promises and hope. We buy nutritious and fast to fit our busy lifestyle…rushing off to the gym after we pack away the leaf blower and the riding lawn mower that make our life easier. We buy low fat and get fatter, whole grain and get constipated, perfect looking fruit and are poisoned. Health care costs rise, as do all the rates of disease associated with a poor diet and obesity, the food processor gets richer, the farmer gets poorer.
In much of the advertising, taste isn’t even a consideration. A particularly annoying commercial is for a frozen lump of something that you put in a slow cooker and presto, its’ ready when you get home. Aren’t you absolutely amazing …a slow cooked meal, ready just like that! I’m sure we all feel good about this and that the compliments will pour in. But what are some of these things in it? Artificial flavor - what does that mean? And what do they do to soy when they hydrolyze it.? Ditto autolyzed yeast extract. Label readers are annoying, aren’t they? Better to swill the stuff down and praise the food gods who allowed you to get this on the table fast, damn the consequences.
How can companies get away with this? How can they be allowed to sell something by way of deceit? We now see whole grain white bread. Of course white bread is, by definition, NOT whole grain. Frito Lay chips with a “heart healthy” designation? How have we allowed these marketers and the companies they represent to infiltrate our lives with their semi-(if any) truths? Making a buck with pseudo-foods while preying on people’s’ vulnerabilities about health isn’t a good mix. We need to eye such advertising with the same cynicism we now reserve for our politicians, accepting a bit more Martha-like responsibility for our food and health. Wouldn’t old Martha be shocked if she went shopping in a grocery store today – once past the vegetable and fruit section she’d think she was in an alien world – so full of product promises masking a mind boggling assortment of chemical concoctions…..

November 16th- St.Catharines Standard Editorial; Eating our Way to Environmental Destruction

Eating Our Way to Environmental Destruction
The choppers fly overhead, swooping down to release their poisons on the land and vegetation below, a ritual repeated over thousands of acres as far as the eye can see. Cheerful Mexican cantatas fill the air as workers clear the land of thousands of heads of iceberg lettuce, leaving the land looking like a warzone. But perhaps the most telling, or even chilling sight is the fact that where the land is bare of food growing, it is bare of all life in any form. No weeds, no earthworms and no bugs. Its' sole purpose is to prop up desired plants.

Welcome to the Salinas Valley, where your California produce is grown. This is your food on petroleum.

My family had the extreme good fortune of travelling to California in September for, of all things, a tomato festival. And the festival was great mind you, but what really stuck in my mind was the landscape of the Salinas Valley. This is where your grocery store food is grown; thousands and thousands of acres of lettuce, broccoli, artichokes, peppers and strawberries. The scale is mind boggling.

Michael Pollan, food activist and writer, wrote a masterful 8000 word piece entitled “Farmer in Chief", addressed to the candidates for President of the United States prior to the recent election. It is said Barack Obama read it and we'll see if the organic garden proposed for the White lawn actually materializes again as it did under the rule of Roosevelt.

Food is a big issue and one we tend to ignore, which is somewhat surprising. We all eat, 100% of us. Clearly it is a health issue, but it is a huge environmental issue too.

The statistics quoted in Michael Pollans’ piece are shocking, and point to the very real message that by eating the way we do here in North America, we add more greenhouses gases to the environment than with any other activity. In the US, the food system uses 19 percent of all fossil fuels consumed, second only to cars.
In 1940 the food system produced 2.3 calories of food for every calorie of fossil fuel used. Today that number has jumped to 10 calories of fossil fuel used producing only 1 calorie of supermarket food. Petroleum based pesticides, fertilizers, farm machinery, modern processing, packaging and transportation account in large part for this huge difference. In Michael Pollans words, when we eat from the industrial food system, we are "eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases".


There is no reason to believe it is any different here in Canada. In Ontario, the latest available statistics from 2006 point out that only 0.9% of all farms were certified organic, considered to be more environmentally friendly. More are not accounted for in these statistics, those that are true to the word organic, without the certification. But there are no big players in this game. The big players are the commodity growers, corn and soybeans. Those big fossil fuels users and empty food calorie makers, that show up in virtually every processed food you buy. Glucose fructose, soy lecithin...the list goes on.

These genetically modified crops are also used as feed for animals, particularly cows. Corn is an unnatural diet for a cow and is very difficult to digest for these natural grazers and ruminants. But because of the government policies and subsidies, corn is a cheap and available food for cows, and their biology is dismissed.

In his 2008 book, In Defense of Food, Pollan writes than the typical North American diet includes a whopping 200 pounds of meat a year. And meat and dairy production itself is a huge polluter.

When we eat the locavore way, we really feel like we're doing our thing for the environment. But of all the greenhouse gases associated with producing and transporting food, only 11 % are from food moving from farm to our table. The largest emitter of greenhouse gases is food production, and the costliest for the environment are meat and dairy production.

More pollution is created in the transporting of grains to feedlots, where animals are raised for meat than is created moving food from farms to the grocery store, according to a study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. And according to New Scientist magazine, a kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving the lights on at home.

So perhaps a little more organic (or better yet, home grown) and a little less meat could make a difference to the environment, suggestions that are for some reason controversial. But it is time we recognize that our personal choices do impact our world, and our food choices do too.