Wednesday, June 30, 2010

FDA to Ponder Barnyard Antibiotics

Finally, finally - someone is starting to understand. The FDA has decided to take a dim view of the routine use of antibiotics in farm animals, stating that "The development of resistance to these drugs, and the resulting loss of their effectiveness, poses a serious public health threat." It's about bloody time.

For years, industrial farming has incorporated the routine use of antibiotics in farm animals such as cattle (dairy and beef) and hogs. Not because they were sick, but because it made them grow fatter faster. The end result is the frightening development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. Not to mention the exposure of people to antibiotics in meats and meat products.

Europe made the switch over a decade ago. Aren't we supposed to be a world leader....?

Read the FDA press release "FDA Issues Draft Guidance on the Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals" here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Topsy Turvy Update

After much fruitless searching (and tomatoes are technically a fruit!), I finally found the Juliet cherry tomato plant I wanted (like the one at the right from Park Seed). The "Drat!" aspect is that the store had no more TT planters. In hindsight, I should have purchased one earlier when they were plentiful. I figure I have about a week to track one down before I will be forced to pot up Juliet in the traditional manner.

Seems as though seeds for this variety are easier to get than the plant. I don't have good luck starting from seed; the peppers I started this year are still puny 6-leaf seedlings despite being in large pots now for over a month. I might be motivated to try again next year with a favorite tomato. Maybe.

Where to now for a Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter??

Really Planning Ahead: the Doomsday Seed Vault

Somewhere in Norway, quietly in an old mine at constantly freezing temperatures, the world's agricultural heritage is being collected and stored as insurance against catastrophe.

Technically called the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, it serves as a repository for all the seed crops from across the globe. The vault's bunker-like indestructible nature has earned it the Doomsday nickname, and the collection lives in a mountain too high to be flooded and too deep to be affected by a nuclear blast. NatGeo has a video tour that's definitely worth a look see.

Image above of the entrance by Mari Tefre, courtesy of the SGSV.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wine and Politics

Disturbing news: a bill (HR 5034) is making its way through Congress that would effectively eliminate interstate shipping of wine. Why care, you ask? Because small wineries depend on direct shipments to customers rather than wholesale distribution, and without it they are likely to fail. Wine retailers who go out of their way to find small label gems will be limited to availability through wholesalers. All of this means us as consumers will be limited to what the big wineries can pour out. Reminds me of the Wal-Mart effect and the generic-ization of consumer goods.

This bill was developed by the National Beer Wholesalers Association and is supported by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association (are you sensing the theme here?) and four congressmen (initially; there are over 100 now). It is an unnecessary impingement on free commerce. It needs to be defeated. I fear it may slip through unnoticed if we the people don't speak up.

Seek out information. Google it up. Write to your congressmen; find yours here. There are people out there working to defeat this bill - there's even a FB page.

To get you started, go to Free the Grapes or Stop HR5034. Then write your congressmen. Find out if your reps are supporting it. Tell them not to.

What's in the Box? CSA Week 6

The box this week has a wide range of goodies. The store of veg we have around is starting to pile up, so I'm going to have to get creative. With geekMan back from his work-ly travels, I will have some help eating it.

This week's box contains: strawberries (1 qt),  rhubarb (1 lb), snap peas (1 lb), snow peas (0.5 lb), green leaf lettuce, collard green, broccoli (1 smallish head), zucchini (about 2 lb), cilantro, garlic scapes. I'm excited about the additional rhubarb - more fodder for perfecting the rhubarb meringue pie. The cilantro is a big bunch; I feel some cilantro pesto coming on.

Garlic scapes (see right) are the flower spikes of garlic bulbs. Our farmer Beth tells us these are snapped off, forcing the plant's energies into the bulb. They have a milder garlic flavor, like the green garlic earlier this year.

It strikes me that we eat a lot of flowers as veg. Chive blossoms, broccoli, artichoke come to mind. Scapes are a nice treat. Outright flowers too like zucchini blossoms, pansies & violas, nasturiums. I've heard day lily blossoms are also edible (tasty? I don't know). Perhaps this is a way to combat the overgrowth in the yard.... I'm not sure how to prepare them. Yet.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

CSA Tally

I've been munching my way through more than strawberries this week. geekMan has been on the business travel road of late, leaving me to eat my way through the veg from last week's two boxes. Along with what remained from earlier boxes, how are we faring?

CSA Tally after 5 weeks:
Asparagus (new last week) - half gone
Strawberries (14qts last week) - nothing fresh left, mostly frozen awaiting to be jam
Lettuce - two of five heads left (no rabbit jokes please)
Bok choy - haven't touched it
Daikon - haven't touched much (but now have several recipes for pickles, slaws, etc).
Snow peas - half gone

And a couple carry overs:
White spring salad turnips - half gone
Escarole - half gone (it's a big head with some not-so-tender leaves and needs to be cooked)
Parsley - maybe a third gone (I forget it's there....)
Parsnips - still there
Potatoes - likewise still there

We did use up the chives, leeks though. And all the other veg we've received so far. The veg still around have a longer shelf life, so I don't feel as pressured to use them up.

In light of what's still around, I ought to make a bok choy/snow pea stir fry for dinner. We still also have simple syrup we made from the fresh mint ages ago; we need more rum (mojito anyone?).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dirt Is Brain Food

Playing in the dirt is good for your brain, both for the psychological benefits (gardening as therapy) and,  it turns out now, cognitively as well. Researchers have determined that exposure to common soil bacteria improves memory - read more at New Scientist.

Now go outside and get dirty.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some Good News about Industrial Farming...?

I'm defensibly dissatisfied with large scale farming, both vegetable and animal (watch Food, Inc. and King Corn for starters). However, there may be some redemption for industrial vegetable farming: turns out increasing yields on existing lands alleviated the pressure to convert forest & prairie to agriculture. This in turn allowed for greater carbon-reducing biomass (the preserved forests) than any 'footprinting' by the farming.

I'm struggling to reconcile anything good about industrial farming with the reality of the other facets it destroys. I don't think it grants permission to other unethical aspects of the trade.

Read more at Scientific American.

Have We Forgotten That Much?

Recently I've come across some posts that claim new facets of thrift or utility. I read them only to be underwhelmed. Since when was making cut-off shorts from over-used long pants a novel idea (via Lifehacker)? The other day brought the epiphany that you could cook and freeze your own version of pre-made hot breakfast cereal (via Serious Eats).

Are we collectively losing the original instructions, or are parents unable to pass them on? (not to entirely blame the parents - many 'young folk' are not interested in anything that either does not entertain, connect to the outside world, or contain a battery).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Strawberries and Then Some

The strawberries from Tipi are amazing. Not only because of the variety they grow and the care they take in harvesting them, but also because they are incredibly fresh. I could not get them fresher unless I grew them myself.

Just in case you are curious about what 14 quarts (thereabouts) looks like:

I'll be at this for awhile...

Gathering Waters Festival

Milwaukee is the "City of Festivals" with good reason. There are over a dozen ethnic festivals alone each year, including the largest Irish festival in the US (if not the world). One of the newer events is occurring this weekend:  the Gathering Waters Festival at Lakefront Park. We plan to check it out - I want to learn about rain barrels and pick up my state DNR auto pass for this year. It also affords a reasonable view of the Milwaukee Air Show, which is a huge deal. Held at Bradford Beach and Veterans Park on the lakefront, it draws upwards of 100,000 people each year. Also at the lakefront is Pridefest, one of the many festivals held each year at the Maier Festival Park (fondly known as Summerfest grounds). The lakefront will be busy this weekend!

Gathering Waters logo by Catral Doyle creative co.

What's in the Box? CSA Week 5

I think I'm in for it this week. We are picking up two boxes this week to make up for the one we missed last week. And there are strawberries. 3qts in each box. And I ordered extra, as I do every year. Making for a total of 14qts. geekMan said it sounds like I could be in a jam....


This week's box contains strawberries (3 qt), asparagus (0.8 lb), snow peas (0.5 lb), lettuce, daikon radish, bok choy, and scallions.


A lot of favorites here. I thought we'd had the last of the asparagus, but not so. It means another shot at the asparagus mousse. Creative ideas for the diakon would be helpful... Cold Japanese-style pickles maybe?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What's in the Box? CSA Week 4

We've been doing some travel lately, which explains the lack of posts. We also rescheduled our CSA box. Tipi allows us to reschedule up to two boxes each season. We would normally have received a box yesterday, June 4, but instead we will pick up two boxes next week.

Two whole boxes.

That's going to be a real challenge. I have the feeling that we will be either having a dinner party, or breaking out the freezer bags (or some other preservation tool). Everyone who picked up a box this week received strawberries, asparagus, spinach, Romaine lettuce, white salad turnips, scallions, oregano and mustard greens OR collard greens.

Next week, our two boxes will likely contain "strawberries, bok choy, peas?, scallions, cilantro and more" according to the CSA newsletter. I'm excited it's strawberry season - Tipi grows amazing berries. Beth at the farm also mentioned there may be extra berries for sale. Extras are for preserving.  Last year I canned up some strawberry ice cream topping, and I'm out of strawberry preserves. Freezing whole cleaned berries is super easy if I don't have the time to can at the moment. Frozen berries work just as well for pies, smoothies, or canned goodies. Cross your fingers for plenty of extra berries!