Daily habits are hard to break! We know that bad habits are destroying our health and de-evolving our world. But we tend to forget that the most fundamental of our habits, and the most profound of our reoccurring activities that is pertinent to our health, is what we eat and also how we eat. Of course there is the world’s pollution problem, the globalization of pathogens, the escalating stress-of-life today, and so much more, nevertheless, what can be more foundational than what we put into our body on a daily basis?
We have talked about the reality that our home is a global environment. China’s pollution is our pollution, Africa’s pathogens are our pathogens and our fast food corporations and franchises are the world’s fast food problem. Westin Price in his classic research and book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (1930), shows us through photographs in unforgettable ways the physical degeneration that occurs when human groups abandon nourishing traditional diets in favor of modern convenience food. The following link provides a nice introduction into Price’s invaluable work.
Our collective habit is to eat highly processed foods diets—fast food eaten on the run. We snack on intense caloric foods throughout the day, buy our foods from the big supermarket chains that devote 95% of their floor space to seducing us into buying chemical creation of modern food science, or eat almost daily at the fast food franchises who manipulate our taste buds with too much fat, sugar, salt, and micronutrient devoid foods. Our bodies are craving real food, yet our mind and habits keep us going down this path to chronic illness and obesity. It is abundantly clear that wherever this fast food/refined food pattern emerges in the world, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity— the epidemic of chronic diseases—follow.
But small steps in the right direction can open the door to the miracles of health that mother earth wants to give us through the provision of real – fresh –off the vine foods that our bodies desperately need. As you know from the last couple emails we have just decided to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to get our weekly food. (We also support our local co-op). The two pictures below show our two weeks shares. Week one on the left and two on the right.
What is amazing to me is the serendipity experience of a CSA—and I want to share that with you for the majority of this email.
Each week, the food offering (they call it “share”) is accompanied with an email to us from the farm that brings us “city folks” into the farm family in a beautiful, personal and embracive way. The following is a quote from week one email:
Greetings from Helsing Junction Farm!
Another gorgeous week on the farm begins after a busy yet relaxing weekend involving a Friday night cherry jam making session that inspired a cherry vodka martini thing Annie’s brother made, which in turn helped inspire him to make the best cherry/nectarine cobbler ever (with rhubarb we snitched from the neighbor’s field) which made a huge mess that we spent the rest of the weekend cleaning up. For several happy hours, five of us pitted 50 pounds of cherries, whose juice ran down our hands like blood and covered every known kitchen surface with small red dots, including for some reason our feet and the window. Once the cherry jubilee died down and the kitchen was scrubbed back to its normal semi-grubby state we still had Sunday to come out of our sugar coma and get ready to think about vegetables again. (July 14th, 2009)
Is this not precious?! In our first order (picture on the left) we got snap peas, shell peas, golden and green zucchini, one bunch carrots, one bunch rainbow chard, a head of lettuce, a head of curly endive lettuce, a clove of fresh garlic, one bunch of chives, one bunch of cilantro, one pound of sweet cherries, and flowers.
Not being a gourmet cook, by any stretch of the imagination, the immediate (and almost panicky) question is how best to prepare these foods for consumption? Helsing Farm answers wonderfully by giving us a brief history of each food and a fabulous array of recipes. I will share a couple to give you the idea:
How to cook shell peas: Boil shelled peas in salted water for 1 minute. Drain well and cook over medium heat in a frying pan to thoroughly dry the peas. Toss with a pat of butter and serve. Curly Endive: don’t be afraid, curly endive is yummy. You just have to cut it up or cook it enough to take away some of the overwhelming curl. Among other things curly endive contains carotenoids, calcium and vitamin C, as do other leafy greens. Rainbow Chard: what can we say but that we love rainbow chard. It is easy to grow, long lasting in the field, vivid and pretty and tastes good too. We use it as a substitute for spinach in recipes that call for cooked spinach, though we like it even better. It shrinks a little less when you cook it, it has a less metallic taste and it has an amazing amount of protein for a vegetable. We think it tastes great raw in salads too. Radicchio: Humans have been using radicchio since ancient times. Pliny the Elder wrote of it praising its medicinal properties; he claimed it was useful as a blood purifier and an aid for insomniacs. In fact, radicchio contains intybin [bitters], a blood and liver tonic, as well as a type of flavonoid called anthocyanins. (July 14th, 2009)
And for a couple of the recipes out of the ten that they shared:
White Bean and Endive Soup: you could also make this soup with rainbow chard or radicchio. Trim the end off of 1 endive and separate the leaves and wash them well in cool water, especially the center of the leaves where soil collects. Stack the leaves and cut them crosswise into 1-inch strips. Dice up 4 carrots. Chop up 5 cloves of garlic and 3-4 small zucchini. Heat 1 TBS olive oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the endive and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Then add 4 cups of broth, two 15-ounce cans of cannellini or Great Northern beans and one 14-16 ounce can of diced tomatoes. Cover and simmer 20 minutes until endive is soft, season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.
Wilted Greens with Garlic and Anchovies: From a recipe by Mario Batali. Wash and spin dry 1 head of curly endive or 1 bunch rainbow chard or 1 head of radicchio cut into ½ inch wide ribbons. Thinly slice 4 cloves of fresh garlic. Heat a 10-12 inch sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add 2 TBS olive oil, 3 rinsed anchovy fillets and the sliced garlic. Cook until the garlic is light brown, about 1 minute. Add the endive or chard or radicchio and cook stirring constantly until wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with ½ lemon squeezed overtop and some grated Parmesan if desired. (July 14th, 2009)
Are you getting hungry?
Yesterday, I picked up our second share (above picture on the right) and again we were treated in their weekly email with the much-needed education of how things really work in the world of organic farm life:
Farming is an occupation that encourages partnerships, whether it is in the field sharing technical info and growing techniques, or the marketing of the final farm product. There are cooperatives all around the world, which are formed around a single crop or region that support small farms and the challenges they face. Our farm and CSA have created partnerships with other farms in several different forms, which have strengthened our business in ways we could not achieve on our own. Provisions Mushrooms, Bone Dry Ridge Farm, Oakland Bay Farm, the Fagernes Dairy, Woogie Bee and K Records have all enhanced our farming practices and enriched our lives.
We are lucky to live in a valley where there are still many active farmers. Our neighbors for 25 years, the Fagernes Family, have a beautiful dairy and have been awarded trophies and plaques too numerous to mention for the high quality of their milk, their exceptional animal husbandry and conservation practices. They have partnered with us in the seasonal rotation of our crops, cutting hay from the land that we are fallowing. This has helped to build and maintain healthy vibrant soil over the past 20 years. When grass is cut, the roots of the grass mirror the cutting above and they shed into the soil. Over time and many cuttings, the soil increases its volume and fertility through the natural composting that occurs in the soil. Keith Fagernes, the lead dairyman, will get as many as 4 cuttings a season, between the spring silage and summer haying. This is necessary, as the hay and silage support the herd in the winter when there is less fresh grass to eat. His cows spend their days outside eating fresh grass, as they are rotated from one lush field to the next. They seem very happy and actually run and frolic, which is a comical sight. He tries to avoid feeding them grain as much as possible, as it is an unnecessary added cost and can cause more disease in cows, as their natural diet should consist mostly of grass. Keith is an exceptional farmer, conscientious and thoughtful, with the end result being a model dairy. This cooperation and partnership has emerged naturally and benefits both farms. (July 21st, 2009)
So we decided to get our fresh dairy from the Fagernes Family through our CSA, and honey too! I also learned what new potatoes are all about since we got with this share a bag of new potatoes (the purple round bunch in the picture) and the following education (you will be surprised):
New potatoes: new potatoes are actually difficult to come by as most stores are actually selling small potatoes that have been sized out. A true new potato is one that is harvested at small size and before the skins are set. They are hard to come by as the skins are very delicate and they end up looking beat up with too much handling. We have not washed them in order not to disturb their dainty skins. Store them in the paper bag in your fridge until ready to use them. You will be seeing new potatoes in your boxes for the next several weeks. We will have all-purple, red, German butterball and yellow Maris pipers. We have over 3 acres of potatoes planted this year, which are all flowering now, a beautiful sight! Potatoes with white flowers generally have white skins, while those of varieties with colored flowers tend to have pinkish skins. Potatoes are cross-pollinated mostly by insects, including bumblebees that carry pollen from other potato plants, but a substantial amount of self-fertilizing occurs as well.”(July 21st, 2009)
Their closing paragraph in this weeks email is apropos to the systemic way of thinking of Helsing Junction Farm, many organic farmers and CSAs embrace. The kind of thinking that is central to the correct mindset we all must develop in order to reverse the de-evolutionary process.
Let us not forget our most important partner—you. Unique is the vital and sustaining partnership that exists between our farm and our CSA members. And keeping all of us a float is the complicated and interconnected web of microorganisms, worms, soil building plants, animals, trees, bees and other pollinating insects that we rely on for our food. By joining a CSA and supporting our farm in particular, you help us honor and cultivate a relationship with our partners in the natural world. (July 21st, 2009)
I joined a CSA to get fresh and healthy foods, to support the organic farmers, and create better ecology. I didn’t realize that I was joining with Mother Nature’s web of life that we have cast aside in our modern industrial age. Supporting our wonderful CSAs throughout our country is one of the first steps we can all take to gain back the food supply system that has been taken from us by the transnational corporations. But more on that in our next communication. Life is always interesting!
Clinical Note: Nothing can be more primal to change than food habits.
We rap our lives around our food habits. It is our comfort zone. Change is easier when joining the CSAs in your area. What can be more fundamental to achieving health than bringing real food into our bodies? Let’s help each other break the bad food habits and bring in the power of whole real food. Just one step.
The Last Quiz Answer: The beautiful creature is a “flat lizard” from the deserts of South Africa. They contain the highest density of lizards in the world. Their favorite food? Flies.
Watch the trailer of the new movie Food
. “You’ll never look at dinner the same way”.