Organic Farming

Minerals: the salts of the earth

Minerals are essential. They may only comprise 4% of our body weight, but they are necessary elements for all the functions in the body, in one way or another. I’ve heard medical practitioners claim that every single disease we experience can be linked back to a mineral or vitamin deficiency – that’s pretty powerful! That’s why minerals are one of the core components that we look for when determining the nutrient density of a food.

In the process of doing research for Superfood Cuisine, I came across reference after reference that sited vast mineral depletion in farm soil (a concept that I delve into more detail in the book … and also a large reason why I’m such a strong proponent of the superfood philosophy in the first place). Each study I read summarized the same thing: our produce has only a fraction of the minerals it once had. This concept is easy to understand once you look at modern farming practices, but it’s also one of those nebulous ideas that is hard to make tangible, unless you’re a scientist. That is, for me at least, until just a couple days ago.

No, I didn’t become a scientist, but this week I did have the pleasure of visiting a nearby biodynamic farm (if you’re not familiar with the practices of biodynamic farming, you can read more about them here). Biodynamic farming is pretty admirable, for although it takes some extra work, a give-take natural relationship with the soil and the environment is of the highest importance in this form of agriculture. As for the resulting biodynamic produce, my experience was that at first sight, it was clearly different. Colors seemed more vibrant. The leaves felt physically stronger. Most of the vegetables were a little smaller than store-bought, but this is usually just a sign of less empty-calorie fiber/mass (in other words, smaller/younger healthy produce is often a sign of greater nutrient density). I was astounded by the variety and abundance of edibles, coming from about just ten acres – truly incredible. But the biggest shock of all came from the greens.

“Here – have a bite of this kale,” the farm owner said to me, handing me a leaf. It’s safe to say I’ve had my fair share of kale in my life, but one bite of this kale and I knew something was different. My eyes got big as I experienced the flavor. “It’s… salty,” I said. The owner nodded as he helped himself to another leaf. He chewed slowly, and replied, simply, “Minerals.” Minerals. The salt I was tasting was minerals! Of course!

Sweat is salty because of minerals. Blood is salty because of minerals. And I was tasting kale that tasted salty because this kale was an example of what kale should taste like (and likely, what produce did taste like before we muckied up the soil environment … which is reversible to some degree, so don’t get too sad.) Ever had a salt craving? That’s your body’s red flag that it’s yearning for more minerals. Sodium chloride being one mineral of course, but also potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, trace minerals, etc. Although adding salt undoubtedly brings out the flavor in food and makes it more delicious, it’s the salt = minerals idea that also is one of the key reasons why we instinctively love the taste of salt so much. It’s an interesting idea to think that the foods we add the most salt to, often are the ones with the least amount of minerals.

My favorite dish that I made out of this special produce was also the simplest -  a delicious lightly cooked greens dish. So basic, and yet so beautiful in flavor! I could serve this dish to Wolfgang Puck and he’d ask me what my secret was. My answer? Minerals. Of course.

Simple Steamed Greens with Roasted Garlic & Hemp Seeds

Depending on the size of the produce you are using, you may want to adjust the oil/vinegar quantities accordingly. You can roast the garlic ahead of time — it’s so delicious to have on hand, I like to make several extras at a time to enjoy for future endeavors.

INGREDIENTS:

1 whole head garlic

1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

1 large bunch kale, stems discarded and leaves chopped into large pieces

1 small bunch baby beet greens, soaked in ice water for 10 minutes to remove any grit, and chopped into strips

2 tablespoons hemp oil

1 tablespoon ume plum vinegar

2 tablespoons hemp seeds

a little unsalted vegetable broth or water, if needed

DIRECTIONS

First, roast the garlic. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Chop of the head (point) of the garlic – about 1/4-inch down to expose the top of the cloves. Place on a piece of aluminum foil, and spread the coconut oil on the top. Wrap up loosely with the foil, place on a small pan, and roast for 30-35 minutes, or until garlic is soft inside. Remove from the oven and let cool. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its husks onto a small plate (discard the husks). With a small immersion blender or small food processor, blend the hemp oil, ume vinegar and roasted garlic together. If you need a little liquid to blend properly, add a bit of broth or water — a couple spoonfuls at a time — to get a smooth and creamy consistency.

Steam the kale lightly, until it turns bright green (about 5-7 minutes) – do not overcook. When the kale is ready, transfer to a bowl, and toss with the fresh beet greens immediately. Mix in the blended garlic mixture to taste, and sprinkle with hemp seeds.

Serves 2-4

Here’s a list of some biodynamic farms across the US. They’re worth seeking out.

 


The “Dirty Dozen:” when eating organic matters most


Undoubtedly: eating organic foods is a good thing. With every organic bite, you’ve just made such a friendly action towards both the planet and your own personal health. I also love that through funneling the money in our food budget towards companies and farmers who respect the earth, we get both a healthier product, and we diminish the amount of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and chemical pollution that leech into the delicate ecosystems around us.

But is it necessary to eat foods with organic standards all the time? Well, ideally, yeah. (And in a perfect world the idea mixing chemicals and food would be absolutely egregious in the first place). However, if a tight wallet, lack of availability, or just unfamiliarity with the organic movement is an issue, chuck the idealism at the door and instead start out by taking on baby step #1: saying NO to the Dirty Dozen list – the worst of the worst non-organic offenders. Sounds kinda like a group of serial killers . . . (just sayin’).

Non-profit research organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) does the bad-food-news homework for us. Each year, EWG puts together a list of the most atrocious crops – the ones that are truly must-avoids in a “conventional” state due to the scary-high amounts of chemical saturation they contain. The foods change a bit from year to year, so it’s not a bad idea to bookmark a site like this to stay in the know.

Sadly, this year’s list includes many of my personal favorite natural foods – but all the more opportunity to support local organic farmers. My general rule is to look for these in organic form, and if it’s not available, I consider a different produce substitution. I take the dirty dozen pretty seriously. Not buying these foods is a statement that this adulterated form of farming is unacceptable to be considered as “food.” And by directing the demand monetarily speaking, we promote the changes in our farming standards so that organic practices may become the profitable norm.

THE 2010 DIRTY DOZEN:
1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Bell Peppers
8. Spinach
9. Kale
10. Cherries
11. Potatoes
12. Grapes

Two more foods I add on my “always organic list” — Soy and corn products. 90% of conventional soybeans are genetically modified, and above 60% of corn products are as well. GMO’s are a whole new level of dirty, and a person’s health is nothing to gamble.

Get the details on the “why’s” of the dirty dozen at Daily Green.

“Life Is Good” Salad


Just like the garden I’ve been in for the last week, it’s been quiet up here on the blog front. I had thought that upon visiting my dad in Eastern Washington last week, I’d be able to take advantage of the beautiful rural settings – carving out some time to read, write, and think. I assumed that my time there would be quiet – the perfect environment for inspiring creativity.

SunflowerQuiet, yes.  But quiet it made me in exchange. The laptop stayed unusually closed, and my mind remained comfortably still as I soaked up the simple complexity of nature around me. I basked in the broad, lazy pastures with resting hay barrels and excited crickets; the frontier-like houses with dirt driveways that crackle deeply from passing cars; the families of cows resting under the shade of lanky pine trees; and then, of course, the gardens. Every house in that pristine setting had a food garden. And as ’tis the season, each garden was absolutely brimming with vegetables, berries, tubers, flowers and all the best bounty that good soil, plentiful sunshine, and a summertime season can offer.

CarrotsTo me, there is something so innately joyous about being able to harvest and gather one’s own food. It’s one of those instinctual “this feels right” type of tasks – you know, like the opposite of walking into a Walmart. And with my dad’s all-organic garden absolutely flourishing this year, frequent harvesting was exactly what I did. Carrots, artichokes, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, squash, greens . . . who knew I was a borderline locust.

Upon nightfall, we’d make grand simple meals of the freshest of fresh vegetables. Here’s what went into our summertime garden salad bowl, which we consumed just about every night. Delicious. When I wasn’t eating it, I was thinking about eating it. Brought to you by nature and what’s perfectly in season . . .


Life Is Good Salad:

INGREDIENTS
2 heads of red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
3 cups shredded carrots
1 bunch chives, coarsely chopped
5-6 sweet Persian (miniature) cucumbers, sliced
3 large hierloom tomatoes, chopped
1 large Hass avocado, chopped
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

DIRECTIONS
Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. I dressed mine simply with oil, lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper.
Ah.
Yes.
Perfection.

Farm-Fresh Best: Chilled Cream of Beet Soup

Oh summer and your peak-season produce. You make it terribly easy to eat extraordinarily well using your ripe bounty.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Mother Nature has a stash of aprons hanging out somewhere, because one of the enormous benefits of eating seasonal, local, fresh and simple produce is everything just seems to “go” together. Take some just-off-the vine tomatoes, trim down the thriving basil, shuck an ear of corn, and toss with oil, sea salt and black pepper . . . and there’s heaven. It really doesn’t take Martha Stewart to be inspired or Gordon Ramsay to cook well. And it certainly doesn’t take a cabinet of vitamin pills to be healthy.

Right now two of my favorite foods are in peak season – beets and avocados. And what better way to celebrate the season than with an absolutely luscious Chilled Cream Of Beet Soup. So here’s to you, Nature — you’re good, I mean really good. Get this simple soup recipe here.

“Food, Inc.” Gets A Bad Review

movie_poster-largeCrammed amongst a long but patient line outside of the Nuart Theater in Los Angeles, we stood and waited to view the new documentary FOOD, INC. I was excited to see a film chronicling the business-side of the food industry, and its relationship with the true benefit of what ends up on the fork.

My dear Food, Inc: you do not disappoint.

Tackling some familiar concerning concepts — the inhumanity of factory farming, the danger of pesticides, the fears about genetically modified seeds — Food, Inc. connects all the dots: composing a compelling narrative regarding the loss of Americana agronomics through the introduction of corrupt business, and its consequence of destroying our health for the sake of profit. But doom and gloom is not the only message here, and the film also does an excellent job in offering simple solutions, which can promote positive change in food safety, personal health, industry economics and environmental security.

Since its opening, the film has quickly become the darling of news outlets across the US — one after another praising the message as exceptionally relevant and compelling, while packaged in a well organized, researched, and grounded medium. Food, Inc. speaks our language: It’s pretty clear we want change. It’s pretty clear we want to feel good. And we obviously want to do the right thing.

But there’s one place this love-train doesn’t run, and wouldn’t you know it, that place is Monsanto’s blog. In fact, they’ve developed a whole section of their website to trash-talk the film and the ideas of organic, local, and natural farming that it promotes. In Monsanto’s words:

Food, Inc. is a one-sided, biased film that the creators claim will “lift the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer.” . . .Throughout this film, Food, Inc.:

* Demonizes American farmers and the agriculture system responsible for feeding over 300 million people in the United States.
* Presents an unrealistic view of how to feed a growing nation while ignoring the practical demands of the American consumer and the fundamental needs of consumers around the world.
* Disregards the fact that multiple agriculture systems should – and do – coexist.

Thank you Monsanto. I do believe you have just defined hypocrisy.

Food, Inc. is a documentary that provides a crystal clear understanding of what’s really behind what we are putting on our plate and inside our mouths. Though some of the information may be hard to swallow, the “feel good” part of this flick is clearly in our choices.

Freshly Minted

I recently replanted my annual herb pot with an ambitious variety of green edibles. The future was bright: fresh, pungent, natural flavorings happily flourishing outside my back door, romantically waiting for their next role in an illustrious whim of kitchen-oriented inspiration.

At least that was the plan.

The slugs ate the dill, the oregano never grew, the cilantro disappeared (in all seriousness… where did it go?), and we’ll just refer to the parsley as “pre-dried.”

On the other hand, the mint is practically taking over the entire garden. So in the spirit of making lemonade out of lemons, I thought it might be a good idea to make chocolate mint ice cream sandwiches out of mint. With off-the-charts levels of cool vibrant flavor, this is a recipe I’m going to be making as much as possible.

mint-chocolate-ice-cream-sandwich-sm

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Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Sandwiches

_________________________________

Another persuasive example of junk food without all of the junk. Luxurious and decadent, yet full of living whole foods, this innovative recipe is loaded with essential minerals and healthy fats.

INGREDIENTS:

(For the ice cream):
½ cup hemp milk, almond milk, or other non-dairy milk beverage
2 frozen bananas
½ medium-sized Hass avocado
2 Tbsp agave nectar
½ tsp peppermint extract
1 Tbsp minced fresh mint
several drops of liquid chlorophyll (optional – enhances green color)

(For the cookie):
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
1 cup almond flour (ground almonds)
8 dates
¼ cup agave nectar
1/3 cup raw cacao nibs, plus a little extra for rolling

DIRECTIONS:

Blend: In a blender, combine non-dairy milk of choice, bananas, avocado, agave nectar, mint extract and fresh mint. Blend until smooth. Stir in liquid chlorophyll if desired. Transfer to a small bowl.

Freeze: Freeze the ice cream for 1-2 hours.

Mash: Combine all of the cookie ingredients in a food processor, and process until thoroughly chopped. Form “dough” into two even halves.

Assemble: Use a muffin tin, and line 6 of the muffin molds individually with saran wrap or tin foil. Sprinkle lightly with cacao nibs. Using one of the cookie dough halves, place a spooful of dough evenly into the bottom of 6 the lined and “nibbed” muffin molds. Press firmly to form a “cookie.” Next, fill each of the molds evenly with the partially frozen ice cream. Line an empty muffin mold with saran wrap, and use to form 6 more cookies from the second half of the cookie dough, sprinkling with cacao nibs prior to pressing each time. Top each mint ice cream with a cookie to form a sandwich.

Freeze: Freeze sandwiches for 2 more hours. To serve, simply remove ice cream sandwiches from the saran wrap or aluminum foil and serve whole or sliced, if desired. If wrapped tightly, these sandwiches can keep in the freezer indefinitely for future enjoyment.

Makes 6 sandwiches.

Raw, vegan, & gluten-free

©2009 www.JulieMorris.net

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