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10/30/2014

A short time ago, I was privileged to preview a screening of a brand new movie, The Seeds of Time, directed and produced by Sandy McLeod. I came across this movie after being sent a trailer by the Bread Lab at Washington State University, Mount Vernon, took a look, and really liked what I saw. It also had a link for obtaining the viewing rights for your group, school, whatever. What group? Then I thought, yes, I do volunteer once a week for The Table, a community kitchen/food bank/social advocacy organization. Yes! So, filled out the online form and waited. Didn’t have long to wait. Co-producer J.D. Marlow got right back to me explaining the details, and how to go about this. To make a long story short, I got the rights, the Table was thrilled to be able to show it at their movie night, and the DVD was shipped. I was.

seedsThe Table had me watch the movie first to see what I thought. It is a thoroughly impressive movie, with gorgeous cinematography. The main character is Dr. Cary Fowler, a man who has devoted his life to agriculture, seeds, and hopefully, not to be overly dramatic, humanity. I say hopefully, because agriculture as we know it today is teetering on the edge of disaster: Our crop diversity is at an all time low, between mono-cropping and the extinction of many ancient varieties of food crops. The statistic that brings this all home? 93 percent of varieties have gone extinct since 1903. More about this later. Couple this with the ongoing crisis of climate change, and the plants just can’t adapt fast enough to save our vulnerable necks.

The movie follows Dr. Fowler among others on a journey that takes you completely around the world, but two locations stand out: Svalbard, Norway, and Peru. Svalbard has become the Ark for seeds. Seeds are kept in the deep freeze from collections sent there from all over, be it the U.S., Canada, the Ukraine, Switzerland, Russia, as well as locations from the Far East and Africa. Peru is unique, because the Peruvian potato farmers are desperately attempting to keep, and in a lot of cases, revive, old varieties of their potatoes. It is quite a moving experience seeing them digging their potatoes in their beautiful native dress, coming together with other local groups that didn’t all get seed bankalong, just to save their heirloom potatoes. You see, there are two ways to save a variety: Put it in a seed bank, or grow it. They took the latter option. They also shared their potato seed so they could be kept for the future. Incidentally, it should be noted that the potato is native to Peru, and has been grown there for at least 13,000 years. That’s right, 13,000 years, and they are threatened now within a generation with extinction from the land becoming too warm.

There are many seed banks in the world, but they are all threatened by natural disaster, equipment failure and the like. Floods, like the ones suffered by Thailand recently, are a large destroyer of seed banks. The Thais lost all their seeds in that flood, thousands of varieties gone. For me personally, the most moving scene was when the woman from the Thai seed bank had to announce to the conference that it was a total loss, struggling to maintain her composure, but finally dissolving into tears. It was a heart-rending scene.

potatoesFew people in the world understand the severity of the problem, the aforementioned 93 percent already gone. Dr. Fowler, his colleagues, and many others in the field, work hard to save us from ourselves, but most people don’t even realize the problem exists. He himself is suffering from cancer, and for him, he realizes, time is running out, but it’s also running out for us. Time is not something we can afford to waste. Before watching the Seeds of Time, I heard about an initiative by a local veterinarian in the Perth, Ontario area, who is on the hunt for heirloom apple trees, searching for old varieties. They were searching parts of Lanark County to see if they could find any old trees, wild, but still alive. Don’t know how that turned out, but I would sure love to know. The question remains though: We are too quickly running out of time to find these plants. Will we make it?

Movie Night

At last, the big premiere at The Table. We (Bob, my husband, and I) trooped in to see the movie was starting. It was a small crowd, but passionate, as I later found out. Why? They were all gardeners, and they all got it. They watched with rapt attention, a gasp going up at the mention of the 93 percent. Afterward, we had a discussion, the passion showing for where we have been, and where we’re headed. Some folks had bought seeds at the local Seedy Sunday (part of the Seed Savers, I believe), but said, some of their seeds never sprouted. I mentioned the complete lack of Italian tomato plants for sale in the spring: I myself grow them to put up tomato puree for sauce over the winter. Not only can you not get the actual plants, but you’re limited to one or two varieties at best, Roma or Romano. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a lot of difference between the two. One woman admitted she had no idea this loss of diversity was even a problem. The Seeds of Time changed all that.

Finally...

I wish to thank J.D. Marlow for the speedy responses and making The Seeds of Time and photos available to us. Thanks J.D.!

You can always follow the further adventures of Sue at www.svanslooten.com.

Helpful links:

The Seeds of Time

The Table Community Food Centre


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



10/30/2014

ice pops

Pumpkin lattes are spicing up to-go cups, hearty stews are simmering in crockpots, and sweaters and boots are replacing tank-tops and flip-flops. Yep, it’s solidly fall—that is, in most of the country. Here in Texas, however, the one-or-two cool days we’ve had haven’t fooled us into swapping out our seasonal wardrobes—or our hot-weather treats. With this in mind, I present you with my current dessert crush, Peanut Butter Ice Pops.

Natural peanut butter is amplified by the complex sweetness of dates and maple syrup, the richness of coconut milk, and the flavor-enhancing awesomeness of vanilla and salt. Vegan and refined-sugar-free for those who are into that sort of thing (and daydream-ably delicious for, well, everyone), these cool and creamy treats will leave you craving ice pops all year long.

Peanut Butter Ice Pops

• 1 can (13.66 oz) full-fat coconut milk
• 8 pitted dates (deglet noor if available)
• 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
• 3/4 cup unsweetened natural peanut butter (I used Kirkland signature organic)
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• Pinch of salt

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth. Distribute mixture evenly among six standard-sized ice-pop molds and freeze overnight or until completely frozen. Keep frozen until ready to serve. If needed to loosen a pop from its mold, carefully run the outside of the mold under hot water for 20-30 seconds. (I totally plagiarized these directions from my Avocado Fudge Pops post because there’s not much else I can add to the concept of “blend and freeze,” except for this:) Enjoy!

Morgan Crumm is a mother, blogger, recipe-developer, and real-food advocate based in Dallas, TX. More of her work can be found at BeingTheSecretIngredient.com, a blog about food, life, and love.

Looking for something cold and seasonably pumpkin-y? Try Roasted Pumpkin 5-Spice Ice Cream with a Gingersnap Swirl.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



10/28/2014

Tanya Fields in front of the BLK ProjeK biofuel bus

I had the opportunity to attend an interview with Tanya Fields, named the Eco-Warrior of the Food System, that dove into her history and how she came to be an activist in the urban farm and food sovereignty movements. The interview was held at the University of Kansas by the campus’ Center for Sustainability as part of its Food Hunger Awareness Month. For those unfamiliar with her groundbreaking projects (literally, she’s breaking ground to start food gardens in historically poor New York City neighborhoods), Fields’ current focus is the BLK ProjeK at Libertad Urban Farm, which empowers women of color by creating economic development opportunities through urban farming and local, fresh food delivery.

Fields is a working mother from the Bronx who feels she was led into her current activism through a series of “aha!” moments. One such moment was when she was on a trip to a grocery store (a trek she had to take outside of her neighborhood because no organic-food grocery stores are located nearby) with two young children in tow. Fields says she realized that the effort she had to go through to get healthy food for her family just wasn’t fair, and she wanted to help create a fair food system not only for her own family but also for her neighbors and friends.

Fields’ refreshing viewpoints challenge many preconceived notions held by food-system advocates. For example, she explained that those working in food-system change have to meet people where they are. Fields gave an example of when she has done community cooking classes in neighborhoods with different ethnic backgrounds, she isn’t able to just go in and show them how to make an arugula, blue cheese and toasted walnut salad. She needed to start with foods that were relevant to their culture and their experience, or the interest in making changes wouldn’t spark.

Fields also explained the physiological and psychological difficulties people face when trying to make dietary changes, which is often left out of the healthy, local foods discussion. “Salt and sugar activate the same places in your brain as cocaine,” she said. “People are truly addicted to salty, sugary foods. Changing that isn’t instantaneous.” Using her own life as an example, Fields delved in to the emotional relationship we all have with food, and stressed once again the importance of respecting individuals’ intimate and cultural connections with their food when we work toward creating positive change in our food supply.

The focus of Fields’ work has been on creating food sovereignty in the neighborhoods she lives and works in. “People should have the power to be a part of the decision-making process about what foods they have to offer their families,” Fields said. By teaching those in the BLK ProjeK to garden, prepare and deliver food in the same neighborhoods where they live — communities that are typically underserved and likely defined as “food deserts” — Fields is impacting a strong, positive change in the food system as well as in the lives of those her organization touches.

Tanya Fields in front of the biofuel bus the BLK ProjeK uses to deliver produce. Photo by BLK ProjeK.


Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely working in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can find Jennifer on Twitter or Google+.



10/24/2014

We first had sweet potatoes as a mashed side dish when visiting Kauai a couple years ago.  I came across some slips from a seed catalogue and grew my first crop of sweet potatoes.  Last winter I made slips of my own from saved 'taters and lo!  A bumper crop from 18 plants!

harvest

As I was digging them we discovered several fingerlings and smaller bits, so we came up with this salad which is good hot or cold!

Ingredients:

• 2 pounds unwashed and untrimmed sweet potato fingerlings
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
• 1/8 cup honey
• 1 tsp salt (I like to use the red Hawaiian salt)
• 1 large or 2 small crisp, tart apples, diced (Macintosh or Jonathan)
• 1 cup broken walnut pieces
• 3 tbsp Greek yogurt, sour cream or drained kefir (optional)

1. Wash and scrub the fingerlings.  Their skin will be tender so they will not need to be peeled.

washed

2. Trim the ends and any scars off the fingerlings and dice them into rounds, much like cutting carrots.

cutting

3. Place sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to boil and simmer until tender when tested with a fork.  It will not take too long!

pot

4. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, whisk together the oil, salt, honey and vinegar.

dressing

5. Add the diced apple and walnuts, then toss to coat with dressing.

apples

6. Drain the tender sweet potatoes, do not rinse, and add to apple-walnut-dressing bowl.

7. Toss lightly and add the optional Greek yogurt/sour cream/drained kefir.

stir

8. Place in serving bowl and serve warm or chill in fridge for an hour or so.  Flavors will develop and improve with time, but that has not kept us from diving right in!

finished!

Enjoy your new favorite salad packed with healthy ingredients!


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


10/24/2014

If you were tempted by Boletus Edulis, King of Kingdom Fungi, prepare to be seduced by the Queen of the Fungi Kingdom, Chanterelles, Cantharellus cibarius

Many a heated argument has occurred in determining the ranking of Boletes versus Chanterelles.  You see how I stack my cards, but many may disagree.  An amusing excerpt from David Aurora’s All That the Rain Promises and More, suggests:

"Boletes are the round mother-earth mushrooms of the forest floor.  They’re rich, they’re nutty, they’re buttery, and their flavor is the flavor of the forest. Chanterelles are more like the queen seductress: fruity, peppery, richer, more difficult to work with from a cooking standpoint, and complex, and very singular.  I don’t have a preference.  They’re so different.  It’s like comparing pinot noir and cabernet—whichever one you happen to like is better." (Jack Czarcecki). 

Delicately textured and sinfully aromatic, the trumpet-shaped Chanterelle is one of the most popular fall mushroom varieties, popping through the forest floor with an abundant vibrancy. Edible Chanterelles include: Yellow, White, Winter, Pig’s Ear, Black Trumpet, and Blue.  What a trip it would be to find a Black or Blue Chanterelle; my fortunes have been limited to Yellow and White, with an occasional wormy Pig’s Ear.

Key Features of Chanterelles

Frills and gills are the easiest way to identify Chanterelles.  The cap is ornately frilled around the edges.  Take notice that the top is a solid surface that does not funnel inward toward the stem.  The color of species will vary.  The underside of the mushroom is gilled with vein-like features running in between; the gills are soft, blunt and well spaced, not blade like.  The stalk is the same color as the cap, and solid. Chanterelles have a soft perfume scent. 

Where and When to Find Chanterelles

Chanterelles are found on the ground, under conifers and oaks.  Typically, if you find one, you are going to find all.  The Queen Chanterelle is gracious to her foragers, and extends her welcoming presence much longer than the Bolete.  Chanterelles can withstand cooler temperatures, so the season continues through the first signs of frost. 

Identification of False Varieties

The one species of Chanterelle that is not recommended for eating is the Scaly Chanterelle, Gomphus floccosus.  If unfamiliar with the usual look of Chanterelles, it is easy to confuse this variety with the Yellow Chanterelle.  There are two easily distinguishable features.  Scaly Chanterelle has scales on its cap, and the cap is hollow to the stem.  A quick check to a reference book is all you need! 

Cooking with Chanterelles

I am equally giddy when cooking with Chanterelles. The flesh is firm and squeaky like mozzarella cheese, and very rarely have I ever found unwanted company dwelling inside of my to-be dinner.  To prepare, just simply rinse with water, and slice up thinly. Dry sauté with shallots or onions until all the moisture cooks out or stick a batch on the grill. Chanterelles pair magnificently with pasta dishes and wild game.  Last year I was even inspired to make Chanterelle pie with a savory cream cheese double crust.  Rich, savory, almost too filling, a little went a long way.

I do not prefer to dehydrate Chanterelles. The reconstituted version is gummy and lacking in flavor.  The better method of preservation, if you can withstand eating your full bounty, is to cook first then freeze.  Now, the mushroom can be added to any dish or reheated and processed into what the Hunter, Angler, Gardner, Cook calls the sexiest soup ever, Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup.

With descriptive words like seductress, sexy, and sinful, don’t you want to take a romp across the forest floor? 


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page. 


10/24/2014

drug-laced candy

Razor blades in apples, poison in caramel coating, and drug-infused candy: it seems as though each year brings a new culinary threat to unsuspecting trick-or-treaters.

This year police departments have become exceptionally profuse in their warnings to parents to be on the lookout for marijuana infused candy, partially because of the drug’s legalization in several U.S. states.

The fear comes from the popularity of manufactured THC treats like pot-lollipops and from the private practice of adding THC to common candies like gummy bears. As there is no way to tell the difference between drugged and regular unpackaged candy by sight alone, police are warning parents not to allow their children any candy not in its original wrappers and, furthermore, to inspect even that candy thoroughly.

The media and police departments have been issuing similar warnings for decades, which begs the question: how prevalent is drug-laced Halloween candy, really?

No Evidence

Despite the popularity of such warnings, there has never been any reported cases of kids ingesting drug-laced — THC or otherwise — Halloween candies.

In fact, there is no proof to back up the decades of similar fears. While every child death on Halloween seems to be immediately attributed to poisoned or drug-laced candy, only two deaths have ever been remotely connected to such causes.

The first case took place in 1970, when five-year-old Kevin Toston died after supposedly eating heroin-laced candy. As it turns out, young Kevin had in fact stumbled upon — and ingested — some of his uncle’s heroin stash, and the family had added heroin to the candy after the fact in an attempt to hide the real source of the lethal dose.

The second case, the 1974 death of eight-year-old Timothy O’Bryan, also initially appeared to result from candy that had been laced by a stranger. In this case, the cause of death really was due to poisoned candy: cyanide infused Pixie Stix. However, upon investigation, police discovered that Timothy’s father had purposefully poisoned his son to receive the benefits of the child’s life insurance policy. Moreover, the father had endangered several other children, as he had slipped poisoned candy into their bags as well in an attempt to throw off suspicion.

So, despite prevailing urban legends, it appears the only drug-related Halloween candy dangers have been the result of a malicious or negligent family member, not a mischievous or malevolent stranger.

No Motive

What makes the THC candy claims all the more ridiculous is that there is no believable motive for such a trick.

Although increased marijuana production in the U.S. means weed is relatively cheap and easy to acquire, it's still a costly prank to play. Most marijuana purchasers do so for their own recreational use, or to sell to other adults. Why would they pay good money for pot and then give it away to children on the off chance it will be ingested and bring about a little mayhem?

War on Drugs and Headline Sales

As cynical as it may sound, the media and the war on drugs are the only entities that appear to benefit from these yearly scare tactics.

Poisoned Halloween candy makes for sensational headlines, driving concerned parents to stay glued to the nightly news, online news feed, or printed media for minute by minute update. News outlets enjoy a surefire hot topic, with very little need for actual research or journalistic integrity. Simply the imagined possibility of the threat is enough to sell the story year after year.

As for the war on drugs, children are among the most sympathetic victims. What better way to recruit parents and other adults to the war on drugs than to suggest that their innocent children may fall ill or die on what should be a fun holiday?

Such warnings will always have roots because they stem from a few related truths: drugs can - and often do - cause harm, and not everyone has your child’s best interest in mind. As such, parents should exercise reasonable caution whenever children are out in public or are offered food by strangers, not just at Halloween.

However, these scare tactics create their own dangers: unnecessary paranoia on the one hand and boy-who-cried-wolf skepticism on the other.

Practice safe Halloweening tactics this year (stay in a group, go to houses you know, etc.), but be rational about it. 

Image by PublicDomainPictures


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


10/20/2014

Honey BeesWay back when, I made mead. I think it was back with Leif Erickson or some guy by that name. Of course, back then we had rotary phones, the Internet existed as ARPANET (look it up), and I was on the cutting edge when it came to computer development. I also stumbled across a USENET post for how to make mead.

Mead-Making: The Early Days

Being the total geek that I am, I got involved in brewing mead and made an amazing 6 bottles of it. I seem to recall that I made a methglyn, that is, a spiced mead, from honey and a bunch of spices – the combination lost for eternity. I think cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger root. Possibly cloves and anise, but I really don’t remember. Sadly, I never continued on and my mead making equipment disappeared over the moves.

I love mead, so it was no surprise when people at cons found out, they started having me try their own brews. One fellow, I kid you not, made jalapeño mead. It was weird. Sweet and tasted of jalapeño without the heat. Not a favorite mead, but definitely interesting.

When I moved to Montana, the first thing I got to try was our honey out here. Seems we have premium honey because of the knapweed – an invasive species that beekeepers brought into Alberta for their hives. The damn stuff is everywhere in Western Montana, but it makes yummy honey.

What clinched it was that I joined a mead group on Facebook and asked questions. The folks were kind enough to recommend that I visit a local supplier and see if I could purchase my equipment without spending a lot.

A Learning Adventure

The equipment you need to make mead is pretty straightforward. You need a food grade plastic bucket for the primary fermentation, a secondary fermentation container (often a 1 gallon glass jug or a 5 gallon carboy), stoppers with airlocks, thermometer, hydrometer, and that’s it. For the mead, you need the right type of wine yeast, yeast nutrient, and maybe Camden tablets (which work to sterilize everything).

I was able to get my food grade buckets for $1 each at a bakery (some places just give them away). I had my glass thermometer from making cheese. I then trekked down to the local wine making shop. There, I was greeted by the shop owner.

Making a Mead Friend

In the past, way back when (cue the "when I was your age..." track), when I first made mead, very few people were doing that where I lived. Almost everyone made wine or beer, if they did make wine or beer at all. I was kind of embarrassed about telling her I was going to make mead. I think it's because most people looked at me funny because nobody heard of it, even in wine making stores.

Well, evidently mead is popular enough in Montana to talk about without feeling like a total geek. (Yes, I'm a geek, but when around muggles, I need to behave like one.) Anyway, the store's owner was delighted to get me started on my project. I now have a one-gallon secondary fermenter (glass jug), a gasket to put into my food grade bucket, a package of yeast for sweet mead, yeast nutrient, a stopper and airlock, a hydrometer, and Campden tablets. (She said I didn't need the Campden tablets or the hydrometer, but I got them anyway). I already have a thermometer that I use for cheesemaking. The cost for that came to about $20. The most expensive things were the hydrometer and the glass jug.

No Knapweed?

Anyway, she and I talked and I received some rather startling news. Unless I want to age my mead for 2-3 years, I shouldn’t use the honey here in Western Montana. See, we have knapweed, and while it makes for delicious eating honey, it imparts a really sharp taste to mead which won’t mellow out for two to three years. So, she actually recommended that I pick up honey at a cheap retailer and use that honey.

Damn, I was so hoping to use local honey. I still can, but alas, not for this first batch.

So I picked up five pounds of who-knows-where clover honey and started to work.

Visiting the Farmer’s Market

I still didn’t give up on the idea of making mead from local honey. Yes, I would have to wait for the mead to settle down, but if I have mead that works in the meantime, I figure I’m good. But for the mead maker in me, I knew having an apiary was out. As much as I would like an apiary, there are some things I feel is probably best left to the people who know what they are doing. The reason is simple. I’ve swelled up with different bug bites in the past and I really don’t want to deal with bee stings in case I actually have a reaction to them. So, courting bee stings is out. But it doesn’t mean I can’t have honey. So, I went to the farmers market to talk to some beekeepers.

What I found was that most beekeepers in the area sell their honey at premium prices. The one place that sells local honey at a sane price isn’t a farmer’s market, but a local natural grocery. I can get local honey there at a decent price.

Next Up: Mead Making!

Stay tune for my insane adventures into mead making.

Maggie Bonham is an award-winning author and publisher. Visit her blog Eating Wild Montana, and her website at Sky Warrior Books. You can visit her Facebook page at Sky Warrior Books and her Twitter page at MH_Bonham.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.











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