Real Food
Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

Wildcrafting Ramps

Ramps

If you live in the Appalachian Mountains or certain parts of the Midwest, now's the perfect time to harvest what used to be the only garlicky plant on the American palate --- ramps.

Ramps are a wild perennial that can be found in moist, mature forests in the same places early spring ephemerals like hepatica and toothworts grow. There are two species of ramps which look subtly different, but both are remarkably easy to ID. Break off a piece of the leaf and sniff it. Does it smell strongly of garlic? Than you've found ramps!

Traditionally, the entire plant is dug up and eaten in dishes ranging from fried ramps to ramp soup and biscuits. But overharvesting is becoming more and more of a concern, so the sustainable wildcrafter is better off simply picking one leaf per plant. Don't worry, you can still end up with quite a mess of tasty greens.

Have you been out hunting ramps in your woods? If so, I hope you'll share your favorite recipe below!


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Food Loss and Waste Statistics and Solutions

foodThe Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has released their latest report on food waste, Characterization and Management of Food Waste in North America, which provides a closer examination of the main sources of food loss and waste in North American countries. The report focuses on more specific areas of food loss and waste, such as overproduction, product damages, lack of standardized date label practices, lack of cold-chain infrastructure, rigid food-grading specifications, and varying customer demand and market fluctuations.

While composing this report, researchers and investigators compiled a list of key findings about food loss and waste in North American countries, including some of the following:

• Canadians and Americans waste almost double as much food per capita as Mexicans do.

• The largest percentage of food loss and waste in North America is happening at the consumer level, with people throwing away approximately 67 million tons per year. Behind this, industrial, commercial, and institutional levels are responsible for about 51 million tons of food waste annually.

• 49 million tons of food are wasted pre-harvest, meaning that the food is thrown away before it is even brought to production, most likely for being considered unusable.

 

While the report highlights the many sources of food loss in Northern America, it also looks into possible solutions for these problems. These solutions are broken down into three categories: source reduction, rescue for human consumption, and recovery for animals.

The CEC proposes reducing portion sizes in grocery stores, which goes after the largest group of food wasters. Doing so would limit the amount of food thrown out annually by ensuring consumers do not buy more food then they use per package. They also are recommending that they make second-grade produce more marketable in retail stores, and sell them at a discount.

One of the easiest ways to prevent food waste is for consumers to donate food they do not want or use to others, as long as the food is considered safe, nutritious and edible. One proposed way of making food donations more common in North America is to offer financial incentives for those who donate food they would have wasted themselves.

Lastly, the CEC suggests that wasted food can be recovered to be used for animal feeds, pet food, or feeding the wasted food directly as is to the animals. This solution would also address other issues in North American countries, such as production energies and costs used to produce and distribute animal feeds and pet foods.

The full report is available for download on the CEC website. This report shows that North American countries have a long way to go and many changes to make in their food industries. It also shows that these changes are not up to food providers alone, but also calls on the consumers to be more responsible in how they use their food.


This press release is presented without editing for your information. MOTHER EARTH NEWS does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.

Why We Make Our Own Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup Arch

Finally, after years of talking about it, we tapped some sugar maple trees and boiled down the sap to make maple syrup. The syrup we produced is rich in maple flavour and tastes all the more delicious because we produced it ourselves.

Our home is in Southern Ontario, in the heart of the sugar maple’s (Acer saccharum) range. Around here, real maple syrup is easy to find at farmers markets, at farmgate sales on Mennonite farms or at any Maple Syrup Festival. Despite its easy availability, we wanted to try our hand at making it ourselves. It would be one more check mark on our list of Self-sufficiency To Dos.

We tried. We succeeded (with lots of room for improvement). And we’re doing it again next year. While not labour intensive, it does take time and effort to produce a batch of maple syrup. But for us, all that time and effort are worthwhile. Real maple syrup, in addition to being delicious, really is a better option than refined sugars and even some natural sugars.

Homemade Maple Syrup - A Natural Sugar

 Real maple syrup is a natural sugar, so too are honey and molasses. Each of these natural sugars offers us something different; not only in flavour, but also in terms of actual beneficial properties that we gain through consumption. Molasses, dark and thick, offers the most antioxidants compared with honey and maple syrup. Honey has more vitamins than maple syrup, but it also has more sugars, primarily from fructose. Maple syrup has more nutrients than honey and less overall sugar.

When compared to refined sugars, real maple syrup is a much better option for our health. Where maple syrup replaces refined sugars in a diet, it yields a net benefit to health. Maple syrup, at its most basic, is the result of tree sap after 97% of the water has evaporated through boiling. Sugarcane stalks or sugar beets, in contrast, are mechanically harvested, cleaned, washed, milled, extracted, juiced, filtered, purified, vacuumed, and condensed. After all that processing, which occurs prior to actual sugar crystal formation, is it any wonder refined sugars are detrimental to our health?

Maple syrup appears to be a much less harmful sweetener. One reason is that it’s stronger flavor results in less of it being consumed. It also scores lower on the glycemic index (54) than cane sugar (65). But real maple syrup actually contains compounds that help rather than harm our bodies. One tablespoon of real maple syrup contains trace amounts of manganese, zinc, calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium. We also receive antioxidants that can protect cells from DNA damage and mutation. Furthermore, it’s plant-based compounds help reduce our oxidative stress, which is responsible for weakening our immune systems and increasing the rate of aging.

In the end, though, maple syrup is still a simple sugar. It’s best to use it as an alternative to refined sugars and consume it in moderation. If used in baking, replace the amount of sugar with an equal amount of maple syrup, but be sure to reduce the total amount of liquid in the recipe by about a half cup to maintain the consistency of the original recipe.

Homemade Maple Syrup - Naturally Organic

 Real maple syrup can be certified organic if it is produced using only stainless steel pans or food grade plastic and only if certified organic oils are employed as de-foamers. Traditionally, lard, butter, milk or cream were added to the boiling sap to reduce foaming.

Conventional producers may use synthetic foaming agents and emulsifiers when boiling down the sap. Among which are food additives derived from genetically modified products, such as monoglycerides and diglycerides. If using old galvanized containers for collecting or storing the sap, lead can leach into the sap.

The maple syrup we produced did not have any synthetic foaming agents; we were working with small (12 gallon) batches and simply skimmed off the foam as it formed. We boiled our sap in stainless steel pans over a wood fire (we made a maple syrup arch constructed out of cinderblocks, dirt, and a stovepipe). When collecting the sap from the trees, we used food grade plastic pails, stored the sap for a couple days (if necessary) in food grade buckets in a fridge, and then boiled it down in stainless steel pans.

Our homemade maple syrup is organic, very local, and definitely worthy of making an annual tradition.


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.

Lemon Meringue Pie is the Perfect Dessert for Spring

baked lemon meringue pie

Lemon meringue pie is the quintessential spring dessert.  The sweet tart lemon filling tastes like sunshine, and there's no better use for the eggs that are now suddenly in abundance now that the chickens are happily producing in these longer days of light.

ladding meringue

Admittedly, spring weather is in short supply right now.  As the East Coast shovels out from under it's fourth nor'easter – or it's fourth nor'Easter as the wits are wagging – this month, I look citrus flavors seem the most likely to cheer me up and remind me of sunshine. 

My family shares the feeling, and my son's March birthday is most commonly honored with a lemon meringue pie.  Of course, these days I make my crusts with lard.  Having spent the past two years researching and developing recipes that make use of animal fats (my book The Fat Kitchen will be out in November), I am now enamored of the flaky, crisp crusts that lard yields and well aware that we have been sold a bill of goods about animal fats.  Lard, for example, contains 40 percent saturated for (butter contains 50 percent) and about 45 percent monounsaturated fat (the so-called healthy type of fat). 

lard crust don't shrink

A pie crust made with lard has the advantage of not shrinking when baked, which is especially important when you are making a single crust pie.  Butter crusts do shrink – it is inevitable since butter consists of 15 percent water, which evaporates out when the crust is baked. Once filled and baked, lard pie crusts resist becoming soggy, unlike butter crusts.  But leftovers with this pie would be a highly unexpected event. 

pie minus slice

Lemon Meringue Pie

Serves 6 to 8

Lard Crust

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tps fine sea salt
2 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp (2.6 ounces/75g) lard
1/3 cup very cold water, plus more as needed

Filling

4 large eggs, separated
1 3/4 cups sugar
6 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp plus 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Instructions

1. To make the crust, combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl, and whisk until well blended.  Cut in the lard with a pastry cutter or two knives or rub in with your fingertips until the mixture has a pebbly, sandy consistency.  Stir in the water until well mixed.  You should be able to form the mixture into a ball.  If needed, add more water, a teaspoon at a time, until the dough will form a ball. 

2. Gather the dough into a single ball. Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

3. On a well-floured work surface, roll out the dough with a well-floured rolling pin to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin to transfer it to a 9-inch or 10-inch pie plate.  Fold under and crimp the edges. Prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals.  Freeze for about 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Remove the unbaked pie shell from the freezer and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a rack before filling. 

5. To prepare the lemon filling, beat the egg yolks lightly in a small bowl. Set aside.

6. In the top part of a double boiler, combine 11/4 cups of the sugar, the cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Gradually stir in the water and lemon juice. Place the double boiler over (not in) simmering water. Using a whisk, stir the mixture constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture thickens and just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat.

7. Gradually stir a few teaspoons of the mixture into the beaten egg yolks, mixing constantly until blended. When you have added about 1/2 cup, pour the yolk mixture back into the pan, stirring constantly until combined. (This step is called tempering and it prevents the eggs from curdling.)

8. Place the pan over the simmering water again. Whisk in the butter gradually, then 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest. Cook the filing over low heat, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes, or until it is thick and smooth. Remove from the heat.

9. Stir the filling to cool slightly, then pour into the baked pie shell.

Meringue

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. When all the sugar has been incorporated, add the remaining 2 teaspoons of lemon zest and beat well for 3 to 4 minutes, until the meringue forms stiff, shiny peaks. The egg whites should hold their shape and remain moist.

Spoon about half of the meringue around the edge of the warm filling. Use a rubber spatula to carefully seal it to the piecrust. Pile the remaining meringue in the center, then spread with the back of a spoon to make decorative swirls. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.

Cool on a rack in a draft-free place. Serve at room temperature. This pie tastes best when eaten within 32 hours of cooling. Refrigerate any leftover pie.

The recipe is adapted from 250 Treasured Country Desserts by Andrea Chesman and Fran Raboff. ©2009 by Andrea Chesman and Fran Raboff.  All rights reserved.


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.

Lemon Pound Cake

 

A luscious lemony pound cake would be a perfect dessert to serve for your Easter guests. Lemon always brings with it a sense of freshness and lightness. This cake uses any 12 cup tube pan, and utilizes fresh grated lemon peel in the cake, and the cake is topped off with a yummy lemon glaze. Two small lemons will do quite nicely for the grated rind and the juice for the glaze. An added bonus? A lovely scent of lemon as you grate the rind. Just make sure you bring everything to room temperature before you begin. You can also decorate this cake any way you like, from a simple dusting of powdered sugar to filling the centre hole with flowers (use silk or non-poisonous ones) like pansies or violets for example. It will make a beautiful centrepiece for your table, too!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
4 eggs
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup milk

For the Glaze:

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp.butter

Method:

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously grease your 12-cup tube pan, I used the spray oil with flour added. In large bowl, beat the sugar and butter with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape bowl occasionally. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in lemon peel.

On low speed, beat in flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and milk until smooth, ending with flour, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour batter into pan.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes, I found it leaned more toward 60, but every oven is different. Insert a toothpick or skewer in centre; make sure it comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Place heatproof plate upside down over pan (you might want to loosen a little first around the edges and the centre, give a light shake to see if it is loose), turn plate and pan right side up. Remove pan.

Meanwhile, in a glass measuring cup, combine the sugar, lemon juice and butter. Heat until the butter is melted in a microwave, about two 30 second shots should do it, or you can also do this in a small stainless pan on the stove.

With a skewer or toothpick, prick the top and sides of the cake. Brush the still warm glaze over the cake, allowing it to soak in. Cool completely about 1 1/2 hours before serving. Garnish as desired.

You can follow my further adventures, with more recipes, at svanslooten.com. Feel free to email me at susan.vanslooten@icloud.com if you have a question. Happy baking!


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.

USDA Dietary Guidelines Topics for Public Comment

foodThe U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) are looking to the public for help. In creating the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, they are reaching out to the community to conduct their research.

Every 5 years, the USDA updates their guidelines to match current research and to keep the public knowledgeable on the best nutritional information. For the 2020-2025 edition, the USDA has begun to conduct new research through the public, asking for public comments and questions on topics supporting scientific questions to help with the development of the next publication.

This new approach is meant to provide the public with more transparency and opportunities to participate. This is a new step in the Dietary Guidelines process; the USDA is looking for public comments and questions on the proposed topics, to get a better understanding for what the public thinks of current dietary research, what they do or do not already know, and what they would like to know in the future. This window of opportunity will be open to the public for 30 days, beginning February 28 of this year and ending March 30.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines topics the USDA and HHS are proposing are based on four criteria:

Relevance – This topic is within scope of the Dietary Guidelines and its focus on food-based recommendations, not clinical guidelines for medical treatment.

Importance – This topic for which there is new, relevant data and represents an area of substantial public health concern, uncertainty, and/or knowledge gap.

Potential Federal Impact – The probability that guidance on the topic would inform Federal food and nutrition policies and programs.

Avoiding Duplication – This topic is not currently addressed through existing evidence-based Federal guidance (other than the Dietary Guidelines).

One of the main focuses of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines is a “life stages approach”, which focuses on scientific questions from birth through young toddlers. The 2014 Farm Bill mandated that starting with this edition, the Dietary Guideline is required to give guidance for pregnant women, infants, and toddlers up to 24 months. This approach is also hoping to get a better understanding on the patterns of what the public eats and drinks on average, as well as over longer periods of time.

The USDA and the HHS are looking for both supportive and opposing comments on the topics they have provided, so that they can further understand what the public is thinking. All of the public comments will be considered equally in creating the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines.


This press release is presented without editing for your information. MOTHER EARTH NEWS does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.

Rustic Vegetable Bean Soup and Early Spring Gratitude

 

Jamie covered a patch of parsley last autumn with a plastic row cover, which kept it from completely dying off during the winter months. Overwintered parsley in Zone 5 is very hardy and has a strong flavor; you can see in the photo how the leaves are deeper green and compact. Now that we've had several mild days, I was pleased to see the parsley has already begun to sprout new leaves.

We have a lovely patch of broccoli rabe showing new growth. Jamie planted it last fall - it became established before winter set in and should provide an excellent early spring crop. Our sage and thyme patches have also overwintered and should be waking up soon. Oh, and there are still carrots under cover. Jamie has been chiseling carrots by the dozen out of the partially frozen ground all winter. Carrots are always sweeter if picked after a frost - these beauties have been exceptionally sweet and flavorful! I used them in this recipe and photo.

Meanwhile, in the greenhouse there are patches of arugula, yokatta-na, and mache that have reseeded. Surprisingly, six leeks are growing, which is odd because Jamie hasn't grown them in the greenhouse for many years! Evidently leek seeds have been sitting in the soil waiting for conditions to be just right for them to germinate and grow.

I'm always so excited and grateful when these springtime gifts arrive, providing us with early spring edibles . . . a taste of what's to come!

 

Rustic Vegetable Bean Soup

Ingredients

2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped small
2 medium carrots, chopped small
2 stalks of celery, chopped small
4 garlic cloves, chopped small
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 teas dry
32 oz low-sodium vegetable broth, preferably homemade
32 oz jarred or canned whole tomatoes (can also use crushed, diced, or puree)
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white beans such as cannellini or great northern, drained and rinsed
8 oz dry pasta, small size such as ditalini or elbow
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions

1. In a soup pot, heat coconut oil over medium-low heat; add a bit of chopped onion.

2. When onion begins to sizzle add rest of chopped vegetables, salt and herbs; sauté for about 8 minutes, stirring often.

3. Add jarred or canned whole tomatoes to pot; crush tomatoes with clean hand.

4. Add vegetable broth; bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

5. In the meantime, cook pasta in plenty of water; cook for 2 minutes less time than package directions.

6. Drain pasta and return to pot it was cooked in.

7. Drizzle pasta with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder and salt; stir and cover.

8. Keep pasta separate until serving.

To Serve: Fill bowl with 1 scant scoop of pasta and 2 scoops of soup. Drizzle soup with a bit of olive oil (optional). Garnish with parsley.

Judy DeLorenzo is a holistic health practitioner, garden foodie, and daycare founder. She has a deep understanding that food is medicine and "we are what we eat" so we should treat our bodies with respect by eating pure, whole, super nutritious foods. She loves to grow and shop for food, create recipes, cook, take food photos, and share the process with clients, her social media audience, family, and friends. You can learn more about Judy's healing practice at Biofield Healing and enjoy her blog posts at A Life Well PlantedRead all of Judy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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.