Archive for the ‘FRESH Ideas’ Category
Posted on October 7, 2012 - by Crystal Cun
Troy Roush is an Indiana farmer who raises GMO (genetically modified organism) soy and corn crops. He was featured in the documentary Food, Inc. and in this fabulous video from Fix Food, his message is clear: Let’s provide GMO labeling and give people the right to choose what kind of food they want. Then the market will decide what’s in demand and what farmers will produce. Labeling is a win-win for farmers and consumers. It’s as simple as that.
This November, we can make monumental changes in the way we eat. California has introduced Proposition 37 to require the mandatory labeling of GMO (genetically modified organism) foods. If it passes, this would be a landmark victory for those who believe we should be able to know what’s in our food. Poll after poll has consistently shown that the vast majority of Americans want GMO labeling. For years though, the food industry and government regulators have refused to give us that knowledge.
Now the tables have turned. If you vote in CA, will you take a stand for the freedom to choose what you eat? Can you help spread the word to your friends and family in CA, and let them know about the importance of voting for Prop 37? If you don’t vote in CA, you can still make a difference by sending a letter to your local representatives. Tell them you support GMO labeling, and you want to see this legislation enacted in your state. Even if just one state begins mandating GMO labeling, this will create a ripple effect of change throughout the country, as manufacturers retool their packaging nationwide.
For more info on why GMOs are a threat, check out our article “What You Don’t Know About GMOs CAN Hurt You.” Want to avoid GMOs even without mandated labeling? See our tip on how to steer clear of GMOs.
Posted on June 19, 2012 - by Crystal Cun
At this time of the year, your kitchen is probably full of strawberries, tomatoes and sweet corn, the abundant pleasures of summer produce. In fact, between farmers markets, CSA shares and our gardens, sometimes it’s hard to know where to store all those fruits and vegetables, especially if you’re trying to avoid using plastic bags. So, we were thrilled to discover a handy list of storage tips from the Berkeley Farmers Market. Take a look at these ideas for creative and waste-free ways to extend the life of your produce, in and out of the refrigerator.
- Asparagus—Place the upright stalks loosely in an glass or bowl with water at room temperature. Will keep for a week outside the fridge.
- Basil—Difficult to store well. Basil does not like to be cold or wet. The best method here is an airtight container/jar loosely packed with a small damp piece of paper inside, left out on a cool counter.
- Beets—Cut the tops off to keep beets firm, and be sure to keep the greens! Leaving any top on root vegetables draws moisture from the root, making them loose flavor and firmness. Beets should be washed and kept in an open container with a wet towel on top.
- Beet greens—Place in an airtight container with a little moisture from a damp cloth.
- Berries—Don’t forget, they’re fragile. When storing, stack them in a single layer, if possible, in a paper bag. Wash right before you plan on eating them.
- Carrots—Cut the tops off to keep them fresh longer. Place them in closed container with plenty of moisture, either wrapped in a damp towel or dunk them in cold water every couple of days if they’re stored that long.
- Corn—Leave unhusked in an open container if you must, but corn really is best the day it’s picked.
- Greens—Remove any bands, twist ties, etc. Most greens must be kept in an air‐tight container with a damp cloth to keep them from drying out. Kale, collard greens, and chard do well in a cup of water on the counter or fridge.
- Melons—Keep uncut in a cool dry place, out of the sun for up to a couple weeks. Cut melons should be in the fridge; an open container is fine.
- Peaches (and most stone fruit)—Refrigerate only when fully ripe. Firm fruit will ripen on the counter.
- Rhubarb—Wrap in a damp towel and place in an open container in the refrigerator.
- Strawberries—Don’t like to be wet. Do best in a paper bag in the fridge for up to a week. Check the bag for moisture every other day.
- Sweet peppers—Only wash them right before you plan on eating them as wetness decreases storage time. Store in a cool room to use in a couple of days, place in the crisper if longer storage is needed.
- Tomatoes—Never refrigerate. Depending on ripeness, tomatoes can stay for up to two weeks on the counter. To hasten ripeness, place in a paper bag with an apple.
- Zucchini—Does fine for a few days if left out on a cool counter, even after cut. Wrap in a cloth and refrigerate for longer storage.
For the full list of storage tips, see the handout from the Berkeley Farmers Market. Have storage tips of your own to share? Leave a comment with your ideas below!
Posted on January 21, 2012 - by Crystal Cun
The following article comes from Justin Boevers, Development & Outreach Manager at FishChoice.
The “Mystery Fish” story in December’s edition of Consumer Reports Magazine shed further light on an important issue – the widespread mislabeling of seafood. This particular study found that nearly 50% of seafood tested in the New England area was incorrectly labeled. This is not the first study of its kind. Three years ago, the “Imposter Fish” article was published in Conservation Magazine summarizing the efforts of eight students from Stanford who collected 77 samples and found that 60% were incorrectly labeled.
Why is this epidemic happening? First, certain fish command a premium price in the market and pawning off a less valuable species as a higher demand item is a big profit. Secondly, it’s easy. Fish lose most of their distinguishing characteristics during processing and because average seafood consumption is low and a lot of seafood is prepared with value-added elements, it is difficult for most consumers to know if the seafood they are eating is the same product as labeled or advertised.
Oceana, an organization leading the way on addressing the issue of “fish fraud” summarizes some of the main problems the epidemic of seafood mislabeling causes:
Most common types of seafood that have been identified as mislabeled:
- Farmed salmon being sold as wild salmon
- Imported farmed shrimp being sold as wild, domestic shrimp
- Tilapia being sold as red snapper, especially in sushi
- Catfish and pangasius being sold as flounders and groupers
What can you do?
- Learn about the fish you like to eat. Learn the scientific name and the marketing names, the seasonality of the fish, what fish may be able to be passed off as the species in question, and eat it enough to know how it tastes differently than similar fish.
- Ask your waiter or seafood counter staff about where the fish is from and how it was caught. If they know how, where and when it was caught, then feel confident that it is correctly labeled.
- Request the species, origin and fishing/farming method be voluntarily displayed on menus, seafood cases, and packaging. Only those that are completely confident that their seafood is what they say it is will put it out there for all the world to see.
Do you have more questions or thoughts to share on the subject of fish fraud? Leave a comment below!
Justin Boevers is the Outreach and Development Manager for FishChoice.com. Justin helps small and medium-sized business understand the issues around sustainable seafood and helps them find responsible sources. FishChoice is a nonprofit that runs a free, B2B website connecting businesses that buy or sell sustainable seafood. You can follow FishChoice on Twitter and like their facebook page to stay up to speed on sustainable seafood issues and developments.
Posted on November 21, 2011 - by Crystal Cun
Though your neighborhood may be blanketed with white snow, the holiday season is actually one of the best opportunities you have to go green. After all, your holiday gala can serve as a role model for green, resource-efficient practices. We’ve put together some tips and tricks to guide your planning:
- Buy local and seasonal. Skip those rock-hard supermarket tomatoes and venture to your local farmers market or natural foods grocery instead for locally farmed, seasonal foods. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the late harvest abundance of squashes, root vegetables, cooking greens and apples. See www.localharvest.org for a market near you.
- Skip (some of) the meat. Raising conventional livestock requires large amounts of fuel, pesticides and fertilizers, making the process a major contributor to greenhouse gases. You don’t have to make your holiday meal vegetarian, but it is worth considering whether you can move from meatcentric dishes to ones that feature smaller amounts of meat as a seasoning. Think sausage crumbles, not steaks. If you do buy meat, purchase from reputable farmers for flavorful meats that are free of antibiotics, growth hormones and E.coli.
- Drink local. Consider getting wine from a local, organic winery, with less pesticide intensive viticulture methods. Or, support our nation’s growing craft brewing industry by picking up beer from a local brewery.
- Dust off the china and glasses. One of the biggest generators of waste at holiday parties is the use of disposable cups and silverware. Though it’s definitely easier to throw everything away, you’ll find that with a couple volunteers to help you wash dishes or load the dishwasher, everything will be rinsed and dried in no time flat. If you don’t want to buy additional dishes, consider asking each guest to BYOP, or bring your own plate, along with a glass and fork. That way, you will have plenty of dishes to go around, and the dirty ones will go home with their owners!
- Organize the leftovers. Once the meal is finished, don’t let it sit idle. Encourage guests to dispose of their scraps in a compost collection. Leftover should be packed or frozen and used for future meals. If there is too much for you to handle, the food should be redistributed for guests to take home. Ask people to bring a container with them, so that they can tote a piece of the dinner home at the end of the night.
- Give gifts that grow and inspire. Consider spreading the magic of real food culture through a hands-on cheesemaking kit or a homebrewing kit. Or share your favorite cookbook of culinary fundamentals. A seasonal produce calendar can be a fun reminder of what to anticipate next year at the farmers markets. Seed packets are a cheap and creative way to help develop a green thumb. You can also give postcards or greeting cards that have seeds embedded inside the paper, and can be planted after being read.
- Use wrapping “paper” that lasts. Skip the wrapping paper for a practical and stylish alternative. Try using reusable tote bags or light scarves. Reuse old maps, the comic pages from newspapers, and sheet music. If you do have a heap of discarded wrapping paper at the end of the night, be sure to recycle it, along with any other cans and bottles.
Have additional ideas for sustainable dinner parties? Leave a comment below!
Posted on October 4, 2011 - by Crystal Cun
Halloween is on the way, along with leaf piles, carved Jack-o-lanterns and candy-fueled sugar highs. For parents who would like to provide more healthful offerings though, there are alternatives to the usual mass market, preservative-laden sweets. One innovative program we like is Reverse Trick or Treating to support Fair Trade. Intrigued? Read on for additional tips on how to make trick-or-treating an eco-conscious experience while still having fun.
- Stock natural and organic candies. Look for treats made with cane sugar, fruit juice and natural colors.
- Or, skip the candy entirely. Opt for popcorn packets, granola bars and fruit. Consider giving away non-food items like seed envelopes, crayons and stickers.
- Raise awareness of Fair Trade through Reverse Trick or Treating. Sign up by Oct. 11 to receive a kit with 15 Fair Trade chocolates and informational cards that your child can pass out to others. This is a fantastic way to get the message out about the exploitation of laborers working in the cocoa industry.
- Bring a reusable tote bag. Lug your goodies home in a canvas bag, rather than a disposable plastic one that is destined to end up in a landfill.
- Make your own costume. Modern costumes are flimsy, designed for one-time use, and are often lined with PVC and other plastics. Instead, create a unique fashion statement by scavenging items from your closet or a local thrift store.
Do you have more suggestions on how to green your Halloween? Share your ideas and leave a comment below!
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Posted on September 26, 2011 - by Crystal Cun
Perfectly ripe heirlooms in a perfumed cascade of colors—who doesn’t love a juicy summer tomato? Little wonder that the French nickname these beauties pommes d’amour, or “apples of love.” As the weather gets cooler, the last of this year’s harvest is coming to an end. However, you can still reap the benefits of a bountiful crop next year by saving the seeds. Here are some tips on how to harvest seeds from tomatoes so that you can enjoy them once again.
- Take a fully ripened tomato and cut it in half. Scoop or squeeze out the seeds and juice into a small, labeled container. If done carefully, the tomato itself can be saved for eating, sun-drying or canning.
- Add a little water to the container so that the seeds can float, then loosely cover it and set it in a warm place for 3-5 days where the odor will not bother you. Stir or swirl the mixture once or twice a day. The seeds will ferment and mold will grow at the surface. This mold is your friend; it eats the gelatinous coat around the seeds that stops germination. It also produces antibiotics that prevent disease.
- The viable, mature seeds will sink to the bottom. Pour off the excess water and solids at the top. Add more water and repeat this step until the seeds are clean and the water being poured off is almost clear.
- Spread the seeds onto a paper towel or plate and let them dry for 1-3 days. Keep them away from direct sunlight. Stir them to make sure they do not dry in clumps.
- Store the seeds in a dark, cool place in an airtight container. Don’t forget to label them with the name, variety and date you saved them!
Do you have tips on how to harvest and save seeds from your garden? Share your ideas and leave a comment below!
By the way, if you have ever wondered why supermarket tomatoes taste like cardboard, check out our review of Tomatoland. This new book discusses the seedy underbelly of Florida’s industrial tomato industry, and its environmental and social costs. It’s a must-read for anyone who has eaten or plans to eat a tomato.
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Posted on September 16, 2011 - by Crystal Cun
Today’s guest writer is Johanna Kolodny, the forager for Print Restaurant in Manhattan, discussing the challenges of getting customers to try unfamiliar seafood in restaurants.
Variety may be the spice of life, but at Print we tend to stick to the same fish, which include but are not limited to snapper, halibut, black sea bass, and salmon. At any one time, we have two if not three fish entrees on the menu. The chef continues to buy these fish because they sell. Don’t get me wrong, these are delicious choices, but I’d like to introduce new options to our menu. By diversifying the seafood that we eat, there is less danger that any one species will be overfished.
Some of the fish that I’ve offered the chef include flounder, hake, haddock, pollack, Gulf of Maine rockfish, bluefish, and sheepshead, but he has rejected these options. I think he believes they won’t sell, hence he’s not taking a chance. The chef once bought golden tilefish and it barely sold, so he said he’d never buy it again. In the end, I can’t really blame him because this is a business. He’s tried amberjack and triggerfish several times, but they were also not very popular. And from personal experience, I can tell you that these fish all tasted absolutely divine.
I suspect there are two reasons customers don’t buy these fish. The first is that they’ve never heard of it. Secondly, people think of these fish as being “lower grade.” At least these are my best guesses. The chef would buy practically any fish as long as it sold (not including endangered or threatened species), but I’m having a hard time figuring out how to convince the chef that these fish will sell and then actually following through with my promise. Waitstaff education is definitely key, but what else can I do? Or perhaps I’m not offering the proper education? I do repeatedly tell the staff that they can always seek me out to ask any questions.
When eating at other restaurants, I wonder how they sell the fish that either don’t sell at Print or that the chef is hesitant to buy? What is their selling strategy? Do they even have to push the dishes? Who are their customers? And how do we get those customers to our restaurant? Not only do I want people who have more open minds and are adventurous, but I also want to change customers’ perceptions about a fish they might not otherwise eat. These are just some of the questions that I think about daily.
How do you decide to order something new at restaurants? For me, when I go to a restaurant that I either like or anticipate I’ll enjoy, I trust that the chef won’t serve something that isn’t scrumptious. So, every menu item is fair game. Of course, mood and cravings do play a role in one’s choices. However, if I’m in the mood for seafood, then I am willing to try any of the three fish on the menu, for instance. So the next time you are dining out and see an unfamiliar fish on the menu, don’t be shy, ask the staff some questions, and give the dish a shot. You never know, you may have just discovered your new favorite food.
For more information on Johanna Kolodny’s work as a forager, check out the Print Restaurant blog: http://www.printrestaurant.com/blog/