I just got hungry for collard greens and this is what happened.
Organic: To go or not to go
Cultivated bounty holds much promise
This week, something to chew on. It’s that time of year again. The heat wave last week set the stage for the return of the Farmer's Market on Main Street in West Bend; they’ll be up and running from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays starting May 29 and finishing the season Oct. 30.
Frankly, I can hardly touch a salad during most of the winter. I need potatoes and carrots and onions cooked into caramelized delirium on top of a pot roast (oven time: 3.5 hours minimum). But once the weather turns warm, I turn into Bugs Bunny. The carrots need to be fresh and crispy. The lettuce, too. I even go completely nuts for all that dark green leafy stuff like kale and collards and turnip greens (tossed with olive oil and garlic).
I’m not the only one who goes salad-mad during warmer weather. Maybe humans are designed to get hungry for whatever happens to be available as the calendar clocks through the seasons.
Our local Farmer's Market was a kind of gateway drug for me. Fresh food and good prices are addictive.
Last year I confessed publicly to crossing over into the bark-eating vegan-curious foodie category. We joined Wellspring in Newburg, one of southeastern Wisconsin's CSAs (community supported agriculture). They provided a vegetable tsunami we surfed all summer, shooting the curl dizzy with kohlrabi and garlic and greens sprinkled with home made chive blossom vinegar.
This year, we’re taking another step. This year we’re getting dirty too, contributing a few shifts of work cultivating and weeding the food we’ll be eating all summer. We don’t garden at home – I am probably one of the few people on earth who cannot grow tomatoes – so this is one of the best ways to enjoy gardening, meet interesting people, and eat.
You can see how this might escalate. I was planning to push my luck growing my own crop next year by renting a plot through West Bend Community gardens (when you can't even raise tomatoes, it’s time to call in master gardeners). The county just gave the gardens an additional 1,200 square feet, in fact, but the plots are already reserved: 77 in all with a waiting list.
Our neighbors who were lucky enough to work these gardens last year harvested a total of around 3,000 pounds of food (at a market value of roughly $2 a pound). Nearly 700 pounds of produce went directly to the food pantry. If they can put together another site for next year, more spots will become available. (For more info write to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last year I mentioned a few reasons you might want to eat locally and organic (environmentally friendly, no pesticides, lower carbon footprint, less expensive, tastes great) but, unfortunately, new reports are now out tying the consumption of pesticides to ADHD in children and cancer in adults.
Fortunately, you don't have to go completely organic to dodge this unhappy probability distribution. There are better and worse options and the Environmental Working Group has come up with a list of veggies you can buy that’ll decrease your intake of agri-business related toxins by as much as 80 percent. The full list is available at www.foodnews.org, but here are the top five dirtiest and cleanest veggies in their collection. For the top five dirtiest, they suggest you think about buying organic. For the top five cleanest, they suggest the organic label doesn't matter.
The most likely produce to have residual pesticides, even after you wash them, appear in the following order: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, and domestic blueberries. Trace amounts of pesticide remain even after they’ve power washed the samples, so you might want to think about buying organic here. I can’t live without celery since it’s a key ingredient in most of the Cajun cooking I tend to live on and I’m particularly bummed about the blue berries, but I think I know a guy in Michigan ... . On the other hand, residual chemicals dont seem to be an issue with onions, avocados (hurray), sweet corn (thank goodness!), pineapples (seriously, whew), mango, sweet peas or asparagus. I included seven here since I know a lot of people who eat peas and asparagus, but I don’t know anyone who eats a lot of mangoes. Anyway, if you love asparagus – or mangoes – you can save a few bucks and go without the organic label.
So, this weekend I’m digging out my salad dressing shaker bottle, that salad spinner we’ve been using to drain spaghetti, and I’m planning to start dreaming in summer green instead of wintry black and white.
Grin. And so on.