November 4th, 2011 - Jill Ettinger
As the November 3rd General Assembly at Occupy Los Angeles drifted into its third hour, a decision had still not yet been reached on whether or not to remove eight vegetable planters that threatened Occupiers from making it through their 34th night at City Hall.
Read More:Lettuce Grow! LAPD and Occupy LA Face-Off Over Organic Vegetables
July 13th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
By Kathy Bond-Borie, Guest Columnist
Green beans are one of the quintessential organic veggies of summer, and they’re hard to beat for the quantity of food they provide per square foot. They’re also easy to grow, provided you can keep bugs and diseases from getting the upper hand.
Here are six routines to help keep your crop healthy and productive.
1. Soil Preparation
Beans grow well in a wide range of soils without fertilizer. Where fertility is low, mix a complete organic fertilizer into the top 3 or 4 inches of soil before planting. Set up trellises or pole tepees before planting climbing beans.
Plants grow best when spaced about 2 to 4 inches apart. You can plant seeds at this spacing or, better yet, err on the side of planting too many seeds; then, thin them to the recommended spacing just in case some don’t germinate. Plant seeds 1 to 1½ inches deep.
Mulch snap beans to help keep the soil cool and retain moisture. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
Beans generally grow quickly and shade out weeds, particularly if they’re grown in wide rows.
But if you need to cultivate around plants to dislodge weeds, do so near the soil surface so you don’t injure plant roots. The best time is after a rain, when the plants are completely dry and the soil has dried out a little. This is when many weeds start to germinate.
5. Insects and Disease
Rotate the location of your bean crops from year to year to discourage diseases, and avoid working around plants when the foliage is wet.
To deter Mexican bean beetles, use floating row covers over seedlings to prevent egg laying. Check leaf undersides for masses of yellowish eggs, and squish any you spot. Handpick adult beetles and larvae. Neem oil will deter feeding adults; horticultural oil and organic insecticidal soap are useful against the larvae.
Clean up plant debris in the garden at the end of the season to reduce the number of overwintering adults. Where these beetles are a severe problem, look for naturally resistant bean varieties.
6. Pick ’em Young
For the best flavor and nutritional value, pick snap beans when they’re young, tender and about the diameter of a pencil. Hold the stem with one hand and the pod with your other hand to avoid pulling off branches that will produce more pods.
Picking encourages more blossoms and pods. After your first picking, you can probably pick again 3 to 5 days later.
To keep the harvest going as long as possible, don’t let any seeds develop inside the pods. Pole (climbing) beans are slower to mature, but they have a longer harvest period.
A former floral designer and interior plantscaper, Kathy Bond-Borie has spent 20 years as a garden writer/editor, including her current role as horticultural editor for the National Gardening Association. She loves designing with plants and spends more time playing in the garden—planting and trying new combinations—than sitting and appreciating it.
Photo courtesy of the National Gardening Association
Read More:6 Tips for Growing Organic Green Beans
June 14th, 2010 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
It stinks to admit it, but most times organic foods are more expensive than the regular stuff; sometimes organic farmers markets are cheaper or about the same.
So how do you go organic on a budget, especially in this miserable United States economy? Easy, you kidnap a genie and make a wish!
No, it’s easier than that. RedPlum, a promotional company that helps sell various food products, from health foods to not-so health foods, has 10 tips for going organic on the cheap.
Guess what number one is? Shopping at a farmers market. Ha! See, I told you. Then again, organic or not, shopping at a farmers market is the best idea. Its less expensive and the produce is a lot fresher and higher quality.
Another tip I really liked is going vegetarian for a couple days each week. I’m a vegetarian and not only is it healthier for you, but fruits and vegetables are a lot cheaper than filet mignon and pork tenderloin.
RedPlum also suggests clipping coupons. No, coupons aren’t just for little old ladies anymore. In this tough economy, if a supermarket is willing to play let’s make a deal, go for it! Then again, I’m a hypocrite; using coupons feels weird to me.
For the complete list of organic tips, head over to RedPlum – do it, do it now!
Here’s some more posts on going organic on a budget:
Image credit: Boston.com
Read More:How to Be Organic On a Budget
May 12th, 2010 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Yeah, that’s kind of funny – or kind of stupid. It’s hard to make out, but those are organic potatoes. Okay, that’s cool. But they’re wrapped in plastic.
Maybe the company thinks they’re protecting their yams from rubbing against their evil non-organic cousins with a powerful shield of petroleum-based plastic wrap. But either way, they dropped the potato – oops, I mean ball – with that faux pas.
Then again, how many of you pick through your organic produce in the supermarket and put them in those plastic produce bags? I think we all have. Eek!
Image credit: Earth & Industry
Read More:Clean Safe Organic Potatoes…Wrapped in Plastic
May 10th, 2010 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
With an economy in the toilet, you’d think consumers in the United States would have been more frugal in 2009, unwilling to pay the usually higher prices for organic products – not so.
According to the Organic Trade Association’s 2010 Organic Industry Survey, U.S. sales of organic products continued to grow in 2009.
It goes to show you how much more concerned people are getting about the mysterious junk in our food.
Study data revealed sales of organic products grew by 5.3% in 2009, totaling $26.6 billion; organic food accounted for a whopping $24.8 billion of that.
A spokesperson for the Organic Trade Association boasts in even tough economic times consumers understand the benefits of organic products.
Makes sense, today’s push for “green” is making people very aware – whether they actively seek out information or not – of all the garbage that is put into our food, especially conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.
So that should explain why survey results also show total spending on organic fruits and vegetables was $9.5 billion in 2009, a jump of 11.4% from 2008.
And you can see the shift in supermarkets too. Now organic produce is more prominently displayed, in the past it was always somewhere in the back.
Image credit: Locks Farm Park
Read More:High Demand for Organic Products in 2009
October 21st, 2009 - Laura Klein
There are two sides to every story.
I’d like to call your attention to a hot debate sparked by my blog post Corporate-Backed and Bogus: The Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. If you haven’t done so, read it now to check out the range of opinions and responses on this important topic.
Charlotte Vallaeys, Farm and Food Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute and her colleagues oppose The Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement as it stands.
Charlotte weighed in on comments from a supporter of The Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and member of the Western Growers Association, an organization that, according to its website, provides ‘quality services and programs that benefit and enhance the competitiveness of its members in the Arizona and California fresh produce industry.’
Check out the debate for yourself:
Western Growers Association: No one is guaranteeing the safety of anything; however, the program aims t o develop scientifically defensible, regionally-based growing, handling and manufacturing practices – developed by a coalition of stakeholders including government entities, academics and the industry. These practices have NOT been developed. This proposal sets up the infrastructure by which a coalition of stakeholders can come to the table and develop those practices. Indeed, there is currently no way of guaranteeing that fresh leafy greens are 100% safe as scientists do not yet have a clear understanding of food borne pathogens on leafy greens.
Cornucopia: Our main concern is with the “coalition of stakeholders” that would oversee the development and implementation of the rules. Most members on the committee (19 of 23) will be handlers and growers, and 17 of those 19 will likely represent the large-scale, corporate leafy greens industry. The committee members that are not growers or handlers will include a retail industry representative, a food service industry representative, a member of the public and an importer.
There will be a separate committee that will assist the Administrative Committee in developing the rules, which will indeed be required to include academics and government entities, including a National Resource Conservation Service representative and a representative of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is very positive. But ultimately, it is the Administrative Committee that holds the power to make the rules (see section 970.49 of the proposal). Just to reiterate, this Committee will consist of industry representatives with no academics or government representatives.
Western Growers Association: The proposal, as is currently drafted would require that at least two “small” growers participate in the development of these practices.
Cornucopia: This is a token representation of “small” growers who will not have real power. A two-thirds majority will be needed on important votes, and with 23 members, the two “small” representatives will not be able to influence policy or the outcome of a vote.
Western Growers Association: The “seal” is to be used primarily on bills of lading. California and Arizona have had a similar program in place for multiple years now; has anyone seen a USDA-approved “seal” on any of the leafy greens in the market? No. The seal is used on bills of lading so retailers know that the product in question was handled and grown according to the practices outlined in those state’s agreements.
Cornucopia: There is currently nothing in the proposal that would prevent signatories from extending the use of this seal beyond bills of lading and manifests. There is no prohibition against using the seal on packaging visible to the consumer, and it will probably be only a matter of time before the seal is used as a marketing tool. It is, after all, a Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.
Western Growers Association: Regarding transparency, there was an open comment period on the need for USDA to pursue a marketing agreement about a year ago. There has been a Web site – www.nlgma.com – on-line for about a year calling for stakeholders to provide comments on the proposal. Many of those comments and suggestions have been added to the proposed agreement. Furthermore, the proposed NLGMA has been prominently covered on the USDA AMS site. There was a Webinar where proponents explained the proposal and answered every question offered up by the more than 200 attendees, nationwide (the Webinar along with those questions and answers are available at www.nlgma.com). A large group of regional, state and national proponents have been communicating this process with their respective constituents for more than a year. The proponents called for, and USDA granted, a series of public hearings, across the nation, (which are ongoing) to discuss the merits of the proposal. I am not sure how this process could be more transparent.
Cornucopia: I don’t believe that lack of transparency is a concern listed in the blog post.
Western Growers Association: There are a handful of different “metrics” or standards out there, and many of them are very costly. The entire industry needs to work toward one set of practices, defensible by sound science, which can replace those “super metrics” being handed down by the buying community. The National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement would afford stakeholders that opportunity.
Cornucopia: The problem is that the proposed Marketing Agreement would put the power to develop the metrics in the hands of 23 people, most of whom will be representatives of large-scale handlers and growers. Food safety is a serious issue, and any government regulation for food safety should be done with the citizens’ safety in mind. Industry representatives will be serving two masters—citizens’ need for safe food, and their industry’s interests. The likelihood that the resulting standards will be self-serving to their industry, disregarding the needs of other stakeholders (such as small growers) are much higher than if government agencies, staffed by public servants, were charged with developing the rules.
Western Growers Association: Lastly, this program is voluntary. If producers do not want to participate, they do not have to.
Cornucopia: It is voluntary for handlers, but not for growers. If most handlers sign up, growers will be left to choose between following the metrics or not being able to sell their crops unless they find a handler who is not a signatory.
What do you think? Let us know and let’s keep the conversation going!
Read More:Safer Foods, Great Debates and The Battle for Pure Leafy Greens
January 27th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
The Love Your Veggies campaign, sponsored by salad-dressing manufacturer Hidden Valley, offers many resources for parents and teachers who want to help kids increase their vegetable consumption.
Several free downloads are available, including a “Vegetables and You” activity kit, word-search puzzle, “Around the World” educational game, “Veggies in the Home” growing guide and vegetable-identification “Name Game.”
You’ll also find recipes for dishes like Moroccan Chicken With Roasted Vegetable Couscous, Naan (Indian Flatbread) With Vegetable Salad Topping and Ranched-Up Hummus Dip.
“When I develop recipes for kids, I try to include specific textures, flavor profiles and food shapes I think kids gravitate toward,” says Chicago-based registered dietitian Jodie Shield, who specializes in child nutrition.
“First, I always consider the child’s age,” she explains. “Based on research (scientific and anecdotal), younger kids tend to like ingredients that are not all mixed together and that are somewhat familiar to them, as opposed to older kids, who like ‘concoctions’ and tend to be more willing to try new foods. For example, a 5-year-old might enjoy making a turkey taco recipe, which includes ingredients of their choice, while a 12-year-old would be more willing to make a taco casserole or taco salad.”
Here are some simple kid-friendly recipes from our Organic Blog:
As always, we recommend using organic ingredients, when available, in all recipes to maximize flavor, while minimizing your risk of exposure to pesticides, chemicals and preservatives.
Read More:Campaign Teaches Children to Love Their Veggies
April 12th, 2007 - Barbara Feiner
Mushrooms are a produce-aisle favorite, but ever wonder how they stack up nutritionally?
“Mushrooms provide a variety of nutrients with few calories,” says nutritionist and registered dietitian Karen Collins, a consultant for the American Institute for Cancer Research. “A half-cup of mushroom pieces contains just 9 calories when raw or 21 calories when cooked without added fat.
“Mushrooms are a good source of the mineral selenium, which protects against cancer as an antioxidant and by promoting DNA repair,” she adds. “Mushrooms also contain other compounds that act as antioxidants and may lead to the lowering of estrogen levels in postmenopausal women.” (High estrogen levels are linked with increased risk of breast cancer.)
Here’s a basic mushroom primer:
- White mushrooms (“button” mushrooms) are the most common variety of cultivated mushroom, but usually the least flavorful. They keep better than most wild mushrooms, as they tend to be firmer.
- Their brown counterparts, “crimini,” have a slightly fuller flavor.
- Portobello mushrooms are the fully mature form of crimini and have become a popular substitute for meat.
Tune in tomorrow for a great new recipe: Mushroom Sauté with Toasted Walnuts.
Additional Mushroom Recipes on OrganicAuthority.com
Read More:Organic Mushrooms
December 19th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
We may think we’re getting enough fruits and vegetables in our diet, but research shows only one in five Americans is eating the recommended number each day. Many of us need to double the quantity we currently eat.
So, how do we overcome obstacles like picky eaters and limited time?
“Remember that all forms of fruits and vegetables count toward your daily amount: canned, fresh, frozen, dried and 100% juice,” says Elizabeth Pivonka, PhD, RD, head of the Produce for Better Health Foundation. “Keep your pantry stocked, your freezer full, and refrigerator packed with all forms of fruits and vegetables so they are always handy.”
There are many ways to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
“Add fruit to your morning cereal or vegetables to your omelet, have a salad for lunch, and try two different vegetables with dinner and fruit for dessert,” Dr. Pivonka says. “Substitute nutrient-dense oranges and watermelon for high-fat snacks like chips and chocolate bars. And limit your intake of saturated fat by including fruits and vegetables with monounsaturated fat in your diet, like fresh California avocados and California black ripe olives.”
Dr. Pivonka has the following advice for parents of picky eaters: “If kids help with the cooking, they are more inclined to try new fruits and vegetables. At my house, we make meal planning and preparation a family activity.”
Tune in tomorrow for a spinach salad recipe that features a delicious pineapple chile vinaigrette, accompanied by watermelon slices and a fruit-laced couscous salad.
Read More:More Organic Fruits & Veggies!
November 15th, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
One of the main ingredients in yesterday’s Moist & Savory Stuffing recipe is onions. As Jeff Cox notes in the highly recommended The Organic Cook’s Bible, “A wise cook once said that every good meal begins by chopping an onion.”
Onions are a member of the allium family, which includes shallots, garlic, leeks, chives and ramps (wild leeks). According to Cox, onions fall into two primary categories: pungent and mild. Pungent onions are best used in cooking, as opposed to being eaten raw. Mild onions (Vidalia or Maui) are erroneously thought by many to have a higher sugar content. In truth, their mildness “allows their sugar content to register on the palate, whereas the bite of the pungent types obliterates the sensation of sweetness,” Cox explains.
When buying organic onions, select firm, well-shaped bulbs with thin necks and no soft or moldy spots, Cox advises. The outer papery skins should be dry. For holiday stuffing, I prefer to use yellow onions, but I’ve occasionally substituted their white cousins (often labeled “Bermuda onions”). Avoid using frozen chopped onions, which are less flavorful.
You may be surprised to learn that organic onions often cause your eyes to tear more, as they have a higher sulfur content than their nonorganic peers, courtesy of soil enriched by compost, Cox notes. Cutting an onion releases the allicin compound, which is responsible for any culinary crying fits. The solution? Peel your onions under cool water, and splash your eyes with water (and clean, onion-free hands) to stem the teary tidal wave.
There’s one added bonus when you buy organic onions: Because they are grown without pesticides or synthetic chemicals, you can throw their skins into broths—a step that adds color and flavor. Be sure to strain the broth before serving.
Read More:Organic Onions