Monday, October 25, 2010

This is getting ridiculous.

It's been a busy time for me these days, which is why I haven't been blogging as much. It's been a busy time for the FDA too - the jackbooted thugs are out in droves once again, holding children at gunpoint, confiscating hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of inventory from small family farms, illegally stealing computers and office equipment without warrants, and generally doing what they do best, which is eliminating the competition for Big Ag.

The current target is raw dairy, and cheese in particular. It started with an illegal raid on the private food buying club Rawsome Foods in California. I'll let you read the article so I don't clutter this space by repeating information, but this baseless raid resulted in the (illegal) confiscation of certain raw cheeses produced by Missouri's Morningland Dairy. Those samples sat around for 30 days - a few months after leaving the dairy - and then one of them somehow tested positive for listeria even though none of the dairy's thoroughly-tested equipment was contaminated. No, I'm sure no one tampered with that sample...

So anyway, now the FDA is out to destroy Morningland Dairy. This tiny family farm has been prohibited from making or selling any cheese since August, and they've been ordered to destroy over $250,000 worth of product, which would completely put them out of business. For six weeks they were forced to dump their milk - remember, we live in a country where children are suffering from malnutrition in an economy that makes it difficult for many people to buy whole foods, and six weeks' worth of fresh milk is a lot of nourishment to feed the sewer. Eventually Morningland was permitted to sell the milk for pasteurized, homogenized distribution, which nourishes no one, may cause heart disease, and does not generate a significant profit for the dairy, but they take what they can get while the government holds them hostage.

Now they're after another farm, the Estrella Family Creamery in Washington state. Same shit, different day - the FDA shuts down the dairy and orders the destruction of massive amounts of high-quality cheese that carries no pathogens whatsoever, ostensibly because someday it might.

It should be noted that the Morningland Dairy has been in operation for over thirty years, and the Estrella Family Creamery for nearly ten, and not one person has ever been sickened by their award-winning cheeses. Can Kraft say the same?

It's worth contrasting the FDA's actions here with their handling of the recent salmonella outbreak at Umpqua Dairy, a pasteurized-homogenized industrial "milk" company here in Oregon (they sell their products at supermarkets throughout Oregon, Washington, and northern California). Back in August, the state of Oregon issued a press release warning that 23 people had been infected with salmonella as a result of consuming Umpqua's products. Two of them were hospitalized. If you're waiting to read about the FDA raiding and shutting down Umpqua in the name of public health, well, so am I. Instead, a voluntary recall was issued, and government officials bent over backwards to soothe the public about how low the risk of illness actually was.

It all makes you wonder what the FDA's true agenda is - public health, or industrialization? And it also makes me worry about the Food Safety Modernization Act, currently before the Senate. This act, designed by Monsanto's own Michael Taylor, would give the FDA unprecedented and unconstitutional powers and allow them to act completely without judicial oversight. This bill would spell death for organic farming, farmers' markets, and small local food. (Monsanto's own power and influence would also, of course, increase exponentially, delivering the last nail in the coffin of family farms.) As Hartke says of the FDA, "If they get more power through S.510, they will regulate the family farm and real food to death and give you Cheez Whiz and Twinkies as government approved food."

That's not what I want or need. Think hard when you cast your ballots next week, and remember - if we don't speak up for Morningland or the Estrellas now, who will speak up for us later?

UPDATE: As of today, it looks like Morningland is going to court. It also appears as though it is a crime in the state of Missouri to request justification before obeying a government order to commit suicide. This has terrifying implications for all Americans... whatever happened to due process?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Strawberry Harvest, Round 2

Strawberries are pretty much done this season, I know. But if you haven't already, it's not too late to harvest the leaves!

You can start picking strawberry leaves in the spring and throughout the summer; the younger, tender leaves have the best flavor. But if you're like me and you forgot or didn't know, you can still get a harvest in before the frost kills off the plants. Just take some scissors out to the garden and clip off just the leaves. Make sure to leave some behind so the plant can sustain itself - don't pick it bare! - and don't take the leaves with mold or spots on them. Of course it goes without saying that you should not be harvesting leaves that've been sprayed with pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or other poisons.

Once you've got a bowlful, bring 'em inside. Run a few inches of cool water in the sink, and rinse the leaves carefully, using your fingers to go over each one and remove all the dirt, grit, little bugs, etc. Once they're all clean, you can use them right away or dry them for winter. To dry them, either spread them out in your dehydrator or spread them in a dark, dry place with plenty of circulation. Once dried, store them in a Ziploc baggie in the pantry or somewhere dark. Make sure they are fully dried. Fresh is okay and fully dried is okay, but when only partially dried, the leaves are toxic!

To use the strawberry leaves, make a tea. You can put a tablespoon of the dried leaves (or a bunch of fresh leaves) into a cup and top it off with boiling water, letting it steep for 15-20 minutes. Or, for maximum health benefits, put one tablespoon dried leaves per cup of boiling water in a jar, and let it steep overnight. You can drink this cold the next day, or reheat it if you like. A bit of raw honey boosts the health value and also makes it a little sweeter.

So why do you want to do this? Well, strawberry leaf tea is pretty tasty. But it's also packed to the gills with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, iron, and calcium - making it an ideal tonic for just about everyone, especially pregnant women and nursing mamas (for the latter, it's also said to boost milk production). It soothes the digestive system and works as an excellent natural remedy for indigestion and diarrhea, and some use it as a mild remedy for arthritis and eczema.

Flu season is right around the corner, which means that anything packed with vitamin C is a good idea to boost your immune system. Once it freezes here, I'll be harvesting rosehips and drying citrus peels too, for even more powerful C-food.

Isn't it cool how nature gives you what you need, right when you need it?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Yard Food

I got back from my trip late Wednesday night. Thursday I woke up hungry and went looking for something to eat. The pantry was full of staples - flours, barley, spices, etc. - but there wasn't much for a quick bite.

So I went out to the yard.

I gathered up several eggs, picked a bunch of greens, discovered that OH HAPPY DAY a few tomatoes are finally ripening, and I collected a few pounds of white pattypan squashes. Once I had it all inside, I decided to save the squashes, since I found a few slices of wholegrain bread.

Behold my Backyard Sammy: Eggs scrambled with hot sauce and Dijon mustard, on toasted wholegrain bread, with fresh-picked tomato, arugula, and two kinds of sorrel. I can't even tell you how delicious it was. And I didn't have to go far to the store.

That's the most satisfying thing about yard food. It's always there, cheaper and far more tasty than you could get if you schlepped it through the checkout lane. And it's always seasoned with that savory satisfaction that comes from self-sustainability.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Well, I'm back. I've got some pleasant settling-in things to talk about, but first I need to mention the ever-increasing threat of the passage of the Senate's ironically-titled Food Safety Enhancement Act (what a perfect example of Orwellian doublespeak).

Click this link to get the info.

Then call your Senators, your local newspaper, and all your friends and family. We need to raise holy hell over this. If EVER there was a time to step up and scream "NO!" - this is it.