Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Are we destroying our children's health?

I want grandchildren
I know the title of this blog post is sensational, but it needs to be sensational.  Food in America is dangerous.  Plain and simple.  No ifs, ands or buts about it.  If you carry your smart phone with you to the grocery store and research the ingredients in just milk it will scare you.  Regular milk contains BHT, carageenan, and who knows what else.  I was in an email group years ago where a former dairy farmer admitted that it was not unheard of for truckers to pour formaldehyde into huge trucks of milk so that it wouldn't spoil.

How our food is grown, harvested, processed and packaged should scare the absolute crap out of every one of us.  And for parents hoping to have children with long, healthy lives, with the promise of future grandchildren, it is looking bleak indeed.

GMOs or genetically modified organisms are a hot topic right now because Californians have gotten fed up with the baloney, do not trust the USDA and FDA to keep them safe, and got millions of signatures so that Californians can vote on whether or not GMOs are identified and labeled in food.

Honestly, this seems like a no-brainer to me.  If an ingredient has been genetically modified it needs to be identified as such.  Why shouldn't it be?

I personally have grave concerns about the safety of GMOs.  There have been no independent long-term tests conducted on GMOs within the US that have been allowed to be published.  Monsanto has patented their GM seeds and any test results must pass their screening before publication.  Needless-to-say, they has quashed so many studies that there is no way we will know the truth about the safety of foods grown from their seeds.

I know everyone is probably sick of hearing how evil Monsanto has become.  The danger is that Monsanto GM seeds have contaminated so much of the non-GM seeds (heirlooms, etc.) that if they continue as they are going there will be no non-GMO foods grown in the world.

Sounds even more sensational than the title of this post.  But guess what?  This is fact.  Not speculation, not sensationalism, not inflammatory hate speech against a wonderful, caring biotech company.

I highly recommend that everyone find a way to watch "The Future of Food".  It is sometimes available for free online and sometimes not.  A new film on the truth about GMOs is Jeffrey Smith's new documentary called, "Genetic Roulette".  I highly recommend that you take the time to begin researching GMOs.  Don't just take my word for it, or groups such as Occupy Monsanto or Food Freedom or any other group.  The info is out there for all of us to find and read.

I started a separate blog that will focus on how to eat in a world where most foods contain GMOs and chemicals and dangerous additives.

You don't really need a blog.  Just buy organic and eat whole foods avoiding anything packaged.  Buy plain ole regular organic oats and you have breakfast cereal.  Add oil and honey and bake and you have granola.  Just stop eating foods that come in boxes.  It takes a little more time and your taste buds will require some time to adjust.  Yes, you will crave Cheetos and Snickers bars.  I still cheat occasionally.  But overall my entire family has changed how they eat.

More to come . . .

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Water Kefir and Jun -- What?

As I continue on my fermenting and culturing journey I have found some of the most amazing, sharing, giving people.  Yes, there are plenty of people selling Kombucha mushrooms or Kefir grains online but the majority of fermenters will just mail them to you or invite you to pick them up from their homes.  Keeping it local is always nice and it is rarely bad to meet new people.

In addition to the probiotics that grow during fermentation, the sugar in these drinks is converted to acid giving the drinks a nice tart flavor.  Adding fruit or fruit juice of some kind to the second ferment creates more probiotics and more glucuronic acid which is reputed to bind up toxins in the body so they can be flushed out.  The really wonderful result of this second ferment is lots of carbon dioxide creating a delightful fizzy drink.

Here is a wonderful site that lists a good analysis of what Kombucha can have in it.  Jun will, of course, have different probiotics.  I have been unable to find any good information on whether glucuronic acid is also produced by Jun fermentation.


Honey, green tea (with honey already added) and a Jun scoby

Jun is one of my latest probiotic beverage adventures.  The same wonderful stranger who sent me the healthiest, productive kombucha scoby sent me a Jun scoby 1.5 weeks ago.

Jun is different from Kombucha. Kombucha is made from black tea or black and green tea and sugar while Jun is made from green tea and raw honey.  Each will have different probiotics and complement one another. Kombucha takes approximately 7 days for the first ferment and Jun 4 days.  Jun is apparently a mystery ferment, not very common.  You won't find much information on the internet for some reason other than on forums asking about this mysterious brew.  Kombucha is commercially brewed and sold raw but I do not believe Jun is available commercially yet.

First batch of Jun
Jun scobys are  much more delicate and smooth than Kombucha scobys.  They grow much slower and tend to be less readily available for sharing.

I chose to use organic green tea and wildflower raw honey.  After combining the tea and 1/4 cup of honey I added my little scoby and the Jun from the bag then covered with a cloth.  Now I wait 4 days to try this brew that has a reputation for its zing.

First brew finished in 4 days and was perfect blend of zing and fizz.  It is difficult to describe the flavor or Jun but it is like a slightly beer-like but with no grains and very little alcohol.  I forgot to photograph the results of the first brew cycle.

I transferred the Jun scoby to a 1L container so the scoby can grow a little wider.  Below are the results of this brew cycle.  

Jun at end up 1st ferment, 2nd brew -- notice two scobys now

As always, I love to experiment.  When I didn't have a Jun scoby I wondered if it was possible to grow one from Kombucha if I just used green tea and honey instead of the black tea and sugar.  I decided to attempt to make Jun without a geniune Jun scoby before I received the Jun scoby from South Carolina.  I grew a scoby from a bottle of GT Kombucha.  I then placed that first, tiny scoby in a small batch of green tea and honey.  I did this a couple more times using only green tea and honey.

KT turned Jun (left) and Jun (right)
Kombucha turned Jun

Kombucha turned Jun scoby
I admit there are the slightest differences in the appearance of the two scobys.  The Jun, however, tastes so alike that I cannot tell the difference.  I am confident that the probiotics in the two batches are different to some degree.  The Jun scoby is smoother than the KT turned Jun scoby.  Each batch I brew using the two scobys the differences seem to be minimizing.  Is my KT turned Jun geniune Jun? Not really.  I will always keep the two different brews labeled. 

What is a second ferment exactly? I took the Jun from both batches and rebottled them.  One I added sliced ginger and the other I left plain.  I then left the bottles out for another 24 hours minimum to increase carbon dioxide content (more fizz) and give the Jun time to incorporate the ginger flavor into the brew.

Ginger infused Jun in a Fido brand swing-top bottle
-- I use a tea strainer to filter out yeast and ginger

Floating sliced ginger and yeast

I label my bottled brews using medical tape (because that is what I had on hand and this tape is too thin to be useful as medical tape) a permanent marker.  What is neat about this tape is that it is reusable.  I just stick it to the cabinet when I wash the bottles.

Jun and Kombucha bottled in Grolsch swing-top bottles for 2nd ferment
After second ferment is complete the bottles are chilled in the refrigerator before serving.  Again, I use a tea strainer on top of the glass when I pour Jun, Kombucha or Water Kefir to catch the wonderful floating stuff like fruit, ginger and yeast (which are nutritious but not particularly enjoyable to drink).

Water Kefir


Most people have heard of kefir (kuh-FEER), the fermented milk drink available in healthfood stores, the very same fermented milk drink that would curl your toenails. I have never once really considered attempting to ferment kefir at home until I heard of water kefir.  A new friend that lives in Tennessee offered to mail me some kefir grains.  I envisioned wheat berries that had been soaked in probiotic milk.  I was not even close.  My kefir grains arrived in two zip bags the color of honey looking like applesauce.  Interesting.

Following my friend's instructions I added succanat to warm water, poured the tiniest bit of molasses and one raisin.  Finally, I measured two tablespoons of grains and poured them into the water solution.

Because I had heard on one of my Facebook groups that water kefir thrives in a closed Fido jar I thought I would do a little experiment.

Experiment: Cloth covered vs. closed Fido jars
Some people claimed that their water kefir loved to be closed up in a Fido jar.  Most ferments need oxygen, but water kefir doesn't seem to have that need.  So 2 tablespoons of grains went into each jar.  Twenty-four hours later I tasted each batch and decided they both needed a little more time so I left them until noon.

When I strained out the water kefir grains I was pleased to find that they had doubled in both batches.  What was really interesting was that the closed Fido batch's grains were a lot bigger and the brew had a richer flavor.

I flavored one second ferment with vanilla extract and the other with fresh ginger and bottled them in flip-top bottles, one Fido and the other a Grolsch.  Looking forward to tasting our homemade probiotic soda.

I tasted my ginger water kefir and really like it.  The kids weren't impressed with either flavor.  I will definitely need to do a longer ferment since it has gotten cooler now.  Going to give them 2 days for first ferment and 1.5-2 days for second ferment.

What I like about water kefir is that it is dairy free and has no caffeine.  Kombucha has a much richer flavor, lots more fizz but it does have caffeine.

I drink a cup of Kombucha or Jun in the morning and evening then drink Water Kefir in between along with plenty of fresh water.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fall Garden

My fall deck garden is thriving but I have had to fight for my plants.  The bugs, caterpillars, even wasps and spiders all tried to own it.  I picked a lot of little caterpillars off of my cabbage and broccoli plants.  Strangely enough, nothing is touching the spinach.  That might be a hint for the future.

Here are progression shots:

August 30, 2012

September 8, 2012
October 3, 2012

We have eaten many of the dwarf bok choy already but have not harvested any of the other crops yet.  Spinach and lettuce will be the first by the looks of it.

Spinach (left) and Dwarf Bok Choy (right)

Red Salad Bowl Lettuce
I am thrilled to see the snow peas growing like weeds, blossoming and already growing snow peas.

Heirloom snow peas growing on deck in containers
The largest container of broccoli plants is exceeding my expectations.  I watch anxiously for the first sign of our favorite fall veggie.

Broccoli growing over the edge of its large container
The Aichi Chinese cabbage have been a huge fight and I'm not sure I'm winning.  First aphids then one kind of caterpillar and then another.  It is cool but not cold and the insects are taking full advantage of the mild weather.  I have at least 25-30 seedlings to replace these but they are under attack as well.  I spray with a peppermint oil spray I made.  It kills most of the aphids but not the caterpillars.

Aichi Chinese Cabbage
Red cabbage are beginning to form heads.  I hope I get at least three tiny heads of red cabbage before it freezes.

Red cabbage
Finally, I continue to harvest tomatoes: cherry and San Marzano, and the occasional Moskovich.  Next year I will definitely plant some late tomatoes.  I was told that they taste better than any of the early varieties.

Tomato bed that spread out on both sides

The cucumbers are barely growing, tiny and stunted.  Even the two that I left on the vine that were over 16" long aren't ripening well for seed harvest.  I am hoping I get enough seeds to share and plant next year.  I will definitely ripen cukes on the vine earlier next year.

How is your fall garden growing?

Chester Sunday Market in Connecticut

Nearly every Sunday we visit the Chester Sunday Market in Chester, Connecticut.  Chester is located on the west side of the Connecticut River, a picturesque, quaint little town.  But it has a Bohemian flavor that makes it very different from most New England towns.  I think this is what appeals to me so much and draws me to this particular farmer's market.  Enjoy a few pictures from two weeks ago.  Only 4 more Sundays until Chester Sunday Market is finished for the year.  I will truly miss it.

Chester closes down their main street each Sunday

One of the two organic farms represented -- just lovely

Live music every Sunday

I'm not sure those tomatoes went over the 1/2 hour limit

Two of the interesting eggplants

Heirloom eggplant

My favorite wildflower honey

Paw paws
Okay, I want to make this!

A new addition to the market -- that is my boys' pizza in there

Never too many peppers
Gorgeous cut flower bouquets 

Looks like a zinnia -- love these happy flowers

I hope you get a chance to visit a few of your farmer's markets before the season ends.  Happy Wednesday!