In Winter’s Kitchen

What was your “fairy tree” when you were little? Mine was a peach tree. I remember my mom and I in our backyard picking baskets full of peaches, tucked away in those funny-looking leaves. I don’t remember eating the peaches whole, though I’m sure we did, but I do remember my mom making jars on jars of peach jam. I still get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I eat peach jam… and now John makes it for me!

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In Winter’s Kitchen starts off with stories of Beth Dooley and her fairy tree, the apple tree. Throughout the book, she features several different foods, but intertwines her own personal stories and happy lifestyle into the history and recipes of these foods. I would highly recommend it to anyone passionate about food, health and the environment!

In the last 10 years:

  • organic sales have increased 21%
  • farmers markets have multiplied by 15%
  • CSA farms have tripled.

However, farmers markets supply less than 1% of our nations food and an even smaller number for organic food. Yet every 1 dollar spent on local food generates 4 dollars for the local economy.

It takes 3 full years before a farm can transition over to an organic farm and this causes out of pocket losses of food and money for the farmer. In Europe, farmers receive huge take incentives for becoming certified organic.

Americans spend less on food than any other country (6% to France’s 15%) but spend 17% on health care. The price of fruits and veggies in the US has increased by 40% since the 1980’s and the price of soda has declined by 30%.

3/4 of Americans 17-24 are unfit for military service because they are medically obese or diabetic. They will live shorter lives than their parents and spending for medical care is expected to increase $240 billion by 2020.

Eleanor Roosevelt became the face of the nation’s home-gardening effort, having a huge garden added prominently to the White House grounds. When kids garden, they understand what real food look like and they want to eat it more. By 1943, these “victory gardens” provided 40% of the nations food and 35% of America was gardening. Today, the White House encourages gardening, but local sources account for 8% of our produce and only 15% of Americans garden.

The Apple:

Since the 1960’s, 4 in 5 apple varieties have been lost, with 45% of heirloom apple orchards have gone out of business.

In the past 10 years, heirloom apples have increased in popularity, mostly due to cider. The cider industry rose 200% from 2005-2012.

University of Minnesota created the Honeycrisp apple (and made millions off of it), but have developed 27 new varieties in the past half-century.

West Coast apple growers can grow up to 1,000 trees per acre, but this  close proximity causes a lot of threat to diseases, pests and fungus, which farmers treat with pesticides, fertilizers and fungicides. The EWG has named conventional, commercially grown apples to be the most contaminated fruits grown in the US.

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Wheat:

-Mennonites left Russia with Turkey gold seeds sewed into their undergarments. Within 50 years, the Turkey gold was the primary Midwest crop, because it was resistant to cold weather, disease and fungus. However, it’s tall stalks made it difficult to harvest and farmers soon switched to a wheat that was a dwarf hybrid.

The Graham cracker was originally a health food, full of unbleached wheat flour, wheat bran, germ and a touch of honey. They were convinced wheat flour was better for consumers health, which was proved correct in the 1930’s.

Wheat is the only food with gluten (“glue” in Latin and “muscle of flour” in Chinese) and high-gluten dough yields a lofty loaf with a crispy crust. Nearly 20 million Americans say that they experience distress after eating gluten and nearly 1/3 of adults are trying to cut it from their diets.

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Potatoes:

Potatoes treated with fungicides and herbicides have high levels of dangerous chemicals and metals. Organic potatoes are chemical/metal free and have high levels of antioxidants, minerals, calcium, potassium and zinc.

Sweet Potatoes:

These are considered the most nutritious vegetable. They low glycemic index has a neutral effect on blood sugar (great for diabetics) and is loaded with vitamins, calcium, protein, iron and more.

It may be the oldest vegetable, dating back to 8000 BC and were found in Asian, African and South American diets. Because they are older, this makes them harder to farm now. Machines bruise them, and so they have to be dug by hand, which is more expensive.

They store well, can be made into flour or meal, are grown underground and resilient in hard times, which makes them popular in times of war.

Cranberries:

Wisconsin is the fresh-cranberry capital, producing 60% of cranberries. New Jersey and Massachusetts cranberries are usually made into jelly or juice.

The plants don’t grow underwater, but lay their roots at the edge. All cranberries taste the same, no matter how or where they are grown. It’s difficult and expensive to grow organic cranberries, and there is no taste difference.

Other than Concord grapes and blueberries, cranberries are the only fruit native to North America.

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Chestnuts:

Until the mid-1900’s, 1 in every 4 hardwood trees was a chestnut and the wood was famous for making beautiful furniture and paneling. They could stretch to 8-10 feet wide and up to 7 stories tall.

Chestnuts are nutritious and can feed people, turkeys and pigs (Virginia hams are famous for feeding the pigs chestnuts).

The introduction of the Asian chestnut tree causes a fungus of cankers on the American trees, causing them to strangle to death. Almost all American chestnuts died to this fungus within just a few decades.

Corn:

70% of corn grown in the US is considered carcinogenic to humans by the World Health Organization.

Raw Milk:

Some say that pasteurization destroys vitamins and natural probiotic bacteria in milk. The FDA agrees that raw milk helps prevent allergies in children. 82% of people who are lactose intolerant say that raw milk.

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Butter:

Commercial butters have stabilizers, dried milk and yellow dye in their ingredients.

Freezing temperatures negatively affects the taste of butter.

Turkey:

Not having a varied gene pool causes a lot of problems for turkeys. In 2015, the Avain Flu wiped out 9 million turkeys nationwide.

Heritage turkeys aren’t what American’s normally expect on Thanksgiving. They’re smaller, they need to be brined and many people add bacon for extra flavor.

Wild Rice:

This isn’t rice at all, but the kernel of a wild grass. It has twice the protein of brown rice and far more vitamins.

It stores well and when you cook wild rice, it swells up to 4 times its kernel size. A little goes a long way.

Real wild rice is found in shallow lakes, typically harvested in canoes and will be a speckled black, dark brown or tan color.

Photos found: http://www.bethdooleyskitchen.com/

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