Monday, April 27, 2009

Organic Vegetables Help You Avoid Pesticide Residues

I don't spend a lot of time writing about buying organic but I honestly think that organic is better, especially if it means that you will be exposed to fewer, and less, pesticides. I believe that pesticides are at least incidentally responsible for the huge rise in all types of cancer in the U.S., and likely the world.

Anyone born before World War II did not suffer the pesticide exposure in their youth the way that any post-War babies (now grown-up people) did. The group most likely affected by pesticides are the "baby boomers" as pesticide use was in full swing by the time that they were born.

The 1960s counter-culture wanted a return to more natural processes and it was the rebirth of organic (which it hadn't really been called before because most things were grown naturally). Babies born after that time to highly conscious mothers had the chance for less pesticide exposure but the truth is that we've all been poisoned by pesticides (and let's not forget herbicides, fungicides, and all other cides -- destined to kill something) in the air and water, if not in your food.

But it's not all doom and gloom. You can find out which foods are highest in pesticide residue and avoid them whenever possible. Read this article by The Organic Center to learn which vegetables to avoid.

Here's the list of domestic vegetables with the highest pesticide residues:
  1. Green beans
  2. sweet bell peppers
  3. celery
  4. cucumbers
  5. potatoes

If you want to learn more you can also take a look at The Environmental Working Group's recently released guide to pesticides and download it to your phone or print it out. It contains the Dirty Dozen (includes many fruits, too, just in time for stone fruit season, so pay attention) and the Clean Fifteen.

I urge you to buy more organic foods when possible but especially the vegetables that eat regularly. What you do most often will have the largest impact on your health.

Happy shopping. And whenever possible support your local farmers, they need it, and you need them. Without farmers, we wouldn't need farms. And then what would we eat?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oh, A Sprouting We Will Go -- Beans, Grains and Seeds

I have been sprouting beans, seeds, nuts and grains on and off for years. But only recently have I been talking about it with the people that I teach. I thought that it might have been too hippie-like but with the advent of the raw foods movement, along with food safety concerns, sprouting at home seems to be the "right thing to do" right now. There's a chapter on sprouting in RJ Ruppenthal's wonderful book Fresh Food from Small Spaces -- worth getting if you want to grow things.

Here's one of my earlier posts on sprouting.

Well, I am not the only veg RD who thinks that. In fact, Dina Aronson, RD, of the
Vegan RD blog has a number of posts about sprouting, with photos. I just wrote about this in my most recent email newsletter. And I have my own photos but I will only post one here.

Until I was teaching yesterday, I hadn't realized that doctors were telling their patients to avoid eating and buying sprouts because they are dangerous. I'm surprised that they remembered that there were food safety outbreaks involving sprouts.

I do not believe that there is anything inherently wrong with sprouting or the seeds. I think that you have to use clean water and maintain hygiene. It's kind of like home canning. Most people get botulism from what they've canned themselves. But that's another story. For now, I'll stick to sprouts. To get the cute sprouter (the Sproutmaster Mini) that you see here, check out The Sprout House online.

Let me know how your sprouting is going by emailing me or leaving a comment below.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Meeting the Rancho Gordo Big Bean Guy at Denver Airport

While snaking through the security line at Denver airport, I spotted Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo bean fame. Just about a week or so ago he was featured in the New York Times. And he still talks to me. That's impressive.

Steve was a presenter at the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) conference in Denver. He was nice enough to mention me during his bean presentation. I felt very special.

So imagine my surprise when I was standing at the Mexican food place in the airport on my way to my Southwest flight, when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I was intently studying the menu. "Are you trying to figure out the nutrition of this stuff?" Steve asked.

"No, I want to figure out what I might eat," I replied. Steve had already eaten and wanted some coffee. I wanted to check out my other options so we walked together. It turned out that the Mexican place seemed most appealing -- a better choice than bagels. So we circled around to the Mexican place again where Steve and I talked over my bean tostada with guacamole. It was small and tasty and just a bit spicier than I expected for an airport restaurant.

Steve said that his burrito was quite good. Now, that's like me saying that those vegetables get a B+ for their taste. Steve knows his Mexican food. In fact, as we talked he mentioned that he's now the Big Bean Guy because he's growing so many pounds of them (this has nothing to do with Steve's stature, so don't even go there).

It's almost futile to try to buy Steve's beans at this point because many of them are sold out (but check them out anyway because you never know). He'll have his next crop in the fall. But keep watching because Steve told me that since the Times article the bean farmers are coming out of the woodwork and he should be able to increase production for this year. That means in October or November there could be beans for sale.

Steve is also working with Mexican growers who according to Steve are "beyond organic" because they have to use natural methods for their crops due to lack of money. We talked about how beans are not a crop that is often bothered by a lot of pests. Probably too much work for pests who prefer to attack strawberries as an easy target.
In any case, it was special to share time with the "Big Bean Guy" at the Denver airport. Even though Steve only lives about an hour from my home, we've never had a chance to just chat for 40 minutes. You never know what might come your way --- some heirloom beans would be great. And if you've never had them, there's always later in the year.

Watch for my guest nutrition blog post on Steve's site soon. The preview: beans are very good for you, and for Steve, too.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Denver Update While Back in Santa Rosa

To encapsulate my trip to Denver in a short blog post would not do the trip justice but I want to share a few of the highlights.

Off the bat, I got to go to Boulder with my friend Jules and eat at Leaf restaurant which has great small plates and main course dishes, most more than passable such as the spring rolls, Asian seaweed salad (don't let the seaweed in the title scare you) and the chopped salad. The blackened tofu was disappointing in both amount of tofu and technique but was the only flaw of the evening. The roasted beet ravioli was beautiful and also quite tasty. Dessert was good but made the after-dinner walk essential as I was pretty stuffed. I really enjoyed the walk down the Pearl Street Mall and think that Boulder has a Santa Cruz feel and liken it to a number of other cities such as Ocean Beach (San Diego), Austin, TX and Madison, WI to name a few.

Another highlight was meeting Mary of Mary's Gone Crackers which is part of my travel pack that I wrote about yesterday. I was thrilled that Mary came to see what the culinary people were up to, and cared enough to provide some delicious gluten-free education.

The conference topic was sustainability and there were lots of opinions. I have to say that I was no wallflower when it came to mine, and many heard about it. I am happy that I had a chance at the microphone more than once. I got to address the 600+ in attendace to bring up my issues with eating local, and how people aren't willing to give up their coffee, tea, chocolate or sugar. Chef Michel Nischan said that we need to value what we trade and it must be efficient. Flooding Texas to grow rice instead of importing it from India (or other places in the far east) is not sustainable.

Fred Kirschenmann also commented but Nischan found that Fred's comment didn't really address the issue. I just wanted people to realize that trade has always been important in eating.

Another big highlight was eating at Root Down, located in a converted 1950s gas station. My friend Katie Alvord said that she's thinks that it's a great reuse for such a place. Considering the funky and recycled way that they upgraded it to a classy place, she is right. It appeared to be a local hot spot, despite not being on the lips of many IACP members (probably because they've only been open 3 months). Many members flocked to toney places such as Rioja, Bones and Frasca which meant that we didn't have IACP competitors and enjoyed the meal immensely. Great for all eaters with amazing cocktails containing herbs and other botanicals.

The best part of the conference revolves around all the incredible colleagues that I meet. Some are known such as John Ash, Peter Reinhart, Joanne Weir, David Joachim and Andrew Schloss (just a small smattering), and others are less well known but equally as much fun to hang around, and these include my good friend Fran Costigan, Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo, Rebecca of the blog From Argentina with Love , Ragavan Iyer and far too many other people to list. We share a bond but we also share that with you, for we all eat every day. Most of us, though, are privileged that we have enough food on our plates every day.

I often,think of others who need more, here in the US and abroad. I am working on ways to teach them to eat better with food abundance or not. I hope that you will do the same.