Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Foraging for wild foods and game are longstanding Appalachian traditions. Foraging examples would include ramps, morrel mushrooms, black walnuts, hickory nuts, native plums and dozens, if not hundreds, of other items. I took the photos near the gravel lane leading to our house. This persimmon tree is absolutely loaded with fruit. If you taste one before it is ripe it will parch your lips and mouth. The fruit softens after a freeze or two at which point the fruit becomes very sweet. Pretty amazing that with no cultivation, watering, fertilizing or anything, a bountiful natural fruit crop occurs. If you do a web search for persimmons you'll get a wealth of information. We hope to try a few recipes this year. The new Nov/Dec issue of Hobby Farms magazine had some info also. "Wild On The Farm": Sweet and sumptuous wild persimmon pudding is a Thanksgiving tradition throughout the South. Persimmons are also delicious right off of the tree but only in late autumn when they're at their mouthwatering sugary best. The word persimmon is derived from the Algonquin word"pessamin" , meaning "dry fruit". Dried persimmons were a staple in Native American villages; the Indians taught white settlers to eat persimmons too. Of persimmons, Captain John Smith wrote, "If it be not ripe it will drawe a man's mouth awrie with much torment; but when it is ripe, it is as delicious as an Apricot". Persimmon trees flourish from Massachusetts to Florida and as far west as Nebraska and Texas. A member of the Ebony family, the persimmon tree's wood is highly prized for fashioning textile shuttles', pool cues, and golf clubs. Only female trees bear fruit.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Well the big day finally arrived! Joseph has been anxiously waiting to meet his girlfriends.
The Ewes gave Joseph a warm welcome. He especially liked Mary, but she wasn't sure if she wanted him so close... so she gave him a run for his money. He got tired of chasing her and turned to Molly. Molly was friendly and apparently ready to get together. So was Missy. Sweetheart, Little One, and Mary went out to graze. Later on, everyone was in the barn snuggling up together like old pals.
So, if everything happens like it's supposed to, we should have little lambs hopping around the farm mid March 2008. Way to go Joseph!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Just a reminder that we'll be at the Mountain Fresh Pavilion in Oakland, MD on Saturday from
10 AM until 5 PM. See www.mountainfresh.org for info. We'll probably get there about 9 AM if you are running nearly. This is in conjunction with the annual Autumn Glory festival held in Oakland, MD. See www.visitdeepcreek.com for more details. This is actually a 5 day event,
Oct 10-14th, although we'll just be there on Saturday, Oct 13th. This will be the final day of our market season for 2007. Hope to see you there!
Monday, October 08, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
We are starting to get a bit of Fall color this week but there is no real chill in the air yet. Temperatures are still in the upper 80's. We haven't had any rain in nearly a month. This weekend is the annual Apple Harvest Festival in Burlington, WV. This is the big event of the year in Burlington and proceeds support the Methodist charities and the shelter and orphanage in Burlington. They do a lot of unheralded work which you can see at their web site, www.bumfs.org. At the festival, Apple Butter and Brunswick Stew are made over open fires and fresh apple cider is pressed. Anything you can imagine being made with apples, i.e. pie, cobbler, sauce, cookies, dumplings, etc, well its all there. The woodsmoke, creek side setting, and fall color make for a nice setting. A nice brochure about the festival can be found by clicking Here. Also this weekend is the Folk Festival in Springs, PA. This is real Amish Country, for example, the children all go barefoot and their tractors have solid steel wheels. Springs PA is just North of Grantsville, MD. More details are at www.springspa.org. We'll be at the Romney Farmers Market on Saturday AM from 9 AM -12 Noon and then we'll be over at the Potomac Eagle Station from 1PM to 2 PM. Our honey harvest is done for the year and Ruth packaged lots of different bottle sizes this week. We'll also have plenty of red raspberries. We hope to see you somewhere!
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
We attended the event last year at it was quite informative. Its held right in the middle of the campus. This year we'll be vendors and we'll also be giving a talk related to beekeeping at 12:30 PM. The festival highlights Appalachian culture, crafts, history, music, food, etc. There is live music all day long. Perhaps we'll see you there.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
Wow summer is rapidly drawing to a close. We'll have lots of berries at the market on Saturday. Still its best to come early for them. After the recent rains they have really come on strong. Especially the golden raspberries. We'll have plenty of these. Up to this point we've just had a few and we sometimes packaged a mix of golden and red. We'll have the gold raspberries packaged separately on Saturday. Also, we'll have plenty of sweet peppers. The yellows and reds are particularly sweet. Plenty of hot peppers too. Weather has been kind of strange for August. Cool and damp this past week. With the daylight shortening significantly you can tell that summer is rapidly dwindling. Its unusual to have as much mowing and grass cutting to do in late August. Still its better that hot and dry. We'll also have many of our new jarred products made by Gourmet Central. One last thing, please get your chicken preorders pinned down and notify us so we can have them available for you. The next batch gets processed on Sep 4th. Hope to see you Saturday morning.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Our red raspberries were running a bit late this year due to the lack of rainfall in June and July. But with adequate rain in the last few weeks, they are now doing very well. Raspberries can't really be shipped very well and the ones that are imported or shipped have to be treated with fungicides to prevent mold. This info below was gleaned from the web site www.pickyourown.org. Besides compiling PYO farms, they provide lots of reference info, canning tips, etc. Thought I would pass on the info they provided about raspberries. We should have plenty at the market this weekend. However, if we pick them too quickly after a rain, they will mold quickly so they must be consumed or used right away, within a day or two. Its just not worth the potential health risks of getting involved with fungicide use just to get a few days of extra shelf life.
Raspberry Facts and Tips
- Raspberries come in many colors besides red: there are also black, purple and gold raspberries.
- Raspberries are a very healthy food; they are high Vitamin C and naturally have no fat, cholesterol or sodium. They are also a good source of iron and folate (which is used especially in treatment of low red blood cells or anemia). Raspberries contain a natural substance called ellagic acid, which is an anti-carcinogenic (cancer-preventing) compound. Raspberries have been shown to lower high blood cholesterol levels and slow release of carbohydrates into the blood stream of diabetics.
- Raspberries are high in fiber. Half to one pound of raspberry fruit per day can provide twenty to thirty grams of fiber which is adequate for an adult daily nutrition requirement.
- Select plump, firm, fully black berries. Unripe berries will not ripen once picked.
- Raspberries 1 pint = 2 cups = 500 ml and about 3/4 lb (about 1/3 kg) and is good for about 2 to 4 servings.
- 1 cup of raspberries is about 123 grams,
- The USDA says 1 cup is about 64 calories!
- Raspberries are a type of bramble, like blackberries and are also known as "Cane berries"
- Raspberries are different from blackberries in that the fruit has a hollow core that remains on the plant when you pick the raspberry.
- Raspberries are so expensive in the grocery store because, since they are so soft, they bruise easily, spoil quickly and do not ship well. It's much better to pick your own!
- 2 pints (4 cups) of raspberries are needed for a 9" pie
- 1 - 1¼ cups = 10 oz. package frozen berries
- 1 cup of raspberries is only 61 calories and high in dietary fiber
- Raspberries are high in potassium, vitamin A and calcium
- Raspberries contain about 50% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
- U-pick Raspberry farms typically sell berries by the pound or pint. A pint equals 3/4 pounds of fresh berries.
- Do the math and be careful not to over-purchase as Raspberries quickly mold when left at room temperature, and only last a couple of days in the refrigerator.
- You can easily freeze berries that you can not use right away - just wash, cut the hulls off and pop them into a ziplock bag, removing as much air as possible. Those vacuum food sealers REALLY do a good job of this! The berries will keep for many months frozen without air.
Friday, August 17, 2007
I know a few folks were very disappointed last week, dismayed even, maybe even depressed, when we ran out early. Recent rain has helped immensely. We have a lot of very nice red sweet peppers. Sweet as candy, the smaller size concentrates the flavor. We'll have habanero, jalapeno, thai, and carribbean red hot peppers in half pint and pint containers. I now understand that hot pepper loving people are called chiliheads. Who knew? We also have new smaller honey jars this week for those not needing the larger jars, ex quarts. The newest item will be the Bloody Mary mix that Gourmet Central made for us this week. Its very spicy and very thick. It can also be used as a cocktail sauce for shrimp or something similar. It could also be a soup base. Lots of possibilities. We did a taste test of a another product not made with fresh tomatoes and there was no comparison. We did our county sponsored Food Service training course this week so we are now officially authorized to serve samples. Hope to see you at the market. One last thing, we have a Ton of Roma tomatoes. Ton with a capital T. We'll never get them all picked. We probably won't be bringing these to the market unless we have an advance order for them. They just don't seem to sell and don't present well when sitting side by side with the big slicing tomatoes. Good for fresh spaghetti sauce or on pizza.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Friday, August 03, 2007
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Click here for the article. The WV Gazette also now has an on line local foods guide. Some information about Hampshire County should be included in the on line Guide in the next few days. You can access the WV Gazette on line guide here.
A Factory Farm Near You
Once upon a time, only a decade or so, it wasn’t hard to know where
factory hog farms were because they were nearly all in North Carolina.
But since those days, the practice of crowding together huge
concentrations of animals — hogs, poultry, dairy cows, beef cattle — in
the interests of supposed efficiency has spread around the country.
Wherever it appears, factory farming has two notable effects. It
threatens the environment, because of huge concentrations of animal
manure and lax regulation. And it threatens local political control.
Residents who want a say over whether and where factory farms, whose
stench can be overwhelming, can be built find their voices drowned out
by the industry’s cash and lobbying clout.
These farms are spreading so rapidly that it’s been hard to get an
accurate, up-to-date picture of where they all are. A research and
advocacy group called Food and Water Watch has released an interactive
map — www.factoryfarmmap.
allows users to track the proliferation of factory farms by state and
county, number of farms, type of operation and even number of animals.
The only thing that would make this map more useful — and we hope it
will be an ongoing project — is the ability to track changes over time,
showing how rapid and pervasive the growth of factory farming has been.
It’s important to read this map not as a static record of farm sites or
a mere inventory of animals. It is really a map of overwhelming change
and conflict. It raises two of the fundamental questions facing American
agriculture. Do we pursue the logic of industrialism to its limits in a
biological landscape? And how badly will doing so harm the landscape,
the people who live in it and the democracy with which they govern
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
Sunday, July 29, 2007
A Shorter Link Between the Farm And Dinner Plate
Some Restaurants, Grocers Prefer Food Grown Locally
Sunday, July 29, 2007; Page A01
Friday, July 27, 2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Its all a reminder to simply slow down and see the detail. Not many people have ever noticed the perfect whorls of a sunflower. The photos are very well done. Inspiring in fact. When Taylor emailed and said he be out around sunrise for the best light, I felt I was not dealing with a typical college age young person but instead a very motivated and focused young person continuing to learn by pursuing their interests and passions on summer break. Its enough to restore your faith in Generation Next.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Well this is Thursday AM which is a bit more notice than last week when I didn't get a pot done until Friday. We'll have blackberries and red raspberries at the Romney Farmer's Market tomorrow. Prices are $2.50/half pint and $4 per pint. Our friend, Richard Cutter, has some blueberries that will be available at our market stand. Richard is from Midland, MD which is near Frostburg, MD. Pricing is the same as raspberries. Our blueberry plants are still small and will hopefully bear next year. Richard's blueberries are chemical free. He gave us some to try last year and they were really good. These berries will sell quick and will probably be gone by 10 AM. The early birds have been getting all the berries. We'll also have plenty of tomatoes. We were the only vendor to have tomatoes last week and we clearly didn't bring enough. We'll bring two or three crates this week to meet the demand. We have some real nice green peppers, very tender, sweet and flavorful. These are not the boxy green peppers you see at the grocery store. They mature with more of a point at the bottom. Much better tasting. And we'll have green beans also. We'll be doing the mix and match quarts again which was very popular last week. Your choice of beans, squash, tomatoes, etc for $3/quart. Hope to see you there. Just direct anyone else you know that might have an interest to our blog, http://churchviewfarm.blogspot.com They can then subscribe via the blog to get notified by email.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
What better way to spend part of your Saturday or Sunday (or Mon-Fri) than paying a visit to your local farmer’s market? Going to the market is a mix of culture, community and of course, free tastings. One of the huge advantages to shopping at the farmer’s market is being able to ask the farmer questions about the food that he or she is selling. Another major benefit is knowing that the food you are about to buy is fresh, humane, and locally grown (as opposed to being shipped 1,800 miles). These are important things for our environment, and they are important for our farmers and our local economy.
Listed below are some tips to help you make the most out of the food you buy and the experience you enjoy, (they are not in any particular order). If you have any more to add, please let us know.
- When was this picked?- Usually farmers pick their produce the day before or the morning of the farmer’s market. Knowing when it was picked will give you an idea of how ripe it is. Generally speaking, farmers want to harvest produce when it’s perfectly ripe, so you shouldn’t have to wait very long before you can eat it. It’s not a bad idea to ask. Also here is a guide on how to choose perfectly ripe fruits and veggies.
- Where’s the farm?- This is another important question to ask. Our assumption is that all the food at the farmers market was grown locally. This is not always the case. If the food was trucked in from hundreds of miles away, then shopping at the farmers market will be no better than shopping at the supermarket.
- Organic- Not all the foods at the farmers market are organic. The best practice is to ask. Many times, local farm representatives will tell you that their food is "organic," despite the fact that they do not carry a "certified organic" label. The reason behind this is that for some small farms these certifications cost a lot of money that can prove financially prohibitive. In general I trust the farmers at the market, and in most cases, I think their hearts and practices are in the right place. If they say their produce is organic, I believe them. However, even if the food is not organic and was grown conventionally (using pesticides and fertilizers) and locally, this is still a good thing and definitely the next best choice in environmentally friendly agriculture. You may just want to subtly ask your farmer if they have plans to go organic in the future.
- Sustainable- If you’re interested, you can ask your farmer if they perform crop rotations and employ bio-diversity on their farm. These practices usually help the farm become a closed loop where the plants, animals and soil all benefit from each other.
- Are those free range eggs- There is a stand at our farmers market that sells eggs. If yours has one also, it may not be a bad idea to ask all of the above plus whether the chickens are allowed to roam about freely. I noticed the last time we were at the market the egg stand put up a sign that listed all of these answers, so they must get these questions frequently.
- Is it in season- Because most food at the farmers market is grown locally, generally it’s in season. Just in case you are curious, here is a link to check what’s in season in your area.
- Recipes and Storage- Who better to ask how to prepare and store the food than the person that grew it? Farmers usually enjoy the produce they grow and have some good tips and tricks on cooking it and making it keep for awhile. Who knows, you may even walk away with an old family recipe.
- Create a list, and get those items first- Sometimes the excitement of the farmers market can send us into a buying frenzy…I think cheap, fresh food has that effect. However, stick to the list. If you’ve got your meals planned out for the week, get those necessary ingredients first. After that, you can check out some other treats. The key is not to buy so much food that it spoils before you can eat it. Since most of the produce is ripe when you buy it, it’s shelf life is probably only a few days.
- Give the kids a couple bucks- Let them choose and purchase some fruits and veggies on their own. You never know, they may be more inclined to actually eat the healthy items that they picked it out and paid for.
- Bring your own bags- Globally, we use 1 million plastic bags per minute. They fill up our landfills, open spaces and oceans. If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this, please use reusable bags to help reduce this number.
Overall, these tips should help you make an educated decision on the food you are about to buy. You’ll probably only need to ask them once, as you’ll purchase from the same farmers from week-to-week. After awhile, you will get to know them and they will usually take special care of you in pointing out the best produce and give you more tips and suggestions.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
We were notified this week by the Hampshire County Chamber of Commerce that there would be a sidewalk sale in downtown Romney this weekend. So this seems to be a good weekend for our first set up at the Romney Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. We'll have young tender green and yellow summer squash and with any luck a few Early Girl tomatoes. We may have a few sweet peppers and some spinach also. We're a few weeks away from beginning the blackberry and raspberry harvest however. We'll also have honey and beeswax products for sale. We won't be cutting salad mix this year for the market. We found that with a hot summer market day there was just too much wilt and waste. We refuse to spray tender crops such as lettuce/salad greens with chemicals or fungicides to retard the wilting as the grocery store does. That's just not wise or healthy. So we'll just continue selling salad mix and other greens from the farm or with deliveries. Hope to see you at the market. Feel free to place an advance order and we'll have it ready for you to pickup at the market. Hope to see you there!
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Its been a strange cool dry spring so far, but things are now starting to happen fast. The spring greens are coming along nicely. We've been busy planting, especially tomatoes, for about a week now. The photo shows you one of our tomato rows. There are 600 plants in this row. At a conservative estimate of 10 pounds of tomatoes per plant, this row should produce 6000 pounds or 3 tons of tomatoes. We have some really great varieties for this year including, Celebrity, Early Girl, Supersonic, Roma, Glamour and some nice heirloom varieties including Cherokee Purple, Brandywine and Old German. Many of the tomatoes have blossoms on them already so with any luck the Early Girls will be available in about a month. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
This article was in the NY Times today and discuss those devoted to eating local products, called "locavores" . The article also mentions several new books coming out including Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle".
Monday, April 23, 2007
Today's Washington Post has a fairly worrisome article which states that the FDA knew of numerous food related problems including the latest ecoli outbreaks for years, and simply did nothing about it.
They don't have the staff or resources to really enforce anything related to food safety. Read it and worry. Make your best efforts to source your food locally to avoid this contamination which is now pretty much unavoidable in the industrialized food processing system.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Zoey is a new addition to the farm as of yesterday. We got her from the shelter in Morgantown, WV. I think we drove though every climatic condition on our trip there yesterday: snow,sleet, rain, fog, sun... you name it. She was apparently just too much energy for her senior woman owner and she was surrendered to the shelter. The owner was a widow and her son thought a pet might be good company for her. But it was likely a case of just too much energy in too little space. Daisy took to her right away and will look after her. We believe Zoey is a pure bred border collie, a great country dog. Although she came with no papers. Not that it matters to us. She seems to really like the farm, she'll have the room to roam that she needs, and she'll have plenty or work to do. She just 11 months old but her genetics is apparent as she was very anxious to round up the lambs.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
We recently visited Indian Water Maple Camp in New Creek, WV. They were getting ready for the annual Potomac Highlands Maple festival held every year in mid March. We bought some of their fresh maple syrup to try. We bought several taps and pails then came home and began tapping our maple trees. This is something I've always wanted to do.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Food scientists at Ohio State University in Columbus have grown a special variety of orange tomatoes that may be healthier than garden-variety red tomatoes. The orange tomatoes contain a type of lycopene that is more readily used by the body than the type found in red tomatoes, they report.
Lycopene -- an antioxidant thought to have a number of health benefits such as reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease and age-related eye problems -- is what gives red tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables their rich color.
Dr. Steven Schwartz and colleagues had 12 adult volunteers eat two spaghetti test meals on separate occasions. One meal was made with sauce from the orange tomatoes and the other with sauce from red tomatoes. For 13 days before the test meals, the volunteers avoided eating tomatoes or food made with them.
Blood samples taken from each subject right before the spaghetti meals and every hour or two up to 10 hours after the meals were analyzed for lycopene content.
Results showed that lycopene absorption from the orange tomato sauce was 2.5 times higher than that absorbed from the red tomato sauce. Blood lycopene levels spiked about 5 hours after the orange tomato sauce meal and at this time the levels were some 200 times higher than those seen after the red tomato sauce meal.
"While red tomatoes contain far more lycopene than orange tomatoes, most of it is in a form that the body doesn't absorb well," Schwartz, a professor of food science and technology at Ohio State, explained in a university-issued statement.
"The people in the study actually consumed less lycopene when they ate sauce made from the orange tomatoes, but they absorbed far more lycopene than they would have if it had come from red tomatoes," he noted.
The orange tomatoes are not readily available at grocery stores; they were grown at an Ohio State-affiliated agricultural research center. Schwartz and colleagues suggest that interested consumers could seek out orange or gold-colored heirloom tomatoes as an alternative -- although they haven't tested how much or what kind of lycopene these varieties contain.
SOURCE: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2007.
Monday, March 05, 2007
The students at Hampshire School are starting our plants in the Vocational Education greenhouse. There are several farms that do this locally. We stopped by the greenhouse for a look at how things are progressing. The plants are coming along very nicely.
FDA Rules Override Warnings About Drug
Cattle Antibiotic Moves Forward Despite Fears of Human Risk
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I came across two interesting web sites for seasonal and local foods. They are Seasonal Recipes and Seasonal Chef. The Seasonal Chef Site had a good listing of nationwide Farmers Markets including our very own Romney, WV market. The complete WV farmers market list is here. I noted that there were many more WV listings than were listed last year. Local farmers markets are really catching on in WV and nationwide as the web continues to spread the word on the local foods movement.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Very few of us have five acres or even one for that matter. The Dervaes family of Pasadena is proving that what you lack in land can be more than made up for with creativity and passion. Their urban family farm, built on an ordinary city lot, yields 6,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables each year. They were recently featured in the Los Angeles Times. Below is a shorter "how to" article that went along with the feature.
For more info about the Dervaes and their farm, please see: www.pathtofreedom.com
Novice's Guide to an Urban Homestead
By Joe Robinson, published in the Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2007
FARMING is inherently an optimistic act, a belief that you and your hands can make something happen, even if you couldn't last year. That's a good thing, because nurturing your crops to a fruitful harvest can take some trial and error as you find the right mix of soil, sun and weather exposure. Plants sensitive to cold, for instance, may grow better close to the house, where it may be warmer than in the rest of the yard.
Jules Dervaes suggests starting your micro-farm with just a few plants, hardy ones that will do well even for rookie green thumbs. Start with some herbs, such as basil, and tomatoes. And even the horticulturally challenged can triumph with squash.
You'll want to spend serious time upfront getting the soil right. "If you don't have healthy soil, you don't have healthy plants," he says. Think in terms of feeding the soil as much as the plant, with a regimen that includes mulching and compost.
As you add more plants, you have to be imaginative in maximizing space. Dervaes and his three adult children use trellises along the walls and down the center of the backyard for snow peas and flowers. In one optimizing technique traditionally used by Native American gardeners, they combine several plants in a "three sisters" bed — black Mexican/Aztec corn, cornfield beans and winter squashes with a cover crop of mustard. The family has a portable corridor of crops grown in pots they can rotate depending on the season.
Because of space limitations, home farmers need to pick their plants carefully, going for harder-to-find items that can fetch a premium price, Dervaes says. That means you need quality customers who will choose taste over price.
His family started with flowers, selling them to local stores. Building on that success, they hit the streets to see whether their salad greens could find a market. They discovered that getting their products taste-tested by the chef got them on the table. It's possible to break through to the restaurant market, Dervaes says, because owners are always looking for freshness.
Customers have to be able to adapt to your micro-supplies. The Dervaeses have had to limit sales to customers who can adjust to their crop availabilities and quantities.
Dervaes suggests that would-be urban homesteaders first try in a small way at a community garden or by selling to churches or schools. If you want some up-close advice, he holds evening classes in the warm months in everything from gardening to making your own biodiesel.
If at first you don't succeed, keep going back to the drawing board, he says. "There's failing, but when you climb to the top of the mountain, you feel pretty good."
1. Eat food. Though in our current state of confusion, this is much easier said than done. So try this: Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (Sorry, but at this point Moms are as confused as the rest of us, which is why we have to go back a couple of generations, to a time before the advent of modern food products.) There are a great many foodlike items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food (Go-Gurt? Breakfast-cereal bars? Nondairy creamer?); stay away from these.
2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims. They’re apt to be heavily processed, and the claims are often dubious at best. Don’t forget that margarine, one of the first industrial foods to claim that it was more healthful than the traditional food it replaced, turned out to give people heart attacks. When Kellogg’s can boast about its Healthy Heart Strawberry Vanilla cereal bars, health claims have become hopelessly compromised. (The American Heart Association charges food makers for their endorsement.) Don’t take the silence of the yams as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about health.
3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.None of these characteristics are necessarily harmful in and of themselves, but all of them are reliable markers for foods that have been highly processed.
4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won’t find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer’s market; you also won’t find food harvested long ago and far away. What you will find are fresh whole foods picked at the peak of nutritional quality. Precisely the kind of food your great-great-grandmother would have recognized as food.
5. Pay more, eat less. The American food system has for a century devoted its energies and policies to increasing quantity and reducing price, not to improving quality. There’s no escaping the fact that better food — measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond) — costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care. Not everyone can afford to eat well in America, which is shameful, but most of us can: Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation. And those of us who can afford to eat well should. Paying more for food well grown in good soils — whether certified organic or not — will contribute not only to your health (by reducing exposure to pesticides) but also to the health of others who might not themselves be able to afford that sort of food: the people who grow it and the people who live downstream, and downwind, of the farms where it is grown.
“Eat less” is the most unwelcome advice of all, but in fact the scientific case for eating a lot less than we currently do is compelling. “Calorie restriction” has repeatedly been shown to slow aging in animals, and many researchers (including Walter Willett, the Harvard epidemiologist) believe it offers the single strongest link between diet and cancer prevention. Food abundance is a problem, but culture has helped here, too, by promoting the idea of moderation. Once one of the longest-lived people on earth, the Okinawans practiced a principle they called “Hara Hachi Bu”: eat until you are 80 percent full. To make the “eat less” message a bit more palatable, consider that quality may have a bearing on quantity: I don’t know about you, but the better the quality of the food I eat, the less of it I need to feel satisfied. All tomatoes are not created equal.
6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. Scientists may disagree on what’s so good about plants — the antioxidants? Fiber? Omega-3s? — but they do agree that they’re probably really good for you and certainly can’t hurt. Also, by eating a plant-based diet, you’ll be consuming far fewer calories, since plant foods (except seeds) are typically less “energy dense” than the other things you might eat. Vegetarians are healthier than carnivores, but near vegetarians (“flexitarians”) are as healthy as vegetarians. Thomas Jefferson was on to something when he advised treating meat more as a flavoring than a food.
7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren’t a healthy diet, the people who follow it wouldn’t still be around. True, food cultures are embedded in societies and economies and ecologies, and some of them travel better than others: Inuit not so well as Italian. In borrowing from a food culture, pay attention to how a culture eats, as well as to what it eats. In the case of the French paradox, it may not be the dietary nutrients that keep the French healthy (lots of saturated fat and alcohol?!) so much as the dietary habits: small portions, no seconds or snacking, communal meals — and the serious pleasure taken in eating. (Worrying about diet can’t possibly be good for you.) Let culture be your guide, not science.
8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden. To take part in the intricate and endlessly interesting processes of providing for our sustenance is the surest way to escape the culture of fast food and the values implicit in it: that food should be cheap and easy; that food is fuel and not communion. The culture of the kitchen, as embodied in those enduring traditions we call cuisines, contains more wisdom about diet and health than you are apt to find in any nutrition journal or journalism. Plus, the food you grow yourself contributes to your health long before you sit down to eat it. So you might want to think about putting down this article now and picking up a spatula or hoe.
9. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases. That of course is an argument from nutritionism, but there is a better one, one that takes a broader view of “health.” Biodiversity in the diet means less monoculture in the fields. What does that have to do with your health? Everything. The vast monocultures that now feed us require tremendous amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to keep from collapsing. Diversifying those fields will mean fewer chemicals, healthier soils, healthier plants and animals and, in turn, healthier people. It’s all connected, which is another way of saying that your health isn’t bordered by your body and that what’s good for the soil is probably good for you, too.