How’s Your Lettuce?

Romaine Lettuce (public domain, ARS USDA)

The Centers for Disease Control has urged consumers to avoid eating Romaine lettuce because of a particularly nasty outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections. The warning involves multiple states. An opinion piece from the editor of Food Safety News reminds us:

Once not so long ago, we had a little unit called the Microbiological Data Program (MDP). Run by USDA, the MDP contracted with a dozen state agricultural labs to go out and test fresh produce.

In other words, the MDP sent the state ag labs out during the various harvest seasons to sample and test what’s coming out of the fields. The MDP existed from 2002-2012. It reached a point where it was responsible for 80 percent of the fresh produce testing in the U.S.

The MDP only cost taxpayers about $5 million. The New York Times called it “a tiny program that matters.” But the produce industry hated the MDP, and it apparently had a significant hand in killing it.

Letter From The Editor: Romaine, Reform and Revive
Food Safety News, April 28, 2018 by Dan Flynn

This is a very interesting editorial, well worth your time.

Are Plants Producing More Sugars?


New (and old) research suggest that the nutrient balance in plants is being upset by the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Plants use carbon dioxide much like we depend on oxygen. It looks like increased levels of carbon dioxide shift the balance of nutrients in plants with decreases in proteins and other nutrients and increases in glucose (sugar). This will have global implications since many people depend on a plant-based diet for protein. Even the bees are affected because the nutrients in pollen has changed. The relationship between increased carbon dioxide and plant nutrition is finally getting attention in the research communities. This may very well turn out to be a Big Deal.

The Great Nutrient Collapse: The atmosphere is literally changing the food we eat, for the worse. And almost nobody is paying attention.
Politico, Sept. 13, 2017 by Helena Bottemiller Evich


Chile Mash!

Happiness is the August arrival of chiles from The Hatch Chile Store in New Mexico. Usually I order “Big Jim” Hatch Chiles for fire roasting on the charcoal grill. This year I ordered five pounds of “Lumbre X-Hot” Hatch Chiles for pureeing into a pepper mash.

Chile - 1To the left of the Hatch chiles are various chiles including sweet, red serrano and padron chiles, most from my garden. The chiles are washed, dried, then chopped and put in a food processor. They are pureed into a mash. At this point I do not remove the seeds. I wear eye, nose/mouth, and skin protection for this part of the process. These chiles are hot! After processing the mash is weighed. This batch weighed 2,053 grams. I added 4% pickling salt by weight (82.12g). The salt will create a brine by drawing out the natural moisture in the chiles.

Chile - 2 The mash was stored overnight in a 1/2 gallon mason jar with a Pickle Pipe that allowed extra brine to drain onto the plate.

Chile - 3 Chile - 4 The next morning the mash and brine were placed inside my Korean kimchi fermenting container. As you can see in the first picture just above, there is an internal lid that seals in the pepper mash with a hole to release brine. The pepper mash will be watched daily for about a week. After that it will ferment for several months.

Food Desert / Food Mirage

chili pepper

Stephen Tucker Paulson wrote an article in the JAN/FEB 2017 issue of Mother JonesThe Depressing Truth About Hipster Food Towns. It was the first time I saw the term “food mirage” used. A food mirage occurs when gentrification has encouraged the entrance of high-priced food markets into a neighborhood that either had no markets (food deserts) or had small food markets that have been priced out of the market. The mirage is the presence of good, healthy food stores that many local residents cannot afford. It’s an interesting article, starting with Brooklyn and continuing to the food mirages in Portland, Oregon.

Hippies Have Won (the Plate)

Homemade Pizza, (cc) NC Mulvany

The New York Times has an article about how hippie cuisine has become mainstream. Many familiar foodies make an appearance in the article: Deborah Madison, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Sandor Katz, Alice Waters, and others. The article also includes a link to what looks like a tasty recipe for “Pan-Griddled Sweet Potatoes with Miso-Ginger Sauce.”