Love Those Tomatoes

Despite being one of the most popular crops that we Americans love to grow, tomatoes come with a whole barrage of issues most seasons.  Here are some tips to planting, growing and enjoying your best tomatoes yet.

According to Organic Gardening, planted too early tomatoes will just hang out while it warms up enough before they start growing and setting fruit.

So about a week before you want to transplant your seedlings, spread black garbage bags over the area.   It will soak up solar heat and increase the soil temperature making it a more enjoyable place when your plant moves in.

Want Them Early?

Choose varieties that mature in fewer than 60 days like Early Girl. Cherries and grape tomatoes often ripen faster than large varities like beefsteaks. However if you value taste over speed, other varieties that take longer have a better flavor.

Prune for More Fruit

Tomato plants will go nuts if they aren’t controlled.  Suckers emerge on the spot where a tomato leaf attaches to the stem and as it grows, each sucker becomes another stem.  However removing those stragglers helps the plants stay upright, improves quality and quantity of fruit because of increase air circulation.  So like cutting your hair, trim those suckers off to improve the health of the plant and increase the yield you’ll harvest.

Mandy’s Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie Ingredients:

  • 5- 6 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries
  • 1 cup real maple syrup (or 1 cup sugar – or combination)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice & zest
  • ½ – 1 Teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 Tablespoons butterMake your favorite two-crust pie dough for a 9-inch standard pie plate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Squeeze lemon juice and zest over blueberries and toss.

Tips: This is a super easy and fast recipe if using frozen blueberries, but don’t thaw them! Have your pie crust all ready and combine your other ingredients in a bowl. Then remove your blueberries from the freezer, and mix the other ingredients with the blueberries. Put it all into the pie shell, put your top crust on, and pop it into the oven right away.

Add corn starch and mix well. Pour in maple syrup and add cinnamon and mix well. Pour into crust-lined pie plate. Dot with butter.  Top with second crust. Cut several slits on top to vent the steam. Brush milk lightly over the top to get the golden brown crust you see in magazines! Seal, trim, and flute edge.  Bake 45 – 60 minutes or until crust is brownedand juice is bubbling.

Remove from oven and cool 30 minutes before cutting.  Serve warm with ice cream or whipping cream. Refrigerate leftovers (if there are any).  Makes 8 servings.

Another tip: Put the pie plate on a cookie sheet while baking so that if it spills over, it’s easier to clean up.

We Are What We Eat

If we are what we eat (and we are), is it any wonder we have disease and general ill-health nearing epidemic proportion in the U.S.?

We have gotten used to trusting the foods stocked on grocery store shelves.  We are used to paying low prices for our food without thinking about why that food is so cheap.  We are used to not thinking at all about the big picture when it comes to our food.  If it looks good, smells good and comes at a good price, it must be good.

Sadly, this is no longer the case.  There are thousands of entry points to this conversation and not enough room on this page to paint the big picture.   To simplify things for a moment, consider one of our favorite national spring foods; ham.  Spring and Easter are just around the corner.  Let’s take a moment to consider the pig.

The majority of pork available for purchase these days comes from animals raised on CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations).  The animals raised in factory farms live in horrifying conditions. Yes, ethical issues abound.  The animals are pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones, and fed beyond substandard diets.  Basically, they aren’t allowed to be pigs and do what pigs do. The result is a product that is bad for your health, bad for the earth and destructive to local economies.

When an animal, (be they pigs, chickens, sheep or cows) spends their days in the sunshine and fresh air, drinking clean water, free to express their natural tendencies with access to appropriate food for their breed; something very interesting happens.  The meats from these animals exhibit superior flavor, texture and nutrient values than meats from animals raised in confinement, indoors with cocktails of antibiotics and growth hormones.

When compared to pork raised indoors in confinement, pastured pork has been show to have:

  1. More omega-3 fatty acids (heart healthy & reduces inflammation)
  2. More Vitamin E
  3. More Vitamin D (in the pork fat)
  4. Higher levels of other beneficial nutrients.
  5. Noticeable flavor and texture improvement compared to pork from confined animals.

Just Local Food Cooperative has been selling locally raised and pastured, chemical/hormone free meats for over ten years.  We have developed deep relationships with our local farmers and know exactly where our pork, lamb, beef and poultry products come from.  We know how these animals have been treated, raised, fed, processed and brought to market.  And we only work with local and regional processors to ensure the quality of the product we sell is high.  Supporting these small businesses bolsters our local and regional economies.

What does this mean for you?

  1. You enjoy a more delicious & healthful meal.
  2. You gain more nutrition for your money.
  3. More money stays in our local or regional community.
  4. Local farmers are receiving fair prices and access to market, allowing them to continue to steward the land.
  5. Healthy land is the key to good, nourishing food since it is the land that feeds the animals.

When considering where you Easter ham will come from this year, take a moment to think about the true cost of what you choose to feed your family.   Just Local Food Cooperative is proud to offer an excellent selection of locally pastured ham and pork products from Deutsch Family Farm in Osseo.  Our knowledgeable staff are available to answer any questions you might have.

Wine: Pairing It Up!

by Donna Sachs, Winemaker, River Bend Winery, Chippewa Falls

Holiday parties present a great opportunity to share good food and wine with friends and family. But stress can creep in as we try to decide what wines are best served with what foods. At River Bend Winery in Chippewa Falls, we always say there is only one rule when it comes to pairing food and wine, and that is to drink what you like. That being said, it can be great fun to come up with just the right combination of wine and food for a party. Here are a few simple tips that can be helpful when planning a dinner where wine will be served.

1. Don’t overpower the wine with the food, or vice versa. A light meal is best accompanied by a light wine. If appetizers or tapas are the feature, opt for a light white wine or a nice bubbly. If you want to serve dry, think Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.  If you want to serve sweet, think Moscato or River Bend Moonlight.

2. In general, white wines pair well with white meat and seafood, and red wines pair well with red meat and steak. If chicken or white fish are on the menu, almost any white wine will pair nicely. Pork tenderloin begs to be paired with Pinot Noir or River Bend Marquette.  A steak or rich pasta calls for bold wine…think Cabernet or a red blend.

3. Always defer to the only rule that matters: drink what you like, and therefore serve what you like. Most people are not wine connoisseurs, and they will happily drink whatever you have to offer.

As a winemaker, I am often asked what the best wine I’ve ever had is, and my honest answer is this: the one I shared with family and friends.

Cheers! • 715-720-9463

The Pros and Cons of Gummy Multi-vitamins for Children

by Melissa Panchyshyn, MS, UW-Stout dietetic intern at the Eau Claire City County Health Department

There are a wide range of daily multi-vitamins on store shelves to choose from, including many different brands, forms, and flavors. Gummy vitamins have become quite popular for children who take a daily multi-vitamin. When choosing a vitamin supplement for your child, carefully choose a vitamin that will be safe and effective for your child’s unique needs. Also, check that it has the recommended daily allowances of the vitamins and minerals that children might need, including vitamins A, C, D, K, the B vitamins, iron, and calcium. There are several pros and cons to providing your child with a daily gummy multi-vitamin, which should be taken into consideration during your search for the vitamin that best fits your child’s needs.

• Children can be very picky eaters. Although it is best for children to get their nutrients from the food they consume, all parents and guardians know that this can be difficult at times. Gummy vitamins can be used to help make sure your child is consuming the proper amount of nutrients each day.

• Gummy vitamins can be easier for children to take. Most young children are unable to swallow pills, while the hard, chewable ones may be a difficult texture for them to chew or swallow. The gummy vitamins are softer and easier for young children to handle.

• Gummy vitamins have a comparable sweet taste and chewy texture that make them seem similar to eating candy. This often makes children excited to take them each day.

• There are a wide variety of brands, flavors, and shapes to choose from that allows you to find the best kind of gummy multi-vitamin that your child prefers, and that fits their specific needs.

Several cons to providing your children with daily multi-vitamins include the following:

• The similarity that gummy vitamins have to candy can make them tempting to a child looking for something sweet, like candy. It is important to store the gummy vitamins the same way that medicine is stored to ensure that children cannot get into them freely. Taking more than the recommended dose may give your child an overdose of vitamins.

• The gummy, sticky texture of the vitamins can be harmful to your child’s teeth, such as contributing to the formation of cavities. To avoid harm to your child’s teeth, have your child brush their teeth after consuming the gummy vitamins, rather than before. This will help remove some of the sticky residue left behind on the teeth, preventing the formation of cavities or other dental problems from occurring.

• In comparing gummy vitamins to the non-gummy forms, there are usually lower percentages of some nutrients in the gummy varieties. Reading the labels to compare the gummy vitamins to other forms will provide you with an educated decision about which form you prefer for your child.

• Vitamins should be taken along with a meal to help them be absorbed slowly and properly. If vitamins are absorbed too quickly, they may be excreted by the body and could cause an upset stomach or nausea.

• The cost of gummy vitamins is often more expensive than a pill form. It may be worth the cost if it is a way to get your children to take their vitamins daily.

Scientific reviews can be assessed about many of the popular vitamin brands. Looking at these reviews may be helpful in selecting a vitamin that you can be most comfortable with providing to your child. When looking at the scientific reviews about the various vitamin brands, focus on factors such as the ingredients, quality level, and safety of their vitamins. If you have any concerns about the nutritional well-being of your child, be sure to contact your doctor.