Not Just a Fad

By Beth Martin, Just Local Food Cooperative

Eating a diet in rhythm with the seasons just makes good sense.  Especially when you consider that most Americans are quite literally starved for the nutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables.  Seem impossible?  Consider this, according to New York Times best selling author Dr. Mark Hyman, “ a whopping 92% of us are deficient in one or more nutrients at the recommended daily allowance (RDA) level.”

The Standard American Diet, rich in heavily processed packaged and fast foods (can we even call these things food?) and empty of fresh fruits and vegetables results in vast nutrient deficiencies that create most of the health issues we see today.

Good for Your Health!

Fruits and vegetables are at their peak flavor and nutritional content when they are ready to be harvested.  Most foods begin to lose nutrients almost immediately after harvest.  For example, spinach and green beans lose two-thirds of their Vitamin C within a week of harvest, according to the University of California, Davis.   By eating locally grown (ideally organic) foods this means you will be eating not only more flavorful food, but you’ll boost your nutrition.

Eating a seasonally based diet with lots of variety throughout the year is the “cornerstone of preventive medicine,” says Preston Maring, a doctor at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center in California.   Study after study have documented  the benefits of eating an in-season, plant-focused diet—reduced risks of cancer and heart disease, increased longevity, improved cholesterol, improved vascular health, increased bone density and weight loss, to name a few.

Good for Our Community/Local Economy!

There are many options for purchasing locally grown foods.  The farmer’s market or CSA share is always a great place to start.  Another year-round option is your local food co-op.  Food co-ops, like Just Local Food, build relationships with local farmers and provide them access to market and offer a healthy price for their products.  Local food co-ops are able to work with smaller growers because we don’t demand volume like bigger grocers.   For every $1.00 you spend at a local food co-op, $.38 stays in our local economy.  This may not seem like much but it has huge economic impact.  And we all know a strong local economy is the key to thriving community.

Good for our Earth!

When you support small farmers who nurture their land through sustainable farming practices you are investing in more nutrient dense food for everyone while ensuring our small farmers continue to have a viable way of life.   Modern commercial farming focuses on quantity, not quality – at the expense of soil quality – resulting in less nutritious food.  For example, modern wheat and barley have 30 to 50 percent less protein than they did in 1938.

Nutrition is more holistic than just calorie counting and adding up nutrient levels.  When you enjoy locally grown foods you nurture a connection to the natural world that is good for our bodies and our souls.  According to Herbalist and physician Aviva Romm, it’s a “way of loving and caring for ourselves and others that allows us and those we serve to reach our fullest potential”.

A Brief History of Tea

by Amber Erickson Gabbey

All tea, shockingly, comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. But from that one plant come thousands of varieties to choose from. Tea is the second most common drink worldwide, only behind water, but if you don’t know what you’re looking at, tea shopping can be a stressful experience.

All varieties of tea boil down to five basic categories: black, white, green, and oolong. The fifth, not really a tea at all, is herbal. Making different teas from the same plant is the result of production, including the part of the leaf used and how the leaves are heated and cooled. This production process turns one single plant into teas that, when steeped, vary greatly in flavor, color, caffeine, aroma, and benefits.

From the medicinal perspective, tea has long been considered beneficial (with the science to back it up) for weight loss, preventing cancer, and preventing heart disease. The main benefit in tea comes from the antioxidants, which work to find and destroy cancer cells. Green tea, specifically, is considered a natural solution to reduce blood pressure, improve oral health, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Now, let’s break down these five kinds of tea to further explain. Note, the market these days includes a lot of blends—either different types of tea, or tea leaves with flowers, other plants, or fruits.

Black tea has a characteristic dark color and when steeped, a high caffeine count compared to other teas. Black teas can have a quite strong and pronounced flavor. Black teas are best steeped under boiling water for several minutes. These teas are often served with milk and sugar. Here are a few common kinds of black tea:

• English Breakfast
• arl Grey (black tea with bergamot oil)
• Chai Tea
• Pekoe
• Darjeeling
• Irish Breakfast

White tea has a characteristic softness, from production to flavor. White teas are made from minimally processed young shoots from the tea plant and steep to a light color. White teas are commonly mixed with fruit and flowers, like jasmine, peach, melon, or lavender.

Green tea has a characteristic yellow-green hue and a soft, earthy flavor. But don’t let that fool you; green teas can be intensely flavorful. To steep green teas, pour hot (but not boiling) water over the leaves and let sit for up to three minutes. Be careful not to over-steep green teas. Here are a few common kinds of green tea:

• Gyokuro
• Longjing
• Bi Luo Chun
• Sencha
• Matcha

Oolong tea is most known for being less strong than a black tea but more robust than a green. This is the tea you are drinking in Chinese restaurants that you may think is black tea. The characteristic flavor and scent profile of oolong is flowers or fruits, and many other styles, like Darjeeling, Earl Grey, and Assam, can be made into an oolong style. Steep oolong in hot (not boiling) water for up to ten minutes.

Herbal tea is not really a tea after all. This type isn’t made from the leaves of the tea leaf and contains no caffeine. Herbal tea is made with naturally caffeine-free plants, flowers, and fruits. Some common herbal tea (also called herbal infusion) flavors include chamomile, peppermint, echinacea, ginseng, hibiscus, lemon, ginger, raspberry, nettles, rosehips, tulsi, etc.

If you love tea but find yourself going back to the same kinds, use this opportunity to try something new. If you like green tea, try white or herbal. If you like black teas, try an oolong, or try something totally outside your comfort zone. There are thousands of tea varieties and blends on store shelves right now. Have fun with it.

Some of Our Favorite Tea …

Our Picks:
• Organic African Nectar
• Orange Dulce
• Organic Spring Jasmine

Mighty Leaf Tea supports the fostering of long-term prosperity for artisans and their communities locally, regionally and globally in tea-growing regions through monetary program support. We also promote and encourage sustainable farming and production methods for tea-growing regions around the world through corporate partnerships and sourcing practices. More at Mightyleaf.com

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Our Picks:
• Tutti Fruiti
• Lemon Spearmint Energy
• Brain Booster
• R&R

Herbal tea works with the body in an all-natural way to promote balance and good health. Almost any herbal leaves and roots can be made into tea.

Every blend of Urbal Tea is designed to assist in the healing, nourishing and preserving of the entire human body. All of the herbs contain numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and each blend targets a different ailment or need. Meant to be enjoyed every day, Urbal Teas provide a bounty of nourishing herbal infusions to benefit the entire body and soul. A local Milwaukee, Wisconsin company – much more at urbalhealth.com

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New:
TEA BAGS – SAVORY TEA

Numi’s SAVORY TEA combines real organic vegetables, wild herbs, decaf tea and aromatic spices for a satisfying experience. Inspired by recipes from around the world, these satiating veggie-spice-tea blends are rich in flavor, yet light enough to enjoy any time of day. It’s not quite a soup, but more than a tea. Enjoy a comforting cup of garden goodness one savory sip at a time!

Numi inspires well-being of mind, body and spirit through the simple art of tea. Our company is rooted in the principle of creating a healthful product that nurtures people and honors the planet. In all of our company initiatives, we strive to foster a healthy, thriving global community while bringing you the purest, best-tasting organic tea. Much more at numitea.com

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Our Picks:
• English Breakfast
• Earl Grey Supreme
• Organic Bangkok
• Japanese Secha

It is not only the Harney mission to deliver quality tea products to their customers, but also to educate the world of tea history and taste. Whether through their dedicated customer service team, their published guides to tea drinking, or their two tea tasting shops, the Harney & Sons team works to pass on their passion of tea to a wide audience. From lugging heavy tea filled chests down their basement stairs, to stocking shelves at Targets nationwide, Harney & Sons remains committed to delivering their customers a superior tea drinking experience. More at harney.com

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Our Picks:
• Genmaicha Green Tea Blend-Organic Japanese
• Chocolate Chai Tea Blend-Organic and Fair Trade
• Tropical Coconut Oolong Tea Blend
• Pu-erh Bordeaux Tea Bag – Organic and Fair Trade

Rishi Tea has imported premium organic tea under strict European Union Organic standards since 1999. We were among the first to earn organic certification and at the forefront in the advancement of Fair Trade Certified tea, becoming one of the highest payers of social premiums from the sale of fair trade tea. The fair trade projects we have established, as well as those we partner with, directly support a better life for the tea-farming families and their communities.  Much more at rishi-tea.com

Go Green with Your Grub

by Lucie Patrick

With the summer months quickly approaching, the Chippewa Valley will soon be filled with an abundance of fresh, local produce. Because food is the fuel for our bodies, it is important that we choose wholesome products that are beneficial for both the earth and ourselves. Community supported agriculture (CSA) allows local citizens to fuel their bodies with wholesome, natural foods while supporting sustainability and the local economy by choosing products from local farmers.

Community supported agriculture pairs community members with local farmers and provides them with weekly shares of food. To participate in a CSA program, each member must sign up and prepay for his/her share of food.

Sylvan Hills Farm in Menomonie, Wisconsin, organizes a CSA program for residents of the Twin Cities metro area. A shareholder has the option to pay a one-time fee for a large share ($675) or a regular share ($425). The Sylvan Hills Farm CSA boxes are sent to drop points where the shareholders pick up their boxes on a designated week day.

The food delivery begins during the first three weeks of June and supplies the members until September–October, depending on the crops and weather. The share of produce can be picked up at a pre-designated location and week day throughout the CSA season.

The food that is delivered in a CSA box varies by farm. Some farms box strictly produce, while others will box dairy products and produce. The CSA boxes from Sylvan Hills Farm include various fruits and vegetables.

The box drop-off and pick-up of the CSA creates a different grocery shopping experience than the traditional in-store grocery shopping tradition. The hassle of the additional pick-up step may concern CSA newcomers, but many believe that the benefits outweigh the extra pick-up step.

Larry Diehlmann and Jackie Kujack, owners of Sylvan Hills Farm, note that one of the benefits of a CSA program is “having the box delivered for you instead of having to run down the aisle trying to decide what to buy.” Diehlmann also adds, “Some members have compared it to getting a Christmas present every week.”

Although there are many benefits to participating in a CSA, there can be disadvantages too. Diehlmann said that one of the disadvantages might be “if you are not too flexible in preparing food or trying new things.” The food in the CSA box may take extra preparation and creative recipes, but Sylvan Hills Farm aims to help the members by sending weekly emails with recipes. Diehlmann said, “We send out recipes each week that use many if not all of the box contents.”

Not only do the Sylvan Hills emails inform participants about new cuisines and the produce in their boxes, but they also inform them about how to choose the wholesome, quality foods that benefit the human body. According to Food Routes Network, a company that works to reestablish local community food systems, “Knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown or raised enables you to choose safe food from farmers who avoid or reduce their use of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified seed in their operations.”

As consumers, it’s important that we know the source of our food so that we can purchase it from places that benefit our economy, the earth, and our bodies. For those looking to join a CSA for the upcoming summer season, Diehlmann advises, “Check to be sure that the farm is certified organic and local and small.” Larger farms may pick and refrigerate the produce multiple days in advance, leading to a loss of nutrients in the foods. Diehlmann suggests that CSA participants search for farms with 100 shares or fewer.

Choosing a farm that has a certified organic label and small shares is the best way to assure that you are choosing wholesome foods that will benefit your body. Diehlmann said, “We have maintained the USDA organic certified label since our beginning in 2003 and believe that is the most optimal way to treat the planet and the people that live on it.” Sylvan Hills Farms sells 50 shares of CSA boxes every summer to ensure that their food is always freshly picked and delivered within twenty-four hours.

Choosing a smaller, local farm also supports the local community because it returns the profit back to small businesses in the community. Diehlmann said, “The economy benefits when items are purchased locally as the dollar turns over in your community at least six times.”

CSA participants can also improve their local community by reducing their carbon footprint. Food Routes Network states, “Local food doesn’t have to travel far. This reduces carbon dioxide emissions and packing materials.”

Purchasing your produce from local farms like Sylvan Hills is a great way to start going green with your food. “We also believe in building community being important to any area, and CSA’s a great way to do that,” said Diehlmann. Choosing local organic foods will benefit your body, community, and planet. Make the right decision and go green with your grub today.

For those interested in improving their carbon footprint, local economy, and supporting local businesses, joining a CSA is way to be proactive in their efforts.

For more information on participating in a community supported agriculture program, please visit www.localharvest.org/csa/

Lucie is a journalism student interning at Second Opinion Magazine this semester.  She studies Professional Communication and Emerging Media at UW-Stout and will be graduating in May.

Homegrown Winter Hardy Seedless Table Grapes

by Judith Reith-Rozelle, Stonehoe Consulting, Spring Green, WI

Seedless table grapes picked fresh from the vine have that “picked fresh” from the tree taste that we all love when eating a true “ripened on the tree” peach. Wisconsin’s soil and climate produce grapes that have unique flavors beyond any supermarket grape ever purchased, and they retain the healthy nutrients found in fruits fresh from the garden. The California Grape Commission blog documents the following health value of grapes: “Grapes of all colors—red, green, and black—are a natural source of beneficial components called polyphenols, which are also antioxidants.”

Now home gardeners and vineyard owners can grow seedless table grapes in Wisconsin with careful management and selection of varieties for the zones in each area. Breeding programs across the country are releasing new winter-hardy selections, and several older hardy Elmer Swenson varieties are once again being planted.

The major limiting factors in producing seedless table grapes in any temperate climate is the ability of the vines to survive the freezing temperatures of northern regions, late spring frost, and fluctuating rainfall. The cropping loads, disease infections, and drought also impact cold hardiness. Each of these factors stresses the plants and decreases the vines’ ability to develop strong overwintering capacities.

The length of the growing season or ripening period also dictates what cultivars can be grown in regions where the frost-free days may be fewer than 150 days. The growing season is determined by the dates of the first and last frost of any one year.

Grapes grown in cold climates must be grown using methods other than those in warmer climates. The vines must be allowed to develop deep, healthy root systems before fruit production begins. Trellising to allow for strong trunk development increases the winter viability of vines. Fruit clusters must be removed the first two years. A few clusters may be left on the vines the third year and the two-thirds fruit load during the fourth year. Four years of good, strong growth is mandatory before a full fruit load is allowed to remain on the vine.

The fruit allowed to develop on the vines the third and fourth year will allow a grower/gardener to evaluate the quality and harvest time of the fruit produced. In the trials at the research stations three varieties were removed from the trials the third year. Either the fruit was unpalatable or ripened too late for Wisconsin’s growing season.

Seedless table grapes have been grown at the West Madison, Peninsular, and Spooner University of Wisconsin agricultural research stations for over seven years. At least fifteen varieties have been trialed at West Madison and Peninsular research stations. Fewer varieties have been trialed at the Spooner station. Spooner lies in Zone 3b, so fewer of the varieties survive the minus 30 degree temperatures. Interesting aside; Phil Holmen, superintendent of the station, reported on January 10 that Spooner area had already experienced thirteen days of minus 20 degrees this winter. There may be fewer varieties that survive this year at all three stations. Lower temperatures, for longer periods of time have already been experienced at all research sites than in the past seven years.

Several new varieties were planted in 2010 and have grown well and produced a limited number of really beautiful, tasty fruit in the third year. The summer of 2014 will be the true test for fruit flavor and production levels.

The twelve varieties of seedless table grapes have survived seven Wisconsin winters and the four newer have survived three winters. The lowest temperatures at the West Madison Station reached minus 18 to minus 19.5 degrees.

Red, blue,and green grapes are all part of the collection that have survived. The green and red grapes have been a true survival surprise and are some of the most flavorful grapes on the market.

The four varieties of red grapes include: Canadice, Reliance, Somerset Seedless, and Vanessa. The ripening sequence begins in early to mid-August with Somerset Seedless, followed by Vanessa, and Canadice, then Reliance rounds up the harvest ripening in early to mid-September. Of the four, Reliance is the hardiest, but it is harder to grow and does not ripen as uniformly as Canadice. Canadice and Somerset Seedless are the most flavorful: spicy and sweet. The colors of each variety are so beautiful: Reliance is a softer rose/green, and the remaining three are deep, rose colored.

The four varieties of white/green grapes include: Himrod, Interlaken, Lakemont, and Marquis. These grapes begin to ripen a little later than the reds listed above. Their flavors are very spicy and complex, and each is grape is very juicy. What a treat to harvest fresh green grapes right before breakfast or lunch.

Three blues, Mars, Trollhaugen, and Venus, ripen beginning in mid-August and finish in mid-September. Trollhaugen is first to ripen, followed by Venus and then Mars. Each has a very unique taste and texture. Venus has a very surprising burst of flavor a bit like pink grapefruit; Trollhaugen is sweet and spicy. Mars has more of the Concord taste.

The four new varieties planted in 2010 are: Montreal Blue, Suffolk Red, Thomcord (blue), and Jupiter (blue). Look for more information on these four in 2014.

Research shows that eating as little as 1¼  cup of grapes per day may reduce the risk factors for coronary heart disease. Plan your backyard garden grape arbor now and reap health benefits from the work for thirty plus years.

Now retired as a leader of the UW’s West Madison Agricultural Research Station, Judith Reith-Rozelle did research into the viability of cold-hardy table and wine grapes.  She now serves as a private consultant to growers throughout the Midwest.

The Right Choice: A Locally Grown Whole Food Diet

by Dr. Michael Court

There are many benefits to a locally grown whole food diet.  Locally grown food is fresher when it gets to the consumer.  The food sits on the truck a shorter amount of time and therefore has more nutrients.  Whole food is in its purest, simplest form and provides the most nutrients.  Processing may make food last longer, but it steals nutrients from our food that we need to stay healthy.  A whole food diet is the wisest and healthiest choice you can make to provide good nutrition for your family.

The bad news is that much of the food we buy comes from soil that is nutrient-depleted due to the methods of modern agriculture.  Our soil is becoming depleted of the essential nutrients needed to grow nutrient-rich foods.  Our soil becomes “exhausted” due to the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  In the book “Empty Harvest,” Dr. Bernard Jensen and Mark Anderson make the case for the importance of keeping our soil alive and full of nutrients because it significantly affects the health and well-being of the human race.  Our food can only provide the nutrition that is present in the soil.  Depleted soil produces an empty harvest.

When working in alternative health, a person begins to make some observations about how to stay healthy and what makes people sick.  One thing I have noticed is that many of the healthier people who come in for our health analysis eat a diet based on whole foods, exercise doing something they like, and generally make their health a priority.  On the other hand, some of the unhealthiest people have an internal stressor related to our food, water, or air supply that is keeping them from getting well.  They struggle to get well due to nutritional deficiencies from eating a diet of processed foods or have a buildup of toxicity from heavy metals or chemicals.

Beginning to move to a locally grown whole food diet is smart for anyone wanting to maintain their health.  Organic is best because it eliminates pesticides and harmful fertilizers from your food supply (and your body).

Just like processed foods can be incomplete, the synthetic supplements consumers buy at the store can be doing them more harm than good.  Many people have no idea that most supplements that are sold commercially are synthetic (manmade) chemical extracts that are really incomplete parts of food.  Nowhere in nature do we find vitamins in the same form as on our store shelves.  Because they are incomplete, your body has to take the missing parts from your internal reserves in order to process and use the synthetic vitamin you are taking.  Using synthetic supplements is kind of like eating processed foods.  They may be cheap, but over time they cause a deficiency in the co-factors, enzymes, and essential minerals our bodies need.  This leads to loss of energy, to less resistance to disease, and eventually to ill health.

Just like eating an orange is better than drinking orange-flavored drinks, using supplements that are ground-up organic, whole food that is concentrated makes the most sense.  Whole-food supplements are in a form (ground up whole food that the body is designed to use as fuel) that is easier for the body to use to heal itself.  Because they are concentrated, you can get more nutrition in a whole-food supplement than you would typically eat in a day.

The adage “You are what you eat” is true.  Small permanent changes in your diet and your supplements can make a huge difference in your daily health.  For some people, they have no idea how to do this on their own.  How do I get off Mountain Dew that I know is killing me?  What change can I make with my busy lifestyle?  Where do I get the information I need?  The best choice for restoring your health is to work with a health care practitioner to help you transition to a locally grown whole food diet and a personalized, clinically designed nutritional program.

Dr. Michael Court, a local naturopath, practices at Chippewa Valley Wellness with locations in Chippewa Falls and Altoona.  For more information, see cvwellness.net or call 715-723-2713.