Wednesday, December 25, 2013

China rejects our corn, but we eat it??

Photo from Shuttlestock
Genetically modified strains of corn not authorized for sale in China have been showing up in cargoes exported from the U.S., prompting China to reject them.

And we’re not talking about trifling amounts here. In November and December, the country rejected more than 600,000 tons of American corn that had been genetically modified.

It’s hard to conceptualize that much corn, but it works out to more than a dozen shipments, or nearly a third of the corn shipped from the U.S. to China this year. Another way to think about it: The rejected shipments weighed more than 100,000 elephants.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Chicken and Superbugs

In case you have just wandered onto this blog on a whim or random Google link, let me be clear about my food choices. I NEVER buy meats from the grocery stores, and not much produce except in winter when there’s no local hoophouse stuff available. I do as much home-grown and/or organic as possible.

My health is not good (stemming from years of work-related causes) but I'd probably be dead already if not for my food choices over the last few years. 

When I say I buy no commercial “no meats” I really mean it, but especially NOT any chicken. Here’s one reason why:

Tyson chicken houses are everywhere in Virginia, but thankfully none are very near me. They are now making biochar from the Tyson waste and I won’t even buy that for my garden. Yuck. Instead I use the charred bits from my wood stove on my garden.

I buy local organic grass-fed meats despite the higher cost, and I believe (in addition to being tasty) it benefits my health, plus cuts down my health-care costs. I cure my own bacon from domestic hogs that roam our wooded mountain slopes, and make my own butter from local cream that's not ultra-pasteurized. I also make a lot of my own cheese. Occasionally when I get off the mountain to a large city, I look for wild shrimp and fish but those gets harder to find every year. 

If you've tread much about native american and early settler life, you know they ate the organs of meat animals long before they'd eat the muscle meats. That's because the organs contain so much more nutrition that the muscles. We Americans choose less nutritious steak instead of organ meats, sacrificing nutrition for popular belief.

I admit I balk at eating brains, although my dad loved them scrambled with eggs. I eat liver, kidneys, heart, and sweetbreads. Some of the tougher cuts like hearts and kidneys sometimes get ground and used in a mixed country paté loaf. Do NOT even mention chitlins or tripe because I'm not going there!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hard post to write

I've not posted much this year, having been taken by ambulance to the university hospital down in NC 6 times in 8 months (Feb 1-Oct 3) and then time at home to recuperate. 

My liver disease has finally become worse, after a long 'remission', and recently my doctors have diagnosed the beginnings of hepatic encephalopathy (HE) from high ammonia levels. My liver has quit making enough enzymes to fully digest proteins, and the undigested proteins in the intestines cause ammonia build-up. The ammonia affects the brain.

My plan is to move to Asheville, NC in the spring where good health care isn't a 2-1/2 hour trip each way (I'm going 1-2X a month now), and where there is excellent hospice when I finally need it. I lived in Asheville for years and still have many friends there, so I'll have support and a sense of community. Asheville is very alive, and has half a dozen natural foods grocery stores. The closest ones to me now are 125+ miles away.

I'll have to find shared quarters, and store a lot of stuff I don't sell here first, as the COL in Asheville is high, but the medical trade-off is worth it. Besides I have LOTS of stored foods and hopefully will find a place with room somewhere for my 2 full freezers.

If lucky I may have more than a year... a lot depends on a new med that's $1,000/month. I don't have the med yet as no local pharmacies stock it, but it IS now on order. The med I have to reduce ammonia is disgusting as it causes very abrupt diarrhea, but my ammonia level is slowly coming down. Maybe not enough soon enough, only Time will tell.

I WILL post from time to time, esp. in the dead of winter when I can't do much else except sort and pack (and that gets old quickly, not to mention it's tiring( but it won't be consistent. I have very little energy now and I'm losing weight.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

egg whites

I had a long trip down to NC yesterday for medical stuff, and overslept so there was no time to make a proper breakfast.

On the run, I broke one of my rules and went through McD's for an Egg McMuffin. The 'special' offer was an "egg white McMuffin" which I declined.

True, the egg whites are high in protein, but the real value in eggs is the yolk. More so if the eggs are from free-range hens. That means truly free range, like from a local farmer who has a dozen or so hens that are outside all day, not the factories that have a small dorr to allow hundreds of hens access to the cement outside. I never buy nutritionally deficient factory eggs anymore... I'd rather do without.

Almost all of the ever-important nutrients like DHA, folate, choline and the essential vitamins like A, D, E, K-2, B-6, & B-12 live in the yolk rather than the white.

Makes me wonder why the spiel, and what are they doing with all the yolks?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I didn't know this, did you?

I've been using aluminum foil for more years than I care to remember. Great stuff, but sometimes it can be a pain. You know, like when you are in the middle of doing something and you try to pull some foil out and the whole roll comes out of the box.

Then you have to put the roll back in the box and start over. The darn roll always comes out at the wrong time.

Well, I would like to share this with you. Yesterday I went to throw out an empty Reynolds foil box and for some reason I turned it and looked at the end of the box. And written on the end it said, "Press here to lock end". Right there on the end of the box is a tab to lock the roll in place. How long has this little locking tab been there?

I then looked at a generic brand of aluminum foil and it had one, too.

I then looked at a box of Saran wrap and it had one too!

I can't count the number of times the Saran warp roll has jumped out when I was trying to cover something up.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


One of my good friends entered 2 of my homemade vinegars in the Fair, and I won a Blue ribbon for the Chive Blossom Vinegar, and a 2nd Place Ribbon for the Ruby Basil Vinegar!

I use champagne vinegar as a base, but it's expensive ($40/half gallon with S/H). So over this winter, I plan to buy some inexpensive champagne and make my own champagne vinegar. It takes about 5-6 months for champagne to mature into vinegar, but during that time I have no herbs growing in the garden anyway.

Right now I have some tarragon vinegar brewing, with a touch of garlic in it, and plan some chive (not the pretty pink chive blossom) vinegar later, but before frost.

I did make some fruit vinegars, raspberry, cranberry, and blackberry and still have frozen arils of pomegranate to use. It's amazing what a splash of a fruit vinegar does for meats and vegetables.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


This is a repost because I made another one last night, and easier to re-post than write anew. STILL a big favorite!

OhMyGod~... This is one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth!!! YUM! YUM! YUM! 

If you are not familiar with a clafouti, you are not alone... neither was I, except reading the name occasionally on food blogs. This one I made, my very first, blew me away with the taste. I had thought it might be good, but turned out to be one of the best damn desserts I have eaten in my whole life!

According to Wikipedia, a clafouti, or clafoutis, is a baked French dessert of black cherries in a buttered dish, covered with a thick flan-like batter and baked. The clafoutis is dusted with powdered sugar and served lukewarm.

The clafoutis originates in the Limousin region of France... and while black cherries are traditional, there are numerous variations using other fruits. I have fresh cranberries on hand for Thanksgiving, and still a lot of pears in my root cellar, so I decided to adapt a recipe I found for a Cranberry Pear Clafouti. The batter is a Yorkshire pudding style, made with eggs, sugar, cream and a little flour. The result is like a thick, puffy pancake baked over the fruit.

My adaptations were mostly in the method of cooking, although I did substitute half and half for the evaporated milk, and also increased the amount of pears, and flour.

I put about a cup of cranberries and three diced medium-size pears (peeled and cored) in a skillet, along with 1/3 cup of sugar and about 1½ tablespoons of butter. The online recipe called for only 1 pear, no butter, and baking the fruit about 20 minutes until soft. I only have a counter-top convection to work with at the moment, and decided it was easier to pre-cook the fruit in a skillet instead.

The cranberries were fairly quick to burst in the pan, and the cranberries and pears both softened in about 15 minutes on medium heat. The butter kept the sugar and fruit from sticking to the pan until they gave up some of their juices.

Next, drain the juices and set aside. The fruits don't have to be very dry, but not swimming in their juices either. Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF. Notice I used a different pan for baking. I'm using a small countertop convection oven until our oven gets repaired (or we get a new range).

In a bowl, mix 2 large eggs, 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1½ teaspoons vanilla, ⅓ cup half and half, and ¼ cup sugar.

Spread the drained fruit evenly in the bottom of an oven-proof pan (which you have buttered), and pour the batter on top.

Bake in the upper third of an oven until puffed around the edges and set in the center, about 12-15 minutes.

Because this batter puffs when it cooks, it also falls just like a soufflé! The topping deflated in the time it took to find and focus the camera! This is the virgin dish for this little oven, and I also see it heats unevenly. Next time, I'll keep a better eye on it and rotate halfway through.

OhMyGod~...  that's one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth!!! YUM! YUM! YUM! Not too sweet; just enough sweetness to excite my tastebuds dancing around the tart cranberries. The 'pudding' was excellent, a puffy-custard-y texture with lovely vanilla overtones.

Serve warm with the reserved juices (re-warmed) poured on top. Sprinkle with a tad of powdered sugar for looks. Serves 4.

Here's my recipe adaptation:

    * 3 medium pears, peeled, cored and cut into ½ inch dice

    * 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

    * ⅓ cup sugar (for the fruit) plus ¼ cup sugar for the batter

    * 2 large eggs

    * 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    * 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

    * ⅓ cup half & half (or cream)

    * 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar

Place oven rack in upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 9-inch glass pie plate or coat it with cooking spray. (I used a metal pan; can't use glass in this oven)

Combine pear, cranberries and ⅓ cup of the sugar in the baking dish. Bake until the fruit is tender and very juicy, about 20 minutes. (I did mine is a skillet on the stovetop.)

Meanwhile, whisk eggs, flour, vanilla and the remaining ¼ cup sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in half and half.

Drain the juices from the baked fruit into a small bowl, holding back the fruit with a metal spatula. Reserve the juices. Redistribute the fruit over the bottom of the dish and pour in the egg mixture. Bake until puffed and set, about 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Serve warm, with the reserved fruit juices spooned over the top. Sprinkle with a tad of powdered sugar.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Micro Greens

Beet and Kale microgreens from NPR

Micro greens are something I can actually chew, and love, so salads are finally on my menu again!! 

Not only that, they are 4-6 times more nutrient-dense than larger greens of the same varieties. Microgreens could easily be confused with sprouts, but they're not the same thing. Sprouts are seeds germinated in water just long enough (usually 48 hours) to grow roots, a stem and pale, underdeveloped leaves. Microgreens, on the other hand, need at least 7 days to grow before you can harvest them. Source

Six years ago I went through all the pre-testing for a liver transplant and as part of the process they pulled all of my teeth (except 6 in the lower front). Medicare will NOT pay for dentures (nor hearing aids and eyeglasses) so I'm nearly toothless, making chewing many things a problem. What I've missed the most is salads, because the lettuce leaves are so thin they are difficult to chew, and blenderized salads do NOT appeal to me!

Several weeks ago I bought some micro greens at the farmer's market, and not only can I chew them, the taste is just terrific! They were expensive to buy, so I just ordered 1/4 pound each (minimum order) of mild and spicy mix, great for beginners, from Johnny's Selected Seeds. I can grow them all winter long on a window sill in my LR in a small flat, so it's a Win-Win.

After I see how I do with the beginner mixes, I will branch out to making my own mix of greens and herbs. 

Johnny's has some great information on how to grow them, varieties available, and mixes for beginners. 

"Micro Greens are the leaves of certain vegetables and herbs harvested when quite young, generally at the first-true-leaf stage of growth. In cuisine, micro greens are added to gourmet salads, sprinkled over entreés, or used for garnish. They can be marketed as individual components or in signature blends, combining a number of varieties with different flavors, colors, and textures."

Basics of Growing Micro Greens

Micro Greens Comparison Chart

Herb Varieties for Micro Greens

ps... if you do an internet search for "micro greens recipe" you will find hundreds!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Growing squash in bales

Several years ago I planted vegetables in straw bales as an experiment, and had pretty decent results, and again the next year with potatoes planted in the remains of the bales. What I did NOT like was how much seed was still in the bales and sprouted. I fought them for 2-3 years.

Two years ago I cleared a large area, laid down cardboard, covered it with 6" of alfalfa from some bales I purchased locally, and covered it all with 6" of wood chips. I had 2 bales of alfalfa left over and just stuck them in the barn.

This year I took those 2 aged bales out of the barn and planted winter squash in them. I'm totally astonished at the growth. In the photos, it's hard to see there are actually 2 plants but one is an acorn squash and the other is spaghetti squash.

The acorn squash isn't doing well, but there must be a dozen or so spaghetti squash growing on the other plant!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Winter Fare

As low as my energy level is since my heart attack, I'm still managing to put up some foods for winter fare. Many are not from my own garden since I didn't get much planted this year due to health problems plus our crummy weather.

I'm really concerned that this winter may be a bear, and with so much of the country having either flooding or drought, I expect food prices to rise.

I bought a bunch of tomatoes, plus got quite a few from a neighbor and I oven-roasted them in batches with lots of chopped Vidalia onions and garlic. After going through the food mill, I have quite a few pint jars now canned for winter use. (My own few heirloom tomatoes got late blight, I think I only got 3 good enough to slice.)

Corn is not a favorite because it gets so starchy so quickly, but I have quick-boiled a baker's dozen and just need to cut the kernels off the cob and can them.

The few summer squash my sister's yard man didn't cut down have yielded a bounty of fresh squash, mostly now grated and frozen for later use. I found a recipe for Zucchini Faux Crab Cakes last year, and loved them.  My zucchini hasn't done well (other than the gigantic one that grew while I was in the hospital) but now has more blooms. 

I'm thinking to make the faux crab cake recipe with yellow summer squash since the squash is basically a filler, and if I get any more zukes, they will definitely be used in that recipe. They are easy to make, cook, and freeze for re-heating later as part of a quick meal.

Two other plants the yard man didn't cut down look to be maybe a spaghetti squash (and loaded with small fruits) and one acorn squash plant that only has a fruit or two that I can see among the humongous leaves. Both are planted in a 2 year-old alfalfa bale and growing like gangbusters! Good thing I like winter squash, and they keep well in the root cellar. 

He also cut down all my pole bean plants. sigh.

I have picked a few of my thornless blackberries, maybe close to a gallon, but it's become such an overgrown jungle that most went to waste. I'll make some spicy blackberry savory which is great with white meats (kinda like using cranberry sauce), and perhaps some blackberry syrup if I have enough berries.

My filbert bush looks like it will be the first year for a really good crop. It's now about 5 years in the ground here. The first year it bore nuts, I think I got about 12-15 nuts. Last year, probably 4-5X that amount.

I planted shallots, garlic and cippolini onions in one bed but it became so overgrown with weeds that I don't think there's a chance anything survived. I wanted SO much to make some cippolini onions in balsamic vinegar! They are $8.95-$9.95 a pound on most olive bars and I love their taste.

I may have already posted this, so forgive any lapses in my memory (which is not so good lately)... I have an upcoming trip planned with a gardening friend to go to the Outer Banks for several days in early October to get seafood. Living inland as I do, seafood is always the pits... frozen, stored, shipped, thawed, maybe re-frozen, but certainly NOT fresh... and most shrimp here are just tasteless farm-raised 'shrimp'.

Please put out good vibes that we can make our trip without the threat of a coastal hurricane! I haven't looked forward to such a trip in years so I'm kinda like a young kid anticipating Santa Claus and Christmas.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Agave Nectar

Recently, a friend gave me a bottle of agave nectar, saying how much she loved it. I haven't opened it, but did do some research out of curiosity. Turns out it has more fructose than HFCS.

Since I'm still recuperating and not up to doing much yet, here's the whole reprint:

Agave Nectar: Good or Bad?

The short answer to that reader’s question is simple: agave nectar is not a “natural sweetener.” Plus, it has more concentrated fructose in it than high fructose corn syrup. Now, let’s get into the details.

Agave Nectar Is Not A Natural Sweetener

Once upon a time, I picked up a jar of “Organic Raw Blue Agave Nectar” at my grocery store. It was the first time I’d ever seen the stuff in real life, and the label looked promising. After all, words like “organic,” “raw,” and “all natural” should mean something. Sadly, agave nectar is neither truly raw, nor is it all natural.

Based on the labeling, I could picture native peoples creating their own agave nectar from the wild agave plants. Surely, this was a traditional food, eaten for thousands of years. Sadly, it is not.

Native Mexican peoples do make a sort of sweetener out of the agave plant. It’s called miel de agave, and it’s made by boiling the agave sap for a couple of hours. Think of it as the Mexican version of authentic Canadian maple syrup.

But this is not what most so-called “agave nectar” is. According to one popular agave nectar manufacturer, “Agave nectar is a newly created sweetener, having been developed in the 1990s.” In a recent article now posted on the Weston A. Price foundation’s website, Ramiel Nagel and Sally Fallon Morell write,

    Agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of the giant pineapple-like, root bulb. The principal constituent of the agave root is starch, similar to the starch in corn or rice, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of chains of fructose molecules.Technically a highly indigestible fiber, inulin, which does not taste sweet, comprises about half of the carbohydrate content of agave.

    The process by which agave glucose and inulin are converted into “nectar” is similar to the process by which corn starch is converted into HFCS. The agave starch is subject to an enzymatic and chemical process that converts the starch into a fructose-rich syrup—anywhere from 70 percent fructose and higher according to the agave nectar chemical profiles posted on agave nectar websites.

Compare that to the typical fructose content of high fructose corn syrup (55%)!

In a different article, Rami Nagel quotes Russ Bianchi, managing director and CEO of Adept Solutions, Inc., a globally recognized food and beverage development company, on the similarities between agave nectar and high fructose corn syrup:

    They are indeed made the same way, using a highly chemical process with genetically modified enzymes. They are also using caustic acids, clarifiers, filtration chemicals and so forth in the conversion of agave starches into highly refined fructose inulin that is even higher in fructose content than high fructose corn syrup.

So there you have it. Agave nectar is not traditional, is highly refined, and actually has more concentrated fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. It is not a “natural” sweetener. Thus far, the evidence definitely points toward the conclusion: Agave Nectar = Bad.

“But,” you ardent agave nectar enthusiasts say, “agave nectar has a low glycemic index. I’m a diabetic, and it’s the only sweetener I can use!”

What’s wrong with fructose?

First, we need to clarify something. Concentrated fructose is not found in fruit, or anywhere else in nature. When the sugar occurs in nature, it is often called “levulose” and is accompanied by naturally-occurring enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin.  Concentrated fructose, on the other hand, is a man-made sugar created by the refining process. To clarify:

    Saying fructose is levulose is like saying that margarine is the same as butter. Refined fructose lacks amino acids, vitamins, minerals, pectin, and fiber. As a result, the body doesn’t recognize refined fructose. Levulose, on the other hand, is [fructose] naturally occurring in fruits, and is not isolated but bound to other naturally occurring sugars. Unlike man-made fructose, levulose contains enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fruit pectin. Refined fructose is processed in the body through the liver, rather than digested in the intestine. Levulose is digested in the intestine. (source )

I want you to pay special attention to those last two sentences, for they are a huge key that will help unlock the mystery of why fructose is bad for you.

Because fructose is digested in your liver, it is immediately turned into triglycerides or stored body fat. Since it doesn’t get converted to blood glucose like other sugars, it doesn’t raise or crash your blood sugar levels. Hence the claim that it is safe for diabetics.

But it isn’t.

That’s because fructose inhibits leptin levels — the hormone your body uses to tell you that you’re full. In other words, fructose makes you want to eat more. Besides contributing to weight gain, it also makes you gain the most dangerous kind of fat.

This has been verified in numerous studies. The most definitive one was released just this past year in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The full study is available online, but for the sake of space I’m including Stephan’s (of Whole Health Source fame) summary here:

    The investigators divided 32 overweight men and women into two groups, and instructed each group to drink a sweetened beverage three times per day. They were told not to eat any other sugar. The drinks were designed to provide 25% of the participants’ caloric intake. That might sound like a lot, but the average American actually gets about 25% of her calories from sugar! That’s the average, so there are people who get a third or more of their calories from sugar. In one group, the drinks were sweetened with glucose, while in the other group they were sweetened with fructose.

    After ten weeks, both groups had gained about three pounds. But they didn’t gain it in the same place. The fructose group gained a disproportionate amount of visceral fat, which increased by 14%! Visceral fat is the most dangerous type; it’s associated with and contributes to chronic disease, particularly metabolic syndrome, the quintessential modern metabolic disorder (see the end of the post for more information and references). You can bet their livers were fattening up too.

    The good news doesn’t end there. The fructose group saw a worsening of blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity. They also saw an increase in small, dense LDL particles and oxidized LDL, both factors that associate strongly with the risk of heart attack and may in fact contribute to it. Liver synthesis of fat after meals increased by 75%. If you look at table 4, it’s clear that the fructose group experienced a major metabolic shift, and the glucose group didn’t. Practically every parameter they measured in the fructose group changed significantly over the course of the 9 weeks. It’s incredible.

Back to our original question — Agave Nectar: Good or Bad?

The conclusion is clear. Agave nectar is bad for you. It’s not traditional, not natural, highly refined, and contains more concentrated fructose than high fructose corn syrup.

What natural sweeteners do I recommend?

If you’re interested in what other traditional sweeteners are out there that are actually natural, check out My Natural Sweeteners of Choice .

Or, simply skip straight to what I buy and use:

organic, raw honey
coconut palm sugar
maple syrup
sorghum syrup
maple sugar

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Muscle pains and Magnesium

I barely took notice that during my 3 hospital stays so far this year they included an IV drip of magnesium each time, but when I mentioned it to my PCP in June, she included magnesium testing in my blood work. Of course my levels were low, and she suggested magnesium oxide, available OTC and very cheap.

Frankly, it did nothing (only 4% of magnesium oxide is bio-available) and then I read up on magnesium and I'm now taking a slow release magnesium chloride.

What magnesium does is release the knotting or tightening in the muscles caused by an imbalance of calcium and magnesium (although we NEED the calcium for our bones).

Glad to say I haven't been awakened by any leg cramps since I started taking it, but I still have occasional back pains, esp. when I'm standing in the kitchen a long time when canning. I'm not sure I'm taking enough, but it will show up on my next blood work later this week.

My doctors say 90% or more of us are deficient in magnesium so if you are having musculature problems or cramping, I suggest asking your doctor to do a blood test for magnesium. DO NOT rely on any recommendation for magnesium oxide, but choose the more absorbable magnesium chloride instead, and/or read The Magnesium Miracle by Dr. Carolyn Dean.  

Health-wise, I'm doing okay since my recent fairly mild heart attack, and I have a follow-up appointment tomorrow at the hospital in NC. I still have lots of bruises from all the heparin shots, and the place where they went into the femoral artery has lots of sore muscles around it still, although the incision has healed. I've been restricted from driving or lifting anything heavier than a half-gallon of milk, have a Home Nurse 2X a week, and PT 2X a week because I've fallen a few times for no reason.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sorry I've been AWOL. I had a heart attack 10 days ago and have been in the hospital until last night, and I'm recovering slowly but nicely. The good news is that my cholesterol is low (154 down from nearly 400 several years ago, thanks to diet), and a heart cath showed no blockages.

I'm on bed rest for 2 weeks, and no driving until then. I probably won't post much in the next 2 weeks as my energy level is rather low.

But, I'll be back!

Friday, July 19, 2013


I needed some sultanas (golden raisins) for a recipe, and came across this on the 'Net.

Feds vs. Raisins

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Making real vinegar

Last year I started some basil vinegar, using ruby basil and Bragg's apple cider vinegar. Neglected over the fall, winter and spring months in my cupboard, it developed 2 lovely thick layers of "mother" which can now be used to make more real vinegar from wine. There's a BIG difference in real vinegar vs. the chemically-laden distilled vinegar at the store (although I do buy and use that as a disinfectant).

2 weeks ago, I strained off the lovely pink vinegar, and covered the mother with about half a bottle of left-over white wine I had on hand to keep it from drying out. That has already turned pink (shown above),  meaning it will probably carry some of the basil taste when the alcohol in the wine turns into acetic acid (vinegar). Who needs that much ruby basil vinegar? Well, there are always occasions for homemade gifts!

I have some raspberry wine I made in a 3 gallon carboy 2 years ago (and is still in the carboy) and I'm thinking to put some of that in mason jars, adding a piece of the "basil" flavored mother, hoping that the 2nd round of the mother in white wine will have diluted the basil flavor, or is at least over-ridden by the raspberry flavor.

I also grew some mother in a mason jar of apple cores and peels in water over the winter, using no ACV starter. Those nasty little fruit flies develop what's called acetobacter that make acetic acid (vinegar). That batch is cloudy but smells/tastes okay, and should be a good mother to make more real vinegar.

In the last 3 weeks I have taken shortcuts to making flavored vinegars, mainly for salads or to splash on cooked vegetables. I use organic champagne vinegar as the base, and steep various herbs or fruits in it. The Provençal vinegar (rosemary and thyme sprigs, fresh orange and lemon peel and a garlic clove), smells the best but it needs to steep another month before use.

The other recent flavored vinegars I just made with a champagne vinegar base are chive blossom vinegar, tarragon vinegar, and regular basil vinegar.

I just ordered more organic champagne vinegar from a winery in California, but it is quite expensive, more costly than a decent wine. Walmart sells a cheap bottled wine for $2.97, and only the alcohol portion is necessary to make real vinegar since the wine taste doesn't metter.  

So, I'm really hoping I can convert more of my various homemade fruit wines to vinegar using my "newly grown" mother. I don't drink anymore, but I do use EVOO and vinegars on my salads. I don't buy salad dressings at the store anymore... too many fake ingredients not good for my health.

Monday, July 8, 2013

New dog, Nerve-wracking

About 2-3 weeks ago my sister's dog, a mostly herding dog of some sort, came home with a puppy about 8 months old. Calls to the animal shelter for lost dogs, and checking the neighbors and the newspaper didn't turn up anyone missing her.

The pup, who looked like a part chocolate lab, promptly adopted me, and despite the cost of shots, good food, flea and tick treatment, and licensing, she was so loveable that I thought I'd keep her.

Three weeks and $3,000 in chewed items later (including my hand-woven and signed oriental rug, my watch, some clothing and countless other things she could get in her mouth) I'd had enough. She aggravated my sister's dog so much that he didn't want to go outside, and pooped in her part of the house which he hadn't done in more than a year since she got him.

A woman from Lab Rescue came and picked the pup up this morning.

I'll miss the dog because she was so sweet. I WILL NOT miss the mess.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Whew, almost back to Normal... and Peaches!

Computer is now fixed, and I downloaded software so I can read all my research notes and my recipes again. However, my CapTel (captioned telephone) still isn't working; not the fault of the telephone itself but rather the VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) box that runs it.

The VOIP box is an Ooma Telo, and their customer service is the pits. After getting no help from repeated emails and calls to them from a neighbor's phone for a week or more, I gave up. I bought the Ooma box through Amazon so I finally contacted Amazon. With no hesitation, Amazon is replacing the unit at no charge. I hope the new one works longer than the 3 weeks the first one worked.

With as much catching up I have to do, I also have a trip away next week, so I'll still be behind and scarce in posting for another week. A Virginia friend is picking me up after my doctor's appointment in Winston-Salem, NC next Monday afternoon, and we are going to upstate South Carolina around the Gaffney area for peaches. A gardening friend there is giving us a place to sleep.

If you have never tasted a freshly picked ripe South Carolina peach, you have missed a really big treat, nothing like you can taste in cold-storage peaches from the grocery stores. Georgia calls itself "The Peach State" but SC grows and sells more than twice as many peaches as Georgia. Several years ago when I still lived in Georgia, I took a bushel of huge SC peaches to a garden gathering in Tennessee, and they were gobbled up like hotcakes. I haven't had really good peaches since then.

My onerous chore for this weekend is to wash canning jars in preparation for the peaches. Peaches do not keep well, so I will have to process mine as soon as I get them home. I plan to make peach chutney (some mild, and some spicy) and perhaps make some peach curd and maybe even peach vinegar for summer fruit salads. Any remaining peaches that I don't eat fresh will be canned in very light syrup.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Celebrating July 4th

Fourth of July Celebrations

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. "   

 ~Erma Bombeck

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lots of Money for 2 meals and a tour

I certainly appreciate all Joel Salatin has done to bring awareness of real foods to our communities. However, this seems like an indecent charge for breakfast and lunch, plus a few hours of his time in a hay wagon. They used to limit the attendance to 100, but even if that's all they still allow, 100 people x $250 each (if they register early) is $25,000 for a day, less expenses for 2 meals, but still makes a very profitable day for a farmer.

I guess I've become jaded at those who are greedy about making money off the very necessary fight to get real foods back into our system.

Celebration! At Polyface - Premium, September 7, 2013  
Farmstead Breakfast, Lunch & Premium Tour with Joel Salatin
8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. at Polyface Farm, Swoope, VA

Early Bird Tickets: $250 per adult ($100 per child under 10)

Experience the early morning magic of Polyface, with breakfast, lunch and an in depth 2 ½ hour hay wagon tour with America's most famous farmer.

Here's what's in store for you:
    •    Farmstead Breakfast with Polyface Fare
    •    2½-hour Premium Hay Wagon Tour with Joel Salatin
    •    Farmstead Lunch with the Salatin Family, Staff and Interns
    •    Winetasting - Virginia and Organic Wines
    •    $10 Polyface Farm Store Gift Certificate
    •    Children's Activities
    •    6 Hours of Polyface Bliss!
    •    Remarks from Special Guests - Sally Fallon Morell, Robb Wolf, Jenny McGruther and more!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Encounter with McDonald's Fast Food

I never eat fast food. It's against all my principals, but very occasionally I'm on the road without having prepared some foods from home to take with me.

This week was a good example. I overslept on the day I needed to take my computer downstate for repairs, so about halfway there, I actually stopped at a McDonald's. Being really hungry, I ordered their "Big Breakfast" which is eggs, sausage, pancakes, a biscuit and a fried hash browns patty.

Imagine my surprise when the condiments supplied with the meal included 2 sealed containers for the pancakes and biscuit marked "margarine" and the syrup marked "flavored high fructose corn syrup". I took them back to the counter, saying I don't, and won't, eat that fake stuff.

Not that it registered on the kids who work the counter at McD's...

The eggs weren't too bad even though factory eggs have little to offer nutritionally, and the thin sausage patty was in the same category. The hash brown patty soaked so much grease onto the plate (either canola oil or soybean oil) that I refused to eat it... same with the biscuit.

Is it any wonder our population who generally depend on fast food has become obese??

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Computer working, BUT...

I spent 6 hours on the road yesterday, to and from the Apple store in Greensboro, NC, plus an additional 3+ hours with the Techies at the store.

Result? Computer is now functional again, but until I have the $$ to buy a newer version of Microsoft Office for Mac, none of my Word files containing all the bits and pieces of research to write about will open. (I also cannot open Excel files, which is where all my financial stuff like bills due and my checkbook resides, but that doesn't affect this blog, just my pocketbook.)


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Computer Crashed...

I'm at the public library, using one of their computers since mine has crashed. 

Unfortunately, all my research data for posts is on my home computer, so I doubt there will be any new posts by me for several days, if then. It's too far (meaning too much gas) to go to the library here every day, and I'd have to start from scratch on research.

I hope you will bear with me through yet another crisis!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cravings 2
I'm concentrating on listening to my body... 

As I was winding down from the recent cravings for grapefruit (which helped balance my body pH), I next got a craving for sardines!

Sardines??? Yep, sardines. Sardines in olive oil. Not sardines in tomato sauce, not sardines in mustard sauce, not sardines in safflower, safflower, canola or other oils, not sardines in water, but sardines in olive oil.

I don't remember when I first ate sardines but it sure wasn't with my family when I was growing up. In the beginning I only ate skinless and boneless tinned sardines, and then I learned how much nutrition (like calcium) is in the bones... and I found the bones are soft without any crunch so you don't even realize you are eating them.

These days I always keep a few tins of sardines in my pantry. They make a great survival food, packing a lot of nutrition in a small tin and don't take up much space in the pantry. They are also handy when I need to eat something NOW (like when I haven't planned ahead for a meal).

So, I had sardines piled on saltine crackers last night, along with a big salad. As I was eating them, I realized why I was craving sardines... My most recent hospital stay was due to a high count of ammonia in my bloodwork. One of the things that can cause that problem is from an abundance of proteins that don't fully digest, and frankly my diet is fairly high in proteins. 

The main protein I eat is from grass-fed beef, which is high in Omega-3. Cutting back on  protein per my doctor's advice, has also cut the amount of Omega-3 in my diet. Sardines are high in Omega-3, Calcium, Selenium (a component of the antioxidant enzymes), Vitamin D, and B12. 

Sardines have a high ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3, which I don't much like, but I really don't eat them that often. Anchovies have all the good things that sardines have... and a great ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3, but not something I'd sit down and eat a tin of them. Too salty, for one thing.

I have never lived where fresh sardines were available from a fishmonger but I'd love to know how they taste fresh. I see photos of sardines on the grille that look very appealing, and sardines cooked/served in a variety of other ways.

I guess I'll dream of going to Portugal...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Photo by 

We've probably all gone through cravings as we've cleaned up our diets. A big one for me was the craving for sugary sweets, but eventually that went away. Same with carbonated sodas, caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes. All addictions, with some harder to give up than others.

But, I think our bodies tell us when we are lacking in something, and that's different than the cravings we have for things that are addictive but not good for our bodies and basic health.

For about 3 weeks now I have craved grapefruit, and I finally realized it's my body's attempt to get back to a good pH balance. Most of our American diets are strong in acidic pH foods rather than a balanced pH. 

Although most folks think of citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit) as acidic, in fact once in our systems they are alkaline. I'm speaking of fresh fruits here; concentrated fruit juices and processed fruits are NOT alkaline.

Over the course of 3 weeks of eating a whole grapefruit every day, the craving is almost gone and I feel a lot better!

Monday, June 17, 2013

How I Got Hooked on Weeds...

Another case of where someone else says it better... I'm discovering the benefits of edible weeds. Good thing, because my yard and gardens are full of them! (I have made a few posts about them over the last few years but you'd need to enter "weeds" in the search box on the right column to locate them.)

How I Got Hooked on Weeds—and Why You Should, Too

When I moved to a small organic farm in 2004, I quickly got hooked on weeds (note plural). First, there would be salads of chickweed—a grassy-tasting plant that popped up just after the ground thawed in spring. Next, from the marshy banks of a creek, tender, peppery watercress would sprout. Soon after, dandelion greens would proliferate, adding a bitter note to those spring weed salads. And then, along an old wood road up the forested mountainside, would come a flush of stinging nettle—we'd harvest the leaves with gloves, boil their sting away, and add them to pastas and pizzas. Finally, by high summer, my favorite weeds of all would emerge from plowed fields: a high-rising, spinach-related green called lamb's quarters, and a low-slung, creeping plant called purslane, with its succulent, lemony leaves.

We never found much of a market for these delicacies (save for the watercress, which chefs loved). But they became staples of the farmhouse kitchen, supplements to the cultivated greens that went mainly to the farmers market and to our CSA shareholders. Now that I spend more of my time off the farm and in a city, one of the things I miss most is easy access to these flavorful wild foods.

Turns out, the void I'm feeling may be more than aesthetic. According to an op-ed by Jo Robinson in the Sunday New York Times, wild edible plants tend to be loaded with phytonutrients, "the compounds with the potential to reduce the risk of four of our modern scourges: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia."

And most cultivated crops—even celebrated healthy foods like spinach and blueberries—are pale copies of their wild progenitors in phytochemical terms, Robinson shows, adding some eye-popping infographics for emphasis. She is not talking about the small but significant decline in nutrient density since the industrialization of agriculture half a century ago, but rather a steep drop in phytonutrients that began when we "stopped foraging for wild plants some 10,000 years ago and became farmers." Robinson writes:

    Each fruit and vegetable in our stores has a unique history of nutrient loss, I've discovered, but there are two common themes. Throughout the ages, our farming ancestors have chosen the least bitter plants to grow in their gardens. It is now known that many of the most beneficial phytonutrients have a bitter, sour or astringent taste. Second, early farmers favored plants that were relatively low in fiber and high in sugar, starch and oil. These energy-dense plants were pleasurable to eat and provided the calories needed to fuel a strenuous lifestyle. The more palatable our fruits and vegetables became, however, the less advantageous they were for our health.

I would push back against the inverse relationship Robinson posits between palatability and nutrition. I imagine that we've lost a lot of flavor in the ages-old quest to breed for sweetness—and in the last 100 years or so, we've definitely lost still more by breeding for portability and shelf life. I would argue that flavor has declined along with nutrient density. 

Few people would choose modern supermarket tomatoes bred to last for weeks post-harvest over old varieties selected to taste good when eaten quickly. And weeds play a role in some of the globe's most celebrated cuisines. I wouldn't want to imagine Mexico's street food without tlacoyos con quelites (lamb's quarters) or Italy without ravioli d'ortica (stinging nettles). There's no puritanical trade-off here. (Patience Gray's classic Honey from a Weed demonstrates how vital weeds remain in southern European cooking, and Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson's recent The Longevity Kitchen offers plenty of good recipes for them).

That caveat aside, what do we do with Robinson's message about the loss of phytonutrients? Obviously, we can't all suddenly become hunter-gatherers, stalking city parks for hidden bounty (though a fellow who calls himself "Wildman" will take you on a foraging tour of Manhattan's Central Park). Nor can we all live on small organic farms surrounded by woodlands.

But what we can do is start seeking out varieties of fruits and vegetables that haven't been bred to be insipidly sweet or high-yielding. Robinson suggests arugula as an example—it was a Mediterranean weed until very recently. Arugula is "very similar to its wild ancestor," she notes, and "rich in cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates and higher in antioxidant activity than many green lettuces." Robinson also points to herbs, which she calls "wild plants incognito." That is, they much more closely resemble their wild antecedents than do, say, modern apples or tomatoes or corn. She adds: "We've long valued them for their intense flavors and aroma, which is why they've not been given a flavor makeover. Because we've left them well enough alone, their phytonutrient content has remained intact." Robinson's paean to herbs reminded me of my love for parsley, and how I've come to shower it on every meal, and even give it the starring role in a salad.

But here's the thing about arugula and fresh herbs: They're fantastic when you can get them recently picked, but dull when you find them in in little plastic bags shipped cross-country. And if Robinson is right that "many of the most beneficial phytonutrients have a bitter, sour or astringent taste," I wonder if phytonutrient content doesn't degrade along with flavor on those long trips.

That got me to thinking that one of the unsung benefits of the explosion of farmers markets and CSAs over the past 20 years is that it's giving more and more people access to vegetables bred for things besides just sweetness, shelf life, and portability. We might not sell much in the way of lamb's quarters at Maverick Farms (the North Carolina farm I'm involved with), but we can never grow enough of our famously spicy arugula to satisfy demand. And like many farms that sell to neighboring communities, we favor tomato varieties that balance sweetness with acidity—and may well deliver an extra jolt of phytonutrients because of it.

And small farms can deliver actual weeds, too. Just last weekend, at the Saturday farmstand of Austin's wonderful Boggy Creek Farm, I found nestled in the back a display featuring just-picked bunches of lamb's quarters and purslane. So I finally got my fix of weeds right here in the city—ever since, I've been making salads combining those two wild edibles with some parsley I also picked up at Boggy.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Raised Beds

Several years ago I made a straw bale garden, basically as a how-to for someone with limited mobility or even wheel-chair bound. It was pretty successful for growing vegetables, but I didn't repeat it due to all the weed seeds in the bales. I fought those damned weeds for 3+ more years.

About the same time, I saw an ad in the local paper for free small Japanese cedar shipping crates and I picked up about a dozen. My plan was to dismantle them and use the cedar slats for a chicken house, but taking just one apart was a nightmare. They used so many staples in the construction that much of the cedar split when taking one apart, and the wood was not useable except as kindling. 

The remaining crates have been just sitting in a stack at the end of the driveway for several years. 

Since my health has diminished, I finally decided to cut the crates down and use them for raised beds and make gardening/weeding a bit easier on this old woman.

This is the start of my small raised beds made from those Japanese cedar boxes. I'm still debating whether to put the cut-off tops in another row or two since they are the same size. I could nail the lids back on the tops and invert them so they'd all have bottoms but if I do, those would sit directly on the ground and perhaps rot sooner. (Not that that's a problem.) The bottom pieces (shown in the pics above) have 2x4's as part of the support under them, probably to make them easier to move with a forklift when they were full of car parts.

The bags and containers sitting in the crates are amendments (organic compost, worm castings, Greensand, Azomite, CalPhos, etc.) that I will add when I get a load of topsoil. The single crate with dirt already in it is lined with hardware cloth (welded wire mesh) and planted with sweet potato slips. I'm not sure that box is deep enough for root vegetables though, but I didn't have enough hardware cloth for one of the deeper boxes I cut specifically for root veggies.

All the boxes will get lined with fiberglass screening to keep most of the dirt from filtering out through the gaps in the slats. 

I have a few more crates sitting around that I can use if necessary to expand the raised bed area... some are on the front porch holding paper to start fires, kindling, and firewood. Keeps the porch looking less messy!

There is a mfg. plant about 40 miles up the road that imports rack and pinion parts from Japan, and they are shipped here in those crates. When I moved here in 2006, the crates were free and I got a bunch. I understand they now charge $10 for them.

Actually, getting two small raised beds out of one $10 crate is pretty cheap. I doubt I could buy the lumber for $10.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I have artichokes growing!

I have 3 artichokes growing on one plant in my weedy garden!

I didn't believe it was possible in my 5B zone, but sometimes I try to push the envelope anyway. The summer before last, I bought 2 artichoke seedlings about 4" tall from a big box store. One was dead within a week, but the other one seemed to thrive.

Everything I read said the artichoke makes fruit in it's second year, which was last summer for this plant. Mine produced nothing last summer, and in fact I was surprised it survived the winter. However, I let it grow anyway.

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I discovered it now has 3 artichokes growing on it! I just hope they grow large enough to harvest.

My favorite way to eat them is boiled, cooled, and leaf tips dipped in a quick blender bernaise. (Not an original recipe by me, but I've had it at least 10 years. It's really GOOD!)

Blender Bernaise

Makes 3/4 to 1 cup

2 tablespoons white wine
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped tarragon
2 teaspoons chopped shallots
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup butter
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Combine wine, vinegar, tarragon, shallots and pepper in a small skillet. Bring to a boil and cook rapidly until almost all liquid disappears. In a small saucepan, heat the butter to bubbling but DO NOT brown.

Place egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne in a blender; cover, and flick on and off gradually until mixture is combined. With the blender on low, gradually add the hot butter. Add the herb mixture and blend on high speed for about 4 seconds.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. May refrigerate but cover with plastic wrap to keep a skin from forming.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Some things are Better Said by Others

Some people just say it much better than I can...

Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food

WE like the idea that food can be the answer to our ills, that if we eat nutritious foods we won’t need medicine or supplements. We have valued this notion for a long, long time. The Greek physician Hippocrates proclaimed nearly 2,500 years ago: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Today, medical experts concur. If we heap our plates with fresh fruits and vegetables, they tell us, we will come closer to optimum health.

This health directive needs to be revised. If we want to get maximum health benefits from fruits and vegetables, we must choose the right varieties. Studies published within the past 15 years show that much of our produce is relatively low in phytonutrients, which are the compounds with the potential to reduce the risk of four of our modern scourges: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia. The loss of these beneficial nutrients did not begin 50 or 100 years ago, as many assume. Unwittingly, we have been stripping phytonutrients from our diet since we stopped foraging for wild plants some 10,000 years ago and became farmers.

These insights have been made possible by new technology that has allowed researchers to compare the phytonutrient content of wild plants with the produce in our supermarkets. The results are startling.

Wild dandelions, once a springtime treat for Native Americans, have seven times more phytonutrients than spinach, which we consider a “superfood.” A purple potato native to Peru has 28 times more cancer-fighting anthocyanins than common russet potatoes. One species of apple has a staggering 100 times more phytonutrients than the Golden Delicious displayed in our supermarkets. (I'm sorry she didn't name the apple variety in this article.)

Were the people who foraged for these wild foods healthier than we are today? They did not live nearly as long as we do, but growing evidence suggests that they were much less likely to die from degenerative diseases, even the minority who lived 70 years and more. The primary cause of death for most adults, according to anthropologists, was injury and infections.

Each fruit and vegetable in our stores has a unique history of nutrient loss, I’ve discovered, but there are two common themes. Throughout the ages, our farming ancestors have chosen the least bitter plants to grow in their gardens. It is now known that many of the most beneficial phytonutrients have a bitter, sour or astringent taste. Second, early farmers favored plants that were relatively low in fiber and high in sugar, starch and oil. These energy-dense plants were pleasurable to eat and provided the calories needed to fuel a strenuous lifestyle. The more palatable our fruits and vegetables became, however, the less advantageous they were for our health.

The sweet corn that we serve at summer dinners illustrates both of these trends. The wild ancestor of our present-day corn is a grassy plant called teosinte. It is hard to see the family resemblance. Teosinte is a bushy plant with short spikes of grain instead of ears, and each spike has only 5 to 12 kernels. The kernels are encased in shells so dense you’d need a hammer to crack them open. Once you extract the kernels, you wonder why you bothered. The dry tidbit of food is a lot of starch and little sugar. Teosinte has 10 times more protein than the corn we eat today, but it was not soft or sweet enough to tempt our ancestors.

Over several thousand years, teosinte underwent several spontaneous mutations. Nature’s rewriting of the genome freed the kernels of their cases and turned a spike of grain into a cob with kernels of many colors. Our ancestors decided that this transformed corn was tasty enough to plant in their gardens. By the 1400s, corn was central to the diet of people living throughout Mexico and the Americas.

When European colonists first arrived in North America, they came upon what they called “Indian corn.” John Winthrop Jr., governor of the colony of Connecticut in the mid-1600s, observed that American Indians grew “corne with great variety of colours,” citing “red, yellow, blew, olive colour, and greenish, and some very black and some of intermediate degrees.” A few centuries later, we would learn that black, red and blue corn is rich in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have the potential to fight cancer, calm inflammation, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, protect the aging brain, and reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

European settlers were content with this colorful corn until the summer of 1779 when they found something more delectable — a yellow variety with sweeter and more tender kernels. This unusual variety came to light that year after George Washington ordered a scorched-earth campaign against Iroquois tribes. While the militia was destroying the food caches of the Iroquois and burning their crops, soldiers came across a field of extra-sweet yellow corn. According to one account, a lieutenant named Richard Bagnal took home some seeds to share with others. Our old-fashioned sweet corn is a direct descendant of these spoils of war.

Up until this time, nature had been the primary change agent in remaking corn. Farmers began to play a more active role in the 19th century. In 1836, Noyes Darling, a onetime mayor of New Haven, and a gentleman farmer, was the first to use scientific methods to breed a new variety of corn. His goal was to create a sweet, all-white variety that was “fit for boiling” by mid-July.

He succeeded, noting with pride that he had rid sweet corn of “the disadvantage of being yellow.

The disadvantage of being yellow, we now know, had been an advantage to human health. Corn with deep yellow kernels, including the yellow corn available in our grocery stores, has nearly 60 times more beta-carotene than white corn, valuable because it turns to Vitamin A in the body, which helps vision and the immune system.

SUPERSWEET corn, which now outsells all other kinds of corn, was derived from spontaneous mutations that were selected for their high sugar content. In 1959, a geneticist named John Laughnan was studying a handful of mutant kernels and popped a few into his mouth. He was startled by their intense sweetness. Lab tests showed that they were up to 10 times sweeter than ordinary sweet corn.

Mr. Laughnan was not a plant breeder, but he realized at once that this mutant corn would revolutionize the sweet corn industry. He became an entrepreneur overnight and spent years developing commercial varieties of supersweet corn. His first hybrids began to be sold in 1961. This appears to be the first genetically modified food to enter the United States food supply, an event that has received scant attention.

Within one generation, the new extra sugary varieties eclipsed old-fashioned sweet corn in the marketplace. Build a sweeter fruit or vegetable — by any means — and we will come. Today, most of the fresh corn in our supermarkets is extra-sweet. The kernels are either white, pale yellow, or a combination of the two. The sweetest varieties approach 40 percent sugar, bringing new meaning to the words “candy corn.” Only a handful of farmers in the United States specialize in multicolored Indian corn, and it is generally sold for seasonal decorations, not food.

We’ve reduced the nutrients and increased the sugar and starch content of hundreds of other fruits and vegetables. How can we begin to recoup the losses?

Here are some suggestions to get you started. Select corn with deep yellow kernels. To recapture the lost anthocyanins and beta-carotene, cook with blue, red or purple cornmeal, which is available in some supermarkets and on the Internet. Make a stack of blue cornmeal pancakes for Sunday breakfast and top with maple syrup.

In the lettuce section, look for arugula. Arugula, also called salad rocket, is very similar to its wild ancestor. Some varieties were domesticated as recently as the 1970s, thousands of years after most fruits and vegetables had come under our sway. The greens are rich in cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates and higher in antioxidant activity than many green lettuces.

Scallions, or green onions, are jewels of nutrition hiding in plain sight. They resemble wild onions and are just as good for you. Remarkably, they have more than five times more phytonutrients than many common onions do. The green portions of scallions are more nutritious than the white bulbs, so use the entire plant. Herbs are wild plants incognito. We’ve long valued them for their intense flavors and aroma, which is why they’ve not been given a flavor makeover. Because we’ve left them well enough alone, their phytonutrient content has remained intact.

Experiment with using large quantities of mild-tasting fresh herbs. Add one cup of mixed chopped Italian parsley and basil to a pound of ground grass-fed beef or poultry to make “herb-burgers.” Herbs bring back missing phytonutrients and a touch of wild flavor as well.

The United States Department of Agriculture exerts far more effort developing disease-resistant fruits and vegetables than creating new varieties to enhance the disease resistance of consumers. In fact, I’ve interviewed U.S.D.A. plant breeders who have spent a decade or more developing a new variety of pear or carrot without once measuring its nutritional content.

We can’t increase the health benefits of our produce if we don’t know which nutrients it contains. Ultimately, we need more than an admonition to eat a greater quantity of fruits and vegetables: we need more fruits and vegetables that have the nutrients we require for optimum health.

Jo Robinson is the author of the forthcoming book “Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health.