Thursday, July 28, 2011

Adventures in Local Eating

This week, thoughtful Marylanders participating in the Buy Local Challenge have been flocking to farmers markets and produce stands. While we here at Just Saying have purchased plenty of local produce since the challenge began on July 23rd, we've also had the pleasure of enjoying our very own locally grown produce harvested from the University of Maryland's Public Health Garden.

Thanks to Mother Nature and the hard work of our partners at the garden and dozens of volunteers throughout the growing season, the Public Health Gardeners harvested several pounds of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, and peppers just before dinner time last night. As always, we sent lots of produce home with volunteers, but this time we held on to several pounds of tomatoes and beans and headed to Baltimore City for an extraordinary adventure in local eating and cooking at a restaurant near and dear to our hearts: Alewife.

Alewife has been in the news recently thanks to a brilliant environmentally-sound endeavor by Chef Chad Wells: serving invasive snakehead fish. If you haven't read about it yet, do so here and here. While we hoped to sample some snakehead ceviche, Wells explained that the fish are currently nesting and spawning in shallow, marshy waters which are out of reach of commercial fisherman.

Previously, the snakehead bycatch had been killed and discarded. Thanks to Steve Vilnit, a fisheries official with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and John Rorapaugh of ProFish, Wells is hopeful that snakeheads will be popping up on local menus and the radar of environmentally-conscious eaters within a few months.

Humbled yet excited by all the press, Wells credits Vilnit for the idea of putting invasive species, specifically the Blue Catfish he recommended to us in place of the snakehead, on the Alewife menu. After engaging our inquiries about sustainable seafood, food safety, local markets and food policy, Wells agreed to create a few one-of-a-kind appetizers (just for us) with the produce from the Public Health Garden and we put in our order for the Blue Catfish Tacos (pictured).

What came out of the kitchen from that point forward was pure, delicious joy. For full details of our unique meal, stay tuned to our sister blog: Adventures in Container Gardening and Local Eating.

Goats: Now on Golf Courses Too!

Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, CA has employed a team of 150 grazing goats to clear 80 years’ worth of non-native plant growth (such as pampas grass and acacia trees) from the canyons and barrancas surrounding the course. Read all about it here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Best and Worst Protein Sources

Last month, the USDA debuted their revised food pyramid in a new form: a food plate. Aside from the shape, one of the most notable differences was that a portion called "protein" replaced the meat portion.

Anyone who avoids (factory farmed) meat has likely spent a fair amount of time researching alternative protein sources and their environmental impact respectively. Lucky for us, the Environmental Working Group has put together a list (and handy pocket guide) of the best and worst protein sources. Here they are:

Five Worst Protein Choices for the Environment:
1.) Lamb
2.) Beef
3.) Cheese

4.) Pork
5.) Farmed Salmon

The carbon footprint from lamb and beef cattle comes mostly from the methane produced through digestion, manure, the crops grown to feed them and the shipping during different stages of production. With pigs, the biggest environmental impact is in their poop and processing. The electricity, feed supplement and air shipping for farmed salmon landed it on the list. Cheese landed on the list due to 'bang for your buck.' Too much environmental impact for too little of a serving for the protein benefit.

Five Best  Protein Sources for the Environment:
1.) Milk
2.) Beans
3.) Tofu
4.) Eggs
5.) Chicken

The good protein choices are a bit more complicated. Tofu still has a big footprint because of the carbon footprint from growing soy beans and processing it into tofu, but it is one-third that of beef. Eggs are still carrying the environmental impact of poultry farms but they offer a lot of protein per serving. Milk, if it is local, is great and beans (and lentils too) are a pretty guilt-free protein source. As far as chicken is concerned, let's just say it is better than beef.  

Find more detailed lists and explanations here and here. And as always, the Environmental Working Group website is an incredible resource for this kind of stuff.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The "How Healthy is Your Ice Cream?" Test

Each year, Americans consume an average of 48 pints of ice cream per person. Unfortunately, not all ice cream recipes are created equal.

To find out where your favorite ranks on the health scale, pull it out of the freezer, take a look at the ingredient list, and check it out via this great infographic from BeFoodSmart.

If there is one big takeaway here, it is the knowledge of an ingredient that should raise more eyebrows than high fructose corn syrup. It is called CASTOREUM and is found in some vanilla and raspberry flavoring. There is no easy way to say this: It is derived from beaver anal glands.


For more frightening 'ingredients' in popular 'foods,' check out WebEcoists 10 Weird and Gross Ingredients in Processed Food.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fly Population in Suburban Neighborhood Under Orange Alert

A few years ago, a colleague of mine from The Baltimore Sun Advertising Department suggested I use more interesting headlines to attract blog readers. He said, "I am not going to look closer at blog post titled 'Frog Friend.'" So this one's for you, Denys Petrov.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Letter From the Blog Editor

This week has been an exceptionally difficult one for our family - both human and animal. The reality of the fragility of life and the far-too-fast passage of time hit home when we said goodbye to CJ, the spotted wonder who brought unconditional love and every other amazing dog power, to our family for more than a decade.

In the late 90s, my sister and I were working at a small restaurant in suburban Maryland called CJ's Pub. One evening, a local farmer stopped into the pub on his way to an animal shelter where he planned to hand over several dalmatian puppies he couldn't sell. In true thoughtful teenage fashion, my sister and I said we would take one of the puppies home and ask permission later. While others cooed over the energetic pups pining for their attention, we saw a shy, mangy little one hiding in the corner, scooped her into our arms, and put her in the backseat of my sister's Honda Civic.

Having never cared for a dog, apart from the occasional back-door visits from our neighbors' golden retriever, we stopped into a store on our ride home and talked about names while we picked out a collar, leash and some food.

I was so blinded by love for this little puppy that I don't remember too much about our mother's reaction except that she never once doubted our decision and immediately called in the dog expert closest to her heart, who is now her husband, and he came up to talk to us about medical care and training.

Over the next years, CJ got to know the cats and cozied up to my mom the most. My sister and I went off to college and my mom and her furry little ones moved down to Virginia. CJ stayed at my mother's side and under her wings while everyone moved out, moved in, got married, got jobs, and got started in their next leg of life. CJ said hello and goodbye to brother animals and adored her dad, a contributor to this blog, DW.

I share this with you today because the loss of our beloved dalmatian - and the realization that an era in our family history has passed as well - is too hard to discuss vocally but too great to internalize. Tears once caught by the fur on CJ's sweet furry face and her kisses, will be shed for her and caught by the shoulders of others who loved and were loved by her.

As time passes and our pain (hopefully) dulls, your patience and support through these emotions will not go unnoticed. While we may not be up to the task of regular posts, submissions for guest posts are welcome and appreciated as are any comforting words or advice.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Is it July already?

Hi there, loyal readers. Apologies for the lack of posts lately. It is a busy time of year for grazing goats and growing gardens. We will be back in the swing of daily posts soon. Thank you for your patience.