In This Week’s Beet Box:
- New Produce: Sweet Corn! Parsley! Yellow Finn Potatoes!
- The Not So Sweet News About Sweet Corn
In your share this week:
- Sweet Corn
- Tomatoes – Red & Heirloom
- Yellow Finn Potatoes
This means that some pickup sites will receive it this week, others next week – or in a future week.
- Sweet Peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Green Beans
NEW PRODUCE OF THE WEEK
Sweet Corn: The quintessential, Americana, summer food – and for once it’s actually ripe in time for summer! We usually we don’t get our first ears of sweet corn until September once summer is already on the wane, but this year it’s here in time for prime BBQ season, alongside tomatoes, green beans, and potatoes (to round out the picture-perfect American picnic). The ears are on the small side (I think due to a combination of factors: 1) we transplanted our early corn, which is semi-stressful for the plants, and 2) we didn’t give them an extra helping of organic fertilizer this year, and corn likes a lot of nitrogen). On the bright side, there’s a nice heap of those ears in your tote, so hopefully numbers will make up for size this week.
We tend to eat our corn one of three ways: 1) raw, straight off the cob, while standing in the middle of the field on a summer evening, legs splayed, happy half-grin on face; 2) shucked and steamed lightly and rolled in the butter; 3) grilled with the husk on: http://bbq.about.com/od/vegetablerecipes/r/bln0218a.htm
If you don’t like to gnaw it off the cob, I also like to make a fresh tomato and corn salad. You can put whatever herbs you like in it (basil, parsley, etc.). Cut up tomatoes, cut the raw (or lightly steamed) corn off the cob, add some feta or fresh mozzarella, olive oil, vinegar, salt & pepper, maybe some cucumbers – and you’ve got a festive insta-salad.
Eat your corn sooner than later; the sugars convert to starch over time, so the sooner, the sweeter, the better. Store it in the fridge to slow down the sugar-to-starch process.
Parsley: You’ll either see Italian flat-leaf parsley or curly parsley this week (and depending on which you get, you’ll receive the other type next time). I thought the parsley and potatoes would be good comrades.
Keep your parsley in a bag in the fridge, or in a glass of water and covered in the fridge.
Yellow Finn Potatoes: Yellow Finns are our favorite, reliable standby in the potato world. They are versatile and delicious any way you cook them (mashed, steamed, roasted, fried, au gratined, hashed, saladed, pancaked, latke-d, stuffed, baked. And so on.) They also are a great keeper in cold storage, so we grow a lot of them to see us through the late fall and winter (they actually get sweeter in cold storage). You’ll see them many more times this season.
Best to store this batch in the fridge, as the skins haven’t fully cured yet.
The Not So Sweet News about Sweet Corn
My father-in-law, like many of us, is highly concerned about GMOs (genetically modified organisms: plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals) in our food supply. And for good reason: in the U.S., GMOs are in as much as 80% of conventional processed food (yes, even if you think you’re not, you are already eating GMOs, probably everyday).
Almost all of the corn and soy (the underpinnings of America’s processed food industry) is GMO in the U.S. (88% and 94%, respectively, in 2011). So that bag of Fritos, or the low-sugar yogurt that’s made with aspartame instead, or the fruit juice with ascorbic acid, or the soda with high fructose corn syrup, or the chips fried in canola/soybean/corn oil, or anything with natural or artificial flavorings is most likely made with GMO ingredients (assuming it's not certified organic; GMO ingredients are prohibited in organic foods).
My father-in-law, like many of us, thinks it’s an outrage, especially since most other developed nations – like Australia, Japan, and all of the EU nations - do not consider GMOs to be safe (for human health or the environment) and have implemented outright bans or major restrictions on the production and sale of GMOs.
The only fresh foods I knew to be GMO were conventionally grown papayas and zucchini/summer squash. So when my father-in-law started talking about GMO sweet corn on his last visit, I was curious. He is prone to conspiracy theories now and then, and I figured he was mistakenly lumping sweet corn in with all the GMO soybeans and “cow corn” they grow by the square mile in the Midwest - for animal feed and to make all those unprounce-able ingredients in processed foods: Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Citrate, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Xanthan Gum, etc.
Finally this week, as I was harvesting our first ears of sweet corn, I was impelled to do a little research. And I was disappointed to learn that my father-in-law was right. GMO sweet corn was widely introduced into the market (in grocery stores, farmers markets, farmstands) last year. 250,000 acres were grown, accounting for over 40% of the market.
Which means that if you want to enjoy GMO-free sweet corn from now on, you have a task ahead of you as a consumer. It’s everywhere, and in everything. The Non-GMO Project, which does education and certifies GMO-free foods, has compiled a list of brands that pass their no-GMO test: http://www.nongmoproject.org/find-non-gmo/search-participating-products/...
Eating Valley Flora corn is also good bet. We farm in an isolated pocket where there isn’t much risk of drift (because there aren’t any other corn farmers in the neighborhood) and we farm organically. That said, seed testing is now showing that virtually all of the seed corn in the U.S. has at least traces of GMO contamination, if not more. So the corn seed I buy every year, even if it is organic, is most likely contaminated to some extent.
Pandora’s box has been opened. If you are concerned as a consumer, you can learn more and take action at: http://www.nongmoproject.org/2012/08/29/gmo-sweet-corn-anything-but-sweet/
What’s the worry about GMOs? Some of the concerns include:
- Human health issues. Studies in animals fed GMOs have shown organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune disorders, allergic reactions, accelerated aging, and infertility.
- Environmental issues. Most GMOs are engineered for herbicide tolerance and the agricultural use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. GMO crops can also spawn “super weeds” and “super bugs” that don’t respond to spraying. Plus, the long-term impacts of GMOs are unknown, and once they’re let of the lab, there’s no stuffing them back in.
- Farmer rights. Believe it or not, a farmer in Canada, Percy Schmeiser, was sued for patent infringement by Monsanto when GMO pollen drifted from a neighboring field and contaminated his canola crop. Monsanto won, striking a huge blow to farmer sovereignty. For organic farmers, GMO contamination is a huge concern because they can lose their certification and their price premium due to uncontrollable drift.
- Consumer rights. Consumers should have the right to know what's in their food, but there is no GMO labeling law in the U.S. That’s in spite of the fact that 91% of Americans say they want GMOs to be labeled (according to a 2012 poll).
Learn more at:
The Valley Flora Crystal Ball: What MIGHT be in your share next week…
No promises, but your tote might include some of the following NEXT week:
- Head lettuce
- Hot Peppers
- Lacinato Kale
Please note: all of our produce is field-rinsed, not washed. We recommend you wash all of your produce before eating it.
For recipes and ideas, check out these links:
Our own collection of recipes, where you can contribute and share your favorites
Our website’s recipe “search engine,” where you can hunt down recipes by ingredient
A vast collection of recipes, searchable by one or multiple ingredients
A storehouse of recipes, searchable by ingredient
A Washington farm that has a good collection of seasonal recipes