A massive hi-tech revolution (see article below for just one example) is underway, threatening the long-term health of our food supply. Take heart! At the same time, a green counter-revolution has been slowly, but steadily gaining ground, along with hearts and minds. If you’d like to learn more about this, we recommend a wonderful book: Growing Roots: The New Generation of Sustainable Farmers, Cooks, and Food Activists by Katherine Leiner.
The book gives first person profiles of young farmers, beekeepers, fishermen, chefs, food activists, cheesemongers, and many more who are living sustainable lives that revolve around whole, natural food. You’ll also meet filmmakers, writers, and artists who change the way we look at what we eat and where our food comes from. You’ll learn how these people got to where they are today and about their passionate relationship to food. The photos are fabulous, as are the simple, delicious recipes.
Another positive development: Many doctors, fed up with “a pill for every ill” are finding that one of the best ways to help patients is to show them how to prepare healthy,‘crave-able’ food. At Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives, a collaboration between Culinary Institute of America and Harvard School of Public Health, practitioners are learning that eating for health is a sensual, not a clinical act. The goal, according to one M.D.: “I want to help my patients not need my services.” “To Heal, First Eat” - read all about it!
Reminder: A number of people have asked how to find past newsletters. They’re just a click away on the News page; look for the Rethinking Cancer Newsletters link.
To your health!
Foundation for Advancement in Cancer Therapy (F.A.C.T.)
Seeds of Controversy
By John Tarleton
Genetically-modified (GM) foods were first introduced on a commercial basis in the United States in the mid-1990’s. The new technology made it possible to splice desirable qualities from one species into another – such as inserting the gene that keeps a flounder from freezing in cold water into a tomato for longer cold temperature storage. The use of GM crops in the United States grew rapidly in the following years with minimal public debate. Today, more than 70 per cent of the food in U.S. supermarkets have GM derivatives, including virtually all processed foods, though the FDA has ruled that no special labeling is required.
Americans are finally waking up to the dangers posed by this incredible proliferation of genetically altered foods, as ballot initiatives demanding labeling are spreading to many states. But GM technology has been and continues to be controversial in other parts of the world, especially in Europe and Africa. Here are some of the reasons why: Read more
The Banana Trick
by Andrea Candee, Master Herbalist
When there is a splinter, sliver of glass, or any other unwanted foreign object under the skin, the customary plan of attack is to go in after it with a sterilized needle. This can be an uncomfortable experience for a young child or a queasy adult, but the alternative is generally to do nothing and hope for the best, risking the possibility of a lingering, painful infection.
Ripe banana peel to the rescue! The peel is rich in enzymes. It is the drawing action of the enzymes that will bring the foreign matter to the surface of the skin. Read more
Spice of the Month: Vanilla
Vanilla (Vanilla fragrans) gets its name from Spanish vainilla meaning “little pod” because it comes from the thin, seed-containing pods of an edible tropical orchid plant. Possessing one of the world’s most enticing flavors, it is the world’s next most expensive spice after saffron and cardamom. It is also among the most popular – 10,000 tons a year – not enough to satisfy demand, which is why imitation vanilla has become a market necessity, though lacking the potency of the real stuff.
The orchid is a very sensuous flower and has an ancient reputation for enhancing romance. Hence, vanilla was often recommended as a tonic for virility, fertility and for aromatizing perfume, cigars and liqueurs. Native to Mexico, the Aztecs treated it as a medicinal charm, prescribed for hysteria and depression (so-called “women’s troubles”), as well as for patients coughing up blood. In 18th century Europe it was popular as a nerve stimulant. 19th Century American medical texts praised its powers to “exhilarate the brain,…increase muscular energy, and stimulate the sexual energies.”
Today, especially in the last two decades, vanilla has been the subject of much scientific investigation because its seeds contain over 200 phytonutrients – bioactive plant compounds which have healing potential for many conditions. Its most studied main constituent, vanillin, which produces the mellow fragrance, has shown promise in cancer and sickle cell anemia. True to its ancient heritage, the spice also has proven aphrodisiac ability – in treating impotency, frigidity, erectile dysfunction and loss of libido – and is valued as an anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory and for its general relaxing and calming effect on the brain and nerves, relieving anxiety and anger.Read more
Home Brew: Vanilla Extract
A lot of commercial “pure” vanilla extracts may contain sugar, corn syrup, caramel or artificial colors as well as stabilizers, and just minimum amounts of low-grade alcohol. To avoid all that stuff and enjoy superior flavor, why not make your own? Here’s how:
- Take 5 – 6 vanilla pods (or more!), slice lengthwise, exposing the seeds.
- Place pods in a clean jar with an airtight lid. A recycled jar (16 oz.) works well. (You can cut pods in shorter pieces, if too long for the container.)
- Pour in enough vodka to cover the beans – any kind of vodka will do (many liquor stores now carry organic!) – and seal tightly. Put it in a cool place out of sunlight. Each day for a week, shake the jar gently, then shake once a week or so for at least 8 weeks, though many aficionados recommend 3 – 5 months for optimum flavor. That’s it!
You can remove the beans or keep them in the jar, adding more vodka as you start using the extract. The beans will continue to add flavor for up to a year, but the extract will last for years. For a unique gift: pour into smaller bottles with a pod or two. Cheers!