Food Security

Posted by: admin  :  Category: Environment, good news, green gardening, green living, Healthy Eating

How secure is our food system? I am not talking about the Listeria outbreaks that are on the news lately, or the genetically engineered foods that also pose major health and environmental risks.  I don’t think the major risks are associated with terrorist plots, or regulations in animal husbandry either.  The most pressing issue is actually simple.  Our food source is not secure in North America! 06 06 09 farmers market 003

A visit to any major grocery store reveals that  most of the food on the shelves is not grown or packaged locally. The majority of fresh food today comes from other continents, especially in mid winter.   Not even a generation ago this was not the case.  Most of the fresh fruit and vegetables we ate growing up was grown in Canada and the United States, with a majority of the fruit coming from California and Florida.

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A simple Google search will reveal dozens of news articles about the successive droughts in California’s central valley, which has been known as the American “Breadbasket”.

No water means crops can’t grow, farmers can not continue without crops to sell, and we are forced to seek out food from central, south America, and Asia.

Most fruit that is imported has travelled thousands of miles, probably more then the average person who buys it from the grocery store.  The fact remains that if there was some type of disruption in the system , the food on the stores shelf’s would be gone within 48 hours.

Some other startling statistics are that for every dollar we spend only 6 cents goes to the farmer. In North America we spend about 10% of our income on food, while in developing nations they spend between 30- 60%!

For solutions we need to start in our own backyards. Growing our own food, buying from local farmers at farmers markets, joining food sharing projects like many that have sprouted up all over North America.

In my city there is something called The Biggest Little Garden in Town this initiative targets condo and apartment dwellers who want to grow in small spaces. Providing them with all the means and support to do exactly that.

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Many communities now run “fruit tree sharing projects” that have community members picking fruit that would otherwise be waisted. This fruit is gathered and delivered to food banks and community kitchens where it is distributed and preserved in workshops designed to teach the public how to do this at home.  Literally thousands of pounds of fruit have been gathered last year alone.

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Corporations are also getting involved by sending groups that want to participate in the community and build teamwork in their own companies.  Senior’s, families, people with knowledge to share, or who are interested in learning more can all come together to create and share what is inherit to all of us. Food is a staple in life, and finding a local and reliable sources is becoming a priority for more and more people.

There are many ways average people can get involved to help make food more secure. Take advantage of the abundance that is in your own neighbourhood and seek out ways to get involved in the food scene in your own city. Once you start looking you will be amazed just what you may find.

We’re jamming

Posted by: admin  :  Category: B.C., Environment, green gardening, green living, Healthy Eating

Not the Bob Marley kind, the fruit kind!

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Last week in the blazing sun I decided to harvest our plum tree.

Well it was not my decision exactly. The plums were dropping off the tree at a rate so fast the skunks, squirrels and rats couldn’t keep up!

We gathered about six pounds for our first batch.

Once I had them in the house I needed a recipe. I looked online and was able to find many different ones, some calling for pectin or equal parts sugar to plums. There are various ideas on how to seal the jars once sterilised and how exactly to sterilise the jars in the first place. Luckily I do have some experience in the jamming and canning department as my family made jams and canned tomatoes when I was young. That kind of experience, namely a cold room full of strawberry jam, will have a lasting impression on a kid.

I first decided that I would not add pectin, a gelling agent commonly used in the canning process. Many recipes online said that plums have an enormous amount of pectin naturally and as long as you add some unripe fruit you should have no problem with the jam setting.

I also decided to use the local honey I bought in June from a family near me.

I already had the jars, snap lids, metal canning pot and a strong desire for jam, so I was set!

I washed the fruit, but did not pit it, next time I will, or at least blanch the fruit and pit it first as it is a huge job to remove the pits once the fruit is cooked.

I boiled the fruit in enough water to cover it, on a high temperature.

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Once the fruit was soft I drained and pitted it and returned it to the heat. I  added honey, about one cup to the three cups of fruit pulp. I boiled the mixture again for a while. Many sites recommend using a candy thermometer to check the temperature, but I just went on instinct. The jam thickened.

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While I cooked the jam I  washed the jars  in hot soapy water and boiled them in hot water.  I then put them in the oven on a low temperature to dry for about a half hour. I also boiled the lids and rings to seal the jars.

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I used the standard plate test to check if the jam was set. This simply means you need to put a few plates in the freezer, and once you are ready to test the jam, put a little on a cold plate and return it to the freezer for a few minutes. When you take the jam out run your finger over the jam or slightly push the jam, if it wrinkles it is set, if not, cook a little longer.

07-30-09-plum-jam-003The final step was to pour the jam into the jars,leaving a few fingers width of space on top and  being careful not to touch the inside of the jars with anything as not to contaminate it.  Then add the lids, rings and tighten the jars and put them into the canner and boil for ten minutes.

The end result was two jars of sweet and beautiful plum jam! There is something extra delicious about home made jam on toast, in cookies, or on pancakes.

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a little bit of summer in a jar?

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Now what to do with the rest of them?