Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer vegetable and herb salad

One corn cob trimmed.
One small Japanese eggplant trimmed.

Cook in the summer position for an hour. Can be pre-made and stored in the refrigerator.

Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Trim kernels off the cob, then run the back of the knife over the cob to remove the sweet piths.
1/8 of a pound summer lettuce mix (about half a $2 bag from the Farmers Market.)
Six to eight leaves of basil julienned.
Six olives pits removed and chopped.
Two tomatoes chopped in 1/4 inch cubes.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Two tablespoons olive oil.
One tablespoon white wine vinegar.
One teaspoon balsamic vinegar.

Toss and top with grated cheese like Parmesan.

Spicy summer vegetable relish

One small Japanese Eggplant.
One small Zucchini.
Wash trim and bake in the oven in the summer position for an hour. Or use pre-made and stored from the refrigerator.

Cut into small half inch sections.
Cut a tomato into 1/4 inch sections.
Half a garlic clove chopped fine.
A 1/4 inch serano chili chopped fine.
Two table spoons tomato sauce. This time of the year I use basil in the tomato sauce.
One tablespoon olive oil.
Half of a Mexican lime- squeezed.
Six to eight leaves basil, or mint, or oregano julienned.

Mix and serve with corn tortillas or chips.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Agricultural landuse and transportation policy

We all know that transportation policy leads to sprawl. The leading impetus is road building. By funding roads we do more than make it possible for cars to kill kids trying to cross to school in Half Moon Bay (on the same road that lead to the San Mateo Farm Systems Alliance meeting last week.) Jared Lawson of Pie Ranch adds a caution for turning off HWY 1 to his communications and says that discussions are on going with Caltrans. The consumption of forests through government-promoted road projects and wetland loss result from agricultural expansion..road building, residential development, and the building of large facilities like shopping malls, factories, airports and, ironically, reservoirs. Roads and related impermeabilities increase runoff compromising environmental services of streams, ditches, and oceans with modern agriculture. The result on the coast side is the townless highway, from northcounty to the just south of HMB, and the original SM coast's highwayless towns to the south.

The solution is to use the expected road's traffic envelope based congestion mitigation fees to offset ag land depreciation relative to sprawl. Not locally to improve sprawl's profitability with AB1991 at the expense of existing agricultural practices.

What happens when roads lead to development of what Scott Morrow, Chief Medical Officer, San Mateo, characterized at the SMFSA, as the development of large farms that grow, not for the local community, but Brussel sprouts for distant markets? How is agriculture transformed and what is the impact on nutrition at the local school, another concern of the SFMCA?

Argentina is the throes of living these questions. Following the second financial meltdown of the Bush presidency (California's energy deregulation was the first) many changes have lead to attempts to tackle how the economy was organized over the last 50 years. The most recent item of contention is large farms designed and subsidized for export!

The government imposed a sliding tax on large commodity farms to pay for social programs and encourage agriculture for local consumptions (Local food?). "The tax was designed to generate more revenue for social projects in Argentina, the government says, from the global bonanza in grain exports, especially sales of soy to Asia and Europe. Argentina, with its vast Pampas, is a leading producer of soy, corn, wheat and beef, and the nation has benefited from soaring global food prices. The government said the tax was also meant to encourage the planting of wheat and corn, staples here, instead of export crops such as soy."

Its hard to read the LA Times article because the reporter writes ignorant of the rebirth by fire in Argentina and the issues we faced recently with commodity subsidies. Why wouldn't workers in Argentina expect the same resource redistribution we attempted with the Farm Bill? Do farmers take advantage of large state infrastructure spending on roads, airports, shipping and ports to grow food for distant markets? Is the realigned food distribution system impacting the availability of nutrition at the local school? As large food systems develop around a few crops are consumption rates changed to the detriment of health at the local schools? Arn't small farmers and local food consumers constituencies, along with prosperous farmers and middle class urbanites? Or is everyone else locked in a leftist, non property owner, working class terminology versus middle class urbanites and wealthy farmers?

Are the same landuse forces paradoxically, creating misery in the midst of bounty? Have surging fuel prices ignited inflation throughout the region, driving up the cost of food? Roads for sprawl are prepositioned on cheap oil as Kunster and Duany (Suburban Nation) remind us. Cheap oil is used to fertilize, distribute, and transport food, making organic, local, and self sustainable farming a marginal component of the economy. Argentina's tax appears to have been undone by surging food prices; and the indecision of not shielding the tax from the courts has raised anticipation how the Kirchner's and their small farms alliance will respond. The economic fractures of 2002 appear distant enough for wealth farmers to regroup as backers of a coup.

The price of food and local supply are raising stressful questions similar to those faced in Cuba leaving a muddy picture on Argentina in the Times. The related article on oil prices says "Fearful of social unrest, Latin American leaders are now scrambling to blunt the impact of the price shocks. Mexico, for example, has eliminated duties on imported grain and is increasing cash payments to families enrolled in the nation's largest anti-poverty program. It's also keeping a lid on the price of gas, which is about $2.68 a gallon in most of the country. That subsidy is projected to cost the treasury more than $20 billion this year, a figure officials say is unsustainable if crude prices continue to rise. Fallout from the crisis could last generations. Even short periods of malnutrition can permanently stunt the brain development of children. Kids pulled out of school to help with the family finances often remain permanently behind their peers." Its hard to imagine Argentina avoiding these stresses especially on a senate vote involving food.

Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabe, as quoted by Jered Lawson in his recent barn dance email, "They said we would never become civilized because we enjoyed our harvest too much," speaks to the economic forces that shape empire through agricultural landuse and transport policies.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Eggplant salad

One medium eggplant cut into one inch rounds. Salt and let sit in a colander for half an hour. Rinse and pat dry, lay on a small black tray, oil both sides with olive oil, and cook in the solar oven in the summer position for one hour.

Place the eggplant for five minutes on a hot gas BBQ until one side is burned but not charred. You can also do this by heating the tray over a stove.

Chop eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes after it has cooled.
1/4 pound romaine heart leaves
1 carrot diced
One large tomato cut into 1/2 inch cubes
One 6" sprig sweet basil, leaves and flowers removed, and then chopped rough.
Salt to taste.

Toss with two tablespoons olive oil and one tablespoon balsamic and one teaspoon white vine vinegar. And pepper to taste.

Serve with Ciabatta or equivalent bread.
Serves two for a meal or four as a salad.

Tomato basil salad- food giants

Both tomatoes and basil are in season. Everything we cook these days has basil from the garden (grown in a pot by the front door.)

One large heirloom tomato cut into 1/2 inch cubes
One five inch sprig of basil chopped fine.
One tablespoon olive oil
One teaspoon balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

Mix and serve with soft crusty bread like Ciabatta.
Except for the salt everything is available at most farmers market like the San Mateo and Belmont Farmers Market.

Safeway carries heirloom tomatoes for $6/- a pound, easily the weight of one large heirloom, versus $2 to $3/- a pound at the farmers market. They also carry non organic largely tasteless tomatoes for $2-$3/- a pound and tasteless organic vine tomatoes for almost $5/- a pound.

Why this anomaly during tomato season? The cost of fuel has affected the cost of food worldwide even in oil rich countries (the majority of who have abysmally poor populations who don't benefit from the national oil wealth- Nigeria the eight largest exporter has a 140M majority living on less than $2/- day.) The farmers market is able to transport locally. So why doesn't Safeway buy locally?

Part of the reason could be the national distribution infrastructure and related federal, state and local support bureaucracies for the food giants that Safeway is part of. Buying organic with the Safeway O brand does not support small family farms. Proctor and Gamble and Nestle, number one and two food giants, produce the O brand for Safeway. The new Anheuser-Busch InBev will be the third largest food company. The problem is that these brands are also responsible for the majority of polluted food organic customers are trying to stay away from! Giving massive profits via a tiny organic line only sustains their polluted food business- and maybe they will learn where the profits are. But the infrastructure and related subsidies have strong partners in the chemical, distribution, and outlet business that lobby to keep changes from happening.

Think of consumption infrastructure as a bridge... one end has dropped off with high gas prices. If we keep going with our present consumption patterns we fall of the edge. GM's business model and congressional perks for SUVs, and the resulting crash of american auto companies are a good case in point.

But there are alternate choices that should have been made and can be made and paths to pursue. The group that aggregates backyards in San Francisco and grows on permaculture with compost at 150 sq ft per family is an alternate. The farming harvesting and delivery is done with bicycles. Cuba is an alternative first from rising fuel prices after the end of the Soviet Union and now with the need to expand local production. Architects are also interested in vertical farms that feed the city from within the city. Local chain grocers should see the need to change their business model before they go the way of GM. $6/- a pound for tomatoes during tomato season is ridiculous.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Banana squash

Similar to a pumpkin recipe.
These things are great for storage and consumption during the winter. They look like they will last 6 month. I just cooked one that I was given in February by someone who had grown and harvested it in November. Its sat on the kitchen counter for six months.

One squash cut into half inch cubes.
Two cloves garlic chopped small.
One small onion chopped small.
Salt and pepper to taste.
One half serrano pepper if desired chopped small.
One tablespoon curry powder if desired.

Mix and drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil in the 7" round pot.

Place in the oven in the summer position for two hours. We have fires in the SF Bay Area and an overcast sky. You will need less for a clear sky.

Remove and add a
- fistfull of chopped parsley or cilantro.
- Two tablespoons wine vinegar