From the Land 11/16

spinach

announcements: please read!

We’ll be starting distribution a few minutes late today, as our delivery from Crooked Sky is running a bit behind, and so we can put together the beef shares. Please accept my apologies – we should be ready to go by 1pm!

Beef shares will be distributed today: make sure you bring payment if you haven’t already paid for it, and a cooler to put your meat in.

food for thought
spaghetti squash, parsnips, japanese salad turnips, spinach, tomatoes, and basil

veg of the week
SPINACH Spinacia oleracea

From the family of Amaranthaceae, spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (modern Iran), from where traders brought it to India, then China, and finally Sicily in 827 AD. When it appears in England and France in the 1400’s, it quickly gained popularity because it appeared in the spring when few other vegetables grew.

Spinach is extremely rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, and potassium. It also contains high amounts of calcium, but spinach’s calcium is the least bioavailable of all vegetable sources (only about 5% of the calcium is available as compared to 50% from broccoli) because of the presence of oxalate, which binds with calcium and decreases its absorption.

As with most vegetables, fresh spinach loses its nutrient content as it stores. Spinach also lays claim to being one of the most pesticide-laden produce items. Because it retains high amounts of pesticide residue, it is even more important to source organically-grown spinach if you are either sensitive or morally opposed to pesticides.

Spinach is very versatile, and can be eaten raw (as in salad), steamed, lightly boiled, sauteed in stir-fries, as a pizza topper, or added to a pasta dish or casserole. Check out the included recipes for great supper ideas!

Genetically Modified Organisms

We often hear reference to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or genetic engineering (GE).  The light that GMOs are portrayed in will differ with the source, and the information found online can be confusing and contradictory.  Are GMOs stifling biodiversity, or are they necessary to feed the planet’s growing population?  Are they possible to avoid?  And since the U.S does not require food processors to label foods that contain GMOs, how do we even know which foods to avoid?

What is a GMO? A GMO is an organism whose genetic makeup has been altered by genetic engineering processes.  These processes are known as recombinant DNA technology.  This is when DNA molecules from different plant and animal sources are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes.  This new DNA is then injected into the organism, giving it a set of new and modified genes.  Under the umbrella term GMO is another term “transgenic organism”, which are organisms that have a set of genes that originated in a different species.

Are GMOs unhealthy? Though the official line is that GMOs are harmless and necessary to produce high yields, the World Health Organization admits that there are some concerns: allergic reaction (allergies to the plant origin of the transferred gene), gene transfer (from GMO foods to cells of the human body could be dangerous, especially if the gene was antibiotic resistant), and outcrossing (the movement of genes from a GE crop to conventional crops or related species in the wild). Many informed consumers are choosing to avoid GMOs because they refuse to participate in what is a generation-wide human health experiment.

So how do we know what foods contain GMO’s?  In general, we can assume that all non-organic processed foods containing the “big four” (corn, soy, canola/rapeseed, and cottonseed) are genetically modified.  Beet sugar is the most recent addition to this list of common GE crops, and may be included in foods sweetened with anything other than “cane sugar”. In addition to the straight-forward names in the lists of ingredients, these four products can be found under many names that are less obvious: high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oil, citric acid, corn starch, baking powder, caramel, dextrin, fructose, mono- and di-glycerides, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sorbitol, xanthan gum, isolated soy protein, textured vegetable protein, lecithin, and isoflavone.  Meat and dairy alternatives, cereal bars and energy bars, chips and crackers, canned foods, soups and sauces, salad dressings, baby foods, and sodas, fruit juice and iced teas, unless labeled organic, are huge culprits of using GMOs, as are most processed foods.

Most of the fruits and vegetables found in the produce section are not GM, except for a few that are outlined in the True Food Shopper’s Guide (small amounts of summer squash, zucchini, and sweet corn, as well as papayas from Hawaii).  Organic fruits and vegetables must be GMO-free to retain their organic certification, and there are also other foods out there that are neither GM nor organic.

Another GMO is look for is rBGH or rBST, which is the bovine growth hormone often injected into dairy cows to increase the rate of lactation and growth rate of young cattle.  In general, it can be assumed that most industrial milk and other dairy products contain traces of this GMO.  It is becoming increasingly common to find milk and other dairy products that are free of rBGH or rBST and they will have a label saying so.  To avoid GMOs from growth hormone and from feed, make sure to buy grass-fed and/or organic meat and dairy.

for more information…

Corn-derived Food Ingredients

Health Hazards of Genetically Manipulated Foods

True Food Shoppers Guide

20 Questions on Genetically Modified Foods

recipes

Spaghetti Squash with Garlic and Spinach

  • 1 medium sized spaghetti squash
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 5 oz organic baby spinach
  • ¼ C chicken pan drippings or 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 T butter
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for finish)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Poke the squash with a fork and place on center rack of oven in a baking dish for 1 hour. Remove and let cool until manageable.

Heat a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add pan drippings or olive oil and butter, allow to heat thoroughly. Sauté garlic until browned, add spinach and wilt completely.

Cut squash down the center. scoop out seeds and fibrous center strands. Remove stringy flesh and place on serving dish. top with garlic and spinach mixture, including liquid. top with Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Mushrooms, Parsnip, Potatoes and Spinach Casserole

  • 4 large starchy potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • salt
  • 1 small peeled onion
  • 1 bunch chopped spinach
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 C grated Gruyere or Parmesan
  • paprika
  • roasted Mushrooms
  • 2 1/2 lbs mixed mushrooms
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • several sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon
Put the potatoes and parsnips in large pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, over medium heat. Salt the water and cook the vegetable until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and return them to the hot pot. Grate in 3 to 4 T of onion, then add the spinach, butter, half of the milk and all of the cream. Season with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg, to taste. Mash the mixture together and taste to adjust seasonings. Add the extra splash of milk if the potatoes are too tight. Cool to room temperature, then stir in the eggs and transfer the mixture to a casserole. Cover with cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Cool and chill for a make-ahead meal.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Put the casserole on a baking sheet and put it in the lower third of the oven. Bake until hot and golden, about 35 to 40 minutes.In a medium baking dish toss the mushrooms with the garlic, thyme and olive oil. Roast until dark and tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper, to taste.Serve the mushrooms alongside the casserole.

Baked Ziti with Spinach and Tomatoes

  • 3/4 lb hot Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lb diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup pesto sauce
  • 10 ounces ziti or penne pasta (about 3 cups), freshly cooked
  • 1 bunch spinach leaves, stems discarded
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)

Heat heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausage, onion and garlic and sauté until sausage is cooked through, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes with juices to pan. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in pesto. Season sauce with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly oil 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish. Combine pasta, spinach, mozzarella and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese in large bowl. Stir in hot tomato sauce. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese over. Bake until sauce bubbles and cheeses melt, about 30 minutes.

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