Garden-sitting for the Alters: Harvest edition!

September 11, 2009

Well, the summer has pretty much ended, which is kind of a bummer. On the bright side, however, harvest season is in full force! Before my final schlep up to the Alters’ garden (I’ve been garden-sitting, for those who don’t know; here’s Part 1 and Part 2), Jacob let out an exasperated sigh and said, “Remind me why you’re doing this, again?”

I had four words for him: We’re sharing the bounty.

And my, oh my, what a bounty there was! I was literally stopped in my tracks when I entered the backyard and saw a zucchini plant crawling up a tree, the tendrils of a squash plant creeping over to the house next-door and lettuce that had grown nearly as tall as my chest (I decided to let it “bolt” just to see how high it would get — turns out, it can get pretty high; and it even has beautiful little flowers at the top in a cute starburst formation). Part of me was almost weirded out by the whole scene, like it was straight out of Little Shop of Horrors and Audrey 2 was everywhere. But I regained my composure and started wandering amongst the foliage to see what I could pluck — I was told by Kelly to “eat, eat, eat” whatever was ready to be harvested — and eventually discovered two HUGE zucchinis. The squash wasn’t quite ready yet, so I gave it more water and let it be. There were ridiculous amounts of kale, so I snatched a few leaves of that; then I took some stuff that I thought was maybe spinach but is actually a complete Mystery Plant to me. It has a kind of lemony taste to it and big, flat leaves. The peas had unfortunately dried up, but the beets were still kicking, so I pulled up a couple of the bigger ones. Here’s the finished cornucopia:


I guess it doesn’t seem like very much, really, considering the square footage of the garden itself. However, it’s still exciting that, with a horribly damp summer and next to no green thumbs, I was able to help the Alters produce real, living, healthy food. Needless to say, I returned home, dragged Jacob outside, pointed to the veggies and said, “THAT’s why I spent all that time weeding!” Then, we had a delicious vegetarian curry.


Orange you glad I didn’t tell you what was in that glass of orange juice?

September 1, 2009


Way back during my green year, I made a few changes that had to do with juice: One was to not consume anything that had HFCS or any other modified corn derivative in it (which a lot of juices do); another was to not buy any drink that came in disposable packaging, which all juices do. So basically, I had to make my own from scratch, using whole fruits that came from within Canada and the U.S. But to be honest, I’m not much of a juice person anyway. Smoothies with yogurt, ground flax seeds and ingredients that make it more of a meal I can understand, and the occasional peach, plum or pear will satiate the rest of my sugar cravings. Every time I drink juice, though, it just tastes too sweet and I think to myself, “If I’m going to be ingesting this much sugar, I might as well be drinking wine.” (Is this the first sign of alcoholism? Oh well).

However, my lovely boyfriend — who I will call J from now on because he doesn’t want all of his Google hits bringing up posts about lemon trees and Diva Cups — is a juice fiend. He is obsessed with Allen’s apple juice, primarily, but also likes a good youngberry juice from Ceres, and will occasionally throw some Tropicana cranberry or orange juice in there for good measure. I’ve been trying to wean him off the Allen’s because it’s less than $2 for a full 1.5 liters of the stuff and that just can’t be good (not to mention the possibility of BPA lining the cans), and the Ceres comes all the way from South Africa, which leaves quite the carbon footprint. I have generally felt that Tropicana is all right, despite being owned by Pepsi, as it’s not from concentrate, it’s an American company and it tastes pretty close to the fresh-squeezed stuff.

But man, oh man, have my opinions changed.

Have you heard about this new book, Squeezed? (Note the author’s stainless steel water bottle in the pic! And she’s Canadian!) Here’s the gist of what it’s about, according to the publishers:

Alissa Hamilton explores the hidden history of orange juice. She looks at the early forces that propelled orange juice to prominence, including a surplus of oranges that plagued Florida during most of the twentieth century and the army’s need to provide vitamin C to troops overseas during World War II. She tells the stories of the FDA’s decision in the early 1960s to standardize orange juice, and the juice equivalent of the cola wars that followed between Coca-Cola (which owns Minute Maid) and Pepsi (which owns Tropicana). Of particular interest to OJ drinkers will be the revelation that most orange juice comes from Brazil, not Florida, and that even “not from concentrate” orange juice is heated, stripped of flavor, stored for up to a year, and then reflavored before it is packaged and sold. The book concludes with a thought-provoking discussion of why consumers have the right to know how their food is produced.

And you can watch an interview with Hamilton on the CBC here:

So what do you make of all this? Is OJ especially evil when it comes to chemicals and preservatives, or is the same as any other juice on the market? Are certain companies or brands better than others? And can we check for certain labels or ingredients to make sure we get the best juice, or has the industry found a way to circumnavigate all the rules and guidelines about labelling? What juice do YOU drink??

Image from this website. Also, read Lloyd Alter’s review on Treehugger here.