Walnuts are good for you, right? A natural source of Omega-3 oils, same as fish oil but better tasting…good for your heart… Multiple studies have shown the connection, it’s pretty well established. Walnut growers and processors seemed to think so, and they decided to put it into their marketing and advertising.

Hold it right there, says the federal Food and Drug Administration. In a story that reads like it came straight out of the Onion, the FDA has sent Diamond Walnuts a letter declaring that their health claims for their product makes walnuts a drug — and an illegal drug at that. The logic is almost completely absurd, but something along the lines that “if you claim your product contains compounds that help prevent disease, your product is a drug and must be regulated by the FDA”.

This is the agency that routinely allows actual drugs with serious potential side affects to be marketed as cures for illness, only to pull them from the market later when people start dying. It also allows big food corporations to label unhealthy food-like substances as “heart healthy” or claim they are nutritious because they added extra vitamins and minerals. But if a small company uses peer-reviewed scientific research to promote its 100% natural product, they are going to shut it down.

This is one of those rare stories that has the potential to unify a broad coalition of people, from conservative Tea Party folks to liberal Occupy Wall Street people. It’s a perfect example of what happens when big government gets corrupted by corporate lobbying.

It is particularly scary to me in light of the fact that the FDA has recently been given authority to regulate farmers directly. We have begun working on the food safety plan that the FDA now requires farmers who produce fresh fruits and vegetables to institute. It is clear from the guidelines for these Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) that the FDA has no business getting involved with agriculture. In the world of FDA regulators, common sense is non-existent, dirt is a threat to human health, and documentation and paperwork is required every time you wash your hands. They would clearly prefer that food be manufactured inside a sterile lab than grown in a field. There’s an entire newsletter in that 100 page document, and I’ll be writing more about it soon.

Lawsuits are underway by companies who have been targeted by the FDA, and Diamond Walnuts will probably join the fight. But in the meantime, the real threats to the health of Americans — toxic substances sold as “food” by the biggest corporations in the world — go unregulated as long as corporate lobbyists keep paying off our elected officials of both parties.



Subscribers Step Up: Asian Pear Suggestions

After reading my pronouncement of ignorance about recipes in which Asian Pears are cooked, two subscribers emailed us with suggestions.

From Yehudit Lieberman, a simple and healthy dessert for a cold winter night: ” I peel, core, and slice them, put them in a baking pan, sprinkle them with succanat, and bake them at 400 degrees till they can be easily pierced with a fork. Yummy!”

From Trina De Joya, a traditional Chinese Medicine remedy for lungs/throat/cough, a nice hot tea: ” I don’t know if it will actually do anything, but it sure does taste good! Basically just slice a couple of pears, add a couple of spoonfuls of raw sugar, honey, or a lump of rock sugar, and a spoonful of “fritillary” (found in asian herbal stores). Add water to stew or steam (i like to stew) for about 20-30min. http://vitalitymagazine.com/article/autumn-is-lung-season/ and http://www.tinyurbankitchen.com/2010/08/fritillaria-chuan-bei-mu.html

You can also make the tea without the fritillary: http://albanacupuncture.com/2011/10/04/steamed-pears-almonds-coug-remedy/

In Your Boxes

After thinking that we might have made it past the coldest part of the winter, we got kicked in the teeth Monday night by the coldest night we’ve had yet. It was 18 degrees here for several hours — technically cold enough to destroy citrus fruit as well as most of the leafy vegetables we have growing. Weather forecasters underestimated the severity of the freeze by almost 10 degrees, giving us a false sense of security.

At least some of our citrus is located in a warmer microclimate and may have escaped destruction (the mandarins in your boxes today were picked before the freeze). We will be evaluating their condition over the next week or two.

Meanwhile, many of the vulnerable vegetables had already been damaged by cold weather. There will be no chard, fennel, or beet greens in your boxes any time soon. Kale and collards were damaged at least temporarily. A bigger question will be broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Depending on the size of the plant and its stage of growth, these crops can bounce back from getting frozen or they can end up producing unmarketable heads with blackened sections. The weather following the freeze plays an important role — an extended wet period like the one forecast for next week can cause damaged heads to rot.

We spend a lot of time planning your CSA boxes — planting the right amount and variety of crops so that each week we can keep them full, balanced and interesting. But there is little we can do to control for situations like this, which damage or destroy multiple crops completely. Mid-winter/early spring is already our most challenging season.

As a subscriber, you are going to see the variation in your boxes reduced for at least the next month. We still have plenty of crops in storage: potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash. We have carrots, leeks, and beets. Thanks to the dry weather, we have been able to plant lots of spinach this winter, and it will be in your boxes every week, either baby or bunched. Beyond that, we still don’t know. We will keep you posted.