Farmers Market Update: Holiday Weekend

by | Nov 29, 2009

Leeks and Beets

Leeks and Beets

Probably my single favorite thing about Thanksgiving is that no matter what, it is always on a Thursday.

This simple temporal restriction gives us three full days to recover from too many mashed potatoes and that extra slice of pie we really didn’t mean to have. It also gives us time to stock up on healthy foods for the following week.

The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market tends to be relatively empty after a holiday, which is nice for regular shoppers. I used this opportunity to sleep in a little and stroll slowly through the market once before going back and making the bulk of my purchases.

As expected, peppers, tomatoes and all other remnants of summer are now virtually non-existent, while signs of winter are undeniable.

Mandarins

Mandarins

Mandarins, lemons and oranges are widely available, and today I found the first pomelo of the season.

Pomelo are like huge grapefruit with thick skin, except they are not sour. I first learned to appreciate these fruits in Thailand, where vendors will cut and clean them for you right on the street. These big green pomelo with pink flesh are probably my favorite variety (but don’t hate me if I change my mind 2-3 times this season as new ones come out).

Early Pink Pomelo

Early Pink Pomelo

Meyer Lemons In Basket

Meyer Lemons In Basket

As much as I love citrus though, it is still tough for me to get too excited about it when pears, apples and persimmons are so unbelievably perfect.

Fuyu Persimmon

Fuyu Persimmon

In the vegetable world, the rockstars this week are roots, stalks and hearty leaves. I’ve been loving Tuscan kale (the dark, bumpy variety), chard, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, fennel and Brussels sprouts.

Celery, leeks, beets, onions and sweet potatoes are also worth playing around with this time of year.

Organic Celery

Organic Celery

Taylor Gold Pears

Taylor Gold Pears

And of course, I’m still obsessed with winter squash. With nothing but olive oil and sea salt, roasted red kuri squash tastes like pumpkin pie only better.

Lastly, it seems that the weekend after Thanksgiving is also the best time to go to the farmers market if you happen to be Super Mario.

If you live in SF, it is worth a trip to the Ferry Building just to see these GIGANTIC porcini mushrooms. I wouldn’t even know where to start with one of these bad boys, but I can’t help but marvel at them with a twinge of envy.

Giant Porcini

Giant Porcini

Seriously, what could you do with a mushroom like this besides grow super big or get a 1UP? If I had a few of these I could definitely save the princess.

Chantarelles, trumpet mushrooms and several other normal-sized fungi varieties are also in season.

Did any of you make it to the farmers market this week?

Today’s Purchases:


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Farmers Market Update: Paris In Autumn

by | Nov 22, 2009
Paris Farmers Market Update

Paris Farmers Market Update

Yes, you read that right! Today’s Farmers Market Update is straight from the streets of Paris by the lovely Joanna Milo Ragland (@GirlAboutParis). Joanna is a California resident but has been living in Paris for the past several months, getting to know the local markets and vendors.

I love these guest posts from shoppers in other cities and am thinking about making this a monthly event. What do you think?

Farmers Market Update: Paris In Autumn

by Joanna Milo Ragland

The many Paris markets range from tiny and touristy to huge and mostly local. Each neighborhood has its own market, some of the once or twice weekly roving variey, others in stable locations open Tuesday through Sunday.

The largest of the roving local markets is the Marché de Bastille. Spanning several long blocks of boulevard Richard Lenoi along the Canal St. Martin, the Bastille market offers rows upon rows of the freshest, most colorful produce. The generally jovial vendors are all too happy to offer samples of their wares.

Clementines

Clementines

Market Vendor

Market Vendor

Near the 1pm market closing time, wheeling and dealing becomes de rigeur and a friendly smile might just fetch you a couple extra clementines in your shopping bag.

As in San Francisco, the late summer produce is on its way out, but peppers, eggplant, and figs are still widely available. Prickly Italian figs (also known as figues de barbarie and more reminiscent of cactus than figs), persimmons (here called kaki), and grapes in abundance can be found at just about every fruit stand.

The prickley Italian figues de barbarie has a green skin that becomes orange as it ripens and a bright orange flesh. Delicious as this strange little fruit is, I found it nearly impossible to eat, as it’s full of small, hard seeds that permeate the entirety of the soft flesh. Am I missing something?

Paris Produce

Paris Produce

Figuier de Barbarie

Figuier de Barbarie

(Note from Darya: Figuier de barbarie (English translation) are actually cactus fruit, or prickly pear. You’ll have to ask a Frenchman why they call them figs….)

I also spotted some huge persimmons with a lovely, deep red-orange color. (I’m a little afraid of persimmons, though they are delicious.)

Parsnips, Broccoli, Artichoke and Endive

Parsnips, Broccoli, Artichoke and Endive

Persimmons, Chestnuts and Berries

Persimmons, Chestnuts and Berries

Adding to the orange-colored fruit party, the clementines here are already awesome; easy to peel, not too many seeds, sweet and just tart enough to be thirst-quenching…the perfect snack to take along on a day of Paris sightseeing.

The lemons are also great and I’ve been stocking up and using them in my morning tea.

Walnuts

Walnuts

Vendor With Chestnuts

Vendor With Chestnuts

A chatty, Tunisian vendor offered me a sample of some yellow-green Italian grapes. Though they did have some seeds, they were plump, juicy and bursting with grap-ey deliciousness. He also explained to me that Italian fruit is far superior to Spanish fruit and that pesticides are not as widely used in Italy, rendering the grapes safe to eat unwashed–not the case with grapes from Spain, I was sternly told. (LOL)

Pink pomagranates have also appeared in the last week or two and are bursting with sweet-tart antioxidant goodness, although I still find red poms to be juicier and more flavorful.

What's wrong with this picture?

What's wrong with this picture?

Pomegranates

Pomegranates

Also noteworthy are the many varieties of apples. I had the opportunity to sample the honey crunch apple, one I hadn’t previously heard of, and it was true to it’s name. Firm, sweet, delicious, with that great apple bite! The honey crunch would be a perfect apple to use for a tarte tatin!

Fresh Tuna

Fresh Tuna

Leeks

Leeks

At the veggie stands, huge leeks, radishes, and many onion varieties are beautiful, aromatic, and begging to be used in your soups, stirfrys and tagines. Kale and swiss chard are also starting to show up, though just at a few of the stands.

Oh, and mushrooms!! Can’t have a Paris market update without discussing the mushrooms. It’s porcini (cêpes) season and they are as beautiful as they are earthily fragrant. Prices can range dramatically based on the location of the market and the quality of the mushrooms, so do be sure to shop around. During the late summer and early fall, it was all about yellow (and sometimes black) oyster mushrooms, but now, porcinis  rule. Their meaty texture and hearty, earthy flavor make them amazing in soups, stews, pasta dishes, risotto, or grilled and served up on bruschetta. The porcini possibilities are endless, but the season is short so I’m enjoying them as much as possible while I can.

Paris Fish Monger

Paris Fish Monger

French Wine

French Wine

Of course, the Paris markets have much more to offer than just fruits and veggies. Amazing seafood, cheeses, breads, sweets…it’s difficult to pass by all the beautifully displayed, wonderful smelling artisinal foods without going a bit crazy and putting a dent in your budget, not to mention your calorie-count. Not that you should count calories, especially when in Paris. Head to the markets, take in the sights, smells and flavors, and most importantly, enjoy!!

Fresh Scallops and Sea Urchin

Fresh Scallops and Sea Urchin

Oysters

Oysters

A bientôt et bisous de Paris!

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For The Love of Food

by | Nov 20, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

If you only read one thing today make it Tom Venuto’s article about The Biggest Loser. The first time I saw the show I was inspired and loved it, but as the years progress it is clear it is not helping any of the “losers.” The Biggest Loser teaches people that weight loss is about torture and extremes, and they are destined to fail. I was going to write an article about it, but Tom does such a good job explaining my reasons I no longer feel the need to.

But, of course, there are 10 great articles down there worth checking out!

I still need votes for the People’s HealthBlogger Award by Wellsphere and would greatly appreciate your support. Wellsphere is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in healthy living. To vote for me you have to create an account with them, but you can delete it when you’re done (I have yet to get any spam). If you enjoy this blog, please take a minute to show your support. Much thanks to those who have already voted.


I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

For The Love of Food

What are you reading?

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30 Ways To Slow and Prevent Aging

by | Nov 18, 2009

Darya PinoToday is my 30th birthday and a perfect time to reflect on life, the universe and everything.

Despite being female and thus held to tough and often unrealistic physical standards, hitting the end of my third decade doesn’t cause me anxiety about either my appearance or place in the world.

In my experience, age is not an amount of time but a state of mind. As a child I always wanted to be a grown up, so I acted like one. It freaked my parents out sometimes, but that’s just how I was. In my mind, I still feel pretty much the same in that regard. I love to work hard and I thrive in positions of responsibility. Since both these traits get more important with age, I have actually enjoyed stepping into the adult role I’ve always felt I belonged in.

But that’s only one part of me.

In many other ways I’m as juvenile as ever. If you spend much time with me on Twitter (@summertomato) you’ve probably noticed I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy. I blame my dad for that one. I’m also still shocked every time I hear that friends my age are getting married and having children. In my brain we’re not nearly old enough for that yet! But in reality, it is my friends who are normal and I’m the outlier.

Oh, and did I mention I’m still in school? Up until a couple years ago I carried a backpack with me everywhere, for better or for worse.

Darya's GunsAll these things give me a sense of agelessness, so it is hard to think of this birthday as anything but another day to do things I love. But part of my peace of mind certainly comes from the fact that I’m in pretty good shape physically–probably the best of my life. And at 30 this is definitely something to be proud of.

Summer Tomato readers know I attribute my good health almost entirely to my eating habits. I also spend a good amount of time in the gym, though I don’t workout nearly as much as I used to. But healthstyle extends to more than just diet and exercise.

Here I’ve compiled my favorite 30 habits to slow aging and keep you young in more than just your heart.

30 Healthstyle Tips To Keep You Young

  1. Be happy The physical damage caused to your body by stress has only recently become appreciated by the scientific community. Fill your life with things you love and get rid of almost everything else. Practice stress relieving activities like meditation and exercise, and learn to appreciate joy when you find it. Happiness does a body good.
  2. Eat vegetables There is good evidence that oxidative damage caused by toxins and metabolism contributes to the aging process at a cellular level. Foods (but not supplements) high in antioxidants seem to protect us from oxidative stress.
  3. Avoid sugar Sugar is a direct cause of aging and significantly reduces lifespan in organisms from yeast to primates. Not by a small amount either.
  4. Moisturize The appearance of your skin is largely dependent upon moisture. Help it out by using moisturizers to keep your skin soft and hydrated. Work with a professional to determine what type is best for you.
  5. Don’t raise your eyebrows Credit my mother for teaching me this one, it has been a lifesaver. As a kid she used to warn me about raising my eyebrows, saying it would give me wrinkles and I’d regret it. I thought she was crazy, but still learned to express myself without much forehead crinkling. As a result I have far fewer forehead lines than some people years younger than me.
  6. Sleep For me the most important determinant of how I look (and feel) on a given day is how much sleep I get. Seven hours is my ideal, but everyone is different.
  7. Eat fish Some evidence suggests that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are particularly beneficial to the skin.
  8. Wear sunscreen I love the sun and spend as much time in it as possible, but I never walk out the door without sunscreen on my face. UV radiation from the sun damages your skin and promotes aging.
  9. Don’t smoke Smoking is one of the easiest ways to look older than you really are and shorten your life at the same time. Avoid both primary and secondary smoke like the plague.
  10. Step out of your comfort zone Mental exercise seems to be one of the key elements of quality aging, but this doesn’t mean you should sit around all day doing crossword puzzles. Neuroscientist and cognitive aging specialist Dr. Adam Gazzaley suggests going out of your way to challenge yourself mentally, doing things like traveling and learning new languages even over the age of 60.
  11. Take vitamin D Some research suggests that vitamin D may be particularly important in slowing the aging process. The jury is still out on the value of vitamin D supplements for aging, but they seem to have enough other benefits that it’s worth the investment.
  12. Eat fruit Like vegetables, fruits have an enormous amount of antioxidants and help with hydration. Vitamin C in particular is thought to benefit skin.
  13. No foundation or powder makeup Generally I avoid putting any makeup directly onto my skin. I realize I have a very flexible work environment and this is not possible for every woman, but skipping the makeup does help maintain your skin’s hydration and elasticity. I do wear makeup occasionally, maybe once or twice per week. But in general I find that mascara and lip gloss are enough for most situations.
  14. Hydrate Your skin is very sensitive to water levels. Stay hydrated by sipping water and eating fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
  15. Whiten teeth I know this isn’t something you can find at the farmers market, but when you drink as much coffee and red wine as I do, minor (and admittedly superficial) fixes like teeth whitening can go a long way. If you don’t believe me, try and remember the last time you saw a 20-year-old with yellow teeth….
  16. Wear sunglasses If you’re a happy person (and I know you are), your wrinkles will most likely be caused by smiling and show up predominantly around your eyes. Block out extra sun (and look super cool) by always wearing sunglasses when you go outside.
  17. Eat beans and lentils Legumes are a fabulous source of minerals that can help keep your skin hydrated and looking young.
  18. Tea Afternoon tea time is one of the greatest discoveries I’ve ever made. Not only is tea full of antioxidants and other cancer-fighting compounds, a midday break can be just what the doctor ordered to sip away stress.
  19. Cardio I’m not the biggest believer in cardio exercise for weight loss, but it is still important for vascular health. Not to mention how awesome you feel after a good session. Cardio doesn’t need to kill you, but you should do it regularly.
  20. Strength training Building strong, toned muscles is one of the most effective ways to look younger than your years. Ask anyone who looks fabulous and they’ll swear by strength training. A little goes a long way.
  21. Eat intact whole grains Intact grains (not fake “whole” grains that are ground into flour) are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and soluble fiber. They are also perfect fuel for those killer workouts.
  22. Olive oil It is hard to think of something more versatile, healthy and delicious than olive oil. It breaks my heart that dietary fat got such a bad rap the past few decades, since the benefits of healthy fats like olive oil are innumerable. Fat isn’t just “not bad” for you, it’s essential.
  23. Kill your television We all have things we enjoy watching (I’m partial to NBA championship teams), but if it takes up a significant amount of your time each week (>5 hrs) it may be time to reevaluate. How many years of your life do you really want to spend on your couch?
  24. Don’t stuff yourself Cutting back on calories is the single most effective way to slow aging and extend life. I don’t advise starving yourself, but it’s a good idea to avoid overeating in any situation.
  25. Eat nuts Nuts are the perfect snack food and are filled with anti-aging fats, vitamins and minerals. They are also great for suppressing appetite–just don’t eat more than a handful.
  26. Avoid dairy Studies of aging skin have shown that milk and milk products are associated with more aging and wrinkles.
  27. Avoid processed meats Processed meats are associated with many different health problems in humans. No need to get too hung up on this, but you may not want to eat deli meat every single day if you want to stay young.
  28. No processed carbohydrates Just like sugar, processed carbohydrates are a direct cause of aging and disease. I eat these things occasionally, but don’t let it happen too often.
  29. Coconut oil Fats come in all different shapes and sizes, and I try to incorporate a good mix of all of them. Medium-chain fatty acids like those found in coconut oil are starting to be recognized as important by researchers, but the evidence is limited. Coconut oil is also a healthy source of saturated fat for vegetarians. I always use coconut oil when cooking Southeast Asian food.
  30. Red wine Red wine has a powerful anti-aging compound in it known as resveratrol. Though it is unlikely that the dosage of resveratrol in red wine is high enough to impact lifespan, drinking alcohol in moderation is also associated with decreased risk of heart disease and other vascular problems. Cheers!

Do you have any anti-aging secrets?

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Farmers Market Update: Last Call

by | Nov 15, 2009
Last Call On Peppers!

Last Call On Peppers!

It’s getting really cold in the Bay Area, especially at night. That means the last of the late summer produce will be disappearing completely in a week or two: this is your last chance for peppers, tomatoes and eggplants until next summer.

To capitalize on this situation I got myself a big bag of tomatillos, the green tomato-like fruit in a husk. If you aren’t familiar with tomatillos think of green Mexican salsa, which is made with them. They are kind of like a tomato but a bit more tangy and acidic. Tomatillos are wonderful in sauces and with meats. I bought some poblano peppers and cilantro to pair with them, but haven’t decided yet exactly what I’m going to make. Suggestions?

Grapes

Grapes

Organic Tomatillos

Organic Tomatillos

In addition to the poblanos I was also sure to pick up a final bag of padron peppers, since I love them so dearly. I got 3 other pepper varieties as well. I can’t help it, I adore peppers. I will miss them a little every day until they appear again next year. Luckily I dried a bunch of different Thai chilies this summer to tide me over.

Grapes are another thing to stock up on while you can. They are sweet and abundant right now, but will start disappearing in the coming weeks.

But don’t worry, not everything is on it’s way out. Lots of new stuff is turning up as well.

I spotted some black walnuts at Glashoff Farms today, which I’m told is a special treat. Has anyone tried them?

Black Walnuts

Black Walnuts

Interesting varieties of garlic and onions are also popping up. I found 2 varieties of shallots today–French and Dutch–as well as sweet cippolini onions at Dirty Girl Produce. Leeks are awesome now too.

Baby Leeks

Baby Leeks

Red Garlic

Red Garlic

At Frog Hollow there was a new variety of pear today, the seckel pear, which is tiny and bursting with flavor. After a sample I couldn’t help but buy as many as I could carry. And of course I got a Warren pear for the road.

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Seckel Pears

Seckel Pears

It’s definitely time to start buying persimmons too. Just be sure you eat them when they are ripe, since unripe persimmons can be dangerous. The kiwi are looking good, though I haven’t tried them yet. Apples are still mind-bogglingly amazing.

And did I mention that citrus is starting to appear? Mandrins, grapefruits and lemons are all available now, although they are still a bit tart for me.

Star Ruby Grapefruit

Star Ruby Grapefruit

Early Mandarins

Early Mandarins

Last but not least, it’s truffle season. If you have piles of money laying around that you don’t know what to do with, these Italian white truffles could be yours!

per OUNCE!

per OUNCE!

Today’s Purchases:

  • Fuyu persimmons (Paredez Farms)
  • Tomatillos (Paredez Farm)
  • Poblano peppers (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Padron peppers (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Pimento pepper (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Piquillo pepper (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Other random hot pepper (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Seckel pears (Frog Hollow Farm)
  • Warren pear (Frog Hollow Farm)
  • Black twig apple (The Apple Farm)
  • Philo apple (The Apple Farm)
  • White winter permain apple (The Apple Farm)
  • Dutch shallots (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Cippolini onion (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Tuscan (dinosaur) kale (Capay Organics)
  • Dry-farmed Red kuri squash (Little Organic Farm)

Is your farmers market still open? What does it have?

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For The Love of Food

by | Nov 13, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I’ve been in such a wonderful mood lately, I hope it’s contagious. I’ve discovered tons of fantastic food blogs the past few weeks and really look forward to sharing the best of what I find with you. This week I have compiled a list of articles that made me smile. And just to keep the chill vibe, I omitted the B.S. of the week.

I still need votes for the People’s HealthBlogger Award by Wellsphere and would greatly appreciate your support. Wellsphere is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in healthy living. To vote for me you have to create an account with them, but you can delete it when you’re done (I have yet to get any spam). If you enjoy this blog, please take a minute to show your support. Much thanks to those who have already voted.


I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

For The Love of Food

  • Are vegetarian diets OK? <<Of course they are. Here’s a comprehensive examination on the health value of vegetarian and vegan diets by NYU professor of nutrition, Marion Nestle. Great info. (Food Politics)
  • Fabulous <<This short post by Seth Godin isn’t about food per se, but is about appreciating the things in your life that are awesome, and why awesomeness breeds more awesomeness. This certainly matches my experience with real food. The more I love it and nurture it as an important part of my life, the better my life is all around.  It’s really about understanding your priorities. (Seth’s Blog)
  • In Praise Of Slow Food <<Great article about slow food and the importance of eating for enjoyment. (Huffington Post)
  • Phytoestrogens: Helpful or harmful? <<I get a lot of questions about the pros and cons of eating soy. Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva, reviews the evidence. (Nutrition Data)
  • To eat less, your body may want you to eat slowly << In my experience one of the main determinants of how much I eat is how quickly I eat. Now there’s some science that helps explain why. Learn mindful eating and how to become a slow eater. (Reuters)
  • High-carb diets may put dieters in better moods << Here’s some evidence that extreme carbohydrate restriction can make people grumpy for an entire year. Doesn’t that sound fun? (Los Angeles Times)
  • Worry Less, Cook More <<Short post by Mark Bittman on the most important skill to develop in the kitchen–confidence. Don’t strive for perfection, strive to get in there and start. (Bitten)
  • How I Made My Wife a Lettuce Snob <<This is such a cute post by Jeff Clark, I adore it. Also a great example of how real food is like Pandora’s box. Once you’ve seen inside you can never go back. (Middle Aged and Living Well)
  • Brussels Sprouts with Black Bean Garlic Sauce <<I found about a zillion new Brussels sprouts recipes on the internet this week, but this on intrigued me most. I rarely follow recipes, but I think I’m going to try this. Guest post at Simply Recipes by Garrett McCord from Vanilla Garlic.
  • Making the World a Better Place, One Chicken Wing at a Time <<Absolutely brilliant demo by Chef John on how to properly eat a chicken wing. You’ll be amazed! (Food Wishes)

What made you happy this week?

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The Habanero Experiment

by | Nov 9, 2009
Extra Hot Peppers

Extra Hot Peppers

Hot chili pepper season is one of my favorite times of year. But working with these little devils can be tricky and, if you’re not careful, really painful.

If you’ve made the mistake of working with spicy chili peppers without gloves in the past, you know what a huge mistake it can be. Not only will chili pepper burn your skin for days, anything you touch while the pepper oil is still on you (it doesn’t wash off) will also feel the burn. Just a couple weeks ago a friend of mine got jalapeño spice all over her face and didn’t recover for more than a day.

In an attempt to cure “Hunan hands” I tested several common heat neutralizing recommendations. One friend recommended I try mouthwash, which I thought might work through menthol, a substance with receptors similar to those for capsaicin–the active ingredient in chili peppers. In biology, sometimes some good old fashion competition can be enough to change an outcome. To test this hypothesis directly, I also tried a 2% menthol gel from the drug store.

But despite the theoretical plausibility of the menthol hypothesis, the skeptic in me went directly to the source for more information. I contacted UCSF professor David Julius, the scientist who discovered the sensory receptor for both capsaicin and heat to see if he had any ideas for alleviating pain from chili peppers. He didn’t know for sure, but directed me to an article where baking soda was used as a treatment.

In my research, I had also learned people recommend various solvents including rubbing alcohol and vinegar. I decided to try the powerful solvent acetone (nail polish remover) and lime juice as well.

You can watch my experiments below. I had to clear my camera’s memory card before the last shot, during which time the sun went down (lousy winter). Please accept my apologies for the obnoxious light reflection in the dark windows.

Since making the video I’ve discovered a few other topical treatments that may provide some relief from capsaicin burns. The first is a milk compress, though the degree of effectiveness is questioned. The most consistently reported relief is from the application of lidocaine jelly or oral analgesics (topical anesthetics)–treatments that block sensation in the affected area.

My #1 tip for preventing chili pepper burn is to prevent it in the first place by wearing gloves to handle them and being especially careful with the seeds.

Have you had any luck alleviating pepper burn? Do you have any capsaicin horror stories?

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Farmers Market Update: Autumn Sunshine

by | Nov 8, 2009
Frog Hollow Warren Pears

Frog Hollow Warren Pears

It rained yesterday, but today is spectacularly beautiful. I love San Francisco.

I didn’t have much time to spend shopping this trip–all food was bought and photos snapped in just about 10 minutes. Hopefully I didn’t forget too many things.

Persimmons

Persimmons

Black Twig Apples

Black Twig Apples

Pears and apples are in truly rare form right now, so I highly recommend finding a farmers market near you and getting some of the interesting heirloom varieties. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Persimmons are great right now as well, but I expect they will only get better as the season progresses. Hachiya persimmons in particular–the soft ones–tend to be better later in the season. For more information on the difference between fuyu and hachiya persimmons check out How To Pick A Persimmon. I’ve also written an article about chocolate persimmons and other varieties.

Colorful Bell Peppers

Colorful Bell Peppers

Winter Squash

Winter Squash

I noticed that the amazing Four Sisters Farm kiwis appeared this week and Twin Girls Farm had feijoa, also known as pineapple guava. My photos of these didn’t turn out well so I’ll try to get better shots next week.

Winter squash are still my favorite thing to eat right now and I’m happily making my way through all the varieties. I was not terribly impressed with spaghetti squash which hardly had any flavor, but I’m loving delicata because they are so easy to cook. And, of course, kabocha are amazing–like pumpkin pie only better. I love to pair them with greens like chard and kale, roasted peppers and black beluga lentils.

Napa Cabbage

Napa Cabbage

Today’s Purchases:

What’s at your market?

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For The Love of Food

by | Nov 6, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

We’ve had spectacular conversations on both posts from this week (Orthorexia, Bacon Worship And The Power of Food Culture and Fishing For Answers: How To Choose Fish and Seafood), thank you all for your thoughtful contributions.

Essential reading for today includes the New York Times examination of meat and sustainability. Sadly, 2 people have died and dozens were sickened this week (again) because of an E. coli outbreak from industrial beef. If you’re wondering why this keeps happening, check out the article about how these poor cows are fed chicken poop. Seriously. Also, Europe steps up to shut down health claims about probiotics, and Cynthia Kenyon gives us one more reason sugar is evil.

I still need votes for the People’s HealthBlogger Award by Wellsphere and would greatly appreciate your support. Wellsphere is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in healthy living. To vote for me you have to create an account with them, but you can delete it when you’re done (I have yet to get any spam). If you enjoy this blog, please take a minute to show your support. Much thanks to those who have already voted.


I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

For The Love of Food

  • The Carnivore’s Dilemma <<Exceptional article on the issue of meat eating and sustainability. It’s more complicated than you think. Now could you pass the bacon? (New York Times)
  • 7 Food Groups That Will Help Boost Your Mood <<Not sure about how much science rests behind these recommendations, but they are all healthy foods and if they help with mood too, woohoo! (Dumb Little Man)
  • The Omega-3 Battle: Which Margarine Is Healthier? <<Don’t eat margarine. However, since we discussed the health benefits of fish and omega-3 fatty acids this week, you might be interested in reading up on the debate going on in Europe right now. (Time)
  • Grain Relapse <<B.S. of the week People who follow the primal/paleo lifestyle adhere to a diet of only meat and vegetables, refraining entirely from grains and legumes in any form. Though it is hard to find health flaws in a diet like this, I have a lot of trouble understanding the purpose of this much dietary restriction–it eliminates virtually every cuisine on the planet. Mark Sisson argues there is no reason to eat grains at all, but does this much dogma really make your life better? In my experience, small amounts of grains (preferably intact) make existence a whole lot more enjoyable. I also feel better and weigh less. (Mark’s Daily Apple)
  • The Claim: A Person Can Pay Off a Sleep Debt by Sleeping Late on Weekends <<It takes longer than you think to make up for lost sleep, and it costs you in both physical and cognitive performance. Do yourself a favor and make sleep a priority. (New York Times)
  • Sugar Negates Worm’s Life-Extending Mutation <<Sugar won’t just make you fat, it also slowly kills you. Seriously, if you’re going to bother with sugar make sure whatever you’re eating is worth it. (Scientific American)
  • Europe rejects droves of health claims <<Although I’m proud of the FDA for essentially shutting down the Smart Choices campaign, Europe has always been better about making sure health claims on food labels actually mean something. This week they called bullshit on hundreds :) (Food Politics)
  • From The “Who Knew?” File: Cattle Commonly Fed Chicken Poop <<Can anyone name a way that industrial beef isn’t completely and utterly nauseating? I love a good piece of meat, but not when it was grown on chicken poop. Did I mention at least 2 people died this week because of a new E.coli outbreak from beef? So gross. (Treehugger, Marler Blog)
  • Phys Ed: Why Doesn’t Exercise Lead to Weight Loss? <<Exercise is good for you, but it is nearly impossible to experience meaningful weight loss without dietary changes. Exercise is more beneficial for weight maintenance. A new study helps illuminate why. (Well Blog)
  • How to Poach Pears <<I have never tried poaching pears, but now I want to. This recipe looks relatively easy, delicious and healthy. A perfect fall dessert. (David Lebovitz)

What awesomeness are you reading?

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Orthorexia, Bacon Worship And The Power of Food Culture

by | Nov 2, 2009
By lepiaf.geo

By lepiaf.geo

Is it possible for healthy eating to become an unhealthy obsession?

Absolutely.

Orthorexia is a word turning up frequently in the media to describe an excessive focus on healthy eating and dietary restriction. Though the term is not yet an official psychological diagnosis according to the DSM-IV, it is being used by some clinicians to describe patients with eating disorders that resemble obsessive compulsive.

Paradoxically, orthorexics obsessed with health are not healthy and often shun food to the point of emaciation and starvation. But unlike patients with anorexia nervosa, the goal of orthorexics is not to be thin but to be “pure, healthy and natural,” according to Dr. Steven Bratman who first described the disorder in 1997. Suffers are frequently associated with a particular eating regimen such as veganism or rawfoodism.

That orthorexia has only recently been identified and characterized may be the best argument yet for Michael Pollan’s assertion in The Omnivore’s Dilemma that over the past several decades America has undergone “a national eating disorder.” Americans spend tens of billions of dollars per year on weight loss and fitness products, with only growing obesity and chronic diseases to show for it. We’ve shunned fats, sugars, starches and everything in between, and embraced each new diet trend with open arms and wallets. And perhaps not surprisingly, it appears some people are now taking it too far.

The irony is that as a condition like orthorexia has emerged as clinically relevant, we’ve also seen a notable health food backlash. Google searches for the word “bacon” have increased significantly in the past year, and books are being written from websites like This Is Why You’re Fat.

Google Bacon 2004-2009

Google Bacon 2004-2009

In other words, we have serious issues with food.

But why?

It is easy to be sympathetic toward all of these behaviors, even if their extreme forms make us a bit uneasy. For those interested in living healthy and being thin (the chronic dieters), the only guidance is offered by thousands of diet books and companies like Weight Watchers. Each of these systems has its own strict guidelines for success, while unfortunately few (if any) of them encourage us to behave in a way that we would naturally. Thus the dirty little secret of the diet industry is that the vast majority of them are ineffective for long-term weight loss.

This is why we now have a congregation of bacon worshipers. A growing segment of the population is tired of bland food and unsatisfying, ineffective diets. Bacon tastes good, and since we are all clearly dying of heart attacks anyway we may as well live it up. Right?

Even if this attitude is a bit fatalistic, at its core it reflects a desire to enjoy life. And anyone who counts themselves among the human race should acknowledge this as a sentiment that deserves respect.

But striking the perfect balance between health and gluttony is extremely difficult in a food culture where we are allowed to eat in our cars and in front of our televisions. The food industry has made sure that as far as food is concerned, there are no rules. So a bit of obsession seems like a necessity for someone that still holds the desire to eat whole, unprocessed foods from the bottom of the food chain. The healthiest foods, after all, cannot be found at your neighborhood supermarket. For taste, health and the environment, the best stuff is at your local farmers market.

But avoiding the supermarket, isn’t that orthorexic?

Not necessarily. Every day we take a little extra time to do things that are necessary and important, things like sleeping, doing laundry and brushing our teeth. We go out of our way to do these things because the alternative is simply unacceptable. Eating quality food isn’t an obsession so much as a life maintenance task that–like being clean–is not up for negotiation. Until we have farmers markets on every corner, a little extra effort will be necessary.

But delicious, high-quality food is not only about health. It is also about taste, enjoyment, community and life. Food is something that is worth building your days around, because when approached from this angle food improves your quality of life in every way. Eating like this is not a disorder, it is a culture. And it is something that we desperately need to rediscover.

When proposing the term orthorexia, Bratman suggested framing a diagnosis around two direct questions:

  1. Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?
  2. Does your diet socially isolate you?

In other words, seeking healthy food only becomes unhealthy when it is devoid of enjoyment and social relationships.

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a lecture at UC Berkeley given by Michael Pollan. Near the end of his talk Pollan proposed reestablishing food culture in America as “The Omnivore’s Solution,” the way to break our habits of both health food obsession and unbridled gluttony. He described health as “a set of relationships,” and encouraged his audience to think of food not as a product but as something we do.

Throughout history and around the globe food cultures are what have dictated when, where and how much we should eat, and countries that have worked to preserve their cultures have fared better against obesity and other diseases of civilization. For Americans though, food culture has been replaced by nutritionism and all-you-can-eat buffets.

This kind of thinking is often branded as elitist, but it shouldn’t be. Food culture does not cost money, it is a basic tenet of life that extends across class boundaries. It costs time, but this is a priority shift that is worth investing in. According to the latest Nielsen statistics, Americans are watching an average of 5 hours of television per day. Calculate in the cost of high-definition screens and monthly cable bills and your daily food investment will start to be put into perspective.

It is undeniable that food grown locally with care costs more than the subsidized, mass-produced products that fill your favorite supermarket. But despite our reputation, Americans have never been opposed to going out of our way for and spending a little extra money on food that tastes amazing and makes us happy. (If you don’t believe me I’ll redirect you once again to This Is Why You’re Fat.)

Is it such a stretch to say that we should be able to eat healthy and still enjoy our food?

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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