The California Mediterranean Diet: What to Eat

A “California Mediterranean Diet” is a symbiosis of the healthy foods and eating patterns associated with the old food ways of the Mediterranean, and the new and modern creativity and environmental consciousness of California cuisine. The vibrant immigrant culture of California has led to an explosion of unique spices, flavors and cooking styles that are being applied to the locally grown Mediterranean ingredients to form a uniquely tasty and healthy cuisine. Many studies have shown benefits to a Mediterranean style eating plan. The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine most recently published a Spanish study which supported the benefits of the traditional Mediterranean Diet in reducing heart disease in a high risk population.  As in previous studies discussed elsewhere on this site, this study showed that a diet based on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fish, as well as liberal amounts of fat from olive oil and nuts, is associated with good health.

California has a Mediterranean climate, and produces over 50 percent of the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States. By eating these locally grown foods, residents of California can enjoy the health benefits of the traditional Mediterranean diet  while also supporting local agriculture and limiting the environmental impact of their food choices. Below is a rough guideline of the California Mediterranean Diet when planning menus for adults. The ranges show the minimum and maximum amount of food in each category. Younger more active men need higher amounts. Less active, older women need lower amounts. In addition the amounts vary from day to day to allow flexibility with menus but this provides a rough outline of the average intake I recommend. This is not a diet prescription for any specific medical conditions or for weight loss. If you have a specific medical condition requiring diet modification I urge you to make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian for further guidance.

Note:  The California Mediterranean Pantry list on this site contains specific recommendations for brands and types of foods marked with * .

These are the foods to eat every day and the approximate amounts per day:

Slide13    Vegetables*: 5-12 servings per day:

A serving is 1 cup raw or ½ cup of cooked vegetables. Onions, garlic and tomatoes should be used frequently. California grown fresh or frozen vegetables (or canned in BPA free cans) should be chosen over imported products.

Slide12Fruits*: 3-6 servings per day.

A serving is ½ cup raw fruit such as berries, 1 medium piece of fruit or ¼ cup of dried fruit. It may include up to ½ cup of natural fruit juice (such as pomegranate or citrus) as one serving of fruit per day. California grown fruit, either fresh, frozen, dried or canned in BPA free cans should be chosen over imported fruit.

Slide17

 Nuts or nut butter*: ½ to 2 ounces daily (almonds, walnuts, pistachios and peanuts are all grown in California and are very healthy nuts to consume)

Slide15

 Whole grains*: 3-8 ounces per day

 An example of 1 ounce is 1 slice of whole grain bread or ½ cup of cooked grain such as brown rice, oats, whole grain pasta etc.

yogurtMilk products: 2-3 servings per day:

A serving is 1 cup milk or 1 cup yogurt or 1 cup Greek yogurt. Locally produced Organic or grass fed sources of dairy products are recommended.

Slide16   California Extra Virgin Olive oil*: 1 to 4 Tablespoons per day

These are the foods to eat on a weekly or almost weekly basis and the amounts per week:

Slide14   Legumes (cooked dry beans and peas)*: 3 -6 cups per week

Slide18  Fish: 6-15 ounces per week (wild or sustainably raised, fresh or frozen)

chicken    Chicken:  6-15 ounces per week ( Preferably Organically grown or cage free vegetarian fed and grown without antibiotics or growth additives)

The following foods are not necessary but can be eaten weekly in the following amounts if desired:

cheese 2Cheese: 0-3 ounces per week (organic or grass fed dairy preferred)

oil and margarine  Non-hydrogenated soft tub margarine, mayonnaise, canola and/or grapeseed oil: 0-3 Tablespoons per week * (non GMO canola oil preferred)

butter  Butter: 0-2 Tablespoons per week (organic or grass fed dairy preferred)

red meat 3Red Meat: lean cuts of grass-fed beef, lamb, pork: 0-8 ounces per week

eggs Whole Eggs: 0-3 per week (free range or organic, vegetarian fed preferred )

chocolate  Dark chocolate:0-3 ounces per week

sugars and sweeteners   Sweeteners (honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, organic sugar):

  0-7 Tablespoons per week

The foods listed below are foods to eat less frequently than once a week. They are foods eaten mostly for entertainment, not nutritional value. They are not a necessary part of the diet but would be fine to have on occasion if desired: Fatty cuts of meat such as pork shoulder, ribs, bacon, sausage, salami, marbled beef steaks, etc. Ice cream Homemade baked goods (cookies, pies, cakes, etc.) and other baked foods/breads made with white flour and sugar Candy Cream Gravy, cream sauces There are a lot of foods I do not recommend eating so I did not bother to list those but they are mostly processed foods such as: fast foods, foods with artificial flavors and colors, baked goods made with shortening, sodas…you know…junk food.

Slide36Packaged processed snack foods are not part of a California Mediterranean Diet!

Slide35Processed, nitrate-preserved meats, and packaged meals are not part of a California Mediterranean Diet either!

Vitamin Mineral Supplements: Women over 50 may benefit from Calcium Citrate (The most easily absorbed form of calcium): 1000 mg (or less depending upon current dietary intake of calcium sources) per day with Vitamin D. Men and women over 50 may benefit from B complex (mostly for B12) If fish intake is on the low end of the range consider omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil). 1200 mg total EPA plus DHA per day. (If you have any medical conditions or are taking any prescription medications check with your doctor or dietitian before starting any supplement regimen)

Another important part of a Mediterranean Diet is how and where the food is eaten. Food should be savored in a pleasant setting and with the company of family or friends.

© 2014. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any of this content without written permission of the author is strictly prohibited.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

Snoping Snopes

It recently has come to my attention that an article I wrote about imported garlic was snoped. I guess that means that it has gotten enough readership to draw some attention, which is good, but after reading the snope I feel the need to defend my original article in this blog post. I am disappointed to say I tried to post this in comments on their site and was blocked which reduces my respect for snope, a group I have always considered a reputable source for information.

To Snope: I appreciate you calling attention to an error in my blog post about Chinese garlic. I should have clarified that removal of all root mass does not mean garlic is from China, but it does suggest that the product is IMPORTED garlic, and the majority of garlic imported into this country is from China. I have changed the content of my article to clarify this.

In your snope you state that the garlic shown in the Christopher Ranch marketing photo has all of the roots removed, proving your point that American garlic can have the roots removed also. I contacted Christopher Ranch about the photo,and they told me they did not make the photo. It was made by ANUK ( a video newsletter for the produce industry) and may in fact be Chinese garlic.

In another part of your snope, you quote my conversation with the representative from Christopher Ranch saying that American growers don’t pay to completely remove ALL of the root material from garlic. You then show several Farmer’s Market examples of garlic with the “roots removed”. However when I look at some of your photos, I see garlic with root material still on some of the heads. Some roots are just clipped very short, not completely reamed of all root material as in my example of typical Chinese garlic (the bottom of the head will be completely white when all root material is removed). Large American commercial growers will snip the roots close to the base, but will not ream them out as shown in my photograph.  I grow and prepare my own garlic, including some for sale at the Farmer’s market, and can tell you that to get the bottom to look like my imported garlic example is very time consuming. But yes, you are correct, a few small Farmer’s Market growers may on occasion process garlic that way.

With regard to your comment on theories as to why the root mass is removed from imported garlic, I feel well supported in my statement that it is to remove all soil from the product. While the US regulations are hard to find on the internet, they do require imported garlic from China to meet phytosanitary standards certified by the exporting country. I could not find the US or China phytosanitary standards for garlic online but I could find them for Canada and they clearly state that no soil can be present on garlic imported to Canada from any country except the US. The only way to completely remove all soil from a garlic head is to completely remove the entire root mass from the head as shown in my example.

With regard to the contamination of Chinese garlic issue (I will not address the picture of pesticide spraying as that is not from my blog post) I call your attention to an extensive report from the USDA addressing food safety issues associated with all imported foods from China including information on contamination of garlic.

I further call your attention to the fact that the majority of garlic imported into the US is imported from China, and the US garlic industry no longer exports much product due to Chinese competition.

From the above facts one can then infer the following: Canada, and possibly other countries will not accept any garlic with root mass containing soil for import. If a grower is planning to export garlic, they will need to meet the strictest standards of countries accepting imports and this means removing all soil from the bulb of their products. The only way to remove all soil from garlic is to completely remove all root mass from the bottom of the bulb, leaving the bottom white and denuded of all stubble. This process is very labor intensive and thus expensive and not required for sale in the country of origin. Thus heads of garlic with every bit of root stubble removed are highly likely to be imported garlic from China.

I appreciate the work you do in promoting truth and accountability on the internet. As a Registered Dietitian, I try to fully research any nutrition or food related topic I write about. In this case, the rather nuanced nature of a complicated topic requires a high level of research and even then may be open to interpretation. I do stand behind my original thesis which is this:

When shopping for garlic, if one sees heads of garlic displayed in which every head of garlic has all stubble and root material removed from the bottom (essentially a white bottom) that garlic is probably imported. And most imported garlic is from China. Therefore, there is a high probability that garlic is from China. And garlic from China has a high probability of being contaminated with pesticide and/or bacterial residues.

I agree fully with your final comment that the best way to know the source of your garlic is to buy it directly from a farmer, through a Farmer’s Market or CSA, or to grow your own.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any content in the article without the written persmission of the author is prohibited.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

Canning Lessons

For a large part of my lifetime, canning looked to be a lost art. With the easy and inexpensive proliferation of processed foods and the emphasis on the (sometimes incorrect) nutritional benefits of fresh over frozen over canned, the need for learning this once essential skill had faded. As a gardener with a large fruit orchard, I have always felt a need to can as a means of preserving the bounty when my freezer gets filled beyond its limits. On occasion, it has become more than that, almost an obsession, and the line between enthusiastic canner and prepper becomes blurred.

enthusiasticcanner

Is this the pantry of an enthusiastic home preserver, a prepper, a hoarder?

I plead guilty to all charges.

Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in lost homestead arts, and canning is among them. Manufacturers of canning jars (Ball and Kerr are the two most commonly seen brands) have seen an upturn in sales of their products over the last few years. While once uncommon, supermarket magazine shelves now carry a variety of magazines or quarterlies devoted to canning. And of course, the internet is loaded with thousands of food bloggers displaying “food porn” pictures of their beautiful array of home preserved foods.

In the age of the internet, any person with a PC, even those with minimal knowledge of safe food preservation practices, can post recipes for canned foods. At a recent conference I attended, for example, one canning specialist noted that over 1/3 of Americans who can are using recipes for canned tomatoes that are deemed unsafe by the USDA. Tomatoes can be a low acid product, and if one does not add a source of acid prior to water bath canning them, there can be a risk (though slight) of botulism contamination. Botulism is a deadly toxin, and even if the probability is low, the risk when it might occur is unacceptably high.

For readers interested in taking the leap into home canning, I encourage you to connect with the Master Food Preservers in your area. The Master Food Preservers are taught a curriculum of safe food preservation developed in association with the University of California. I was excited to see that the Sacramento Master Food Preservers are offering classes in our area. They even have a class tomorrow night, and the cost is only 5 dollars, so I rushed to write this post to promote that class. If you are able to find the time, and are interested in becoming an expert in home food preservation, you can even sign up to take the full course to become a Master Food Preserver yourself.

Online resources for safe home food preservation are those associated with the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the University of California (I am using a UC publication for making olives today!) and the canning jar company Ball. If you buy a pressure or water bath canner, they also typically come with a booklet containing directions and recipes.

As we become more aware of the benefits of eating locally grown, in season foods, the benefits of home food preservation for extending the seasons become clear. I urge you to give home canning a try. It is a simple process, it saves money, it is great for the environment (less trash from packaging, less refrigeration costs) and the rewards of looking a shelf of beautiful foods you have preserved yourself are priceless.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

The California Mediterranean Diet: What to Eat

As I have stated in previous posts a “California Mediterranean Diet” as a symbiosis of the healthy foods and eating patterns associated with the old food ways of the Mediterranean, with the new and modern creativity and environmental consciousness of California cuisine. The vibrant immigrant culture of California has led to an explosion of unique spices, flavors and cooking styles that are being applied to the locally grown Mediterranean ingredients to form a uniquely tasty and healthy cuisine. Many studies have shown benefits to a Mediterranean style eating plan. The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine most recently published a Spanish study which supported the benefits of the traditional Mediterranean Diet in reducing heart disease in a high risk population.  As in previous studies discussed elsewhere on this site, this study showed that a diet based on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fish, as well as liberal amounts of fat from olive oil and nuts, is associated with good health. California has a Mediterranean climate, and produces over 50 percent of the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States. By eating these locally grown foods, residents of California can enjoy the health benefits of the traditional Mediterranean diet  while also supporting local agriculture and limiting the environmental impact of their food choices. Below is a rough guideline of the California Mediterranean Diet when planning menus for adults. The ranges show the minimum and maximum amount of food in each category. Younger more active men need higher amounts. Less active, older women need lower amounts. In addition the amounts vary from day to day to allow flexibility with menus but this provides a rough outline of the average intake I recommend. This is not a diet prescription for any specific medical conditions or for weight loss. If you have a specific medical condition requiring diet modification I urge you to make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian for further guidance. Note:  The California Mediterranean Pantry list on this site contains specific recommendations for brands and types of foods marked with * . These are the foods to eat every day and the approximate amounts per day:

Slide13    Vegetables*: 5-12 servings per day:

A serving is 1 cup raw or ½ cup of cooked vegetables. Onions, garlic and tomatoes should be used frequently. California grown fresh or frozen vegetables (or canned in BPA free cans) should be chosen over imported products.

Slide12Fruits*: 3-6 servings per day.

A serving is ½ cup raw fruit such as berries, 1 medium piece of fruit or ¼ cup of dried fruit. It may include up to ½ cup of natural fruit juice (such as pomegranate or citrus) as one serving of fruit per day. California grown fruit, either fresh, frozen, dried or canned in BPA free cans should be chosen over imported fruit.

Slide17

 Nuts or nut butter*: ½ to 2 ounces daily (almonds, walnuts, pistachios and peanuts are all grown in California and are very healthy nuts to consume)

Slide15

 Whole grains*: 3-8 ounces per day

 An example of 1 ounce is 1 slice of whole grain bread or ½ cup of cooked grain such as brown rice, oats, whole grain pasta etc.

yogurtMilk products: 2-3 servings per day:

A serving is 1 cup milk or 1 cup yogurt or 1 cup Greek yogurt. Locally produced Organic or grass fed sources of dairy products are recommended.

Slide16   California Extra Virgin Olive oil*: 1 to 4 Tablespoons per day

These are the foods to eat on a weekly or almost weekly basis and the amounts per week:

Slide14   Legumes (cooked dry beans and peas)*: 3 -6 cups per week

Slide18  Fish: 6-15 ounces per week (wild or sustainably raised, fresh or frozen)

chicken    Chicken:  6-15 ounces per week ( Preferably Organically grown or cage free vegetarian fed and grown without antibiotics or growth additives)

The following foods are not necessary but can be eaten weekly in the following amounts if desired:

cheese 2Cheese: 0-3 ounces per week (organic or grass fed dairy preferred)

oil and margarine  Non-hydrogenated soft tub margarine, mayonnaise, canola and/or grapeseed oil: 0-3 Tablespoons per week * (non GMO canola oil preferred)

butter  Butter: 0-2 Tablespoons per week (organic or grass fed dairy preferred)

red meat 3Red Meat: lean cuts of grass-fed beef, lamb, pork: 0-8 ounces per week

eggs Whole Eggs: 0-3 per week (free range or organic, vegetarian fed preferred )

chocolate  Dark chocolate:0-3 ounces per week

sugars and sweeteners   Sweeteners (honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, organic sugar):

  0-7 Tablespoons per week

The foods listed below are foods to eat less frequently than once a week. They are foods eaten mostly for entertainment, not nutritional value. They are not a necessary part of the diet but would be fine to have on occasion if desired: Fatty cuts of meat such as pork shoulder, ribs, bacon, sausage, salami, marbled beef steaks, etc. Ice cream Homemade baked goods (cookies, pies, cakes, etc.) and other baked foods/breads made with white flour and sugar Candy Cream Gravy, cream sauces There are a lot of foods I do not recommend eating so I did not bother to list those but they are mostly processed foods such as: fast foods, foods with artificial flavors and colors, baked goods made with shortening, sodas…you know…junk food.

Slide36Packaged processed snack foods are not part of a California Mediterranean Diet!

Slide35Processed, nitrate-preserved meats, and packaged meals are not part of a California Mediterranean Diet either!

Vitamin Mineral Supplements: Women over 50 may benefit from Calcium Citrate (The most easily absorbed form of calcium): 1000 mg (or less depending upon current dietary intake of calcium sources) per day with Vitamin D. Men and women over 50 may benefit from B complex (mostly for B12) If fish intake is on the low end of the range consider omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil). 1200 mg total EPA plus DHA per day. (If you have any medical conditions or are taking any prescription medications check with your doctor or dietitian before starting any supplement regimen)

Another important part of a Mediterranean Diet is how and where the food is eaten. Food should be savored in a pleasant setting and with the company of family or friends.

© 2014. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any of this content without written permission of the author is strictly prohibited.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

The Farm Bill: Unhealthy for You, Unhealthy for California Farms

veggies farm market

beets and carrots farm marketBeautiful displays of healthy food at a California Farmer’s Market showing foods receiving minimal subsidies.

Slide36Display of foods made from ingredients heavily subsidized

I think almost every American feels that small family farms should be supported. Stories of ancestors who lost their farms during the great depression are a part of many of our family’s heritages, including my husband’s. If farming in America were to decline, the consequences for our food security could be dire.

However, from good intentions of protecting farms, our government seems to have created a federal monster that is harming the health of America. The farm subsidies (including crop insurance subsidies) in the farm bill are an example of a federal program gone astray by a broken political process.

America is suffering from an obesity crisis, yet rather than addressing this by providing subsidies to healthier foods, or at least NOT SUBSIDIZING less healthy foods, the farm bill continues to subsidize the foods that are causing us to become fat and unhealthy. The numbers associated with the subsidies to California farmers tell much of the story.

California produces more dollar value of agricultural crops than any other state. It is FIRST on the list of agricultural producers, followed by Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota. However, the types of crops produced by the top states differ significantly. Most tellingly, California produces one half of all the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the US. ONE HALF of all the foods that have been shown to be some of the healthiest components of a traditional Mediterranean diet. ONE HALF of the agricultural foods Americans need to be eating more of…

If the farm subsidies in the farm bill were in any way tied toward a reasonable agricultural policy, it would seem to me that they should provide some support to the California farmers who are putting fruits and vegetables on the plates of America. Ideally, these subsidies would help keep fruit and vegetable farmers in business and assure reasonable prices of these foods so Americans could afford them. Or at least, they would not subsidize farmers growing less healthy food (such as corn to produce high fructose corn syrup). But sadly, this is untrue. Instead, the majority of the farm bill agricultural subsidies (including crop insurance subsidies) go to large wealthy farmers producing 5 crops: corn, soybeans, rice, wheat and livestock. In addition 70 percent of the farm subsidy payments (including crop insurance subsidies) go to 10 percent of the farms in America.

Even if things were just fairly distributed, with no preferred crops, it would seem that the top states in agriculture production would be those that got the most subsidies. For example, Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, California and Minnesota should be in the top 5 in terms of the states receiving agricultural subsidies. That seems at least fair. And in fact, Iowa is first, Texas is 2nd, Nebraska is 4th and Minnesota is 5th in terms of the percentage of farm subsidy receipts.

But get this: although California is first in agricultural production and produces the most of what I call “healthy food”, and California pays more federal income taxes than any other state, California farmers are tenth in terms of their receipts of Farm Bill subsidies.

Even more disconcerting are the numbers behind California’s farm subsidy receipts. Almost all of the receipts go to producers of cotton, rice, wheat, livestock and corn. Almost  NONE of the farm subsidies go to producers of fruits, vegetables and nuts.  Even tobacco farmers in other states receive more subsidies than California fruit and vegetable farmers. Over 90 percent of California farmers receive no subsidies, and  much of the farm bill subsidies are now going to large, wealthy farm conglomerates.The environmental working group has prepared an excellent analysis of the negative impact of the farm bill priorities on farming in California and it is available at this link. 

The simple math of the farm bill’s impact on California is this:

  • California taxpayers pay 12 percent of all the federal taxes collected
  • California farms produce 13 percent of all the agricultural crop revenue in America
  • California farms produce 50 percent of all the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in America but
  • California farms receive only 4 percent of the farm subsidies in the farm bill and almost none of those subsidies are for fruit, vegetable or nut production

The way this adds up to me, California fruit and vegetable farmers are paying extra taxes to support corn, wheat, rice, soybean, and livestock producers. This is just plain wrong. I know so many California fruit, vegetable and nut farmers who are struggling to make ends meet. The price of good agricultural land in California is going up every day, and pressure to sell the land for development is an ongoing temptation faced by California growers. This lack of support by the federal government for California farmers adds insult to injury.

Every time the Farm Bill works it’s way through Congress these inequities are debated and changes are discussed, and every time the bill that finally passes continues this same pattern of encouraging growers of corn, wheat, even tobacco, more than the farmers growing the foods that Americans SHOULD be eating. The farm bill is being debated right now, and the bill that has passed on for a vote in the Senate last week continues the same old pattern. In an attempt to disguise the pork, they are now attempting to reassign some of the direct payment subsidies to additional “crop insurance subsidies” but it is just more of the same. There is an excellent blog post by Mark Bittman of the New York Times addressing that specific component of the program.

I urge you to call your representatives and tell them to stop giving subsidies (including crop insurance subsidies) to unhealthy foods and big ag. The way I see it, if they can’t redesign farm supports to encourage healthy eating, or at least be fair in their distribution of support for different states with different crop profiles, then they should stop subsidizing farms altogether.

© 2013. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Reproduction of any of this content without written permission of the author is strictly prohibited.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

Garlic culture: successes and failures of a novice

Flowers form on the stalks of hard-necked garlic.

Well, my last post clarified my opinion on the reasons why you should know where your garlic is grown. I did not know last year that much of our garlic was coming from China, I just knew that recently I had been very unhappy with the quality of garlic I had purchased in the stores. It was often very dry, sprouting, and green in the center. It seemed “old”.  It also seemed to have gotten quite expensive. I had grown garlic years ago, and remembered how juicy and fresh the cloves seemed when they were first harvested, and I wanted some more of THAT kind of garlic so I decided to plant some again.

The good news is that garlic can be grown almost anywhere. My friends in Wyoming grew garlic successfully, even with their crazy weather. It is all about choosing the right variety. Garlic also is very space efficient, so you do not need much room to grow garlic. In fact, you could probably grow the average American yearly supply of fresh garlic (about 3 pounds) in a few  good-sized pots on your deck. Hopefully, I have motivated you to think about growing your own garlic if you have not done that yet.

We planted our garlic last fall, and began our harvest in mid June.  It has been a long time since we grew garlic successfully, and as a result, there are a few things I had forgotten that I had to “learn the hard way” this year.  I thought I would share with you a few lessons I re-learned this year.

1) Garlic should be planted in the fall. Last year we tried to plant in the spring, and ended up with tiny little heads.

This is a garlic plant in our garden which I photographed this winter

Garlic is one of the crops you just plant and sort of forget about. In cold winter areas you might put a bit of a mulch over it, but for us, we just stick it in the ground, control the weeds and wait until Spring. It is easy to grow and if you pick the right variety, you can grow it almost anywhere.

2) Make sure to plant the garlic cloves with the root (flat end) down and the top (pointed end of the clove) pointing up. It seems obvious, but I gave a beginning gardener friend of mine some cloves to plant last year and she admits now she planted a few of them upside down!

3)  Don’t wait too long to harvest. This is especially important for the garlic that has a thin outer skin with large cloves such as the hard-neck type of garlic.  For example, Spanish Rojo has amazingly large, easy-to- peel cloves, but should be harvested when only a few of the lower leaves are dead.  If you wait until the majority of the top of the plant has died, the skin on the outside will become too thin and the cloves will bust out of their skin, like this:

This garlic was harvested too late and the cloves are separating from the head

A garlic like that cannot be sold, and is not going to last very long either. In general, harvest garlic when only some of the bottom leaves have turned yellow and died.

The two other types of of hard necked garlic we grew, Kilarney and Metechi, took longer to mature and we got decent heads with not as much separation of the cloves as the Spanish Rojo. However the Spanish Rojo cloves were giant and easy to peel, so they definitely are worth growing again.

4) Dig out the garlic heads carefully with a shovel.

Do not try to pull them out by their tops, even if the soil has been loosened. If there is any resistance, especially with an over-ripe head of garlic, the top will come off from the top at the base, like this:

          Top of the garlic separated from the head

This is another garlic that cannot be sold or stored.

5)  When digging the garlic, give a wide berth. Some of the heads of the Spanish Rojo garlic were monsters, much bigger than others, and I ended up nicking some cloves with the shovel.

These cloves of garlic were cut by the shovel while digging the heads out.

This is one more head of garlic that cannot be sold or stored.  I am starting to think homemade garlic powder would be a good use for all of this booboo garlic! I also will try freezing some. Even the longest lasting garlic only stores for 8-9 months max, and I think frozen home-grown garlic would be an improvement over the shriveled-up and green sprouting (Chinese?) garlic left in the the grocery stores at the end of the winter!

6)  After storing your garlic for several weeks in a shaded dry place, clean it up. Rub off the outer dirty skin leaving as much intact skin as possible to protect the cloves. Remove all the dirt from the roots and trim them up if you like. You can also clip off the top of the plant leaving just the bulb. However, I have read that the garlic stores best if you leave as much of the roots and top of the plant as possible.

7) If you grow several varieties of garlic, grow some that are good ” keepers”. When you harvest your crop, know which garlic lasts better in storage and which doesn’t. Use the most perishable garlic first. I grew 5 varieties of garlic this year.

The garlic varieties we grew (from left to right)

Back row:  Metechi, Kilarney, Spanish Rojo (all hard-neck) and not great keepers

Front Row: Silver Rose and Ichilium (both soft-neck) and good keepers

As a side note: supposedly the hard-neck varieties of garlic we grew are said to grow better in places with cold winters. We do not have cold winters here at all, with seldom even a frost, but other than the few over-ripe Spanish Rojo garlic heads, we grew beautiful large heads of garlic successfully.  Since over 80 percent of the commercial garlic grown in the US is grown in California, my guess is most varieties will grow here successfully.

One way to store soft neck garlic is to make a garlic braid. I am very proud of the braid I made with the Ichilium garlic I grew this year. It is the first time I have made a garlic braid. The directions on this website were very helpful.

Ichilium garlic braid

8) Pick out some of the best heads to save for planting in the fall for next year’s crop.  Each clove of garlic will be planted to make a new head of garlic so keep that in mind when you are deciding how much to save. If you notice ANY white fungus on the heads of garlic at harvest, do not save those cloves, and do not reuse that area for growing garlic again.

Overall, we got a good sized harvest, some of which as you can see here.  This cart contains only the Spanish Rojo, but we had 4 other varieties to harvest as well!

All of the garlic was cured in a shaded, dry spot with plenty of air circulation (ie our garage with the garage door open during the day) for several  weeks. Then we cleaned up the heads by rubbing off the dirt, tied them in bunches by variety and stored them on these racks in a cool, dry place.

Garlic bunches on racks for storage

A few nutrition notes:

The health benefits of garlic are still being clarified, but the strongest research so far suggests that garlic has natural compounds that thin the blood. Small blood clots are often the initial insult that leads to a heart attack. Garlic also seems to have anti-bacterial properties although how this works once the garlic is eaten is still unclear. In addition garlic contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory effects. Studies on the health benefits of garlic have focused on it’s role in the prevention of cancer, heart disease and infectious disease.

How about you? Have you grown garlic successfully? What challenges have you faced? What varieties have grown well, or not, in your area? Feel free to share your comments:

© 2012. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

My Garlic culture conundrum (or why garlic is like a canary)

It has recently come to my attention that this article was snoped. Please see this link for my response to the snope article including references. While I made a few minor changes, I stand behind the content in this article as it is currently published including the information on how to look for imported (mostly Chinese) garlic when shopping. Although I support what snope is doing, and use them as a reference for truth in the internet myself, in this case I think they took a nuanced complicated subject and tried to make it simple and came up with the wrong conclusion.

photo 1, garlic wm.It started as a simple enough blog post.  This winter I grew garlic successfully for the first time in many years, but in the process of harvesting it I made some mistakes and thought I would share them with my readers.  I had a few pictures, thought it would be fun, something light and simple. I started the blog post, then figured I would look up a bit on the web about garlic culture in California, that type of thing. I walked away from my computer 3 hours later shaking my head and steaming about the degradation and outsourcing of our food supply. Thus my conundrum. Should I let it go, stay with the simple fun blog post, or should I go down the rabbit hole in this post, covering at least a bit of what I gleaned? That is my garlic culture conundrum. Should I tell you why garlic is like a canary  in a coal mine when it comes to the safety and security of our food supply? Well, if you know me by now, you know what decision I made….

Garlic is one of the most common ingredients in a traditional Mediterranean diet. It is an essential component of sauces such as pesto (Italy)  skordalia (Greece), aioli (Southern France), and alioli (Spain), and of course garlic is used liberally in a variety of recipes as a flavoring for meat, fish, poultry, vegetables. legumes, rice, pasta and casserole dishes. Besides olive oil, there is no more ubiquitous ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. Throughout history, garlic has played an important culinary and medicinal role in Mediterranean culture.

California has it’s own special garlic culture. The world-famous Gilroy Garlic Festival is held this month on the coast of California, however in truth, most of California’s Garlic is now grown in the Central Valley where land is less expensive and there have been less problems with fungal disease. White rot, a fungal disease that renders soil unusable for garlic production, has been a challenge faced by California growers but much of California’s garlic culture is now threatened by economic forces as well.

Less than 15 years ago, California produced almost all of the garlic sold in the United States.   Now, China produces more than half of the garlic sold in the United States. In the late 90s China began flooding the market with inexpensive garlic, putting California growers out of business. Questions have been raised about the contamination of Chinese garlic with lead, sulfites and other unsafe compounds, as the food safety regulations in China are known to be lax.  Land in California is expensive, and California has some of the most stringent pesticide and food safety regulations in the world, so growing garlic in California is more expensive than growing garlic in China. California farmers just could not compete and in the last decade the amount of California land devoted to growing garlic has been cut in half.

The American consumer has more than doubled their intake of garlic over the same period of time. California garlic has been shown to have a higher sugar content (Brix) than Chinese garlic which is a factor associated with improved taste. I wonder if many consumers even know what good quality garlic is supposed to taste like.

Garlic powder and dehydrated garlic are another significant area of concern as over 75% of the garlic Americans eat is in this processed form. The majority of our garlic powder comes from China. The rapid expansion in our dependence on foreign foodstuffs seems to have left the FDA in the lurch and they are rushing to catch up by expanding their programs for inspection of imported foods. One of the primary reasons for their increased focus on imported foods is their recognition of pesticide and bacterial contamination of foods grown in China in general and heavy metal contamination of Chinese garlic powder in particular. Look on the shelves of your pantry. How much of your packaged food contains garlic, garlic powder or dehydrated garlic? Again, most of this garlic is from China. Even “organic” garlic is often from China, but it appears their organic certification methods are also questionable. Unfortunately, as we are all well aware, the FDA is one of those “big federal programs” slated for budget cuts whenever deficit reduction talks get going. So if you think the FDA is protecting your health in this area, even they admit they are not adequately staffed to do so at this time.

Have you noticed that over the past few years while the quality of garlic in the stores has been especially poor the prices have been very high? I did, which is why I went back to growing my own garlic again. In 2009 a drop in the world supply of garlic, increased demand for garlic in China as an herbal remedy to protect against flu and speculation in garlic by Chinese investors lead to a tripling of the wholesale price for garlic. But there were only half as many California growers to make up the gap. So now we were left with high prices AND poor quality.

What crop will it be the next time?  As more and more of our food production is outsourced to China, Mexico, Chile (and the next new frontier is Africa) due to our demand for cheaper food, regardless of the quality and safety, California farms are closing down and going out of business. California at one time was the primary source of the fruit consumed in America. Now more than half of our fruit is imported. If more and more farms close down, and we can no longer feed our country, what security will we have? We have already seen garlic fall prey to the whims of one country and the shrewd speculations of a few investors.  What will be next? And what will happen as the price of fuel continues to rise and we are dependent upon shipping our food all over the world because we have lost our local productive farms? And let’s not even get into the discussion about the carbon footprint of all of this.

Where is the garlic you eat grown? If you live in the US, hopefully it is grown locally or in California, not shipped all the way from China. One way to tell if your garlic is imported or is US grown is by the roots. American garlic usually has some of the roots left on the bottom, though they may be clipped very close to the base. Due to the agricultural import regulations of many countries exporters of garlic remove all soil (which requires removing every bit of root mass) prior to export. (here are Canada’s regulations for all imported garlic except that from the US) Here is an example of imported garlic. Notice that the root area is actually indented as the roots are carved away completely. Every head will be like this and this is not the same as a few head with roots cut away and some clipped close.

 

chinese-garlic watermarkedImported garlic: bleached white, with all root mass and dirt carved away from the bottom

Here is an example of California grown garlic with the bits of root still attached to most of the heads:California garlic watermarked


California grown garlic, with a more natural color, and root mass still visible on the bottom of most of the heads.

Unfortunately it appears you cannot trust all of the stores to be honest about where the garlic comes from. The garlic shown below was being sold at Sunflower “Farmer’s Market”  in Roseville, CA.  I have been advised by the consumer affairs department at Christopher Ranch garlic, the largest garlic company in the United States, that there are NO commerical American growers that pay the extra expense to have the roots completely removed from all of their garlic as it is not legally required for American grown products. Don’t you just love the little USA sign next to this garlic that has been processed in the way that only imported garlic is processed?

Garlic processed in a manner associated with imported garlic only (all root material removed from every head), but marked as “Product of the USA” . Photo taken at Sunflower Market in Roseville, California.

I wonder if there are other fruits and vegetables imported from China, Mexico or whatever, that are also mislabeled. With garlic one can see the difference, but what about green beans, zucchini, peppers? I did email the USDA regarding my finding at Sunflower, but I got no response, so I am curious as to whether anyone actually enforces the Country of Origin labeling laws. If you are paying extra for American or California Grown produce, it seems it is not clear that you are always getting what you are paying for. This is yet another reason to buy from a local farm, CSA or a real “farmer’s market”.

Well. now that I have gotten THAT off of my chest, I would like to get back to the subject at hand, which was originally my garlic culture successes and blunders. However, I have exceeded by far the recommended length for one blog post. Rather than overwhelm you with so much to think about at one time, today I will let you ponder all the reasons why you really should find a source of local garlic, or better yet grow your own. In a few days check here again for my next blog post about my tips on growing garlic.

© 2012. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

Food Day at UC Davis Medical Center

“EAT LOCAL”

Last Monday was Food Day. The Food and Nutrition Department at UC Davis Medical Center sponsored several activities in celebration of healthy eating. I presented a talk on The California  Mediterranean Diet to staff. I set up the display above showcasing foods grown within 50 miles of the Medical Center. Before the talk we had an informal tasting of olive oils including 2 oils from the Olive Center on the UC Davis Campus and one from Bariani which is a producer in the Sacramento area. Bariani makes a California Balsamic Vinegar which we also offered for tasting.

Olive oil and bread for tasting

The cafeteria at the Medical Center offered a delicious menu featuring Mediterranean foods. They provided some samples of  Roasted Vegetable Quinoa salad to the attendees at my event. The salad was delicious. This is the recipe (adapted for home use) along with some photos of the preparation. It is nice to see healthy ingredients in such large portions!

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad Recipe:

3 ounces Quinoa,

1 cup cold water,

3 ounces asparagus

7 ounces carrot diced ½ inch

6 ounces red onion cut 1 inch

6 ounces cauliflower florets

2 Tbsp. olive oil

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp pepper

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp. Olive oil

3 tsp. wine vinegar

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp pepper

2 Tbsp fresh mint

Rinse quinoa very well in a strainer. Put in a rice cooker and cook with 1 cup cold water until finished.

 Check out the size of that rice cooker!

Wash asparagus and trim bottom end, then cut the asparagus into 1 ½ inch pieces on the diagonal.

Isn’t this asparagus pretty?

Break the large cauliflower in pieces into slightly smaller portions.

Put the onion, asparagus, and cauliflower in a roasting pan and drizzle 2 tbsp. olive oil and the ½ tsp salt and pepper over. Mix and roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Eat your vegetables

Mix lemon juice, olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, pepper to make the dressing.

Fluff the quinoa in a bowl, put the vegetables over it, then pour over the dressing and mix it all together.

The ingredients before mixing

Sprinkle chopped fresh mint over the top and serve.

Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad

I have not used quinoa much, but this recipe made me curious and I plan to try a version of this salad at home. Quinoa is a grain (actually a seed) that is native to South America, and I was surprised to find that it has twice as much protein as brown rice. It also is much higher than rice in a variety of minerals including calcium and iron.

Thank you to the UC Davis Medical Center Dietetic Interns for taking the photos. Thanks also to all the staff of the Department of Food and Nutrition who helped make this event successful.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com

What is BPA and why is it in my tomato sauce?

Today is food day, and the official inaugural day of my website and blog. I have a lot to get done today, but checked the news and found one more study about the harmful effects of the plastic BPA, which stands for bisphenol-A. It is a hormone like substance, and studies suggest it may be associated with a variety of problems including diabetes, reproductive problems, neurological problems and cancer. Many scientists consider it to be a suspect chemical, and Canada has now declared it to be a toxic substance,  The FDA considers it to be a substance of concern for fetuses, infants and young children. I personally don’t want BPA in my body, and it has been suggested that most Americans have higher blood levels than what is recommended.

If you buy foods packaged in plastic, which I hope you are limiting, avoid foods with the 3 and 7 recycling number on them as they are most likely to contain BPA.

In the process of researching foods for my “Mediterranean Pantry” page, I began to wonder about canned foods. Canned beans and tomatoes, and canned salmon, seemed like healthy foods that are reasonably sustainable in their methods of production. But canned goods often contain BPA in their liners, and studies have shown that a lot of it can leach into the food. Could I find any brands that did not contain BPA? You would think maybe organic brands, right? The answer was not that simple.

In the end, this is what I determined: at this time there is no canned salmon that is BPA free. Some manufacturers are working toward that and I will keep you updated.

Canned tomatoes are very acidic, and it has been difficult to find an alternative to BPA. The only manufacturer who is using a BPA free can is Muir Glen, and they just started using it this year. So anything on the store shelves is likely to be in last year’s can and contain BPA. Any sauces made with tomato would similarly be canned in BPA.

I could find no California tomatoes in glass jars, which would of course be the best option. Bottled sauces are often made with tomatoes that were previously in cans so I am not sure that is an improvement. After reading all this I decided to peel and freeze a bunch of my tomatoes this year in jars and plastic zip-lock bags (I checked, they do not have BPA). I also took to canning my tomatoes again. Remember if you are canning tomatoes, they are a borderline acidic food and you should follow approved recipes for canning them and add the acid ingredients such as lemon juice or citric acid in the amounts recommended to avoid botulism. I use the UC Davis publication download on preserving tomatoes at this link for recipes.

As for any other canned goods, Eden foods, which is an organic brand, packs everything except tomato products in cans that are not lined with BPA.

When I was researching all of this, it gave me a headache and confused me and I am a professional dietitian.  I can’t imagine the lay person figuring all of this out. I decided it was just one more reason skip the plastic and cans altogether and eat fresh, local, in season California grown foods whenever possible.

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

www.californiamediterraneandiet.com