Turkey, Tofu or Pheasant?

Happy Thanksgiving Week, folks. While we are preparing for several feasts in the coming week, we’ve been wondering where all our friends stand on the matter of a “main course” for the grateful table. In case you are still debating your shopping/hunting/processing/eating list for Thursday, we thought we’d get down to the meat of the holiday here on the blog. Here are a few ideas:

Heritage Turkeys: For Slow Food Friends and Historical Preservationists

These gobblers are the ancestors of the common Broad-breasted White industrial breed of turkey you will find in most grocery bins and their breeds (including the Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Jersey Buff, Slate, Black Spanish, White Holland, Royal Palm, White Midget and Beltsville Small White) have been preserved alongside their quality of life. Raising heritage breeds is more costly and time consuming for the farmer but better for biodiversity, the turkey and the consumer. Supermarket turkeys grow to an average of 32 pounds over 18 weeks. Often times they can’t even walk and their narrow genetic base leaves them highly susceptible to disease. Heritage birds, on the other hand, take 24-30 weeks to reach their market weight and live their lives with far more dignity. Read more about Heritage turkeys here. And click here to browse the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Turkey Farm listings.

Farm-Grown Neighbor Birds: For the Locavores

Some Heritage and Pastured turkeys can come with a higher price tag than your average bird and while not everyone finds it in their budget to purchase one, a lot of folks are willing to shell out a little extra to know their turkey farmer. Find one near you via the Local Harvest website. And while you’re there, check out the listings for 2013 CSAs!

 

 

Pheasant and Small Game Fowl: For the Hunters

Those of you who stay basic and dine on self-caught meat get the award for being the most sustainable. John Manikowski, the creator of the Wild Fish & Game Cookbook, wrote a wonderful essay for the Global Gourmet back in 1996 that is a great how-to as well as why-to for those of you plan to dine on pheasant or another kind of small game fowl. We highly recommend reading it.

 

 

Tofurky: For the Vegetarians

Having spent quite a few Thanksgiving holidays as a vegetarian, I think it is safe to say that even a conventional store-bought feast offers more than enough for a great “side item sampler.” But of course I realize that our vegetarian hosts out there may want to have that main dish in the center of the table so in comes the notorious Tofurky. Kudos for the fact that no animals were harmed in the making of your meat-substitute, but please remember that the Tofurky requires quite a bit of processing and input and is probably not the most sustainable choice.

 

Turducken: For Heaven’s Sake, How Are You On This Blog?!

Visited Wikipedia for this one. Their definition is as follows: “A turducken is a dish consisting of a de-boned chicken stuffed into a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed into a de-boned turkey. The word turducken is a portmanteau of turkey, duck, and chicken or hen. The thoracic cavity of the chicken/game hen and the rest of the gaps are stuffed, sometimes with a highly seasoned breadcrumb mixture or sausage meat, although some versions have a different stuffing for each bird. The result is a fairly solid layered poultry dish, suitable for cooking by braising, roasting, grilling, or barbecuing.” Our definition: For the most part, these are gluttonous dishes consisting of too-much meat shoved into one another that may have some historical and traditional relevance to the very wealthiest of 18th century diners but now caters mainly to the growing obesity epidemic in America (not to mention heart disease and many other health problems associated with a western diet). So if you’re into that, got for it. But we’re hopeful that most folks nowadays are opting for a sustainable table instead!

 

Great Content on FoodMyths.org

Our friend Mark Stewart, Senior Project Manager at the University of Maryland Office of Sustainability, turned us on to a great website this morning: FoodMyths.org. If you haven’t visited the site before, it is most definitely worth a lunch-time browse.  It is filled with resources, facts, suggestions, tool kits and ideas for getting involved in positive transformations of the food system. Here’s a video from their “Mythbusters” section, Hunger & Food Security, that gives a taste of what the site has to offer:

The Legendary Praying Mantis

Last week, a praying mantis made headlines after being discovered in the Washington National’s outfield during a game against the New York Mets. My sister, knowing my fondness for mantid-kind, alerted me to the story and assured me that the mantis was caught with a baseball glove, wrapped in a towel and carefully escorted from the field to be released elsewhere. A luxury that a mantis in close proximity to my sister may not have been afforded.

The news sparked quite a few discussions with friends regarding whether or not the insect is endangered and/or protected and if it is illegal to kill one. Nearly everyone I spoke to that day and night was certain it was a crime – albeit a difficult law to enforce. By dinner time, we Googled and found lots of hits with the terms: “myth,” “urban legend” and “$50 fine.” The short answer is: No, it is not illegal to kill a praying mantis BUT it should be because they are beyond beneficial for your garden, farm and outdoor life. Here’s why:

  • Praying mantises are 24/7 predators of harmful/annoying insects like mosquitoes, flies, aphids, roaches, beetles, grasshoppers and night-dwelling moths.
  • Even small, newborn mantises are hungry and will immediately begin feeding on the smaller pests.
  • They’re just plain awesome. Their triangular heads can turn 180 degrees and their compound eyes can detect movement up to 60 feet away.

An exact history of the myth is hard to isolate. It appears to date back quite a few decades (to the 1950s) and seems to have been born in the creative, collective imaginations of backyard gardeners. My best guess is that after witnessing the healing power the mantis and its prayer pose have on pest-ridden patches of produce, household rules about protecting them popped up.

While I feel some journalistic duty to report here that mantis homicide is not technically a crime, I’d like to propose that we continue to perpetuate this fantastic myth and protect these awesome creatures. If it means getting my sister a mantis-moving baseball glove, so be it.

*Special thanks to Rebecca Carter, John Rorapaugh and Jennifer Beidel for their thoughtful conversations that contributed to this post.

Raising Funds for Reforestation

Brendan Chareoncharutkun, one of our inaugural-season farmers at the Public Health Garden, has been studying Permaculture at Tacome Pai Organic Farm in Thailand this summer and touched base with us from “the land of smiles” to see if we could help promote the fundraising campaign for Tacome Pai’s sister project: The New Land.

We said: “ABSOLUTELY!!”

They’ve got until September 30th to raise the remainder of the $5,200 fundraising goal. With that funding, they aim to revitalize 72,000 square meters of deforested and degraded land by applying Permaculture design principles. The long-term mission of the project is to demonstrate and reintroduce sustainable living techniques to the locals and to create a prototype for reforestation and sustainable livelihood projects all over the world. Read more here and please join us in making a pledge.

Chesapeake Bay Week on MPT

Did you know that the Chesapeake Bay estuary, the largest in the United States, was created by a meteor impact? Can you identify which aquatic life is native, invasive, protected and depleted? Want to know how you and your community contribute to the well-being of the Bay? Lucky for you, this week is Chesapeake Bay Week on Maryland Public Television! Programming throughout April 15-22 2012 will be highlighting some hot topics around the watershed  including several brand new programs:

  • Menhaden: The Most Important Fish in the Bay – Exploration of how the harvesting of Menhaden from the Chesapeake Bay is affecting its water quality (Monday April 16th 10:00pm, Tuesday April 17th 2:00am)
  • The Maryland Harvest: A Guide to Seasonal Eating – The food-to-table movement in Maryland and its impact on Maryland restaurants, chefs, farmers and consumers (Tuesday April 19th 9:00pm, Wednesday April 18th 2:00am)
  • Restoring the Bay: New Solutions for Old Problems – Riverkeeper Fred Kelley faces challenges to help clean up the Severn River (Tuesday April 19th 10:30pm, Wednesday April 18th 3:30am)

These are just a few of the new and returning programs so be sure and check the website for the full programming lineup and set those DVRs! The week wraps up with a live music broadcast in affiliation with all the amazing folks at WTMD 89.7 too. More info on the Concert for the Chesapeake Bay here. Want more facts? Visit: Chesapeake Bay Journal..

Honoring Farmworkers: A Celebration of Cesar Chavez

The Accokeek Foundation, Rural Coalition, and Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission co-present the 2012 Food Justice Series. The Series kicks off this Thursday, March 29th, at 6:00pm at Cesar Chavez Prep with “Honoring Farmworkers: A Celebration of Cesar Chavez,” which includes a brief film screening and discussion with members of the Chavez Family.

This four-part presentation of the Robert Ware Straus Lecture Series brings together farmers, policy advocates, community leaders, faith- and government-based initiatives focusing on building local, equitable and sustainable food systems. Topics include a celebration of the legacy of Cesar Chavez, farmworker justice, food access in Southern Maryland, and young and beginning farmers as well as a look at our diverse ancestral farming in this region.