The organic question

Y'all probably read about the Stanford study that compared the nutritional content of organic and conventional produce. The authors of the study conducted a massive review of the literature, identifying 237 for further scrutiny. These studies looked at many variables, including the nutrient content of the produce as well as their bacterial, fungal and pesticide load. None of the studies compared the longitudinal health of populations consuming largely organic or conventional crops.

Based on their meta-analasis of the literature, they found no significant difference in nutritional content; organic produce didn't necessarily contain more vitamins, though there was some indication that organic milk yielded more omega-3 fatty acids. Organic produce tended to have about 30 percent less pesticide residue but was not pesticide free. Two studies on children demonstrated that kids consuming organic diets had less pesticide in their urine than children on conventional diets. But the health benefits or detriments to the kids are unclear.

The researchers were careful to note the limits of their work, mentioning variations in farming practices, weather and soil influences and different testing methods among the studies. And they also were quick to say there are other reasons to buy organic apart from how much vitamin C might be in your tomatos.

Here at Casa de Nake-id we don't buy all organic goods. It makes me writhe to pay $4 for a cup of raspberries or $5 for two cucumbers. Plus Big Organic has a reputation for putting profits over poultry, so the idea of buying organic for the greater good only goes so far when it comes to how animals are treated, especially in large operations.

The food I trust the most comes from our garden. (Though after suffering a wasp bite washing chard, I'm not so sure.) I trust it not because it's healthier (Lord knows what's in our Northwest Denver soil), but because it's here. This time of year, I can often glean an entire meal from what's coming out of the ground and hiding in our cupboards. Apples, kale, arugula, zucchini, tomatoes, herbs.

Our garden is small and not particularly ambitious. When a real gardener shares the fruits of her labors with us--it's a delight. Like slipping on a handmade sweater, there's something about food grown by friends.

I started this post intending to get all huffy about the Stanford study--about how the issue is bigger than the phytonutrients in your carrot and how buying organic puts a big green thumb in the eye of Monsanto. But my point, really is this: The healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is cook. You can take back your palette and your health by learning to whip up a couple of great salads and soups, bringing leftovers for lunch instead of Lean Cuisine and eschewing meat at every meal.

Yes, buy organic when you can. Support farmers who grow organically even if they aren't certified. And learn to make a mean stir fry. If you learn to love cooking even a little bit, you'll be seasoning your food with the healthiest ingredients of all--your care, attention and love.

Local tomato

Look at that fat, bulbous globe, ruddy as a drunk. And grown at 8,000 feet. By rights at this elevation it should be a stunted yellow ball.

The tomato comes from Meredith, who's been haying at the ranch. Meredith is the mother of 29 alpacas, seven goats, five chickens and four dogs. She has animals, we have grass, so this week she's been busy raking and hauling hay back to her growing herd. (A couple of the girls got themselves in the family way when "Mother" wasn't looking.)

Enroute to the ranch she stops at a neighbor's organic garden, who opens it to friends to have their pick. She's loaded us up with tender red-leaf lettuce, peppery arugala, miniature cucumbers and porky tomatoes--all tasting like earth, water and sun.

Now if we could only get our recalcitrant green fruits to ripen at home.

Farm Report: How green was my garden

Cherokee Purple Pole Tomatoes

Because this is Colorado, we spend the year eating California tomatoes that taste like wallpaper paste, wet, pink and mealy. So it is with great hope, anticipation and faith in the future that we plant tomatoes hoping to stack our sandwiches and punctuate our salads with the warm, salty taste of homegrown fruit.

We have enjoyed a blissful summer. Our neighborhood mercifully escaped the shredding hail that made coleslaw of my mother's roses and hammered farms and gardens across the Front Range. Mornings have been so temperate and cool that I don a sweatshirt most days to chase the morning chill. Rain has fallen regularly and like a benediction, fattening our yellow squash and prompting unprecented production from the usually recalcitrant basil plants.

But the tomatoes...our Roma's leaves have withered and yellowed as it squeezes out its sparse, small offerings. The slicers--finally--are trending a wan red. Tomatoes hang everywhere, like fat green moons, taunting us with their firm, verdant flesh.

The heirlooms are particularly egregious. All giant and viney and self-righteous, started as seeds by a neighbor, so ultra local and organic...and green!

Look at them. The Cherokee Purple Pole, Diener and Amy's Sugar Gem. They look like they're smiling, their round, olive faces mocking Mitch's efforts not to water too much or too little, to tether their wildness to stakes, allowing just that much new light to touch their shiny flanks.


Meanwhile, we wait.