Turkey Tracks: Cream of Tomato Soup

Turkey Tracks:  September 29, 2010

Cream of Tomato Soup

Late blight hit our tomatoes over the weekend.  I went out Sunday to harvest and realized that the long row of plants were all infected.  If you didn’t know, last year infected  tomato plants from nurseries grown down south and shipped north–mostly by the big box stores like Home Depot and Wal-Mart–wiped out the tomato harvest in New England.  Maine was no exception.  And, late blight also infects potatoes.  The spores from infected plants travel on air currents for as long a distance as forty miles. 

Given the fact that it rained here every day last summer for all of June, July, and the first of August last summer, my tomato plants did not grow and did get the blight.  I was able to harvest my potatoes, but the plants did have signs of the disease.  I carefully bagged all the plants and hoped for the best for this year.  We did not have a really cold winter, so I crossed my fingers.  Mostly, I think I got away with it as we’ve had a bumper crop of tomatoes before last Sunday–though many on the plants were still really green.  I think I need a small hoop house for the tomatoes.  I saw this one at the Common Ground Fair this year.  It’s called a giraffe hoop house, and it does not take up much space:

 

My potato plants seemed ok, though the harvest was light.  It’s been dry here this summer, and I was afraid to water too much as our well might go dry.  The tomatoes, as I’ve written, have been glorious!  I cannot complain.  But, I’ve spent a lot of time putting up sauce, and now I’m out of freezer space–especially since we just got our annual lamb for the freezer.  Thus, I started looking at other ways to use tomatoes.  And, voila!  I fell upon cream of tomato soup.  It’s dead easy and amazingly delicious!  I’ve combined recipes from several sources, so basically, I think it’s just mine.

Cream of Tomato Soup

Three or four pounds of ripe tomatoes–skinned, which is basically simple.  Just dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds or so, transfer them to cold water.  Use some ice if you have extra.  Take out the core with a small, sharp paring knife, slip off the skin, and drop the tomato into your pot.

Add 5 to 6 tablespoons of organic butter and some salt

Heat the whole mass, covered, until the tomatoes break down.  Cook, covered, for at least an hour.  Two is better.  There should be lots of liquid, but keep an eye on the pot so the liquid does not cook off.

Next, you have a choice.  I mix it up with a hand blender, which is an essential tool in my kitchen.  You could also put the hot soup into a blender and risk burning yourself.  You could mix it with a hand mixer.  You could strain it.  With the hand blender, I’m not straining out the seeds, but I don’t seem to notice them after I’ve used it. 

Next, you had heavy cream to the hot soup.  I am lucky to have local, organic raw cream.  Adding more dilutes the tomato taste, but makes the soup creamy.  Find the balance you like, season with additional salt if you like.

Eat and enjoy.  It’s beyond delicious if you’ve got good tomatoes! 

***

When we were done ripping out and bagging diseased plants on Sunday, we had two big boxes full of green tomatoes and beginning to ripen tomatoes.  We threw out the tomatoes that obviously were going to get late blight spots while ripening.   (Yukko!)  We wrapped the big Brandywines in newspaper and put them into a dark, cool closet.  We put the tomatoes that were tinged with color in the kitchen windows.  And, I cut up the green, hard paste tomatoes and put them into the dehydrator.  We’re going to have “dried green tomatoes” AND “fried green tomatoes.”  I plan to try adding them to soups and stews.  And, I’m going to try to reconstitute them and roast them with winter vegetables.  They should add a nice zing.

Roasting Green Tomatoes

One of my favorite food combos and recipes  in the fall is roasting green tomatoes cut into chunks, with dense sweet squash (like a buttercup) or sweet potatoes, with newly harvested small potatoes (like red or gold)   small, whole onions.   I toss them with olive oil, salt, and generous amounts of rosemary and/or thyme.  I’m pretty sure this combo comes from Anna Thomas’s THE VEGETARIAN EPICURE.  It doesn’t hurt to parboil the potatoes.  Roasting at 350 for about 45 minutes is about right.

Try it!  You’ll like it.     

I still have a pile of ripening tomatoes on the counter to process.  And, all the tomatoes in the kitchen windows, assuming they ripen without being ruined by late blight spots.  So, I’m not done with tomatoes yet. 

FEDCO sent our fall garlic yesterday–the planting of which is the last task in the garden.  Though the cold frame is loaded with seedlings just emerging.  And, oh yes, I have to clean this year’s garlic which is presently drying in the top of the garage.

 

 

Tipping Points 11: The Chemical Madness Maze

Tipping Points 11

The Chemical Madness Maze

  

Three events in the past few weeks are swirling around in my mind. 

First, blueberries made the “dirty dozen” produce list.  At position 5, blueberries join apples (4) and potatoes (11)—all major crops for Maine farmers.  Being on the “dirty dozen” list is not good for business. 

Second, The President’s Cancer Panel (PCP) released its 2008-2009 report entitled “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk:  What We Can Do Now.”  Consumers, especially parents, are urged by the Cancer Panel to “buy food that has not been sprayed or grown with chemical fertilizers,” a message that is increasing in frequency and volume these days. 

Nicholas D. Kristof called the President’s Cancer Panel “the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream.”  And, former President George W. Bush appointed the Cancer Panel’s current members:  an oncologist and professor of surgery at Howard University and an immunologist at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  The Cancer Panel’s report is available on-line:  http://pcp.cancer.gov .  I urge you, especially if you are a parent or are involved in chemical applications, to read it. 

Third, Maine’s Pesticide Control Board (PCB) has scheduled a series of public meetings (May 14, June 24 and 25, and July 23) to discuss the public’s right-to-know about chemical spraying.  Existing law concerning the pesticide registry, where people could register to be notified of spraying, was seriously weakened last year. 

The seven members of the PCB are appointed by the Governor and approved by the Legislature.  Because the constitution of this board obviously was designed for political and perceived economic reasons, board members are expected to defend their particular turfs, which includes chemical farming and forestry and chemical spraying businesses. 

The Cancer Panel report states that our regulatory system for chemicals is deeply broken; that we are putting ourselves and, more importantly, our children at great risk; and that we must adopt precautionary measures rather than using reactionary measures (waiting until sufficient maiming and killing has occurred) with regard to the more than 80,000 improperly tested chemicals we are allowing to be dispersed with impunity. 

 In 2009, the Cancer Panel report discloses, 1.5  million people were diagnosed with cancer and 562,000 people died of cancer.   Today, some 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their life times.  From 1975–2006, cancer incidence in U.S. children under 20 years of age has increased. 

The Cancer Panel directly connects cancer and environmental toxins:  “a growing body of research documents myriad established and suspected environmental factors linked to genetic, immune, and endocrine dysfunction that can lead to cancer and other diseases.”  The Cancer Panel is “particularly concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated” and that human “exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread.” 

The Cancer Panel sums up current problems with our regulatory systems.  Included among the problems are “undue industry influence,” “weak laws and regulations,” and “inadequate funding and insufficient staffing.”  What results is “agency dysfunction and a lack of will to identify and remove hazards.”

For instance, the Cancer Panel determines that the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) “may be the most egregious example of ineffective regulation of environmental contaminants.”  TSCA “grandfathered in approximately 62,000 chemicals; today, more than 80,000 chemicals are in use, and 1,000–2,000 new chemicals are created and introduced into the environment each year.”   Yet, writes the Panel, “TSCA does not include a true proof-of-safety provision”—which means “neither industry nor government confirm the safety of existing or new chemicals prior to their sale and use.”

TSCA allows chemical companies, reveals the Cancer Panel, to avoid discovering worrisome product information, which must be reported, by simply not conducting toxicity tests.  And, as the “EPA can only require testing if it can verify that the chemical poses a health risk to the public,” the “EPA has required testing of less than 1 percent of the chemicals in commerce and has issued regulations to control only five existing chemicals.”  Additionally, “chemical manufacturers have successfully claimed that much of the requested submissions are confidential, proprietary information.”  So, “it is almost impossible for scientists and environmentalists to challenge the release of new chemicals.”  

In addition, the Cancer Panel notes that the U.S. “does not use most of the international measures, standards, or classification structures for environmental toxins that have broad acceptance in most other countries,” which makes meaningful comparisons difficult.  Further, U.S. standards are “less stringent than international equivalents.” 

In the chapter on agricultural chemicals, the Cancer Panel reports that “the entire U.S. population is exposed on a daily basis to numerous agricultural chemicals, some of which also are used in residential and commercial landscaping.  Many of these chemicals have known or suspected carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting properties.”  For instance,” pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides)” approved for use by the EPA “contain nearly 900 active ingredients, many of which are toxic.  Many of the solvents, fillers, and other chemicals listed as inert ingredients on pesticide labels also are toxic, but are not required to be tested for their potential to cause chronic diseases such as cancer.”

The Cancer Panel states that agricultural chemicals do not stay put.  Sprayed chemicals migrate on the air and into the water, creating toxic trespass into other peoples’ lives.  Indeed, Dr. Sandra Steingraber, who is quoted in the report, writes in her book LIVING DOWNSTREAM, that “in general, less that 0.1 percent of pesticides applied for pest control actually reach their target pests, leaving 99.9 percent to move into the general environment.” 

Farmers, their families, their workers, and chemical sprayers (including crop dusters) bear the highest health risks, according to the Cancer Panel.   Farm children, especially those living near pesticide use, have consistently elevated leukemia rates.  Exposure to the nearly 1,400 EPA-registered pesticides “has been linked to brain/central nervous system (CNS), breast, colon, lung, ovarian (female spouses), pancreatic, kidney, testicular, and stomach cancers, as well as Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma.”  

It is very clear that we cannot continue using untested chemicals.  It is very clear that we are massively harming our children.  It is very clear that we must develop a political will for change and that we must devise ways to help the people caught in the chemical madness maze to escape it without undue financial penalty.       

Therefore, it follows that we must all understand that the problem at hand is not how to organize a chemical spraying registry.  It follows that we must all understand that the problem for individual PCB members is no longer how to protect present chemical practices.  The problem that we must all now face is how to stop the use of untested, toxic, dangerous chemicals. 

Statements to the PCB can be sent to the Director, Henry Jennings, henry.jennings@maine.gov.        

Write the PCB members and tell them that you recognize that they now have an incredibly difficult task.  Tell them that they must understand now that their primary responsibility must be to protect us and to protect themselves and their loved ones.  Tell them that this duty must supercede all other considerations.