I am looking for greens! I’ll take anything new and interesting beyond kale and Brussels sprouts! I found some escarole the other day and bought four heads. I have enjoyed eating it after a light sauté in grass-fed butter for breakfast with a poached egg, at lunch with avocado, and for dinner with black beans. The scenery is quite dull these days when my mind is constantly fantasizing about fresh green vegetables!
The freezer went off for a week and we didn’t notice it. Unfortunately, the freezer was packed with our beautiful pork! (Large Black & Acorn-Finished) It is so distressing to lose this prized and cherished meat. It’s enough to make us want to go vegetarian.
Although we do not eat a lot of meat (our diet is mostly beans and plants or escarole), we do love our pork and our bacon and sausage. I often barter with friends, exchanging a chicken for a pork chop or a bag of scallops for bacon or a friend’s beef for sausage. That seems to provide for most of our meals. I will supplement with some ground bison for tacos or meatballs, which my kids love, but for the most part, our dinners are vegetables soups and beans with 3-4 types of vegetables.
When we do eat meat, it is grass-fed. As far as I know all grass-fed cattle is on the pasture, which means that they are outside soaking up the sun and roaming. Grain fed cattle is most likely standing on concrete in crowded conditions eating grain, which makes the animal sick because their stomachs are not meant to eat grain, and living a pretty miserable life.
Grass-fed meat contains considerably more carotenoids and minerals than grain fed meat. Grain fed beef does not contain much in carotenoids, because grains don’t contain them. Carotenoids make the fat from grass-fed beef more yellow than the fat from grain fed beef, so fat color can be a good indicator of how nutrient-rich your meat is.
Grass-fed meat also contains significantly more of the antioxidants vitamin E and glutathione than grain-fed beef. These antioxidants are important in protecting our cells from oxidation, especially delicate fats in the cell membrane such as Omega-3 and Omega-6. Grass-fed beef also contains higher levels of beneficial nutrients, including zinc, iron, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium.
Grass-fed meat is typically a bit tougher piece of meat, has more flavor than grain fed, and costs more, but we get a bigger bang for our buck with the grass-fed. So: eat less meat and eat only grass-fed. Meat should be 100% grass-fed, not “grain finished”. Many grass-fed beef producers are finishing their cows on grain for a less gamey flavor and then aging beef in plastic to break down the meat.
All this talk of eating meat can make one feel a bit overwhelmed and certainly force us to reconsider consuming meat, not only for our own health benefits, but also those of the planet. According to James McWilliams, a professor at Texas State University, if we change our diet to replace 50% of our animal products with plants, we can reduce the water footprint by 30%. The water footprint is the amount of water needed to grow our food. With droughts across the country filling our news, and a state of emergency in CA, water is a vital necessity for crops. 50% of all the crops grown in the US come from CA and 80% of its water is dedicated to agriculture. A quick translation: According to Mother Jones, it takes 5.5 gallons of water to grow a head of broccoli and 3.5 gallons to grow that escarole. All this equates to about 52,000 gallons of water to grow a ton of vegetables. Compare this to growing cattle: it takes 450 gallons per pound of beef!
Need to know more about meat?
Check out The Politics of the Pasture: How Two Cattle Inspired a National Debate About Eating Animals. On October 1, 2012, Green Mountain College in Vermont announced that longtime oxen team Bill and Lou were going to slaughter under the school’s mission of food sustainability - then served as hamburger in the school's cafeteria. What ensued was explosive oppositions of life verses food! My son Oliver attended Green Mountain College and was entered in the Sustainable Agriculture program when this all took place.
St. Patty’s Day
I grew up in the ‘burbs of Chicago and every year my Dad would take us to the St. Patty’s day parade where the river was dyed green and green pigs ran down the street (how the heck they caught them at the end, I have no idea!) Green beer flowed into buckets and was sold curbside on the streets…. I've come a long way from green beer in the streets of Chicago to green smoothies!
No matter how little meat I eat, I return to my roots come March. I love corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day! Over the years, I have shared my recipe for corning the beef.
You can find a brisket of local meat on Martha’s Vineyard at The Grey Barn or The Farm Institute and corn it yourself. If you are not on the Vineyard, call a farmer in your area. The brisket is a tough cut of meat. It comes from the front collar of the cattle. It is tough because of all the connective tissue. The brine and long, slow-cooking process breaks down the collagen fibers. I like to buy a brisket with the fat cap still on as this ensures that the meat is less likely to dry out. I also like the point cut which contains more fat. A round cut can be very dry if you cook it too fast and must be sliced VERY thin. Traditional dinners from many countries use the brisket, whether it is part of a boiled New England dinner, a Jewish pot roast or brisket, a Vietnamese pho soup, or an Italian Bollito Misto. All use the same cut of beef.
27 of us were down in Costa Rica last week and what a grand time we had! John led us through amazing lectures on brain health and I taught cooking classes on how to incorporate his way of eating easily into our lives. We made yogurt each day from the grass-fed cows across the street from where we stayed. We ate TONS of local organic produce, pastured eggs and yucca in hundreds of ways! My daily favorite was ceviche plantanos (marinated plantains with fresh lime juice, raw onions, peppers and cilantro) and swimming in the ocean as the sun came up each morning!
We booked two separate weeks for next year and it is not too early for us to hold a space for you if you want to join us! I guarantee a great time! And if Costa Rica is too far and you simply want a little R&R on Martha’s Vineyard this Spring, we have a few spots available both for our Spring Cleanse and Garden class. We are starting the beets and micro-greens in the greenhouse next week so they will be ready for the class. In addition, we are offering a Fall foraging class during our Metabolic Boot Camp on Martha’s Vineyard in October.
Spring can’t come soon enough for most of us, but days are getting longer and the chickens are laying eggs. That would be chickens running around soaking up vitamin D, eating bugs, and living on GMO-free grain! (make sure you ask your farmer how the chickens live and what they eat.)
May you find blades of green this week!