UC Food Blog
Methyl iodide – yes, that volatile chemical that could find use as a soil fumigant – has been in the news lately, and mostly in a negative light. In April, California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation made a preliminary decision to approve the use of methyl iodide as a fumigant under strict conditions, and soon after received more than 50,000 public comments.
Methyl iodide, it turns out, is not only toxic, like all fumigants, it “can cause cancer, brain damage and miscarriages.” Its potential use in California’s strawberry fields in place of its ozone-depleting and toxic cousin, methyl bromide, is what shot the compound into news orbit.
Why phase out methyl bromide as a soil fumigant? Answer: Ozone loss up in the stratosphere, leading to more ultraviolet light penetrating the Earth’s atmosphere, leading, in turn, to increases in skin cancer. When methyl bromide is released in the lower atmosphere, a fraction gets transported into the stratosphere where it undergoes a series of chemical reactions leading to stratospheric ozone depletion.
Cousin methyl iodide, on the other hand, is photolyzed quickly in the lower atmosphere, leaving none of it to escape into the stratosphere.
While public opinion currently leans heavily against the use of methyl iodide as a soil fumigant replacement, James Sims, a professor emeritus of plant pathology at UC Riverside, supports its use. For one thing, it delivers results similar to methyl bromide, he says, and, second, it can be used safely. He explains that it is not applied directly to plants; it is injected into the soil two weeks before any plants are planted.
Methyl iodide is a liquid boiling at 42.5 degrees C or 108.5 degrees F. Sims says it is therefore safer for workers to handle than a gas like methyl bromide. Moreover, it can be applied using the same equipment with few or no modifications, and it is effective in reducing pest, weed and plant disease problems. Other alternatives — solarization, anaerobic soil disinfestations, crop rotation, steaming, etc. — are not effective, Sims says.
Critics are not convinced of methyl iodide’s relative safety and growers, meanwhile, continue to insist that their fields need a fumigant that poses no harm to our precious ozone layer.
How then might the controversy play out? We will have to wait and see – for several weeks at least. After processing the public comments received, state officials plan to weigh in on the “controversial effort to register the fumigant methyl iodide.”
I was only gone for 10 days, but when I came back the squash plants were just packed with zucchini — some that were as big as torpedoes (they got fed to the chickens) but many just the perfect size for harvest. However, what do you do with 50 zucchini? First stop, my neighbors. Got rid of 10 there.
Next, as 4th of July guests leave, they get a bag to take home; another 10 down . . . only 30 more squash to use or distribute. What can you do?
Well, there are lots of ways to eat zucchini but I have found a couple of ways that are just yummy and healthy.
The first recipe is easy.
Zucchini and mozarella salad/appetizer
Slice the zucchini in lengthwise ¼ inch thick strips, drizzle with a little olive oil and grill on each side for a few minutes. Place the strips in a bowl with a little salt and pepper and a little more olive oil to cool. Then artfully place slices of fresh mozzarella cheese on plate along with the rolled up grilled zucchini strips, a handful of halved sun gold cherry tomatoes, fresh chopped basil, and a final little drizzle of olive oil. Makes a beautiful presentation and uses about 4 zucchini.
Only 26 left to use . . . .
Zucchini oven chips
This recipe, from Cooking Light, makes a great side dish with burgers or other grilled main course.
Slice the zucchini into rounds about ¼ inch thick. Dip into milk and then dredge in a mixture of seasoned breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Then place on an oven proof rack sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 425 F until brown and crispy.
This uses about 5 smaller zucchini. Only 21 left . . .
The next recipe is the ubiquitous zucchini bread. There are dozens of recipes for that. Each recipe uses about 3 cups of shredded zucchini, which is about 3 small or 2 larger zucchini. Now only 18 left.
Zucchini pie is a lovely main dish. You can use pre-packaged pie dough or crescent rolls or make your own dough from scratch.
Line your pie pan with the dough.
In a large sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Sauté 4 cups of thinly sliced zucchini (about 4 small or 3 larger squash) and ½ cup chopped onions until tender. Add 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, 2 cloves of garlic, ¼ teaspoon of oregano and salt and pepper to taste.
In another large bowl, mix 2 eggs and 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese together. Add the zucchini mixture and gently stir. Pour mixture into pie crust. Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted into the filling comes out clean.
That takes us down to 14 more zucchini left. Sigh . . . I guess I should have only put in 6 plants instead of 12.
However, the good thing about zucchini is that you don’t have to use them all. The chickens will love you if you feed them squash (you have to open the fruit up for them though) and of course you can leave bags of zucchini at the doorsteps of your friends or on the desk of your office mates. They won’t hate you too much . . .
Summer time in the Central Valley means scorching temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, and sunshine that just won’t quit. When the thermometer heads north, we head to the freezer in search of a refreshing treat.
Can you remember devouring an ice cream cone in all its melting glory? Gobbling it up in search of refreshment as the sun’s rays seem to pierce right through you? Savoring each bite as the excess fat and sugar runs down the arm to the elbow, before dripping onto the asphalt with a sizzle.
Wait a minute. What was that about excess fat and sugar?
Unfortunately, not all refreshing treats are created equal. Frozen summer time staples like ice cream, though OK in moderation, can increase the amount of fat and sugar you’re consuming with little nutritional benefit.
Lucky for us, connoisseurs of summer time refreshments have tips and recipes to help us stay cool, the healthy way.
If it’s frozen treats you’re after, try:
Full of antioxidants and portable, frozen grapes make a great treat without a sticky mess.
Packed with vitamin C, cherries are an excellent summertime snack. Simply de-stem and rinse the cherries. Pit the cherries and spread on a tray. Place in the freezer until frozen. Store them in an air-tight container in the freezer until you are ready to pop a few to cool off.
Fruit Smoothies are a favorite! Blend ½ c. vanilla low-fat soy or regular yogurt, ½ cup of your favorite fresh berries, 2 ice cubes and 2 tsp. vanilla extract until smooth. Makes one cup.
Healthy ice cream
This recipe has tofu; it is healthy and safe for those who are lactose intolerant.
12 ounces frozen strawberries or frozen peaches
14 ounces soft silk tofu
1 cup of sugar
2 ounces of a healthy oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Assemble ingredients and blend in a food processor or blender.
2. Next, place the mixture in a plastic freezer zipper bag (one quart size) and seal.
3. Place the healthy ice cream bag in a gallon size plastic bag filled with a couple of tablespoons of salt and plenty of ice and shake for five minutes. You will cool off just shaking the bags!
Remember, when the temperature rises, choose wisely. Healthy alternatives to fatty, sugary, frozen treats are simple and delicious!
Wishing you a cool and healthy summer! For more healthy tips, click here.
San Joaquin Valley farmer Mas Masumoto famously described the joys of fruit eating in the opening pages of his book Epitaph for a Peach. The prologue reads like a love letter to the old Sun Crest variety, planted years ago by his Japanese-American father. Sun Crest peaches are juicy and delicious but lack some commercial attributes.
On eating a fruit he calls a “treasure,” Masumoto wrote:
“You lean over the sink to make sure you don’t drip on yourself. Then you sink your teeth into the flesh . . . This is a real bite, a primal act, a magical sensory celebration announcing that summer has arrived.”
Many Californians can share Masumoto’s experience of lovingly caring for a fruit tree, patiently waiting for the bounty to ripen and savoring fruit still warm from the sun. However, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor emeritus Garth E. Veerkamp suggests gardeners not enter a relationship with an orchard before taking time for thoughtful consideration.
“When the decision to create a home orchard is based on little more than desire to plant a few trees and anticipate fruit, then failure is the probable outcome,” Veerkamp said. “When a home orchard is based on an understanding that it is, in fact, a living expression of genetics interacting with soils, weather, tree spacing, pests, and many other factors, then the outcome should be one of success."
Veerkamp wrote questions to guide aspiring orchardists in an inward examination of their lives before planting trees. Ask yourself:
- Do I really have the desire, time and stamina to establish and maintain the orchard?
- To what extent will the demands affect my relationships with others around me?
- Do I understand the cultural demands the orchard places on me and the yields to expect under good management?
- Can I accommodate, or, if not, balance the demands of tree care and harvest with my desire to not be tied down or to travel?
To help Californians understand orchard demands, the University of California has developed The California Backyard Orchard, a website with detailed information on orchard site considerations, tree selection, propagation, preparation, planting, irrigation, pollination, pruning, training, fertilization, fruit thinning pests and diseases.
With the help of the website, the full scope of orchard responsibilities can be balanced with the alluring promise of abundant and delicious fresh fruit before the shovel digs into the dirt.
Peach trees need loving care.
Remember when George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, declared he didn’t like broccoli and declined to eat it?
“I do not like broccoli,” said Bush, who served as President from 1989 to 1993. “And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.”
Well, all the broccoli-haters out there need to come up with some different anti-broccoli strategies.
Mom was right all along. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables in the Brassica family (such as kale, cabbage and collard greens) are good for you.
Especially broccoli and Brussels sprouts, which have anticancer effects and other health benefits, researchers say.
Researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute have discovered that a substance in broccoli and Brussels sprouts can block the proliferation of cancer cells.
The substance is indole-3-carbinol (I3C).
In research published June 29 in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, the scientists said they discovered a connection between I3C and a molecule called Cdc25A, essential for cell division and proliferation. The research showed that I3C "causes the destruction of that molecule and thereby blocks the growth of breast cancer cells."
Cdc25A, they said, occurs at abnormally high levels in cancers of the breast, prostate, liver, esophagus, endometrium and colon, and in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and in other diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
“I3C can have striking effects on cancer cells,” said study leader Xianghong Zou, assistant professor of pathology at The Ohio State University Medical Center. A better understanding of this mechanism, he said, "may lead to the use of this dietary supplement as an effective and safe strategy for treating a variety of cancers and other human diseases associated with the overexpression of Cdc25A." (See online news story.)
Grocery stores and farmers' markets need to stock more broccoli and Brussels sprouts this week.
So, how do you prepare these greens? Here are the traditional ways, ala the Betty Crocker cookbook:
Broccoli: For a pound and a half: Remove large leaves and ends of tough stalks. If thick, gash stem several times. Boil 10 to 15 minutes. Serve buttered, with salt and pepper. Vary with oregano and lemon juice, Hollandaise sauce, or grated cheese.
Brussel Sprouts: For a pound and a half: Remove discolored leaves and stem ends. Leave whole. Boil 8 to10 minutes. Serve buttered, with salt and pepper. Vary with garlic salt, basil, dill, caraway, savory or cumin.
The cookbook, Country Cooking…California Style, published by the California Farm Bureau Women, includes several recipes for broccoli and one for Brussels sprouts. After all, California grows more of these two vegetables than any other state in the country.
Here are two Country Cooking recipes:
3 heads broccoli, chopped
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 teaspoons powdered chicken stock base
2 cups milk
2/3 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
2/3 package seasoned stuffing
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook broccoli just under tender. Drain and put in flat 2-quart casserole. Melt 1/2 cup butter, blend in flour and cook gently over low heat. Add chicken stock base. Gradually add milk, cooking until smooth and thick; pour over broccoli. Heat water and 6 tablespoons butter until melted. Pour over stuffing mix and toss; add nuts. Top broccoli with stuffing. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. The amount of water used with stuffing mix may have to be adjusted to make a moist combination. Serves 12.
Coastal Brussels Sprouts Piquant
3 cups Brussels sprouts
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons horseradish
2 tablespoons grated onion
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Preheat over to 375 degrees. Cook sprouts in rapidly boiling water until barely tender. Drain and transfer to shallow casserole. Combine mayonnaise, water, horseradish and onion. Pour over sprouts. Top with bread crumbs. Bake 20 minutes. Serves four.
Broccoli and Brussels sprouts