Letters to the editor, May 2016

This article was originally published in May 2016

Growing your own food

I much appreciate the lead article (April Sound Consumer), “Breeding better organic produce locally.” Very interesting developments. Promising too!

Regarding the “Winter harvest potential”: In our small suburban yard we’ve been experimenting with growing easy, year-round greens and tubers for some time. Chicory certainly is one of the top greens and sunchokes are a prime “starch.” January to March is when they’re harvestable.

They’re such a vigorous crop and easily-available winter starch (once deemed “safe to eat”) that they deserve mention — especially as they’re here during our midwinter storm season, waiting safely in the cold ground, no other refrigeration needed. Note: it’s important to cook them very thoroughly.

Relating that story to Nick Rose’s article, “Build an emergency food kit,” page 8, I thought about emergency kit greens:

Alfalfa seeds store well in the fridge and two tablespoons, soaked and sprouted for a few days in a large jar, make a quart or more of green-leaved sprouts, with nothing more than water and light.

2. Winter greens from the yard (or planting containers) also provide essential nutrients. Kale, chicory, fennel and sorrel all can survive normal winters in this area and, between them, yield a gourmet-quality bitter greens salad year-round.

— Elizabeth Hardisty

Aid for farmers

I wanted to pass along a suggestion. Since learning in a PCC Sound Consumer article a few years ago that many organic farmers don’t even break even on their costs but have to subsidize their work as farmers with outside jobs, I’ve been wondering if there was a way to support them in addition to buying organic produce at places like PCC.

It occurred to me today: What if PCC were to put a “change jar” on the counters where the money would go to support local organic farmers? An instant donation when you make a purchase? Or have an option of “rounding up to the next dollar” and having the money go to local organic farmers?

Or some other program where PCC members could donate change somehow to support, not just one local farm, but the local organic farming community? Or opt to pay a little more at checkout, or something, toward that purpose?

Or maybe we could have a brainstorming contest, ideas to shore up the organic farming community in other ways?

— Nils Osmar

PCC replies: Thank you for the thoughtful suggestions to support organic farmers, above and beyond purchasing their foods! We’ll include them in discussions going forward.

There are several organizations that provide essential services for organic farmers, and we do support their work. They include Organic Seed Alliance, which provides seed breeding specifically for organic farmers that currently rely on conventional seed lines developed outside our region. We also support The Cornucopia Institute, a primary advocate for organic, family-scale farmers, and historically have supported Tilth Producers of Washington, another resource for organic farmers, now merged with Seattle Tilth.

There is not a dedicated way to donate cash to organic farmers that we know of. We simply don’t have the infrastructure to distribute donations of that kind and we don’t know of other organizations that do. But we understand your point and will consider what may be possible.

On several occasions PCC and shoppers contributed to farmers in dire need. When a farmer needed money for heart surgery in 2006, we set up a bank account for shoppers to contribute directly. We also stepped up to help a farmer manage losses and costs associated with a major flood.

“Calls to action” went to members through the Sound Consumer. If and when future crises emerge for our hardworking farmers, PCC member-owners and other shoppers will be informed on how to help.

Cooking with olive oil

Is it ok to use olive oil for cooking? I went to a PCC Cooks class and the instructor said that when you heat up olive oil it becomes toxic.

— Ismael Popoca Aguilar

PCC replies: Extra virgin olive oil, the only type of olive oil sold at PCC, has a smoke point of 325 to 375 °F depending on brand. This means it can be heated safely to low-medium heat temps on the stovetop but not for anything hotter. It can be used for oven roasting at temperatures above 400 °F, however, because oven-roasting is not a direct heat, and the food does not reach that temperature. If your olive oil smokes or turns brown in your skillet, it means the fats are damaged and can have “toxic” properties, so you should wipe the pan clean and start over.

See our product guide, “Choosing the right cooking oil” for more information about culinary oils.

FYI, some “light” olive oils can be heated to higher temperatures due to synthetic processing techniques not acceptable at PCC.

Alternatives to Teflon

Recently, I began looking for a safe alternative to Teflon-coated cookware. I’ve replaced my pots with stainless, gotten rid of any chipped nonstick pans and started looking into ceramic.

But I’ve found sources that claim non-stick “ceramic” is made with lead or nanotechnology. Are “ceramic-glazed” pans safe, safer or another flawed alternative?

— Amanda Karim

PCC replies: We believe ceramic-glazed pans would be safer than Teflon (and aluminum), but we always advocate cast-iron, enameled cast iron and stainless steel as first choices.

Nanotechnology seems to be used in the “green nonstick” ceramic pans. Although advertised as having none of the health problems associated with perfluorinated compounds in other nonstick pans, the “green ceramic” cookware on the market reportedly is made using nanotechnology and only coated with an ultrathin layer of ceramic. The Rodale Institute says that, “as with other chemical nonstick finishes, nano ceramic finishes can chip off, particularly around the edges… [and] very little is known about the environmental fate of nanoparticles, and increasing evidence is showing that those tiny particles could cause big-time damage.”

As for lead, most of today’s ceramic pots are glass, not clay. See here.

Custom tours at PCC

Wow! What a wonderful experience PCC nutrition educator Marilyn Walls provided for our Brownie troop. We want to thank her so much for all her planning, patience and guidance. The girls had a great time and learned a lot. Many tasted a few things for the first time.

We appreciate her time and energy, and the generosity of PCC. Again, thanks.

— Sharon Jones and Brownie Troop 44325

PCC replies: PCC is available for customized store tours for diverse community groups. Examples of groups include school classes, scout groups, senior groups and health professionals.

These tours can be focused on topics such as kids/family nutrition, food allergies, special diets and behind-the-scenes of a store.

Tours are scheduled based on the availability of PCC staff. The duration is determined by the type of tour and number of participants. For more details or to schedule a customized store tour, visit our store tours web page.

Orange shellac on organic produce

This Q&A from 2001 states that carnauba wax is the only wax on the USDA/National Organic Program’s “National List of Alllowed and Prohibited Substances.” But orange shellac, a non-vegan substance used as a wax on fruits and vegetables, also is on the list.

— Alissa Wilson Williams, via Facebook

PCC replies: Yes, orange shellac is allowed now in organic systems, at least temporarily as an item on the so-called National List.

We read that orange shellac most often is used on citrus, pome fruit, cucumbers, bell peppers and eggplant, but our produce supplier, Organically Grown Company, never has heard of any kind of wax coating used on the produce it supplies to PCC.

Praise for staff

I want to tell the managers at PCC Issaquah how amazing every person who works there is. I have mitochondrial toxicity. It has left me with many issues, including a droopy face on the left side, spasms and speech issues to name a few. I have to walk with a cane now. I usually fear going out of my apartment because people can be so mean to me. Learning what people who have disabilities go through firsthand has been very sad for me.

But the staff at PCC Issaquah always take the time to smile when they see me and they never make me feel bad if it’s hard for me to speak. Even if there is a line at the food counter they take the time to make me not feel rushed because I’m slow now. It may seem small but to someone who currently is waiting to find out if they have brain damage from antibiotics, any bit of kindness means the world to me and helps me not feel like a monster. I love coming to PCC to get what I need because I know it’s free from chemicals, but truly the staff in Issaquah is amazing. I told one lady at the food counter thank you so much, you are always so helpful to me. She smiled and said, “My pleasure.” Just so kind.

Please know that they all are amazing. The guys who stock everything will walk me to what I need to find and they even walk slowly because I am slow. It means so much to me and my boyfriend, who gets worried about me getting down from how people treat me. Thank you PCC Issaquah!!

— Stephanie

Gluten in blue cheese?

Does blue cheese contain gluten?

— Anonymous

PCC replies: The safety of blue cheese for those with celiac disease is controversial because rye is used to produce the bacterial cultures used to make blue cheese. Research shows, however, that the proteins found in rye and wheat (including gluten) are not present in finished cheeses or even in the mold/cultures themselves.

Also in this issue

Staff picks

Learn what PCC staff love about a clear sunscreen stick, vegan/Paleo macaroons, artisan cheeses, local buttermilk, PCC's housemade guacamole and Mocha Chip cookies, and more!

News bites, May 2016

Big companies to label GE, GMA unlawfully hid donors, Stronger protections for bees?, and more

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

Can climate change benefit French wine? Why are almond farmers planting a new varietal? Why is West African cocoa under threat? Learn the answers, plus more news from the field.