Minimizing Chemicals in Food~G. Totten, Sioux Falls

One of the reasons to support the farmers market is to increase the nutritional value of what we eat (by buying fresh) while reducing the carbon footprint on the environment created by transporting all that food around the country (or the world–I frequently find grapes from Argentina and yesterday I saw “fresh” herbs from Portugal).  We try to buy organic as we can, and support our family farmers and market vendors to keep our local economy strong.  In our yards we opt for the most eco-friendly way to keep weeds under control and maintain a safe environment for bees and other pollinators.   

After reading an article in Eating Well magazine’s October 2011 issue, I thought it would be timely to mention another reason is to rid our diets of as many pollutants as we can.  Harriet Kattenberg of Seedtime and Harvest gives a class through Community Ed that touches on this topic, referring to these food pollutants as “sides,” and not the sort you want on your table; she is speaking of pesticides and herbicides, but other chemicals find their way into the food supply through packaging and cooking methods   In addition to  growing awareness of what we need to eat,  we must add a few more efforts to the ongoing quest to rid our lives of as many chemicals and pollutants as possible. It’s not only what we eat, but how we store and prepare that food that can also have an impact on the contaminants we ingest.   

In June I gave one of my daughters a large pre-seasoned cast iron skillet for her birthday  and was both pleased and surprised at the current resurgence of their popularity.  I used cast iron decades ago because it was inexpensive and could be put right into the oven for pan corn bread and similar recipes, but I’ve not used it for some years.  Then I learned from this same daughter that the new pre-treated pans are PFC (perflourocarbons) free and a better alternative to cooking with non-stick pans, something we have likely all read.  Although I still use my non stick for some things, I no longer use high heat (something else I learned from my girl).  The Eating Well article explains that this tends to cause more of these contaminants to be released from the pan as fumes. When the pan eventually becomes scratched, I discard it.  Stainless steel is deemed safe to use as well.  The article also mentions this.   

So here is another good reason to buy fresh and in season, and home can or freeze what you will.  Broth can be made at home and frozen flat in double freezer bags (freezing in ice cube trays before bagging is another way to have small quantities at hand), or one can always use the broth cubes and granules that are packaged in glass from the store or buy the boxed broths and freeze any not needed right away.  I often combine instant broth with small bags of chicken broth that I freeze after roasting chicken.  Tomatoes may be frozen whole, right off the vine, and make an easy transition into sauces and soups (just run them under warm tap water and the skins will slip right off with no need to blanche them as one does when canning).  Peppers are easy freezers, as well.  They thaw fast and keep their flavor, as do onions.   

A final note about freezer bags; many may contain something called phthalates, a substance used in plastics and a lot of pre-packaged food packaging. The Eating Well article mentions that Glad and Saran Wrap products claim to be free of phthalates, and indicate that plastic wrap manufacturers are not required to list this on labels, so it would still be a leap of faith.  BPA free plastic containers might be a safe alternative, although of course they would add bulk that freezer bags would not.  It’s not an easy solution, but one worth pursuing to reduce these potentially harmful chemical’s build up in our bodies.   

The Eating Well article cited here gives additional information about other sources of these contaminants and is well worth a read.