5 Tips for Cooking GMO & Pesticide-Free
- Buy a freezer. A freezer expands your storage possibilities exponentially. In my freezer, I have jars full of peas I shelled back in July, packages of beef from a cow that was butchered in July, raspberries I picked in early August, strawberries I picked over the fourth of July weekend, and blueberries we bought when the harvest was ready here in Maine. I also have chicken carcasses from whole chickens I cooked during the summer, which I will use to make broths and soups all winter long and I often have a frozen quiche stuck in there because my recipe makes two at a time, and I like to have one to pop out when company comes.
- Learn to Can. Canning, which can be done easily with a pot of boiling water, some rags and a few ball jars, keeps, as Greg Brown sings in his song “Canned Goods,” “the summer in jars” long into January. In our house, Dan has become our canner. Not only is home canning actually cheaper than buying canned foods, it’s safer too (and there’s no BPA or BPA’s substitute BPS in the glass jar.) Although canning peaches or tomatoes may take over a summer Sunday, the rewards are endless into the winter.
- Go to your local farmers market, look your farmer in the eye and ask questions. They want to hear from you. Sample questions: Did you use pesticides on your crops? And if so, which ones? What do you feed your cows? What other methods do you use on your farm for pest control? You may be surprised by how much your farmer can teach you about the food he or she is selling you. They can tell you about the pesticides which are deemed ‘ok to use’ for organic farming and how they work; they can tell you if their meat is grass fed and where their ruminants graze; they can tell you if they use lady bugs or praying mantises for pest control. In the process you will learn about where your food comes from.
- Try growing your own crop of something—even if it’s just windowsill rosemary. For the longest time, my mother has had the most beautiful, enormous rosemary plant sitting in the south facing windows of her dining room. When I am visiting, there is nothing more satisfying than snipping off a little bit to throw into a pasta sauce, soup, bean dish or even eggs. Her rosemary inspires me in the kitchen. Likewise, over the years, I’ve had my own small plots of garden: tomatoes in pots on the porch; a raised bed overflowing with chamomile and lavender to dry and make tea; thin rows of spicy radishes in a small kitchen garden raised bed. You don’t have to have a whole farm to grow something that you are in control of shepherding to your plate—you can do it in pots, one by one, depending on your energy and lifestyle. And it’s a wonderful way to connect with your food and know exactly what went into it. (There are lots of organic soils out there you can buy pre-bagged, too!)
- Make your own ice cream. Thanks to Cuisinart, making your own ice cream is the easiest thing in the world. Ice cream that you buy in the store is full of additives, some of which are GMO-derived. But at home, you can simply mix some organic cream or yogurt with a little sugar, scrape out a vanilla bean and add in some stewed berries or apples and cinnamon and have a lovely treat that whirs away in its chilly canister while you make dinner. It will be ready for desert in twenty minutes!