I love going to fairs. This time of year, in many communities around the world, people get together to share the bounty of their farms and backyard gardens. I have been involved for 20 years now with the vegetable exhibits at the Dutchess County (NY) Fair. The first Dutchess County fair was held in 1842. The first one I attended was the 150th, in 1995.
Of course, farmers have been meeting to share and compare their wares since ancient times. In North America, the first recorded agricultural fair was in 1765. Traditionally, fairs encompass all aspects of farming, food and rural life - from livestock competition to innovations in farming technology.
I like participating in a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. It makes me feel connected to traditional ways of producing, harvesting, preparing and sharing food.
I have a small garden at home, but it's not big enough to produce near enough food for our family. Produce in stores often is harvested by giant machines and travels thousands of miles to reach us. But at the fair I get to meet the people who nurtured this food for months face to face. And there's lot of them. Collectively, the people who enter their veggies at the fair have created an amazing bounty. And each year I get to reconnect with this amazing miracle - that we can provide nourishing, sustaining food for ourselves, and be surrounded by beauty while we are doing it.
Recipe for Cultured Tomato Salsa
Fresh Salsa is a great way to use summer's bounty. This recipe is basically for pickling fresh salsa. This type of pickling, called lacto-fermenting, enhances the enzymes and probiotics in the salsa, boosting it's nutritional component even further, and preserves it for up to several months.
Start with either homemade or store bought salsa. The fresh chopped tomato kind works best, but even the jarred kind will do.
Mix in 1 tablespoon of whey per cup of salsa. Whey is the clear liquid on the top of yogurt. To make your own whey to use as starter for all sorts of pickles and ferments, drain plain yogurt with active cultures through a tea towel or cheesecloth. Extra bonus of this process: he leftover yogurt will then be greek yogurt.
Put the salsa and whey mixture in a jar with a tight fitting lid, and leave out at room temperature for 2 days. This is to give the beneficial bacteria a chance to grow. It may start to bubble a bit, that's good. But it won't go bad because the bacteria are actually preserving it.
Store in the fridge after two days. The flavor will continue to develop. If you can wait that long, it tastes great after a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Use this delicious, extra nutritious salsa the same way you would regular salsa - with chips, with guacamole, on your morning eggs, on hamburgers...whatever you can think of.
Hot sweaty sticky weather ... but is sitting in the A/C really the solution? Getting outside and allowing ourselves to acclimate gives us some relief from the temps and also some fun in the sun and other added benefits.
The National Center for Health Data statistics indicates that as of 2012 almost 1 in 3 Americans were low in Vitamin D, which is needed for healthy bones. Due to the low volume of foods that naturally produce vitamin D salmon, and other cold water oily fish, we see Vitamin D added to foods where it is less bioavailable than that produced ourselves. It is produced by the body in a complex process that starts when rays in the invisible UVB part of the light spectrum are absorbed by the skin.The liver, and kidneys, are involved in the steps that eventually result in a bioavailable form of the vitamin that the body can use.
According to the Harvard Medical Healthbeat "the temperature of our skin is a deciding factor in how effectively we make and utilize vitamin D. Warm skin produces vitamin D more effectively than cool skin." So, on hot sunny days you are putting more vitamin D in your body's bank.
Extensive and numerous research studies suggest that vitamin D can help prevent everything from osteoporosis to autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and much more. So geting out in the sun for as little as 5-30 minutes a day can help our bodies produce what it needs to move towards optimal health.
In my desire to wring every drop of summer fun from August, I have to remember that opportunities for outdoor play and vitamin D production are around every corner. Thinking outside the box and planning for fun can run the gamut from a mountain top lavender fest with a walking labrynth to a day kayak trip up the Wakusa River or a gentle stroll through our neighborhood art festival.
Late summer urges me to stretch my muscles, brave the heat and strengthen my bones.
The month of August is named for the Roman Emperor, Augustus Cæsar, though not because it was his birth-month. Rather, it was the month in which he entered upon his first consulship, and the month in which he achieved much, including the celebrated Pax Romana.
Other names for this month have existed, however. The Old Dutch name for August was “Oostmaand” (harvest-month); the old Saxon, “Weod-monath” (weed-month, where “weed” signified vegetation in general).
As a gardener, I witness the yearly August-inian vegetative flourish. All growing things seem to make their last and most exhaustive push to be bigger, “bloom-ier” and more robust. Great news for those who fill gathering baskets from our bounteous flower beds and vegetable gardens. Not so good news for those of us who must also pull weeds.
Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, summer’s last month spurs on all green things – the wanted and unwanted; the beauties and the burrs. In anticipation of this phenomenon, wise gardeners employ mulch, garden cloth and other weed-suppressants. Even if we are not gardeners, we can employ positivity to get out of our own “weeds”.
Positivity, as researched and described by Barbara Fredrickson, is an analogous mental and emotional process. Humans are wired to find what’s wrong – it’s an adaptive survival trait. We look for the weeds, by default. Over time, negativity pulls us down - we may completely miss the flowers. How can we re-balance?
Fredrickson suggests a ratio of 3:1. Three positive emotions are required to counter-act one negative emotion. We can build our positivity through simple mental postures such as openness, curiosity, kindness and appreciation. And, by being real - by acknowledging negative emotions when they arise. When they do, it’s possible to make a choice to stop complaining about what’s wrong, and start seeing what’s possible.
Another easily adopted solution: gratitude. Stop and ask – “what’s going well right now”; “what blessings and benefits do I have?”
All of this is supported by Mindfulness practices. In order to take action to re-balance our positivity ratio, we need to notice when we are living in the negative. And, then, make a choice to get out of the weeds.