Amira’s Prolific Pumpkins

Although not certified organic, Olana Farm grows produce on 2.25-acres using strictly organic methods.

What’s growing now

Arugula, avocado, basil (Thai, Italian, lemon), bak choy, beets, carrots, celery, chard (Swiss, rainbow), chives, cilantro, collards, fennel, green onions, ginger, guava, kale (curly, lacinato, red Russian, red curly), kaffir (leaves, fruit), mint, mustard greens (red, green), oregano, pak choi, papaya (green sunrise), pak choi (baby green, baby purple), parsley (Italian, curly), passionfruit, pea shoots, pineapple (white), pumpkin, rosemary, tangelo, thyme, tomatoes (cherry red, yellow pear), turmeric, turnips (white, red), yacón.

Amira Pumpkin 

“This variety was selected from seeds that were saved because they are adapted to Hawaii and resist powdery mildew and being stung by the fruit fly,” says Tom O’Connor. “We liken it to a tender butternut squash, but it has thin skin and sweet, tender flesh. We named it after my wife, Amira.”

Amira pumpkins have a deep gold, creamy interior that’s sweet and full of seeds, which can be planted in home gardens. You don’t need to peel them because the skin is smooth and tender enough to eat.

Pumpkins are a prolific crop and a medium sized one can make up to eight meals. They are considered a winter squash because they are harvested in late summer and early fall, and keep throughout the winter.

Season

Amira pumpkins take up to three months to go from seed to table. On Kauai, they are available from spring through summer and possibly into fall.

What to look for

Select pumpkins that are hard, heavy and free of soft spots. External skin blemishes do not compromise the integrity of the flesh. Stems should be attached, otherwise bacteria gets inside and spoils the flesh.

Storage

Store on a counter out of direct sunlight. O’Connor says pumpkins stored this way will keep for a few weeks.

Tip

Seeds make an excellent snack food. Scoop out the pulp and seeds and spread the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Lightly roast at 160 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Roasting for a relatively short time at a low temperature minimizes damage to healthy oils. 

Preparation

Purchasing pumpkins may seem expensive, but they are worth every penny. I used my pumpkin in four meals: the pilaf below, a kale and caramelized onion tart, ravioli (made with wonton wrappers) and a Thai coconut soup.

Organic food: what you need to know

Organic food is no better for you than the traditionally grown even though it may taste better, say researchers.

Despite the perception that organic food grown without artificial fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals, is more pure, nutritious and virtuous, scientists have said there is little evidence that it is healthier.

There are no convincing differences between organic and conventional foods in nutrient content or health-benefits

A review of 237 research studies into organic food found the products were 30 per cent less likely to contain pesticide residue than conventionally grown fruit and vegetables but were not necessarily 100 per cent free of the chemicals. They found no consistent differences in the vitamin content of organic products.

There were higher levels of phosphorus in organically grown food but the researchers said this was of little importance as so few people were deficient in this. The only other significant finding was that some studies suggested organic milk contained higher levels of omega-3 fatty acid, which is thought to be important for brain development in infants and for cardiovascular health. Dr Crystal Smith-Spangler, of Stanford’s Centre for Health Policy, said “we were a little surprised” by the results but that people should eat more fruit and vegetables, no matter how they are grown, because most Western diets are deficient.

Dr Dena Bravata, a fellow researcher, said that, beyond their perceived health benefits, people also bought organic products because of taste, concerns about the effects of conventional farming practices on the environment and animal welfare.

Farmers turn away from organic as sales drop

The economic downturn means organic farmers are less likely to reap rewards of premium prices for their produce

Farmers across the UK have been deserting organic farming, or holding back on plans to convert their land to more environmentally friendly farming methods, as sales of organic products have fallen in the economic downturn.

Last year, only 51,000 hectares was in “conversion” – the process that farmers need to go through to have their land and practices certified as organic. That is less than half the amount of land that was in conversion in 2009, which itself was down markedly from the recent peak of 158,000Ha in 2007, according to statistics released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Thursday morning.

Far fewer farmers are interested in turning their land to organic production, despite the promise of premium prices for their produce, after a marked fall in sales of organic goods in the past two years as a result of the recession.

German investigators confident that local sprouts caused the deadly E. coli outbreak

BERLIN — Specialists in high-tech labs tested thousands of vegetables as they hunted for the source of world’s deadliest E. coli outbreak, but in the end it was old-fashioned detective work that provided the answer: German-grown sprouts.

After more than a month of searching, health officials announced Friday they had determined that sprouts from an organic farm in the northern German village of Bienenbuettel were the source of the outbreak that has killed 31 people, sickened nearly 3,100 and prompted much of Europe to shun vegetables.

“It was like a crime thriller where you have to find the bad guy,” said Helmut Tschiersky-Schoeneburg, head of Germany’s consumer protection agency.

It’s little surprise that sprouts were the culprit — they have been implicated in many previous food-borne outbreaks: ones in Michigan and Virginia in 2005, and large outbreak in Japan in 1996 that killed 11 people and sickened more than 9,000.

While sprouts are full of protein and vitamins, their ability to transmit disease makes some public health officials nervous. Sprouts have abundant surface area for bacteria to cling to, and if their seeds are contaminated, washing won’t help.

“E. coli can stick tightly to the surface of seeds needed to make sprouts and they can lay dormant on the seeds for months,”

E. coli-infected cucumbers may have been sent to Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — Spanish vegetables suspected of contamination with a potentially deadly bacteria are being recalled from stores in Austria and the Czech Republic to prevent the spread of a deadly outbreak, officials said Sunday.

The death toll from the bacteria rose to at least 10 people, and hundreds across Europe have been sickened.
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Local Lettuce with Certified Food Safety labeling?

Contributed by Alan Rudo

I’ve lost my confidence in buying local lettuce after purchasing a head of Romaine with a slug inside from a vendor at Pahoa’s Farmer’s Market this past Sunday. What really makes me angry was the labeling, which read, “Hamakua Springs:Certified Food Safety.” It wasn’t until, I went to wash the lettuce, that I discovered the slug inside the plastic wrapping. I am disgusted to think that I stored this deadly slug inside my refrigerator for even a few hours. Thankfully, I discovered the slug before anyone consumed the lettuce. I contacted the grower Hamakua Springs and told them how upset and disappointed I naturally am because rat-lung disease kills people. Their reply was more pathetic than I imagined, “We go to a lot of trouble trying to address the rat lungworm issue. I went to the community meeting at Kalapana Sea View Estate, about rat lungworm disease, in early 2009. We take this issue very seriously.” This was followed with an explanation on the rat-lung cycle and oh, yeah, “we’re sorry.” Here I’m trying to buy local, support the farmers and I get lettuce labeled, “Certified Food Safety,” which might have killed someone. Where is the oversight? Where are the inspectors? Why are they able to call their product “Certified Food Safety?

Genetically modified crops get boost over organics with recent USDA rulings

At the supermarket, most shoppers are oblivious to a battle raging within U.S. agriculture and the Obama administration’s role in it. Two thriving but opposing sectors — organics and genetically engineered crops — have been warring on the farm, in the courts and in Washington.

Organic growers say that, without safeguards, their foods will be contaminated by genetically modified crops growing nearby. The genetic engineering industry argues that its way of farming is safe and should not be restricted in order to protect organic competitors.

Into that conflict comes Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who for two years has been promising something revolutionary: finding a way for organic farms to coexist alongside the modified plants.

But in recent weeks, the administration has announced a trio of decisions that have clouded the future of organics and boosted the position of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Vilsack approved genetically modified alfalfa and a modified corn to be made into ethanol, and he gave limited approval to GE sugar beets.

The announcements were applauded by GE industry executives, who describe their crops as the farming of the future. But organics supporters were furious, saying their hopes that the Obama administration would protect their interests were dashed.

“It was boom, boom boom,” said Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Markets, a major player in organics. “These were deeply disappointing. They were such one-sided decisions.”

The Dark Side of “the Mainland”: what’s under the courgette’s petticoat « Hawai’i Is My Mainland

by Kaui

The most useful blog in my world is Hawaii Agriculture. They keep up to date, and really cover the field (and sometimes stray into the ocean and forest.) A recent post alerted me to potential perils in the produce section: https://hawaii-agriculture.com/newblog/west-hawaii-today-features-food-sustainability-a-kona-vores-dilemma/ right here in Kona. The issue is produce that isn’t local, being sold as such, sometimes mixed into the same bin with local produce. Talk about a hot topic for local farmers!

But I was just thinking about what to cook for dinner the next day while shopping at my favorite local natural food store, Island Naturals. I like them so much I kind of felt bad about writing this post, but hey, guys, it’s up to you now. I found some gorgeous organic courgettes. No price, no problem, friendly Produce Man was 6 feet away. He dug around and got the tag. $2.99 a lb, the price for not going to the Farmer’s market, but they are deep green and gorgeous, and . . . they’re from MEXICO???

Trying to stay off my soap-box, I said to Produce Man as innocently as I could,”the tag says ‘Mainland,’ but the labels say they’re from Mexico (organic at least).” He stuttered a bit and said something about only having “local” and “mainland” tags, and admitted there was a problem with about four of their products. I couldn’t help saying, “Hawaii’ is my mainland, by the way, but the point is Mexico is a foreign country with different standards for organic.”

Organic inspection classes set for Hilo

Unique opportunity for those interested, or already involved, in a related career

A unique opportunity is available for organic inspectors or those interested in working in the organic field — including county extension agents, regulatory agency staff, organic processors and industry activists — in order to better understand the organic inspection and certification process.

The county Department of Research and Development has provided a grant to enable the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) and Hawaii Organic Farmers Association (HOFA) to offer “Basic Organic Farm (Crop) Inspector Training,” to be held Jan. 25-29, and “Process and Handling Inspector Training,” to be held Feb. 1-5, in Hilo.

The registration deadline is Sunday, Dec. 12.