Thanksgiving – Pilgrim Style

By Hazel Bacigalupo for South Shore Organics

When one thinks of Thanksgiving our thoughts turn to family reunions, roasted turkey with pilgrims 1stuffing, pumpkin pie, football and, of course, the originators of the feast – the Pilgrims.

However, much of the food we associate today with Thanksgiving was not available to the Pilgrims.  Instead, their table was loaded with native fruits like plums, melons, grapes, and cranberries, plus local vegetables such as leeks, wild onions, beans, Jerusalem artichokes, and squash. (English crops such as turnips, cabbage, parsnips, onions, carrots, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme might have also been on hand.) And for the starring dishes, there were undoubtedly native birds and game as well as the Wampanoag gift of five deer. Fish and shellfish were also likely on the groaning board.

There is no concrete way to know if they had any roast turkey that day, but we do know there were plenty of wild turkeys in the region then, “and both the native Wampanoag Indians and English colonists ate them,” writes Kathleen Curtin of Plimoth Plantation in Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History from the Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie. That doesn’t explain why the big, ungainly bird has become the de facto traditional centerpiece around which the entire meal is built, but at least it gives us a feeling of authenticity to imagine that America’s forefathers might have been gnawing on a crispy turkey leg, just like we do over four centuries later.

As for beverages to wash down the feast, Curtin says the Pilgrims likely drank just water. “In their first year, the English colonists had grown a few acres of barley, so it is possible that some beer or ale may have been brewed by the end of harvest time—but given how long it takes to brew and ferment beer, this seems unlikely. “Wine, considered a finer beverage than beer, may have been brought across by some travelers on the Mayflower. It was frequently mentioned in later accounts of supplies to the colonies. By the mid-1600s, cider would become the main beverage of New Englanders, but in 1621 Plymouth, there were not any apples yet.”

We thought it would be fun to take a look at a few recipes of the early 1600s and that might have been used at the first Thanksgiving.

Roast Venison  If you will roast any venison, after you have washed it, and cleansed all the blood from it, you shall stick it with cloves all over on the outside; and if it be lean you shall lard it either with mutton lard, or pork lard, but mutton is the best: then spit it and roast it by a soaking fire, then take vinegar, bread crumbs, and some of the gravy which comes from the venison, and boil them well in a dish; then season it with sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt, and serve the venison forth upon the sauce when it is roasted enough.

Boiled Fish  Take any fresh fish whatsoever (as pike, bream, carp, barbel, chevin, and such like) and draw it, but scale it not; then take out the liver and the refuse, and having opened it, wash it; then take a bottle of fair water, a pretty quantity of white wine, good store of salt, and some vinegar, with a little bunch of sweet herbs, and set it on the fire, and as soon as it begins to boil, put in your fish, and having boiled a little, take it up into a fair vessel, then put into the liquor some gross pepper, and slit ginger; and when it is boiled well together with more salt, set it by to cool, and then put your fish into it, and when you serve it up, lay fennel thereupon.

Sauce for a Turkey  Take fair water, and set it over the fire, then slice good store of onions and put into it, and also pepper and salt, and good store of the gravy that comes from the turkey, and boil them very well together: then put to it a few fine crumbs of grated bread to thicken it; a very little sugar and some vinegar, and so serve it up with the turkey: or otherwise, take grated white bread and boil it in white wine till it be thick as a galantine, and in the boiling put in good store of sugar and cinnamon, and then with a little turnsole* make it of a high murrey** color, and so serve it in sauces with the turkey in the manner of a galantine. (*Plant yielding purple dye  **Reddish brown color)


“Intergrated Pest Management – IPM” Adapted from Berkshire Organics

IPMSince we first opened, South Shore Organics has made a point of offering local produce from local farms. Organic certification can take several years and extensive paperwork; for a small farm or orchard the certification process simply might not be in the cards. One area in which this is particularly relevant is with local tree fruit such as peaches, plums, nectarines, and apples. With so many local orchards bursting in the summer and fall, it’s important to find fruit sources that we feel reflect our commitment to clean, safe food—most of the local orchard fruit we offer customers comes from farms that use a system referred to as Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. An ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests, the intention of IPM is to choose pest control methods that minimize risk to both human health and the environment. Rather than simply eliminating the pests by saturating trees and fruit with pesticides,

Armed with information, farms can create conditions that are unfavorable for the pest, ultimately building—and sustaining—a system. IPM allows for a healthier and more sustainable farming system than that employed by large-scale conventional agriculture and its ubiquitous application of toxic pesticides. Conventional agriculture takes a “pest negative” approach, where the ultimate goal is to eliminate the offending pest, at a time when pests are becoming resistant to the very pesticides designed to eliminate them, this often means stronger applications…and therefore more environmental damage and toxicity to consumers. In stark contrast, farms using IPM approach the system from a “plant positive” perspective, recognizing that a pest management system builds the foundation for healthy farms. There are four widely recognized practices in the employment of IPM on farms…

Biological control: The goal of biological control within IPM is to suppress pest populations below the levels at which they can damage crops. This is done in several different ways, such as microbial controls which introduce insect pathogens to manage pest populations, and providing habitats for species that eat insects which would otherwise eat plants. Each biological control requires balance—between herbivore/plant, disease/host, and predator/prey—in an effort to keep the whole ecosystem going, while still protecting crops.

Habitat manipulation: Similar to the biological control discussed above, habitat manipulation takes it one step farther by introducing predator species into an agroecosystem to help keep pest populations under control. While this can be a very effective method of IPM, research indicates that maintaining a balance of populations is crucial for success.

Modification of cultural practices: Manipulating the structure and practices of a farming system can result in an environment which is unfavorable for pest reproduction, favorable for natural enemies, or both. It can also increase plants’ ability to withstand damage from pests. Agroecosystem structure modification such as field borders, natural vegetation, practices like crop rotation, plant spacing, tillage, mulching, companion planting and more can all work toward keeping insect damage in check.

Use of resistant varieties: One of the basic premises of IPM is that healthy plants are more resistant to pests, and one helpful tool in a pest management system is resistant varieties. From seedling to fruit, disease resistant plants can help to reduce crop losses across the board. While not completely immune to afflictions like blight, plants with greater immunity to these diseases will remain healthier through the growing season, and therefore more likely to survive an infestation of pests.

Of course, none of these stands alone. A healthy farm using IPM may choose any and all of the methods listed above—and perhaps several others—in their attempts to keep the agroecosystem in balance.

“IPM Tactic: Biological Control” Penn State Extension: College of Agricultural Sciences 2015

Kumar, Yogi, and Jagdish. “Habitat Manipulation for Biological Control of Insect Pests” Research Journal of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences Nov 2013

Linker, Orr, and Barbercheck “Insect Management on Organic Farms” Center for Environmental Farming Systems

“What is IPM?” University of California Integrated Pest Management Program 10 July 2014

Never Miss a Monday: Size up your food label

servingsizeOkay, I admit it, I’m that person in the grocery store picking up the packages and turning them over to check out the nutrition label…sometimes even two at a time to compare brands…total food nerd. But here’s the thing, you don’t have to be a food nerd be able to take some important information from the label to help you make an educated decision. And like any new habit, it’s best to start small, so let’s just take one item to talk about…serving size.

First thing to know about serving sizes is that there is no standard, so one brand may use ½ a cup for ice cream and another may say ¼ cup. The second thing to know is that the nutrition facts listed are only for that specific serving size, so it’s all about how they can make the nutrition label work for them. But we’re here to make it work for you. If you remember your elementary math, you just need to make a reasonable estimate on what you would actually eat and multiply (or better yet, actually measure what you are eating to test it out!). Using the ice cream example, most adults eat close to 2 cups, so if your ice cream says a 1/2 cup as the serving size, then you need to multiply all of the nutrition facts by 4 to come up with your personal nutrition serving. Instead of, for example, 110 calories and 14 g of sugar, you’ve gone up to 440 calories and 56g of sugar.  There are many other examples of how serving sizes are not in sync with how the average American eats. Common culprits are soups, cookies and of course soda/sports drinks.  One of those 20+oz drink bottles can equal 2-3 servings so that if you peruse the nutrition label quickly you’ll soon see that you, or maybe even your child, is downing a much larger amount of calories and sugar then you may have realized.

So my challenge to you is two-fold. First, check out your pantry and fridge for your commonly eaten items and look at the serving size. Does it sound like how much your or your family would eat? Do you eat ½ a can of soup? Or 2 cookies? Or ¾ cup of cereal? Pull out your measuring cups and spoons to help you visualize if necessary, and then start doing the math. Second, use this new insight to help inform your future food decisions. This may mean eating less of something, buying a favorite item in smaller individual serving containers, or choosing a healthier option at the store.  To stay healthy you need to stay educated. Hope to see many new fellow food nerds at the supermarket soon!

Be Well,

“How you eat is how you live”

by Pam Denholm

I love articles about the food system and how it works or is consumed, the mechanics fascinatetransportation blog me.  Do you ever go down the TED Talks rabbit hole? One of my FAVORITE talks is by a woman named Carolyn Steel, and the title of her talk is ‘How Food Shapes our Cities’ .  She talks about how cities were built around food access until the invention of the railway car, and then subsequently, the private motor vehicle – at which point our access to food improved, cities grew exponentially bigger, and our relationship with food and the natural world changed. Food became less about farmers, and more about corporations. We no longer smelled things to see if they were fresh, we flipped it over and read the label and to eat something we ‘just added water’.  As a result, we no longer value or trust food, so we don’t make it a priority, and we discard and waste it, and where food was once a social action – buying, preparing, and eating, more and more it is becoming insular, anonymous, and something ‘we have to do’. She frames it in a very interesting presentation.

Carolyn also discusses how our meat consumption has increased since we are no longer limited by geography, nor how many animals we can raise on the peripheral of our city and walk in to the slaughter house in the center of the city to ensure access to fresh meat. Now the logistics are not limited by geography at all. So with this in mind, I was very interested to read an article by the Sea to Table crew on fish consumption.  Did you know, Americans eat less than 16 pounds of seafood per person each year? That compares to more than 108 pounds of red meat, and nearly 73 pounds of poultry. America’s seafood favorites have remained largely the same: farmed shrimp, canned tuna, farmed salmon, and farmed tilapia, and our seafood appetite is being fed mostly by foreign imports – more than 90 percent of all seafood eaten in the U.S. comes from outside the United States.

Speaking of other countries, our 16lbs per person annually pales in comparison to other parts of the world. Japanese, for example, eat 146lbs of seafood per person each year. The U.N. figures show that it is 186lbs in Greenland, and more than 200lbs per person in Iceland. The country with the lowest seafood consumption is Afghanistan. And most seafood is eaten in the South Pacific islands of Tokelau, where each person eats more than 440lbs of seafood every year. For our own health, and for the health of our traditional fisheries, like those in our own back yard here in Scituate and New Bedford, we need to eat more wild domestic seafood.

The truth is, many or most of our environmental issues can be related back to our food and the systems we have created. We need to nurture our relationship with nature, and start smelling our food again, buy food without labels, and cook from scratch instead of just adding water. There has never been a more important grass roots movement.