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No-Spray, Super-Healthy Roses

Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on No-Spray, Super-Healthy Roses


What do you think is the most popular garden plant in the world? Tomatoes? Hot peppers? Potatoes? No—it’s none of those. In fact, it isn’t even a food plant. It’s the rose. But there’s been a long-standing problem with roses. Many of the most beautiful need lots of fertilizer, fungus sprays, pesticides, and other agricultural chemicals to thrive. Among the most chemically-drenched are roses sold as cut flowers in supermarkets and grocery stores around the country. Who wants to eat organic only to have the table set with toxic flowers?

So along came the horticultural scientists at Texas A&M and asked themselves a simple question: What if we planted hundreds of kinds of roses out in a field, with just a handful of compost for fertilizer and a little organic mulch to cover the soil, and abandoned them? No further fertilizer. No water. No pesticides. No fungicides. Nothing. Just let them fend for themselves. Which would die and which would struggle and which would thrive?

So they did this, and sure enough, after a few years, they found that there was a group of roses that didn’t need agricultural chemicals, irrigation in Texas’s blistering hot climate, or anything else. They just grew fine and dandy, thank you.

Some were new hybrids and some were actually old favorites that had been around for decades. They examined these champions and discovered that many shared some unusual characteristics, such as changes in the fatty acid content of the cuticle layer of their leaves and other adaptations that allowed them to flourish where other roses succumbed.

So they named these no-maintenance plants Earth-Kind ® roses. And they put up a website where gardeners who love roses but hate chemicals and hard work can identify them. It’s at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkind/roses/cultivars/. If you intend on growing roses, you might want to check this site before choosing varieties, thus avoiding the need for toxic chemicals. If the topic is of serious interest to you, consider buying a copy of “The Sustainable Rose Garden,” a book-sized collection of 32 articles by leading rose lovers and scientists about the new class of low-work landscape roses, edited by Pat Shanley, Peter Kukielski, and Gene Waering and published in 2010 by Newbury Books. It’s technical but accessible to amateur rose lovers, too, and it’s a fascinating read.

So—smell your roses without fear, use a few petals in your salads, make an organic potpourri using Earth-Kind ® roses and other no-work cultivars you’ll find in the Newbury book.

The Trouble with Bacon

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jeffcoxYou can raise a pig with plenty of fresh air and sunshine, a pen for it to root in, nothing but wholesome food to eat, and make that pig as organic as a pig can be. And when it’s butchered, you can hang slabs of its fatty belly in a real smokehouse and cure it with salt and hickory smoke, not chemicals, until it’s a heady, smoky treasure of fragrant bacon.

The trouble with it is that it’s still bacon—about 80 percent lard—and still delivers a load of hard fat to your arteries, even though it’s organic. In other words, even though foods are organic, that doesn’t mean they are good for you.

I don’t deny myself much when it comes to food. I love organic gelato and there’s a pint of Coppa Mista in my freezer right now. When I indulge—every few days—I eat only a tablespoonful or two. That small amount isn’t going to hurt me, and because I eat so little of it, I savor every taste much more than if I’d spoon it into my mouth in quantity.

Bacon is another infrequent treat, and I use it like a flavoring agent or condiment, rather than in quantity. For instance, if I’m making hash brown potatoes, I start by frying two strips in the pan until the fat is rendered. Then I remove the strips and fry onions in the bacon fat. When the onions are cooked clear, I remove them to a bowl and add the diced, par-boiled potatoes to the pan. These are fried slowly at low heat over an hour or so. When they are done, I crumble one slice of bacon and add it and the onions, plus salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to the potatoes and continue cooking until everything is finished.

The other strip of bacon goes into the dog’s dinner bowl along with dry food. A dog will never roam far from home if it knows that from time to time, bacon may be coming in its dinner.

There are many dietary items that make life worth living but that can be injurious in quantity, even if organic: wine, butter, pepperoni pizza, and much more. Here’s a guideline for healthy eating that allows just about anything in your diet: make 50 percent of your diet fresh, raw vegetables. Twenty five percent cooked vegetables. Fifteen percent meat, fowl, or fish. Five percent wine or other beverage, and five percent anything else you like, including bacon.

The Latest on GMOs

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jeffcoxThe news isn’t good. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has authorized the unrestricted planting of genetically modified alfalfa, brushing aside a compromise with the organic farming and activist community that would have at least relegated GMO alfalfa to certain places where their rogue genes couldn’t contaminate organic alfalfa, which is fed to cattle that produce organic meat and milk.

The problem is that Monsanto’s “Round-Up Ready” alfalfa contains genes from outside the alfalfa genome that allow the crop to grow in the presence of the herbicide. Organic farmers, scientists, anjd environmental activists had worked long and hard to prevent this GMO alfalfa from being planted widely. If the genes for herbicide-resistance migrate to organic alfalfa fields, then those fields, their crops, and the animals that eat those crops can no longer be considered organic.

But Monsanto put on a huge and fierce—and costly—lobbying effort and the Obama administration caved. Of course, Republicans were in the forefront of the pressure on Vilsack. “Restrictions based on economic consequences of pollen drift politicize the regulatory process,” Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) wrote to Vilsack in a letter also signed by Reps. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Pat Roberts (R-KS). Talk about politicizing the regulatory process!

In a monumental burst of hypocrisy, Vilsack told reporters after the decision to allow unrestricted planting of GMO alfalfa that “We want to expand and preserve choice for farmers. We think the decision reached today is a reflection of our commitment to choice and trust.”

Who does he think he’s kidding? The Secretary’s decision represents a total capitulation to Big Ag and nothing else, and sets a horrible precedent for future decisions regulating GMO crops.

Why You Should Always Resist Fast Food

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I know it’s tempting. It’s around noon. You are on the run. You have little time for a sit-down lunch. You’re hungry. And there, rising all around you at the strip malls are the Golden Arches, BK Crowns, and smirking images of Colonel Sanders.Case in point: consider the chicken McNugget. Besides the old joke about, “What part of the chicken is the nugget?” it turns out that a given McNugget is one half chicken meat and one half…what?

Here’s what a recent issue of Time magazine had to say:

“Do you put dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foaming agent made of one, in your chicken dishes? How about tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a chemical preservative so deadly just five grams can kill you? These are just two of the ingredients in a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget. Only 50 percent of a McNugget is actually chicken. The other half includes corn derivatives, sugars, leavening agents and completely synthetic ingredients. Federal Judge Robert Sweet wrote in a lawsuit against the restaurant chain in 2003: ‘Chicken McNuggets, rather than being merely chicken fried in a pan, are a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook.’ Judge Sweet ‘questioned whether customers understood the risks of eating McDonald’s chicken over regular chicken.’”

Now a new study by University of Toronto researchers shows that perfluoroalkyls, which are used in fast food wrappers to keep grease from leaking through, are being ingested by people and showing up as contaminants in their blood.

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, perfluoralkyls, including perfluooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluoroctanesulfonate (PFOS) are also found in drinking water, dust, air, carpet and fabric protectors, flame retardants, non-stick pots and pans, and stain-proof clothing. They show up in umbilical cord blood and breast milk, meaning they pass the placental barrier into fetuses.

Studies have linked perfluoroalkyls of over a dozen types to disruption of the endocrine system and sex hormones, damage to the pituitary gland, tumor development, infertility, thyroid disease, cancer, immune system problems, increased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood.

The answer to fast food dangers is to eat a healthy diet of organic foods. Then you will get none of these chemicals and their toxic side effects.