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Verjus–The Magic Ingredient

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At the point called veraison, when wine grapes first begin to show a color change as they ripen, they are still low in sugar and high in acid. If they are then harvested, crushed, pressed, and strained, the result is a bright, acidic liquid called verjus (pronounced ver-ZHU), French for “green juice.”

The folks at Kokomo Winery (www.kokomowines.com) in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley make a small amount of this wonderful product each year. You can contact them through their website to buy a bottle. Because verjus isn’t alcoholic, it can be shipped to any state.

Verjus has a neutral flavor, but like lemon juice, has a good strong acidic bite. When you are having a salad and a glass of wine with dinner, vinaigrette salad dressing might be too…well, vinegary, and spoil the flavor of the wine. Verjus won’t do that, but will brighten your salad just as well if not better than vinegar.

It also makes a fine base as a marinade for chicken or shrimp—or even as the sole ingredient of a marinade. Acid makes food mouth-watering, and so a splash on steamed vegetables will brighten their flavor. Mix it with a good, peppery olive oil and brush it on fish before broiling or baking.

It substitutes beautifully for lemon juice or vinegar in any recipe. It can even be made into a sorbet as a palate cleanser between courses of a fine meal.

Are the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined to keep chickens penned up, and rob consumers of the right to real free-range organic eggs?

It would seem so, according to the Organic Consumers Association.

First, the USDA’s National Organics Program refuses to enforce standards set by the National Organic Standards Board requiring organic farmers to allow their hens access to the outdoors. Responding to complaints that organic farmers were violating the standards, the NOP said the farmers have more “urgent” matters to deal with.

Now, the FDA wants to make it nearly impossible for organic farmers to raise free-range hens. The FDA says it’s risky for organic farmers to let their hens come in contact with wild birds. So the FDA is proposing costly, redundant and onerous so-called food safety measures on organic farmers who let their hens outdoors.

The USDA and the FDA need to hear from us. Eggs from organic free-range hens raised outdoors are more nutritious than eggs from hens kept indoors and raised exclusively on grain. Not to mention how much more the animals suffer from being penned up.

Also from OCA:

Sales of certified organic products are projected to reach approximately $35 billion in 2013, or 4.5 percent of total grocery sales. That number amounts to only half the sales of so-called “natural” products—uncertified foods routinely produced with pesticides, chemical fertilizers, animal drugs, GMOs, and sewage sludge – which are expected to exceed $70 billion in 2013.

Unfortunately many if not most consumers are unclear about the qualitative difference between certified organic and most so-called “natural” products. (While the term “organic” is defined by law, the term “natural” has no legally defined meaning.) If “natural” food products containing GMOs, synthetic chemicals, and chemical residues had to be truthfully labeled, organic sales would likely double within a short period of time.



In a 5 to 4 vote, the US Supreme Court has absolved pharmaceutical companies, and over 80 percent of all drugs prescribed in the US, of legal liability for fraud, mislabeling, side effects, and accidental death, according to Christina Sarich, writing in Waking Times.

Karen Bartlett tried to sue Mutual Pharmaceutical Company after taking an anti-inflammatory drug called Sulindac due to a sore shoulder. It was this drug that caused toxic epidermal necrolysis just three weeks after taking the pharmaceutical. Her flesh began to peel off so badly it resembled a third degree burn, and it left her disfigured.

When Bartlett sued in a New Hampshire state court, she won the case and was awarded $21 million in damages. The FDA then went on to force both Mutual and Merck & Co. to include warnings about the side effect on drug labels going forward, but nine years later, after lengthy appeals by the drug companies, the Supreme Court has overturned that ruling. The high court stated as the reason for their verdict that “all generic drugs and their manufacturers are exempt from liability for side effects.”

Reuters news service reported that one critic of the decision, Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group stated, “Today’s court decision provides a disincentive for generic makers of drugs to monitor safety of their products and to make sure that they have a surveillance system in place to detect adverse events that pose a threat to patients.”

And that’s to say the least. What possible explanation can there be for letting pharmaceutical companies off the legal liability hook for possible adverse reactions that aren’t listed on the labels? Oh…that’s right. This is the Roberts Court, the one that opened the floodgates of corporate cash to flow into American politics via the Citizens United verdict.



Todd Woody, writing in Quartz online journal, says that in a first-of-its-kind study published in PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives.

Researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast whose bees were pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees. The healthy bees then showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides, although scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight agricultural chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.

Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.

“There’s growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,” Dennis van Engelsdorp, the study’s lead author, told Quartz.

Labels on pesticides warn farmers not to spray when pollinating bees are in the vicinity but such precautions have not applied to fungicides.

Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60 percent of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80 percent of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.

“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have believed,” van Engelsdorp says. “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”

The study found another complication in efforts to save the bees: US honey bees collected pollen from nearby weeds and wildflowers as well as commercial crops, but that pollen was also contaminated with pesticides even though those plants were not the target of spraying. “It’s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,” says van Engelsdorp.

Fungicides and pesticides aren’t applied to crops and nearby weeds by themselves. Of course they drifted onto the weeds. It’s not only “spraying practices” that need to get a new look, but the use of fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides by the millions of tons in so-called modern agriculture that needs to be stopped.



A study recently published in the Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases underscores the potential leukemogenic properties of the Bt toxin built into the genetic structure of almost all GMO foods that are currently planted on more than 3.9 million acres of crops in the US.

The new study states that the Bt pesticide engineered into crops contributes to health problems including blood abnormalities, hematological malignancies (blood cancers) like leukemia, suppression of bone marrow proliferation, and abnormal lymphocyte patterns.