For nearly 20 years I worked for a prominent celebrity chef, during which time I was given the nickname The Big Sheaux. One of the building blocks of the success of that restaurant empire was the consistent education that all members of the staff were provided. We were expected to share that information with everyone that came to dine with us. Education is a type of marketing. The more your clientele is aware of, the better decisions they can/will make. Education also opens people up to a broader variety of options. I express these things with you now so that you will understand where I’m going with my next statements.
There is a misconception that this time of year (summer) is ideal for growing almost anything in Southern Louisiana. This notion is far from true. During the months of July, August, and the beginning of September it is much too hot here in Zone 9 to produce many of our favorite foods. I can remember trying to explain this to some friends in North Carolina a few years ago while we were living there. At the time I was amazed at all of the tomatoes I was still growing in the middle of August. During the daytime, the temperatures in the Raleigh/Durham area often mirror the temperatures here in the New Orleans area. On the other hand, at night in North Carolina temperatures will fall to the low 70's and even the high 60's, even in August.
In the New Orleans area, which is in Zone 9, our evening temperatures may not drop below 80° many nights. This difference in temperature has a huge impact impact on soil temperatures and production. Going back to our tomato example, most of the time tomato blossoms will not set fruit in temperatures above 73°. Now think about it. When is the temperature at or below 73° at night here in Zone 9?
Similarly, many of the fruit and vegetables we like to get when the weather is warm begin to time out once the soil temperature becomes too hot. For those vegetables or fruit that will continue to produce, the blistering sun often renders the fruit undesirable. That's why even though several types of cucumbers will still produce, the temperature on the ground is so hot that it blisters the fruit and sometimes partially cooks them. This is why in the middle of the summer cucumbers tend to get mushy here. This is also why there aren’t any local greens and lettuces available this time of year.
For some you this may be a bit surprising. Just know that Sheaux Fresh continues to work to bring you the best local produce available. When the weather is too hot to produce it locally, we will bring in a few regional products that will help support our variety without drastically expanding our carbon footprint.
- Thaddaeus (Big Sheaux) Prosper
A good friend of ours sent me this video and I had to share it here. A little girl and her grandmother were trying to sprout a potato but after several weeks nothing happened. This little video documents why they couldn't grow anything from the first potato and what they learned afterward. Now we at Sheaux Fresh are not the people who refuse to eat anything that isn't certified organic, but we do encourage people to be aware of how their food is produced and to choose their food wisely. So without any further ado, I present to you Elise and her potato experiment.
After several weeks of writing, editing, recording, editing, deciding on incentives and editing, Sheaux Fresh has finally launched our Kickstarter.com fund drive. We're raising money to get our second garden up and running. We need fencing, tools, seeds, building materials and other supplies to begin. Please join us in our effort to make fresh, healthy food accessible and affordable to all New Orleanians by growing it where they live. We began in our back yard and now we're branching out into our community, Algiers. Once we get the second garden going, we'll expand to another neighborhood that is suffering as a result of New Orleans' status as a food desert. We can only do this with support from people who believe in what we're doing...people like you. So please click the link below, check out what we're doing, donate whatever you can and ask everyone you know to do the same. With your help, Sheaux Fresh Sustainable Foods will bring the benefits of fresh, locally grown food to everyone in New Orleans. Thanks you!
Please click here to see our Kickstarter funding page.
Well, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is being televised but that isn't exactly what I'm talking about. I'm talking about what's going on right here in our backyards. For some of us that literally means in our back yards. Slowly, often painfully so, people are realizing that the food they purchase may not be the best possible quality and it's certainly not the best possible price. In spite of being world famous for our cuisine, New Orleans has been designated as a food dessert. In other words, too many people have too little access to fresh, healthy real food. Some neighborhoods don't even have grocery stores and what's offered at most corner stores is not what a family should eat all week. Well, some people are just tired of it and have begun to look outside of the corporate food system for what they need.
Recently, Thad, our children and I met some people who are really food revolutionaries. Nat Turner and the rest of the farmers/educators from Our School at Blair Grocery have created a beautiful oasis of self sustainability in the Lower Ninth Ward. They saw that food needs weren't being met and decided that the best way to address the issue was to create a system that is fair, healthy, natural and local. What they're doing is really simple but that's what makes it so revolutionary. They, like many local growers, have eliminated unhealthy, unnecessary practices from the food growing process. On top of that, they are training young people to recognize what really goes on with most of the food that is available to us, creating an awareness that encourages them to step out of the corporate food system by learning to grow food locally.
It was a pleasure for us to see other people with whom we share a similar mission. Check them out and see for yourself what a positive impact the food revolutionaries from Our School at Blair Grocery are having on our community.
Some days there is just too much to do in too little time. Honestly, most of my days feel like that. Busy parents can't always find the time to prepare a healthy home cooked meal. What? Are you surprised to hear that from someone who is constantly encouraging everyone to eat more fresh produce and locally grown foods? Yes, we're healthy eaters but Thad and I don't know any magic tricks that add hours to the day so sometimes we have to take shortcuts just like everyone else. The difference is we've gotten a little more creative with our shortcuts. So, when I still have 3 loads of laundry to wash, a book report to help with, research to do and a blog to write I am no position to make garden vegetable lasagna with whole wheat pasta, homemade tomato sauce and all natural cheeses. Sometimes I feel like I'm barely able to toast bread. I need something quick, easy, inexpensive and somewhat healthy and our Garden Pizza works every time.
No I do not make my own dough, although a friend recently gave me a bread maker and I'm looking forward to trying new recipes. I neither use my own tomato sauce nor do I purchase top quality, hormone free cheese. I purchase a refrigerated plain cheese pizza from that ridiculously large chain store that begins with a W. Yes, I shop there. I can't afford to purchase everything locally - yet. So I take a quick trip to the enormous store and grab a cheese pizza. Sometimes I even let the kids talk me into getting a pepperoni pizza. Then we take it home where I slice all kinds of veggies from the garden, put them on a plate and let the kids get to work. They think they're actually making their own pizza as opposed to just topping it. My middle child even suggested we open a restaurant and sell our pizzas. That's how much they love it.
So let's review. Need a healthy meal without inciting a mutiny at the table? Pizza definitely tops most kid’s favorite foods list. Need a cheap meal? A large cheese pizza costs about $7.00 and if you have a garden your toppings are free. If you don't have a garden you should think about starting one. But until then just let the kids pick some of their favorite veggies from the produce aisle or better yet, visit your local farmers market and keep some fresh veggies around. Need to keep the kids occupied? Give them the very important job of decorating...err, I mean topping the pizza. If you have an older child you might not even have to cut the veggies or put it in the oven which means less work for you. Yaaayyyy! Garden Pizza works every time!
A recent Purdue University study found that there are pesticides on many fresh fruits and vegetables in the produce section of most grocery stores. I don't think that information comes as a surprise to anyone but did you know that pesticides were also found inside fruit after it's been peeled. You may also be surprised to know that pesticides were found after rinsing fruit for at least ten seconds. Now I am the last person to discourage people from eating fresh fruits and vegetables, but I do want to make people aware of what happens to their produce before it reaches the grocery store shelves. Please click here to view the entire report. One way to be sure that your produce is pesticide free (and affordable) is to grow it yourself. Contact Sheaux Fresh to help get you started.
Thad and I have been told that our children's eating habits and preferences are strange, unusual, different and even weird. Some have even told us that it's mean to feed them the way we do. Still, most people that we know say that they wish their children or grandchildren would eat the foods our kids eat. Are you wondering what our kids eat that others don't? It's simple. More than half of the food they eat is what I call old fashioned food. By that I mean they eat food the way it was prepared before fish sticks, chicken nuggets and lunchables were invented.
Now I want to be very clear about something. My kids like fast food. I like some fast food. If I didn't know better I'd eat Wendy's french fries every day. But I do know better and I've seen what happens to children who are allowed to eat any and everything they want. They grow into adults who have a difficult time making good decisions about food and they often raise their own children with the same bad habits. So, although are allowed to eat hot dogs (we prefer certain brands over others) our children are not allowed to demand hot dogs instead of whatever other food has been prepared. If I make grilled chicken with a spinach salad and a pasta salad, that's what they eat. Whether we're eating out at McDonalds, Sonic, Juan's Flying Burrito, Salu', Thanh Thanh or Nola, we have no problem getting them to eat the food that is served. In fact, they prefer the sit down restaurants over the fast food places.
Part of our success in getting them to eat all kinds of foods is attributable to the fact that we prepare and eat healthy food in our home and they've all been introduced to several types of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and other wholesome foods at a very young age. On top of that, they were not introduced to junk food until they were older and even then, it usually came from a source outside our home. I remember spending time during the holidays at my aunt and uncles home when our oldest child was about 18 months old. My uncle offered her a small, chocolate candy bar and she tried it. After he gave it to her my uncle asked me, "Does she like chocolate?" I told him, "I don't know. She never had it before." I didn't freak out about it because it was candy during the holidays and my uncle was just being his regular, sweetheart self. She (and Thad and I) had all kinds of "treats" that week but when we returned home our eating habits returned to normal. I'm not saying you have to give your kids steamed broccoli or roasted asparagus at every meal. I'm just saying they should be so accustomed to eating vegetables that it's no big deal. You can dice up all kinds of veggies, cook them in pasta sauce and serve it with spaghetti. You could slice fresh veggies and get the kids to help you put them on a take and bake pizza. Add vegetables to your lasagna or baked macaroni. You can even mix some into your eggs in the morning. After a while your children will be so accustomed to eating a variety of healthier foods that people may begin to call their eating habits strange, unusual, different or weird too.
OK, it's been three weeks since I last posted a blog and I apologize for the delay. I have so much to say but I haven't had much time to say it so I'm just going to try and do some catching up in the next few weeks. So, first things first. The last post was about organic pesticide recipes so I'm going to share the results of our little experiment.
The first mixture I made was very simple. I cut the lower leaves from a tomato plant, placed them in a glass jar filled with water and left it in a window to steep for a few days. Then I sprayed it on my little garden, which I use as a test garden. I didn't notice any difference in the amount of insects on the plants and quite honestly, I didn't expect to. That recipe seemed a little too easy and too tame to kill or repel anything and as far as I can tell, it did neither. So I moved on to the next one.
This is the one I was excited about. The recipe called for crushed garlic and cayenne pepper, which made me want to sauté some shrimp instead of destroy some insects, but I digress. The garlic and pepper steeped in the window for the same amount of time as the tomato leaves. I strained the spicy water into a spray bottle, added about a teaspoon of olive oil and two drops of dish soap and filled the bottle with more water. Then I shook it all up and headed out to my little garden. This one worked! I didn't see any bugs and the mixture was diluted well enough to prevent the cayenne pepper from burning the plants. (Yes, cayenne pepper can burn your plants so use it sparingly.) This recipe did the job well enough to earn a promotion to Thad’s BIG GARDEN!
The final recipe called for rosemary and olive oil. I put the rosemary in a glass jar, covered it with olive oil and once again, left it in the window with the other mixtures. Afterward's I poured the rosemary infused olive oil into the spray bottle and added water and two drops of dish detergent. Then I shook it up and sprayed it. It smelled great but I don't know if it killed or repelled anything because quite honestly, I had grown bored with the entire experiment.
In conclusion, although I want to get rid of bugs without coating my plants with poison, I think we'll stick to store bought organic pesticides and repellents. I'd much rather use my garlic, cayenne pepper, olive oil and rosemary for organic recipes that we can eat.
Today I am planning to make several new recipes that I have been dying to try. For those of you who are familiar with Sheaux Sweets, you may think I'm working on some new delightfully unrefined treat. Sorry, there will no twist on the Pecan Cup or Orange Cranberry Oatmeal Raisin Bar this week. Like those for Sheaux Sweets, the ingredients for today's recipes have been minimally processed in order to retain as much of their natural qualities as possible. Also like Sheaux Sweets, I will be making everything myself and in most circumstances, much of what I will be making could be used as part of a healthy, delicious meal...for humans. But today, I am not creating recipes for human consumption. I am making homemade organic pesticides. That's right. Today I am on a murderous mission. These recipes are intended to assassinate aphids, slaughter stinkbugs, and generally persecute any critter attempting to make a free buffet of our gardens.
You may be surprised to know how many common household items, especially those found in the kitchen, can be used to eliminate pests. Most of the things I'll be using are not only edible, but are used to make delicious dishes. Others aren't quite as tasty but they definitely won't harm anyone if used properly. My list of ingredients includes garlic, onions, cayenne peppers, tomato leaves, olive oil, safflower oil, rosemary, cloves, thyme, cinnamon, neem oil, cow’s milk and dish soap.
I'm looking forward to trying out several recipes today and I will be sure to let you know how they turn out! Happy gardening!
Wednesday, May 11, 2011 was a very busy day for Sheaux Fresh. Three big things happened for us today.
1. We kicked off Sheaux Fresh Wednesdays at the Corner Muse, one of Our Fantastic Supporters.
2. Another one of Our Fantastic Supporters, really cool guy named Troy cleared the rest of the property at the future site of our second garden.
3. We learned that Sheaux Fresh was selected to participate in the 2011 Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans (SENO) New Ventures Accelerator!
We are happy, excited, thankful, optimistic and WORN OUT! I don't have the energy to describe all that went on today so I'll just let the pictures do the talking.
Find out about Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans at www.seno-nola.org!