Archives for category: foodmaking



















Enjoy your tea and remember, to keep enjoying all this goodness, take care of your soil everyday, and celebrate TERRA MADRE day, on December 10!






Click to access MilkweedFactSheetFINAL.pdf




















New York Times, “For Trees Under Threat, Flight May be the Best Response, Sept. 18, 2014




Hoekstra, A.Y. and Chapagain, A.K. (2008) Globalization of water: Sharing the planet’s freshwater resources, Black­well Publishing, Oxford, UK.

A foggy morning run. Under these atmospheric conditions suddenly you can see how everything is knitted together and sound waves traveling close to the ground enhance this connectedness.


A very different scene than the one I visit later in the day at Mediamatic in Amsterdam. Bio-me is a three-day event functioning as a bio-cultural lab, in which artists, designers, engineers, scientists, farmers, chefs, and public explore and sample bio-based material.





Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning, 1999, The Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante


















This afternoon I went with one of the millers to the farmer who cultivates the spelt. On his farm, spelt started as marginal crop, in an effort to create a unique local product, based on collaboration between farmer, mills, and bakeries. The spelt is good, the mills are doing their work, however, the bakeries may be the weak link, according to the miller. Spelt requires a different way of making bread; it contains less gluten, and needs experimenting. The consumer so far is enthusiastic and this may be due to the potential health benefits and the fact that ‘local’ sells. It is nice to know your farmer, your miller, and your baker and their dedication to the product.

For anyone who wishes to experiment making spelt bread, here is a recipe from Pompeii,

Watch the video at:








Visit this website

maintained by Marleen Willebrands,  some enjoyable reading and recipes, from De Verstandige Kock (1669), Een notabel boecxken van cokeryen (ca. 1514) and much more…












Image from Zafferano Montefeltro. For more of Silvia’s saffron recipes:


see also:




In this fantastic article, “Flavor network and the principles of food pairing”, written by Ahn, different ingredient pairings in regional cuisines and cultural traditions are analyzed with the objective to clarify if there are any underlying general principles at work.

Sources like the “The Flavor Bible” are based on the food-pairing hypothesis, rooted in the idea of pairing food based on shared compounds as is common in Western traditions. Based on their data-driven approach, the authors found that in East Asian cuisines compound sharing ingredients is avoided, and that Southern European cuisine is closer to Latin American cuisines in signature ingredients than it is to Western European cuisine. If you don’t feel up to going through all the statistics in the article, please just take a look at it for the great visualizations of the differences in FOOD ART. It is enticing and invites you to experience and expand your world through your eyes and taste buds. Oh, and also through your NOSE. Exercise your senses!



So what about saffron, does the experience warrant the effort and price of producing it? First of all there is the visual sensation, the intense color it gives to food and non-food. I ask Silvia to comment on the description of saffron in “The Flavor Bible.”

“Taste: sour-sweet-bitter”

According to Silvia, the aroma is sweet, experienced through your nose. The taste is bitter and after swallowing the taste is diffused and the bitter, but not aggressive taste, persists in the mouth. Saffron is not sour, except fermented saffron from Iran or Greece has this quality (after the saffron wilts, it obtains a hay-like smell). In Italy, the saffron is not fermented, however in Sardinia the saffron is wetted with olive oil, which gives it an acidic note. This process of wetting doubles the weight and should therefor be less expensive than pure saffron.



“Function: Cooling”

Silvia does not understand what is meant by this, the function for her is digestive. Cooling is not a characteristic she associates with saffron.

“Tips: Add later in the cooking process, saffron is activated by the heat of cooking”

On this point Silvia disagrees. The aroma (sweet sensation) is lost above 50C°, it also loses its medicinal properties and is only bitter.

The way to use saffron is to let the saffron pistils soak in COLD water overnight. If you use powder, this time can be considerably less, about 10 minutes. Depending on your recipe you can adjust the amount of water you use. The water will extract the taste and aroma and is added to the dish at the end, when is cooled enough (below 50C°). The pistils can be added for visual sensation.



The dinner was good, the conversation lively; a way to exchange food and solidify relationships. It is exactly these traditions and farming methods that are inscribed in the UNESCO intangible heritage list and are intended to be preserved according to EU heritage regulations (see post June 13). Also, the small-scale farmers are considered a key component in meeting the challenge of global food supply in the future. These landscapes and traditions however may disappear fast.


Last week (June 13) the New York Times ran an article entitled “From Untended Farmland, Reserve Tries to Recreate Wilderness From Long Ago”. It describes one project, as part of a a larger trend in Europe to ‘rewild’, if that is a verb. In many of these projects species are introduced that were part of these regions at some time in the past. One of the criticisms is that the science is not solid or absent in these projects. Another criticism is that these projects that purport to be environmentally driven, are in fact a covert component in the carbon trade exchange market (‘landgrab’). When atmosphere and water become economic commodities and are no longer part of the commons we should pay attention.

In Spain, the projected revenue from increased tourism as a result of the Reserve did not happen.

“Land concentration, land grabbing and people’s struggles in Europe”, published by Transnational institute (TNI) for European Coordination Via Campesina and Hands of the Land network, April 2013.

“Smallholders, food security, and the environment” report IFAD, UNEP, 2013







In general, herbs and spices are least cultivated within the food system, and therefore their natural qualities are maintained. For this reason I believe herbs and spices are an untapped resource in healthy diets, as the natural pharmacy for human and environmental health and sustaining biodiversity.

That is why I am skeptical about the industry efforts for bioengineering herbs and spices. Under the title “What’s that smell? Exotic scents made from Reengineered Yeast”, the New York Times (October 20, 2013) published an article on this and specifically discussed the efforts of ‘Evolva’to produce saffron-like yeast. There maybe nothing wrong with yeast, yeast is everywhere, and in fact, many of our foods are based on yeast fermentation (yeasts – classified in the kingdom of Fungi). BUT, in the (near) future I would like to have my diet based on more than genetically modified wheat, rice, corn and chemically flavored yeast. I also prefer to retain some independence from the chemical industry when I ‘procure’ , prepare, and enjoy my food.

Initially, these bioengineering efforts seem harmless, and are argued to be part of sustainable program of future food production. Depending on how you define sustainable, it is difficult to oversee future consequences of increasing bio-engineered food and fuel to sustain a world population in good health, and requires more research: TO BE CONTINUED…





Outside my window there is a walnut tree, I love the smell when you touch the walnut husk to collect the fruit. You use the whole fruit, including the husk to make the drink.

The process of making the Nocino includes maceration, which is the softening or breaking into pieces of raw, dried, or preserved fruit or vegetables using a liquid to absorb the flavor. Maceration is the main method of producing a flavored alcoholic beverage.


About 33-35 nuts (uneven number is a tradition); 800gr of sugar/water (equal parts); 1liter alcohol/vodka 95% – optional: spices: 1/2 vanilla bean, 2 cinnamon sticks; nutmeg; allspice: strips of lemon rind.

We are using the Sicilian way, macerating in alcohol first and adding the sugar/syrup later. Following the Modena tradition you add sugar at the beginning. Take your pick.








update post June 16: to use horstail in saffron production, you create a compost tea, similar to nettle tea.



Why do we focus on calories instead of nutritional value?

Why do we not make more use of savory and nutritional abundance?

Mora 2011, “How Many Species Are There on Earth and in the Ocean?” in PLoS Biology, August 2011, Vol. 9, Issue 8



In general, plants as well as people need many nutrients to grow into healthy beings and together we depend on soil. The healthy plant takes up the nutrients from atmosphere, but primarily from the soil. Creating AWARENESS of the poor soil conditions worldwide and the implications of further degradation IS ESSENTIAL.

Industrial /commercial farming strategies include the breeding of varieties that can grow in poorer and poorer soils, but these seeds grow up to be nutrient poor plants. In eating such plants people take in energy (calories) but deprive themselves of healthy components that can be gained from plants grown up in healthy, nutrient rich soil.

If this sounds too academic, it is because I am one, but I also spent considerable research time as part of participatory/community projects. Research papers and policy documents are often interesting and well intended, however I find that sometimes they are of limited practical use and poorly connected to the day-to-day farm life. In adapting a nomadic research style I hope to better connect the dots, identify problems and challenges that will lead to practical solutions for farmer and consumer. It is clear that rural regions are rich in beneficial sensory experiences in need of maintenance support. Researchers and policy designers do agree. Some quotes from a recent report on European gastronomic heritage building on the UNESCO intangible heritage listing of the MEDITERRANEAN DIET

“Educational aspects

A. whereas the present and future health and wellbeing of the population is determined by diet and the environment and hence by farming, fishing and livestock breeding methods;…


Ai. whereas the European heritage is made up of a set of tangible and intangible elements and, in the case of gastronomy and food, is also formed by the locality and landscape from which the products for consumption originate;

Aj. whereas the longevity, diversity and cultural richness of European gastronomy are founded on the availability of high-quality local produce;…


Cultural aspects

21. Emphasises the need to create awareness of the diversity and quality of the regions, landscapes and products that are the basis of Europe’s gastronomy, which forms part of our cultural heritage and also constitutes a unique and internationally recognised lifestyle; stresses that this sometimes requires respect for local habits;…


39. Calls on the Member States to take measures to preserve the European gastronomy-related heritage, such as protection of the architectural heritage of traditional food markets, wineries or other facilities, and of artefacts and machinery related to food and gastronomy;…”


On the UNESCO list of intangible heritage (since 2003) are several regional and national diets (<10), among which the Mediterranean Diet. This is meant in large to preserve the variety of social and cultural aspects of the food production and consumption of countries, in this case the Mediterranean region. The diet itself is hard to define, but a common denominator seems to be OLIVE OIL, although this does not hold true for all countries.

I have eaten some wonderful local food products and sharing of these products is indeed important. To sell these products on the markets is often problematic because of increasing complexity in rules and regulation on local, regional, national, and international governmental levels. I listen to the stories of the farmers…

Meanwhile, supermarkets everywhere are dominated by products from large food producers, which control the market and influence policy in their interest, most of the time successfully. (to find out more, please revisit Philip Howard’s website ).

It seems that in order to support and promote these wonderful products and cultural practices, a more lenient set of rules would benefit small producers, as a transition period to test the market and raise some capital before investing in required infrastructure for increased production.






Eat more Legumes – Chickpea pancake




This week for dinner the healthy version of this dish, instead of deep fried, the eggplant slices are grilled.

By now you know about the cultural variation in Südtirol and this also extends to food. Vea , who is originally from Tuscany, introduced me to the profound relationship to olive oil. YOU USE LOTS. Whereas her partner grew up near Lake Caldonazzo, more butter than oil.

Visit one of Vea’s favorite blogs:






ENCORE… A sad day in the vegetable garden

I love strong women. I like the goats because they have a mind of their own and are proficient in crossing boundaries and jumping any fence. But this morning Kumba escaped from the barn and ate many of the young peas, the first produce Vea plans to sell in the market.

In Italy there is a proverb to say that two things don’t go together, you do not mix CAPRI & CAVOLO, in this case we would like to add, do not mix CAPRI & PISELLI.

She’d better produce some nutritious milk…



(see these great infographics

Yesterday I went to the “Festival Economia Trento”, a mulit-day event, with national and international speakers. Past speakers are showcased on banners throughout the city. I attended a lecture by Robert McChesney who spoke about the conflict between capitalism and democracy and the increasing inequality this generates, and the trend of stagnation, which he explained, is deeply rooted in corporate capitalism.


Today another festival, but of another kind, the Mocheni Goat festival,showcasing the other qualities of this mountain region. The festival took place on the other side (east slope) of the valley, where the Mocheni culture/language dominates. And yes, Penelope won a bell!


Ok, also some sheep



The woman who ‘saved’ the Mocheni goat


The winning bells





(Le Ricette Regionali Italiane, by Anna Gosetti della Salda)




Is originally made in the Provence. As an experiment Vea suggests to make this pungent cheese that will be slightly hard on the outside and soft on the inside. It will take some time before it is ready to eat. I can hardly wait….





Harvest the top leaves of the nettle (Ortica), wash and blanche. Add oil and puree, add cheese, nuts, and salt to your liking.