Monday, April 16, 2012

Raspberry Flavoring Sans the Beaver

In the last week, we've had a bit of fun talking about food additives. In particular, after reading this article, which revealed the true source of artificial raspberry flavor, we've had a lot of fun contemplating the question "who figured it out?"

It's all been in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, but the fact is, that those who eat a lot of processed food have no idea where most of that food comes from. The other fact is that we've lost our sense of what real food tastes like. The artificial flavor is never, quite, what the real flavor is, and so, for many people, the fake flavor is what they know (and just FYI, green apple flavored candy tastes nothing like real apples), and when faced with the real taste, it can be a bit of a surprise.

For the past couple of weeks, Deus Ex Machina and I have been going out each weekend - just to see what's out. Over the past several years, we've been transitioning our diet from the typical "American" diet (consisting largely of fast-food and processed convenience meals-in-a-box) to more local fare. It started with eating local foods, moved to growing a lot of our food ourselves on our quarter acre, and is culminating this year to a more concentrated effort on foraging.

We've let the girls know this is our plan.

I'm not sure they're really digging the idea of eating wild foods.

When it comes to food choices, we're not tyrants (exactly), but I have gotten to a point where there are simply some food additives that I won't pay for. It's ridiculous to me to pay for a food item that I know is slow poison. I wouldn't feed my child arsenic. I won't - consciously - feed them high fructose corn syrup or benzoate-based preservatives or anything in a BPA-line can, either.

So, while we're willing to allow them some choice, we're also pretty adamant that they, at least, try what we've prepared.

This weekend, we were very busy. Deus Ex Machina and I had our first successful foraging day and harvested nettles, dandelion flowers, and Japanese knotweed shoots.

We also harvested our patch of Jerusalem artichokes (the final tally on 12 square feet - not six - was 22 or so pounds of roots), which we've been eating for the past few days. The first night sauteed with nettles. The next night I thin sliced the roots and fried them like potato chips. We've also dehydrated a bunch of them and are making it into flour, which I plan to use for pasta.

One of the best points of the weekend was when Deus Ex Machina and I decided to try making, what we've decided to call, Freezer Berry Wine, which was just our attempt to use up all of the berries we've had stored in our freezer. The original plan was to use all of the berries and have a mixed berry wine, but we ended up using just raspberries (because we had a bigger stash than we'd realized) - and as it turned out, we had more juice than we had room for in the carboy, and so I planned to boil what was left to syrup and save it for the girls to mix with water and ice as a fruit juice cocktail.

Unfortunately, I went outside to work in the garden, left the pot simmering, got a little side-tracked, and we ended up with a little over a pint of raspberry jelly.

Of course, then, Little Fire Faery wanted to know if she could have some more (I gave her a pre-taste) of that yummy juice stuff, and I had to admit that I'd spoiled the syrup, but I opened the freezer and started talking about other berries we could make into juice. Little Fire Faery spied the cranberries and asked if we could use those.

"I like cranberry juice," she told me.

Really? Since when?

And then, I nearly hit the floor, because Big Little Sister, who won't eat or drink anything I recommend (without much cajoling), said she likes cranberry juice, too.

That was enough for me. A couple of hours later, we had three quarts of cranberry juice (and a day later, we have none ;).

Kids like things to be familiar, especially food, and making the transition from all processed foods to all whole foods to what we find on the side of the road or out in a field has not been a smooth process.

But my kids are really good sports, and the absolute best moment of the whole weekend came when Little Fire Faery said to me, "I thought eating local and making all of our own food this year was going to be terrible, but it's been pretty good so far."

And that's definitely enough of an incentive for me to keep pushing the envelope.


  1. I'd say that Little Fire Faery's comment is a pretty good review of your year's cooking - if you can please the kids you've made it :)

  2. The kids chugged three quarts of cranberry juice in a day? Oh boy… I'll bet they spent a lot of time on the pot today! :-D

  3. Hi, in your recent post about sunchokes you mentioned guerrilla planting some of the chokes. can you post about that idea some time - I currently live in a 1-bedroom condo with limited private outdoor space. But there is a lot of natural park space around. what makes for good guerilla planting? Thanks again for your blog.SJ in Vancouver BC

  4. I'm thrilled that you guys aren't tyrants when it comes to feeding your kids. So many parents are and it just backfires in the end. Well done!

  5. Thought you might be interested in the following at Posted 4/18/12 - Earthquake Guide - Official Guide to Maine - Publication handed out at PTA meeting. Marion

  6. @ Tanya - agreed. If I can get my kids to eat, it has to be good ;).

    @ Larry - actually, no. They didn't really have any trouble with it ;).

    @ SJ - I don't know much about your growing area, and so I can't really say what would grow well there. In general, though, if you're doing guerrilla planting, the best plants/seeds will be ones that are perennial, indigenous to your area, and something you like to eat. The key is that you won't, necessarily, be able to tend it, and you want something that will grow without your help, but also not invasive and competing with native species. What you might want to do, right now, is find a wild foraging book for your area and check out what's growing. You might find that you don't need to do any planting at all ;).

    @ Anti-Hoarder - yeah, food battles are just hard on everyone. My teen is incredibly picky, and we try very hard to honor her choices while also trying to help her pick the healthiest options. We try to compromise. Like, tonight, we made a soup with some left over chicken. I added lentils. She doesn't like lentils, and so I let her dish out her own soup so that she can pick those things she doesn't want.

    @ Marion - Great article by fellow Mainer, RangerMan.