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In September 2021, the OP published an article about putting mRNA vaccines into lettuce.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) had awarded a research group from UC-San Diego, UC-Riverside, and Carnegie Mellon $500,000 to investigate this potential new technology. This project had three major goals. The first was to determine whether or not DNA containing the mRNA vaccines could be delivered to plant cells. The second was if, once in the plant cells, the mRNA could replicate and produce amounts of mRNA comparable to the mRNA vaccines currently on the market. The third point of the research was, assuming mRNA could replicate in the cells, to determine the correct dosage.
The researchers claim that this project has the potential to produce mRNA vaccines that aren’t as temperature sensitive as the mRNA vaccines currently on the market. They believe that, in the long run, this has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of producing and storing mRNA vaccines because cold storage is so expensive.
At the time, a flurry of news articles about this research project was released, enough that USA Today felt the need to “fact check” the claim that people might be eating vaccines in salads.
Those of us who were so intrigued and concerned last year may be wondering, have they made any progress?Is this coming to a plate near me soon?
How concerned should I be?
UC and Carnegie Mellon have not posted any updates since last year. In the USA Today fact-checking article above, the head researcher, Dr. Juan Pablo Giraldo, admits that the technology is many years away.
“This research will take a couple of years to show proof of concept of the technology. . . If successful, it will need more studies and several more years for people to use leafy greens as mRNA vaccine factories.”
As weird and concerning as this particular project may sound, it is important to recognize that this is only one of many kinds of vaccine development out there. And this project isn’t even aimed specifically at producing vaccines for one particular disease. The researchers are just working on a potential template for producing mRNA in general.Researchers believe mRNA could be used to prevent malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and cystic fibrosis.
Human trials are being conducted to see if mRNA can be used to treat HIV, rabies, and influenza. Research is being done to see if it can be used to treat cancer. Using mRNA to treat all kinds of disease is a hot research topic right now, and producing mRNA in plants is only one little part of it.
And think about the delivery. Getting your mRNA in veggies would be a form of oral vaccination. There is one company in Israel, Oramed Pharmaceuticals, working on an oral Covid vaccine, but that has still not been approved. Research is being done on delivering a wide variety of vaccines orally, but oral vaccine delivery is generally difficult because our stomach acids can destroy so many substances.
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There is a lot of work to be done in making effective vaccines available through food, and I don’t think this will be coming to a plate near me soon. Having said that, will I keep paying attention and growing my own produce? Yes. I see two particular areas of concern, one ecological, one philosophical.
This project has risks reminiscent of the issues surrounding GMOs. The researchers cite concerns about proper dosing. The vaccines on the market may contain 30 mcg (Pfizer’s) of mRNA or 100 mcg (Moderna’s), but none of them contain a gram. Dose matters.Well, what happens when they start growing mRNA-containing lettuce at field scale, it bolts, and the seeds contaminate nearby farms?
It happens with other crops. GMO corn contaminates traditional corn so frequently, in fact, that the feed producer I buy from doesn’t use corn in his feed.
Not because corn is bad for animals, but he’s certified organic, and too many of his neighbors grow conventional.
He doesn’t feel like he could guarantee truly organic corn. Once mRNA-containing produce enters the food supply, would it be possible to get it out?
How controllable would this really be?People have been receiving mRNA vaccines for a while now, and they have already wound up in places they weren’t supposed to.
The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics just published a letter in September reporting finding mRNA from vaccinated mothers in their breastmilk. Considering that these vaccines have not been approved for babies under six months, and at the same time many babies under six months are still breastfeeding, I think it is safe to assume that this wasn’t anticipated.
And I need to make it clear: I’m not saying this is necessarily harmful. I’m not saying it’s part of a diabolical plan. I would just like to point out that the mRNA in these medical products has been traveling around more than the manufacturers anticipated. They come up with their recommended doses for a reason, but it’s hard to adhere to a proper dosing regimen when the substance in question becomes ubiquitous in the environment.
However, this technology is a long way off. I understand why people would get so concerned at the thought of eating mRNA without realizing it, but it looks like the possibility of that is still many years away. And $500,000 is not a huge grant. I think if this was more immediately feasible, they would be throwing more money at it.
(Want to learn how to preserve the GMO-free food you grow? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to home canning.)My more immediate concern is philosophical.
The researchers claim that the big push behind this is to lower the cost of vaccines. Okay. But they’re also claiming that maybe one day you can “Grow and Eat Your Own Vaccines?” You can’t ignore the fact that they’re trying to make vaccine uptake as easy as possible, and this is where my other concern comes in: the nonstop pushing of medical procedures.
I’m not going to speculate on this other than to say that it’s a colossal money train for the medical and pharmaceutical industries. I’ve mentioned above that $500,000 is not a huge grant. You know what is? $20 million.
Next to that kind of money, half a million is chump change. It’s peanuts.
And there is currently more than $20 million available in grant money through the Mercury Project to people finding ways to build vaccine demand.Situational awareness is vital to prepping.
I’ve been growing my own lettuce for years, not out of fear but because I wanted to save money. It gave me some peace of mind after the E. coli outbreaks in grocery store lettuce. If this technology does become practicable, I’ll have even more peace of mind regarding my personal food choices. Growing your own food is great for your wallet, great for your health, and great for your peace of mind. You know where your food comes from, and over time you gain the well-earned confidence of someone with a useful skill.
However, the real battleground isn’t in our fridge or on our plate. It’s in our minds. That’s where the real money is being spent, on getting us to demand certain things.
Wanting good health is not unreasonable, but the same advice as always still stands: practice good hygiene, avoid processed food, monitor your weight, and exercise, preferably in a way that also gives you some vitamin D.
Pursue well-being to the best of your ability, but in the meantime, pay attention to how you are being marketed to. Ask yourself what you really need. If someone is trying to sell you something—anything—find out who benefits.I hate to sound so cynical.
I certainly wasn’t raised to be so distrustful. But then again, when I was a kid, you could sue vaccine manufacturers.
That changed in the 1980s. The world is changing rapidly. We need to pay attention to where financial pressure is being exerted. We need to make sure we aren’t getting mindlessly swept into the next current thing.
It’s obvious that, right now, immense financial pressure is being applied to increase demand for medical interventions. We can see that there is a lot of money to be made. Other than that, we can’t assume negative intent. But we also can’t assume that the rich and powerful are completely altruistic. We need to pay attention to our surroundings, educate ourselves to the best of our abilities, and do our best to be responsible for our own health.
What are your thoughts? Are you concerned about unknowingly digging into a heaping dish of MRNA? What do you think about the inclusion of these kinds of things in food? Let’s discuss this below.About Marie Hawthorne
A lover of novels and cultivator of superb apple pie recipes, Marie spends her free time writing about the world around her.
Happy (post) Thanksgiving!
Here’s the latest cane boil video I posted yesterday:
Though my YT viewers watch these syruping videos much less than my regular gardening videos, I am committed to documenting the process from multiple points of view and with a myriad of methods. This syrup boil with Ben was wonderful – great people!
If you think I’ll never stop it with the cane syrup, don’t worry – the season is almost over.
Yesterday I did some work on the new food forest project in between feasting. We planted multiple bare-root grape vines and a loquat tree. Today I’m headed over to Randall’s place to help him mill pine logs on his sawmill. My hope is to build a library in our house for our ridiculous collection of books.
Thanksgiving was wonderful. Though it was just our family, we greatly enjoyed it. Rachel and multiple children made pies, stuffing, a smoked turkey, sweet potato casserole with pecans, mashed potatoes and more. It was our first Thanksgiving on our new and final homestead, and we are so thankful to be here.
I woke up to the sound of this hymn playing:
And that really summed up our day.
Have a great weekend.
It’s not going away. In fact, it’s on the uptick, but slowly, subtly and I’d argue, more insidiously for the false facade.
This website has been defunded and denounced in the past. Somehow, teaching people to prepare and pointing out the dangers in modern society is a point of controversy.
We’ve watched as other websites were banished from social media outlets, delisted by Google, and outright de-platformed. We are undertaking every effort to make sure that if something happens that is outside our control, YOU have access to all of our content, all the way back to 2012, when this website first began.
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I woke up with a start
Because today, it was the day!
Turkey, corn, taters too
And I’d just like to say
My attitude quickly soured
As I walked down the stairs
For as I walked amongst the preps
All stacked deep in layers
“I need more cans. This radio’s old.”
“And I’ve got to have more books!”
“Look at this old charcoal.”
“I still hope it cooks!”
“This Kelly Kettle has a ding.”
“This battery? Probably dead.”
“And I’ll be too when it’s post-apoc”
“Unless I buy more lead!”
“These med supplies, they’re not legit.”
“Just stuff from Dollar Store”
“The fancy stuff is where it’s at”
So I tossed them on the floor.
All these preps, all this stuff
But these thoughts were in my mind
Sure, yeah, it was cool.
But my stash was way behind.
“My buddy has more. This isn’t enough!”
“And I lost my old bee hive!”
“If I don’t pick up all this slack”
“My family won’t survive!”
“Look at these guys on Youtube!”
“Think of my buddy, Bob.”
“They’ve got more ammo, food, and guns.”
“And they make me feel a slob.”
“They’ve shelves and bins, a storage room”
“That must’ve cost eight grand.”
“If you cannot match Pinterest”
“If it’s not name brand”
“Then are you really prepping?”
“Or just collecting junk?”
My dissatisfaction with it all
Had put me in a funk
My new knife wasn’t cool as Bob’s
To his, mine was just a toy
Comparison had snuck on in
It is the thief of joy
I hopped into my truck
Just to get out. Clear my head.
Drove through the morning fog
Might pick up a loaf of bread.
I wandered through the backroads
The chill air whipping by
Upset with all I didn’t have
Falling for a lie
The grocery store was open
The clerks weren’t happy there
I was off and they were not
To them, it wasn’t fair.
Then as I drove out the lot
A tent, nestled among trees
An old man was sitting there
Trying not to freeze
His beard was grizzled as his face
A weather-beaten man
His clothes were falling all apart
And his skin was leather tan
I continued driving on
Somewhat shocked by what I saw
There’d been more homeless
Than there were last fall
I stopped to get a little gas
That truck can drink it down
Pulled into an open pump
Beside a car rust brown
“Daddy! Daddy! Candy here!”
“We go in? Pretty plee?
The kid beside me asked his dad
He must’ve been ’bout three
I watched his dad watch that pump
A grim look on his face
Candy’s just a dollar
But he said, “Not at this pace.”
Then he looked down at his son
Got down on one knee
Put a hand upon his shoulder
Said, “Listen now, to me.”
“Work’s been pretty rough of late.”
“Your momma’s doctor bills came in.”
“And then there’s the W-9.”
“We’re not getting candy now.”
“Cuz the money’s pretty tight.”
His son had twenty questions
But first he said, “Alright.”
My truck was filled up now
The pump gave off a ‘click’
I hopped on in, heading back
Beginning to feel sick.
I drove off in the fog
Down the winding, Southern road
The wind blew through the window
Someone’s rooster crowed
Lights ahead in the fog
Made me squint and wonder what
Was casting that eerie glow
Off the side, down in the rut.
I slowed down to a crawl
Creeping closer when
I noticed it was a car
Upside down and in
The bottom of that ditch
Steam came up from the front
No one else was around
And a tree did take the brunt
Of the impact of where that car had hit
It was bent around it well
I stopped the truck, jumped on out
I ran hard, but fell
Landing face-down in the ditch
Beside that upended car
A mouthful of leaves as I looked up
To see I wasn’t far
From a mom hanging upside down
Still strapped to her seat
I don’t know how I missed before
But I could hear the bleat
Of a little baby in the back
Strapped into her special chair
“Ma’am! Ma’am! Are you alright!”
I hollered at her blank stare
Was all that she could say
“I’m here now, don’t you worry!”
As she unbuckled, crawled my way.
“My baby,” were the first words said
When she laid upon the leaves
Blood came from her nose.
Blood was on her sleeves.
I crawled into the car
Towards the screaming little girl
Tears streamed down her tiny face
Her brown hair liked to curl
Unbuckling the car seat
I gently got her out
Gave her to her mama
But then I had a doubt
That I could phone for help this far
Cell reception here’s real sad
But a cop car pulled by just right then
Saw the wreck, knew that it was bad
He ran on down the hill
Radioed to his dispatch.
I stayed until the ambulance came
And opened the back latch.
In the back of the ambulance
Sirens blazing it roared off
As I stood there in a trance.
Questions came then from the cop
He needed all the facts
I gave them to him again, again
“Thanks,” said Sheriff Max
Climbing back into my truck
Dumbfounded by what I’d seen
Was the momma gonna be alright?
And the baby! You can’t careen
Out of the way for one stupid deer
Mom, what were you thinking?
These thoughts filled my head as I drove
My heart, my heart was sinking
I pulled into my driveway
Opened up the door
Walked into the living room
Sat down on the floor
Turned on the TV
I just needed noise
Drown out all these thoughts
So I can regain poise
The news was the first channel
I just left it there
A Chinese defector, pleading,
I couldn’t take it all
The TV was too much
I turned everything off
I didn’t need that crutch
Then the irony of that morning
Hit me in the throat
After all that I’d just witnessed
Did I miss the boat?
My job was always steady
I sat here in the heat
A holiday for me today
A fridge filled up with meat
I arrived home in one piece
My truck was running fine
Weren’t these blessings mine?
To get wrapped up in the
“Oh no, this ain’t good enough.”
“This gear is all outdated”
“There’s not nearly enough stuff.”
Made me look deeper at my heart
What was wrong with me?
A basement full of preps
The land of the free
Now, there’s nothing wrong with prepping
Or bettering your lot
But the lack of contentment
Was what made me feel like snot
This Thanksgiving is finally here
A day to not get down
Because if you’re feeling envious
Just take a look around.
Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, What School Should Have Taught You, The Faithful Prepper, An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.
Add some green to your Black Friday with 20 percent off all merchandise on DrGreger.org. The sale is site-wide, so it includes all clothing, video downloads, outreach materials, and more. If you’re heading into winter, cozy up with our sweatpants (back by popular demand!), hoodies, or a crewneck sweatshirt. Sale ends November 28. All proceeds go to keeping NutritionFacts.org running!
Key Takeaways: Walnuts
The Global Burden of Disease Study calculated that not eating enough nuts and seeds was the third-leading dietary risk factor for death and disability in the world. That is why I recommend a daily serving of at least ¼ cup nuts or seeds or 2 tablespoons of nut or seed butter in my Daily Dozen checklist. So, which nut is healthiest? Walnuts really seem to take the lead due to their high antioxidant and omega-3 levels, and they beat out other nuts in vitro in suppressing cancer cell growth. And, of all the nuts studied in PREDIMED, the largest dietary intervention trial to assess the effects of a Mediterranean-type diet on cardiovascular disease prevention, the researchers found the greatest benefits associated with walnuts, particularly for potentially preventing cancer deaths. Check out all of my videos on walnuts on the topic page.
Recipe: Baked Apples with Walnuts and Goji Berries
After reading about the benefits of walnuts, I bet you’re ready to snack on some! Here’s a delicious fall treat from The How Not to Diet Cookbook that tastes like apple pie, but without all of the sugar and butter. And as a bonus, it will make your house smell divine while it bakes! Check out the recipe, and watch a video on how it’s made on our Instagram.
Volume 60 Is Out Now
I’m excited to release my 60th volume of videos! Sixty! I’ve created more than 2,000 videos in the lifetime of NutritionFacts.org and have no plans of slowing down anytime soon! This new volume includes a series on tongue scraping, the controversy around cholesterol, whether vegans suffer more bone fractures, my popular webinar video on vitamin K2, and more.
Each video in this new volume will be released online over the next few months, available for free, of course, but if you don’t want to wait, you can stream all of them right now.
If you are a $15+ monthly supporter and opted in to our donor rewards, you’re likely an expert on these new topics by now, since you already received a complimentary link to the new download. If you’d like early access to new videos before they’re available to the public, please consider becoming a monthly supporter. Without your generosity, we wouldn’t be able to continue our work. Thank you!
And, remember, if you watch the videos on NutritionFacts.org or YouTube, you can access captions in several different languages. To find yours, click on the settings wheel in the lower-right corner of the video and then “Subtitles/CC.” (You can also watch our new video about changing your settings.) Happy viewing!
Volunteer Spotlight: Laura McClanathan
I love everything about volunteering for Dr. Greger! I’m a part of the wonderful Article Retrieval Team where I help track down articles he needs for his books and videos. It’s incredibly fun detective work that really appeals to me as a reference librarian. What is most satisfying about it is that I feel I am making a tangible contribution to the body of evidence-based information about the incredible—and positive—power of plant-based eating. And it’s an honor to give back to someone who has helped me learn so much.
My favorite recipe is Dr. Greger’s ranch dressing. It is so delicious and versatile—cashews, unsweetened soy milk, a tasty spice blend, lemon, vinegar, red onion, dates, white miso, parsley, and dill.
Top Three Videos
Burning incense has been found to generate about four times the particulate matter as burning cigarettes.
The spice fenugreek contains 4-hydroxyisoleucine, a peculiar amino acid that may explain its benefits for controlling blood sugar.
Most bad breath is due to the decay of sulfur-containing proteins.
Thank you so much for the wonderful birthday messages and donations last month. My 50th felt truly special thanks to your kindness and your support. I enjoyed celebrating with the NutritionFacts.org team at our annual staff retreat this year! If you missed my live Q&A last week, you can watch the recording by going to our Live Q&A page. And I recently did a fun interview with Tami of Nutmeg Notebook. Check it out!
There’s no way around it: this Thanksgiving is different for a lot of us this year. Due to the economic crisis, some far-flung families can’t afford to get together. Others can’t swing the traditional feast and they’re dialing it back.
Other families have lost people over the years, whether to Covid or another cause, and there are heart-breakingly empty seats at the dinner table. Still others simply have nobody to share the day with for any of a number of reasons.
Because of this, I thought we could do a little online OP Friendsgiving. We have such a lovely community of people here from so many different backgrounds. The conversations are enlightening and ever-interesting. Why not “get together?” here?
I realize this isn’t a substitute for truly being with the people you love, but I hope it helps the day go by a little more easily, just knowing that someone out here cares about you. We’ll be keeping this post front and center on Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving Day.
I’m going to post a bit about our Thanksgiving and a couple of recipes to get things started, and the things I’m grateful for this year. Please take a moment in the comments to do the same if you feel so moved. And let other commenters know that they’re not alone.Here’s what we’re eating.
Prices were high this year, so my family and I decided to do a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal. I’m making all sorts of tasty Mexican dishes and a lot of it actually is coming right from my pantry. Here’s the menu:
- Piccadillo enchiladas
- Green chile and tomatillo chicken
- Refried beans
- Fresh-made salsa
- Veggies and dip
For dessert we’re going with:
- Baked apples
- Vanilla ice cream
It’s not the traditional turkey and stuffing and pie, but it’s sure to be delicious and greatly enjoyed. Also BONUS – nearly everything was made ahead of time and just needed to be popped into the oven.
Update: Here’s our feast:
Please remember I’m terrible at measuring and tend to cook by “feel” more than by recipe. But the instructions below should give you enough to go on. Feel free to tweak this recipe to fit your own likes and dislikes.
When I lived in Mexico, I was kind of surprised that the only canned veggies I could easily find were mixed vegetables and corn. Once I tried picadillo, I completely understood why they liked canned mixed veggies so much. A friend there brought me some picadillo stew when I had Covid and I unlocked the world of picadillo. Leftover stew or a version with just a bit of tomato sauce instead of a giant can of tomatoes and broth is used to stuff burritos, enchiladas and just as a one-dish meal.
Maria never gave me a specific recipe, but this is how she showed me to make it. It seems like a ton of work but it’s really not bad at all.
- 1-2 pounds of ground beef
- 2 cans of mixed veggies (the kind with potatoes)
- 1 can of black beans
- Finely minced garlic
- 1/2 an onion, minced
- Cumin, chili powder, salt, seasoning salt, and oregano to taste
- 1 small can of tomato sauce
- In a large skillet, fry up your ground beef, garlic, and onion until the meat is cooked through. I prefer to get it a little bit brown because I like the texture better. When it’s almost done, season it with cumin, chili powder, and salt.
- While the meat is cooking, drain two cans of mixed veggies. I usually sit a sieve in a bowl for this.
- Remove the cooked meat mixture from your skillet and immediately put in your mixed veggies. Stir them up in the beef drippings. (I never said this was healthy, right?)
- Fry the veggies for about 10 minutes until they’re nicely browned. Season them with salt and oregano.
- When the veggies are done, stir in your meat mixture and your tomato sauce. Remove it from the heat and let it sit while you work on your enchilada sauce.
Enchilada sauce ingredients:
I always keep canned enchilada sauce in my preps. It’s a tasty and flavorful way to cook up ordinary food and add some zip to it. So, while I do know how to make it from scratch and you’re welcome to do so, this recipe uses a canned sauce.
- 1 large can of red enchilada sauce
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1/2 cup of sour cream (if you were cooking this solely from the pantry, you could use some dry milk powder instead, but in good times the sour cream is very worthwhile)
- You can cook this and thicken it and play around with it but I’ve found that merely stirring it up together with a whisk is quite sufficient.
- The sugar: you may be wondering why there’s sugar in this. Sometimes canned enchilada sauce is a wee bit bitter. The sugar offsets this. You can also use baking soda, apparently, but I’ve never tried that.
Making the enchiladas:
- You’ll need 1-2 bags of large flour tortillas for this dish, and I generally use a cake pan.
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Add a splash of your enchilada sauce to cover the bottom of your pan. This will prevent your enchiladas from sticking.
- Place a tortilla in the palm of your hand to form sort of a “bowl.” Scoop two serving spoons of filling into your tortilla.
- Fold the end of the tortilla up to keep your filling inside, then roll it up as tightly as you can, making it sort of like a burrito. Add it, seam side down, to your baking dish.
- Roll up all your enchiladas and stuff ’em into the pan as tightly as you can get them.
- Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas, then cover your baking dish with foil. I like to tent the foil so it doesn’t touch the top of my enchiladas.
- Put the baking dish on a cookie sheet – it WILL bubble over and this will save you a mess in your oven.
- Pop it into the oven for 35 minutes, then remove the foil and put it back in for another 10 until the top is bubbly and slightly browned.
If you want, you can add some cheese to the top at the very end, but I promise, it’s super delicious without it.Aden contributed a Thanksgiving poem for preppers.
Aden wrote the most beautiful poem that I have to share with you. As a prepper, it will really hit home. It’s called Comparison, The Thief of Joy. He’s so creative.What I’m grateful for this year
This has been a personally difficult year. We’ve lost a couple of loved ones and that’s always hard. But, eventually, you get back to living and things start looking up.
I’m incredibly grateful for my family. My girls and I have such a beautiful relationship and it’s a priceless treasure. The fact that they are adults (22 and 27) and they still want to talk to their mom nearly every day just brings a glow to my heart every time I hear the phone ring.
My sweet dog Thor is nearing the end of his days, but he is loyal, loving, and a dear friend. I would have been lost without him after our other dog passed away.
I have very few friends. But the ones I do have…holy cow. They’re just incredible. They’re so supportive, so loving, and so encouraging. It seems like no matter what I’m dealing with or how “crazy” my latest idea sounds, they are there with suggestions, love, and cheerleading. They even tolerate my quirky need for solitude with unrelenting affection. They’ve got my back every step of the way. Y’all know who you are!
I have the most amazing readers in the Bloggerdom. My work is such a privilege. I know everybody says this but I really never expected to be a blogger with lots of readers. The fact that I’ve gotten to know such a wonderful, supportive, and caring community through the work that I do is a gift that constantly amazes me. I’m going into my 11th year of blogging on The OP and I feel endless gratitude that you all help me do what I love every single day. I always wanted to write, and your visits to my website make that possible. How could I get any luckier than this? You guys mean the world to me.
I know I should probably have some material things to list here, but honestly, it’s the ones I love who make the list for me.What about you?
What’s a dish that you make every Thanksgiving without fail? Would you share the recipe with us in the comments? Is there a story behind the recipe? If so please tell us!
What are you grateful for this year? What makes your heart sing? Let’s talk about it.
And if you are struggling, tell us. Hopefully, a burden shared is a lighter burden.
That being said, we here at the OP love our readers and we’re so glad that we can provide information and entertainment to you.
If you live within the circumboreal region of the Northern Hemisphere, and especially if you live near birch forests, this article could be pertinent to you.
We will be talking about Chaga: What it is, associated health benefits, and how to forage for it.Trish Orr // FlickrWhat Is Chaga?
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a parasitic fungus that grows on trees. It has shown a preference for birch trees, and where you find stands of birch, you can find Chaga. Chaga is only found in the circumboreal region of the Northern Hemisphere. This basically means it’s found in the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere (if you aren’t familiar with the term “circumboreal”). It’s a circle that reaches around the globe in the north that contains boreal forests. Essentially, colder climates in deciduous forests.
Chaga is easy to identify on trees. It has a distinct appearance. It almost looks like a big burnt marshmallow, or an oddly shaped piece of charcoal stuck to the side of the tree. Its growth form creates large cankers on the outside of trees and the color is black on the outside with brownish-orange coloration deeper in the canker. This woody growth is called a conk.Chaga // Elias Schewel – FLickr
Chaga conks aren’t often confused with anything else, but if they are, it is with a tree burl. From a distance they can look similar. Up close you will be able to tell the difference. Chaga is a separate organism from the tree, whereas a tree burl is part of the tree itself and is formed due to a disease or injury earlier in the life of the tree.
As already discussed, Chaga tends to show favoritism toward birch trees, and 99% of the time, this is the tree where you will find it. It is currently unknown why Chaga likes birch and specifically, paper birch (Betula papyrifera), but it is theorized it’s the abundance of melanin in the birch that attracts Chaga. Both Chaga and birch trees have long lifespans, and because of this, Chaga is associated with old-growth birch forests.
Though Chaga is parasitic, leaching nutrients and water from the tree in order to grow, it is not believed that Chaga kills the trees — although older birch trees in Chaga-prone areas die with Chaga on them.
As a fun fact, when the birch dies, the Chaga will slowly die as well due to a lack of nutrients to siphon.
It is this parasitic relationship that gives Chaga the nutrients it is known for. Even more, the nature of both organisms (the Chaga and the birch) being old growth is exactly what allows the Chaga to absorb so many nutrients. Chaga grown in a lab or found on young trees lacks many of the nutrients that it is known for. Like the saying: “Good things take time.”Nutritional Benefits of Chaga
Because of Chaga’s nature, it absorbs nutrients from its host tree. These nutrients are strong in antioxidants, antimicrobials, and healthy compounds such as polyphenols, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin K, and more.Cancer Prevention
Chaga has gathered attention in cancer prevention research and immune support. Research has shown that the triterpenoid extract Chaga contains is able to inhibit the growth of lung cancer cells. Many studies on cancer cells show that extracts from Chaga have anti-tumor effects for cervical, liver, and colon cancers. The polysaccharide compounds present in Chaga have been shown to specifically target and destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells that are present. Lastly, the complexes of polysaccharide and triterpenoid in Chaga have been shown to inhibit cancer cell proliferation.Immune System Support
With regard to immune support, there have been many studies on mice that show enhanced immune responses, antibody production, and anti-allergic activity when given Chaga extracts in various forms. In similar kinds of studies, it has been seen that diabetic mice given Chaga extracts, experience decreased blood glucose levels and insulin levels.Energy Boost
Some say they notice a boost in their energy after they drink Chaga. Chaga does not contain caffeine, so it is a bit mysterious what causes the boosted energy. Because of this, you may want to be careful about what time of day you choose to drink Chaga.Chaga’s Rising Popularity in Health Stores
Chaga has been medicinally used for centuries by cultures ranging from Ainu, First Nations, Chinese, Russian, Korean, and other indigenous groups. As with many herbal medicines and functional mushrooms, it has now made it into western cultures and is being recognized for its health benefits. This is why there seems to have been a sudden explosion of Chaga-related goods in various health food stores.natureluvr01 // FlickrThe Cost of Chaga
The reason Chaga is so expensive in many of these stores is because of the growth patterns listed above. Geographically speaking, Chaga isn’t found in a large section of the world. Chaga needs older forests to thrive and produce the nutrient-rich conk that we, as humans, desire. And again, Chaga can’t be quickly grown in labs.
Therefore, the Chaga you find in stores comes directly from the forest, and more importantly, from someone who is out there ethically harvesting it themselves.Chaga Usage and Application
Using Chaga is easy and straightforward.Chaga Coffee and Tea
Most Chaga that can be purchased in stores comes pre-ground with directions for how much to apply to your beverage to brew. However, if you’re harvesting from the forest, you’re going to come away with chunks of Chaga. It’s important to make sure you allow these to dry out to prevent mold. You may choose to break down the larger masses in small pieces or grind it. If you decide to keep the Chaga in large chunks, you can easily boil the bigger pieces in a pot of water and reuse.WILLPOWER STUDIOS // Flickr
You’ll know the hunk of Chaga is finished when the color of the hot water becomes light brown to colorless. Generally, Chaga tea is very dark in nature.Chaga Supplements
Some choose to take Chaga supplements. You can easily pack ground Chaga into a veggie capsule yourself if you would rather take it this way. Many prefer to take Chaga tinctures which can also be created at home.
Chaga has a distinctly earthy taste, slightly bitter, like you would imagine the smell of the forest to taste. It isn’t bad at all, and I rather enjoy the flavor. If you would like to spice up your Chaga tea with something unique, try adding Labrador tea. If you live in the region where Chaga is present, you likely live around Labrador tea as well and can easily harvest this on your Chaga foraging trips.
Related Post: What Is Labrador Tea?Chaga Dip as Chewing Tobacco
Because of the associated energy boost, I have been told that some indigenous groups actually dip Chaga. “Dip” as in chewing tobacco. They take a pinch of ground Chaga, place it within their lip, spit out the liquid as it forms, and “get high” from it.Ethical Chaga Harvest
To harvest Chaga ethically, it is essential that you follow some guidelines.
Though the birch that Chaga is growing on receives nothing from the fungus, you can kill the tree, if you remove it improperly. A tree can die due to removing too much of the fungus (thereby removing parts of the tree) and leaving gaping holes that can easily become infected.
Here is a list of steps to follow to ensure both safety for the tree and respect for the Chaga:
1. First, locate the Chaga.
2. Ensure the Chaga you are attempting to harvest is at least the size of your outstretched hand.
3. Chaga that is too young will not survive a harvest. By harvesting Chaga that is at least hand-size, you are helping ensure the Chaga will be able to regrow and come back year after year. This is important both for mitigating the possibility of injuring the host tree, and ensuring you and future harvesters will not have to go farther and farther into the woodlands to find Chaga.
4. It is recommended to harvest Chaga during colder months. This timing is because trees usually don’t run sap in winter and infection is greatly reduced when it is cold outside.
5. Only harvest a portion of the Chaga you have located. As mentioned, harvesting too much is the main cause of tree injuries, and the main reason a Chaga patch does not regrow and come back annually.How to Harvest Chaga
To harvest, you need a hatchet and perhaps a long, sturdy, sharp knife.
Aim the hatchet at an angle toward the base of the Chaga patch. Once you begin to hit the patch, you can wedge the hatchet into the conk and peel back the bulk of it. You will notice the inside of the Chaga is bright orange.
Some prefer to take the sharp knife and mark the extent of the harvest on the Chaga conk. Once the knife is in place, you hit it with the back of the hatchet. This technique allows the harvest to be cleaner and more precise. Plus, it is less likely Chaga chunks will fly off and be lost. I recommend using the knife method if you are unsure of your aim with a hatchet. Using the knife can also ensure that you don’t take too much of the Chaga and injure that patch or the host tree.
When I was taught about Chaga harvest, I was told to hug the birch tree afterward and give thanks. Whether or not this is in your practice, it’s always important to give gratitude to the land for what it has given you.
Yet again – but hopefully this time for keeps – I am planting a food forest.
We were able to get some of our plants from the old property, plus some new trees, and now we’re putting them in the ground. You can see the new food forest planting in the new video I did on planting sugar cane:
Today we have about 20 more stalks of cane to plant, plus a good bit of cassava – which we’ll plant in the ground now to see if it’ll sprout in the spring – plus lots of various roots, such as ginger, yams and more. I also have some banana pups I need to do something with, plus six citrus trees, plus 10 bare-root muscadine vines from Ison’s Nursery.
I have a lot to be thankful for. This time I actually own my land, so I should be able to keep this food forest until I die, Lord willing.
These are very uncertain times and having a long-term source of food is vital. Plus, I like the idea of this homestead maybe becoming a botanical garden in twenty years or so. Perhaps families will take tours through here long after I’m gone!
Guess I need to plant some Monkey Puzzle trees that will fruit after I’ve left this realm. The plums I set as the photo for this post are from my old food forest in North Florida. I must do it again!
Over the last couple of weeks I have been documenting various sugar-cane boils. Thus far we have made syrup with Marcus in the Florida Panhandle, with Danny and Wanda in Mississippi, and then, on this Saturday, with Ben White in Lower Alabama.
There is a lot of history in making cane syrup, and plenty of stories told around the pots of thickening syrup.
Here’s our first boil, with Marcus:
That was a wonderful day, with lots of good conversation and sweet syrup. Marcus was a wealth of knowledge.
Then, last week, I headed over to Mississippi for a day to make cane syrup at the Deep South Homestead with Danny and Wanda.
As I shot these, I made a deliberate attempt to let the players tell their own stories and share what they knew, creating more of a documentary feel than a vlog approach.
Danny’s method of boiling greatly differed from Marcus’, as he used a small two-pan stove to make a couple of gallons of syrup, rather than a 90-gallon pot. It’s more approachable on the backyard scale.
Though really, the big limiting factor in making cane syrup is actually crushing the cane. Extracting juice from sugar cane takes a lot of torque. The crushing power needed is incredible.
In the next sugarcane video I’m releasing, you’ll see an antique grinder powered by a log splitter. It’s a brilliant system – but still, the main grinder is an antique.
Finding a new grinder is difficult. There is a lot of Chinese junk on Amazon and elsewhere, but the syrup-makers I’ve seen so far stick to the older mills, such as the ones made by Golden’s and the Chattanooga Plow Corp.
I am now in the hunt for a mill myself, if anyone has a lead. We’re planting lots of sugarcane right now.
And speaking of that, here’s my brand-new video on how we’re planting cane!
This weekend I have yet another cane boil to attend with yet a different cooking method.
This is the time to learn these methods, before times get tougher. A little sugar goes a long way. I’ve had a blast meeting people and learning as I go. Thank you for coming along on the ride.
Now we can carry twice the amount with less effort.
The side spokes mostly popped out but weaving some steel wire or thin rope is an easy way to fix it.
Once inside it provides a tidy way of storing the wood.
Anna lifts from the top while I push from the bottom to make it even easier and safer.
What would happen if you stopped brushing your teeth but ate more healthfully?
Experimentally, when study participants stop brushing their teeth, plaque starts to build up and, within a few days, their gums start to get inflamed. Though nothing may be visible just yet, if you take a biopsy at the gum line, you can see the inflammation beginning to spread. Within a few weeks, overt gingivitis becomes apparent with gums that can get red and swollen and bleed easily. If you don’t do anything about it, you can develop periodontal disease, where the inflammation creeps down into the supporting structures of the tooth—the bone and ligaments—setting you up for tooth loss.
How did we get along for millions of years without brushing our teeth? “Dental disease is almost universal” these days, but skulls from thousands of years before the invention of the toothbrush have perfect teeth. Admittedly, that was also thousands of years before the invention of candy bars. Does food play a role? You don’t know…until you put it to the test, as I discuss in my video Best Food for Periodontal Disease and Gingivitis.
How do you get people to stop brushing their teeth and also stop eating processed junk? Researchers designed a study where participants were forced to live under Stone Age conditions without “toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, toothpicks, or other oral hygiene products” for a month, and “security guards ensured that all subjects maintained the appropriate lifestyle for Stone Age humans.” They could use a twig or other natural material to try to clean their teeth, but were pretty much on their own. (The participants didn’t get any candy bars either.) The researchers were attempting to replicate the diet from about 4000 BCE, so the subjects got a lot of whole grains with supplemental “salt, herbs, honey, milk, and meat from domestic animals (goats and hens),” and were allowed to pick berries or see what they could catch. What happened?
With no oral hygiene, their plaque built up, as you can see in the graph below and at 1:53 in my video, but their gums got healthier, as measured by bleeding on probing. (Gums bleeding when poked with a dental tool is a measure of gingivitis.) In almost every case, the participants’ gum health improved. How is it possible that their gums were actually healthier despite buildup of plaque? Many of the more disease-causing bacteria seemed to have disappeared from their mouths. The researchers suggested this could be from the lack of refined sugars, but the participants were eating honey, so they weren’t on a sugar-free diet. They were, however, eating a lot of whole grains and berries rich in antioxidant phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory properties. So, maybe it was restricted sugar intake combined with the intake of really healthy foods. Thus, all of those experimental studies where people stop brushing their teeth and their gums inevitably get inflamed “may only be applicable if the subjects maintain a Western diet rich in sugar and low in anti-inflammatory foods,” such as whole plant foods.
What about the role of nutrition in periodontal health? Gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, an inflammatory disease of the supporting tissues of the teeth, which, if left untreated, can lead to the progressive loss of the bone that holds our teeth in place. Part of the development of periodontal disease may involve oxidative stress, so not only do we need to reduce our intake of pro-inflammatory foods, such as refined carbohydrates and saturated fats, but it may also help if we seek out foods that are antioxidant-rich.
Is there an association between periodontitis and dietary vitamin C intake? Apparently so, as you can see in the graph below and at 3:34 in my video. Increased risk of periodontitis has been associated with lower levels of vitamin C intake. What effect might vitamin C depletion and supplementation have on periodontal health? Researchers provided controlled amounts of vitamin C to study participants for three months and found that measures of gum inflammation were directly related to the subjects’ vitamin C status. On about one orange’s worth of vitamin C a day, their gums improved; down around only 5 mg a day, though, their gums got worse. On ten oranges’ worth of vitamin C a day, they got better and then worse once again when the vitamin C level dropped down to five oranges’ worth, as you can see in the graph below and at 4:01 in my video. The study was pretty convincing, though 5 mg a day is down at scurvy level. We know our gums start bleeding and our teeth can fall out if we have scurvy, but that doesn’t mean taking extra vitamin C helps.
Indeed, 1,500 mg of vitamin C a day did not seem to help prevent gingivitis and even 2,000 mg a day failed to help periodontitis sufferers. Is it possible that vitamin C is just too weak an antioxidant? What about lycopene, the powerful antioxidant pigment that makes tomatoes red? Lycopene worked! But that was from injecting it directly into the gum pocket with a syringe. Does it still work if you simply eat it?
A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial investigated the efficacy of lycopene in the treatment of gingivitis. After two weeks of standard dental treatment with either a single daily tomato’s worth of lycopene or placebo, the placebo group had a 10 to 20 percent reduction in gingivitis, but the lycopene group had a nearly 30 percent improvement within just one week. How much lycopene? The amount found in just one and a half teaspoons of tomato paste a day. So, tomatoes may help with gingivitis, but what about periodontitis?
Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial again treated subjects with a typical dental cleaning plus either one daily tomato’s worth of lycopene or a placebo for two months. Researchers found significant improvements in the lycopene group in plaque, gingivitis, and bleeding, though not probe pocket depth and clinical attachment. You can see the difference in how much better their gums looked as you can see below and at 5:59 in my video. The researchers concluded that “supplementation with lycopene seems to have augmented the healing sequence of inflamed gingival tissues,” but that was with a whole tomato’s worth a day. How about half a tomato’s worth or just three quarters of a teaspoon of tomato paste’s worth of lycopene a day? Neither worked. There was no difference. It looks like you have to go the whole tomato.
It should come as no surprise that healthy foods can benefit all parts of the body, but I still love to see the data!