Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants
Chasing Chiles – Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail
Grow Fruit Naturally
Web Resources

Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants

Legally Poisoned

by Carl F. Cranor
Harvard University Press, 2011
315 pages, $35, hardcover

Among the many commentators who examine public-health implications of industrial-chemical pollution is Carl Cranor, a professor of philosophy. He joins a number of prominent doctors, lawyers, toxicologists and other academic researchers, along with top-tier journalists, all making the moral argument that we should not be poisoned involuntarily by dangerous toxicants circulating in the marketplace. 

As Cranor puts it, “It is simply morally outrageous to treat citizens as experimental subjects by contaminating them with untested substances. This stands in stark contrast to the way people are treated under the ethical guidelines for medical experiments …”

Additional body-burden studies have taken place since the 2006 “Body of Evidence” report carried out in Maine to evaluate chemicals in consumer products that damage the brain, immune system, reproductive organs and hormones, and they are described in this book.

The author also reviews various regulatory mechanisms – laws such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act – and their shortcomings. In the case of TSCA, he explains in detail why the chemical-safety system EPA is charged with enforcing fails to protect human health and the environment. 

After summarizing initiatives to define appropriate risk levels – “a reasonable certainty of no harm,” as undertaken by California’s Proposition 65 and the European REACH legislation – Cranor urges the U.S. Congress to go beyond them and pass the Safe Chemicals Act (S. 847). The proposed law, which would mandate stringent EPA reviews of at least 300 chemical substances (ongoing until all toxicants in commerce are assessed for safety), will not fix all that is awry, but it is at least a first step: Warnings posted by reformers as a result of compounds being listed among the 300 chemicals of highest concern will provide individuals with opportunity for self-protection.

– Jody Spear, Harborside


Chasing Chiles – Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail

Chasing Chiles

by Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft and Gary Paul Nabhan
Chelsea Green, 2011
193 pages, softcover, $17.95

Put an agronomist, a chef and an ethno­botanist in a van and what do you get? A “spice odyssey” with three gastronauts in their “spice ship” searching for fiery and flavorful peppers in their myriad forms – and seeing effects of “climate weirding” on peppers and on the lives of those who harvest and cook with them.

Kurt Michael Friese is the chef and owner of Iowa City’s Devotay restaurant serving local and seasonal Spanish-inspired cuisine that features the smoky Spanish paprikas. He also publishes the magazine Edible Iowa River Valley and is on the Slow Food board.

Gary Paul Nabhan, ecologist, ethnobotanist and renowned author, also lives the life of a chile junkie, the wild-chile-eating-champion of Baja, Arizona. He has been involved in ecological restoration and market recovery of traditional foods such as the wild chiltepin.

Kraig Kraft grew up in New Mexico and grew into a penchant for all kinds of chiles – the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation in agroecology. When he hooked up with Friese and Nabhan, he had already done two years of fieldwork on wild chile diversity and collecting wild chile populations.

The authors search for one ancient and symbolic food, from Sonora and its chiltepins, Florida and the datil, to the Yucatan and its habaneros, Louisiana and the Tabasco, then New Mexico and its poblanos. Readers get a seat in the van, feel the heat of the desert, share the conversations, all but taste the chile heat – and try to wash away the pain of tales of increasing hardship due to shifting environmental effects.

As I read, I wanted to be in that Sonoran kitchen smelling and eating poblanos; to unwrap the moc pib pollo, a Yucatan tamale pie filled with habanero-laced chicken, and to inhale its fiery aroma. The book is peppered with such regional recipes – and recipes for Pilau, Spanish-style Beaver Dam Stuffed Peppers, Posole, Xnipek, Recado Rojo, Chimayo Chile Lime Butter, and Pollo Pibil. The resulting cravings for endorphin-laced adventures may be life changing. My garden is now full of fiery chiles.

The journey concludes with five principles to live by to help counter climate change: diversify the food crops in your fields and orchards and consume a diverse local array of products; draw upon farmers’ knowledge and problem solving skills; vote with your wallet to support diverse, regionally self-sufficient food systems thus reducing your carbon footprint; deal with climate change as one of many factors that disrupt agriculture, ecology and human health but not as an environmental impact apart from all others; and empower local food communities that link producers with consumers on every level, to create local solutions to global problems.

– Roberta Bailey, Vassalboro


Grow Fruit Naturally

Grow Fruit Naturally

by Lee Reich
The Taunton Press, 2012
234 pgs., $24.95

Lee Reich explains cultural techniques clearly and simply – and with enough information to enable a reader to try a project. His 2001 book, Weedless Gardening, is one such example. He also inspires readers to try new plants, maintaining the excitement of gardening. His 2004 book, Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, is a good example of that.

Now, in Grow Fruit Naturally, Reich further inspires and instructs, continuing in his clear and concise but thorough way. Grow Fruit Naturally begins with “the basics”: Planning Your Fruit Garden; Planting and Growing; Pruning; Pests and Diseases; and Harvesting and Storage. Learn about chilling requirements of various fruits; heat tolerance; natural methods and materials for controlling pests; and details of harvesting and storing. Learn when a European pear is ready to pick, and which apple varieties need to be stored into winter before they taste good.

Later chapters cover individual fruits, from apple and strawberry to medlar and seaberry. You’ll be tempted to plant one or more of whatever is hardy in your area.

These chapters are full of tips that even experienced growers will appreciate. For example, instead of buying expensive red spheres to coat with sticky Tanglefoot and to hang in apple trees – to trap flies that lay eggs that become apple maggots – Reich buys rock-hard Red Delicious apples at the grocery store, puts a wire through them, coats them with Tanglefoot, and hangs them in his trees. After a month or so, they go in the compost, with no need to clean the Tanglefoot from them, and are replaced with new apples.

Want to try growing avocados in Maine? Get a grafted, dwarf tree and grow it in a pot, keeping it in a sunny spot indoors over winter.

How about cherries? Reich gives all the information you need for these – as well as for Cornelian cherries (Cornus mas rather than Prunus species), listing seven varieties of these and describing their fruit qualities.

Want to grow citrus in pots in the north? Reich lists five types that do well, including ‘Ponderosa’ lemon and ‘Satsuma’ mandarin, and recommends growing them on ‘Flying Dragon’ dwarfing rootstock.

Medlars might be a new fruit for your home orchard. Individual fruits are about an inch in diameter and have the “odd quirk,” Reich says, of needing to “blet” before they’re eaten. “Bletting,” says Reich, “is a natural ripening process during which the fruit softens, sweetens and becomes less astringent.” He suggests placing fruits in a cool room until the skin is dark and the flesh has browned and softened to an applesauce-like consistency with “the spicy flavor of applesauce along with winey overtones.”

In addition to writing about 31 fruits, Reich lists resources for plants, supplies (tools and biological controls), organizations and further reference works.

– Jean English


Web Resources

A recent interview with Vandana Shiva, Indian physicist, food activist and seed saver, is posted at

Journey to Forever – Small Farm Library posts classics of agricultural publications and more.

Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Farm in Maine talks about the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Assn. et al. v. Monsanto lawsuit on Maine Watch at

The University of Maine has a template for sheep and goat producers in any region of the country to create a customized biosecurity plan for their farms. With funding from Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), the plan was developed jointly by UMaine Extension Educator Richard Brzozowski and University of Maryland Extension Sheep and Goat Specialist Susan Schoenian. To write an individual biosecurity plan, producers visit, where they read and respond to a series of questions or statements. A customized document will be created free as they work through the form. Each farm’s biosecurity plan will be saved at a secure location and available to producers via a password the producer creates. Producers also can save and print their own plans and may update, revise or delete their plan at any time. All information will be confidential. Implementing the plan will give producers a better chance of maintaining a healthy and productive herd or flock. For more information, contact Brzozowski,, 207-781-6099 or 800-287-1471 (in Maine).

Rodale Institute has posted a 16-page technical bulletin that offers information and resources for implementing an organic no-till system. The bulletin, based primarily on past project findings drawn from Rodale Institute research, details a system that allows organic farmers to capture the benefits of no-till and conventional farmers to decrease or eliminate the need for herbicides. See

Proceedings from the 2012 Organic Seed Growers Conference are available for free download at

Profiting from your Greenhouse Effect: the Essentials of Season Extension – Notes from a Greenhouse Workshop held recently by ACORN (Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network) – are posted at

Log Based & Forest Shiitake Mushroom Cultivation in New England is a 12-page PDF available at


MOF&G Cover Summer 2012