The elegant union of ornamental and productive.

E coli, food hygiene, vinegar and raw vegetables


The recent outbreak of killer E. coli in Europe ( ) triggers very interesting questions.

Some seemed surprised to learn this contaminated food allegedly came from an “organic” grower. “Organic”, does NOT, by any means, mean that food has been grown with love and care and that all has been done to bring us the healthiest food around. It is an industry standard. The products used for its production respect the “organic” regulations, but the result is still in my view manufactured food products. Grown, picked, sorted, packed, shipped and offered to us with only one thing in mind. Dinero! Money, money!

Most of that “organic” food doesn’t grow on soil that’s nurtured, mulched, respected and loved for this generation and the next one, and the next one. They are grown conventionally, with products approved by the organic standards of whichever country they are being sold in. There’s no old caring Spanish farmer patting his cucumbers with pride in that story!

In most cases of E. coli outbreaks, the finger is often pointed at cows. Cows that are fed grains, instead of good ol’ grass. That’s bad practice (watch documentary Food Inc. for a full picture of this madness). To make things worse, the grain eating cow’s manure is often used raw or not fully composted… on fields used to grow “organic” veggies.

Now don’t get me wrong, by all mean, if you can afford it, buying organic food is by far the healthiest and most ethical option we have at the supermarket. But I think we should do it knowing what we are doing. Wallmart has an organic section. When will McCaca have their McOrganicBurger?

Some already cry at the conspiracy, saying the conventional agro-chemical complex is creating this event to scare people away from organic. Not that it would surprise me of them… but I rather stay away from fear in this case.

Another interesting fact, is that some of these “organic” products have been recalled back here, in Australia. That Spain is producing most of the off season veggies the Europeans eat, that’s one thing. But here? In Australia? Its a bit obscene.

Why would it surprise me!? I am from Quebec, Canada, and I remember at the peak of carrot season, being unable to find carrots from my region. Worse, not even from my country! When you see summer sweet corn from the US in a country side supermarket in a province that seems to be half covered with corn fields, you can’t help but wonder what we do with OUR corn? Sell it to Mexico?

Now, on a positive note, there seems that an age old habit is coming to our rescue! After so many “veggie cleaners” sprays and creams proved to be not that effective, a fad that sprung after the E. coli outbreaks in the US in the last few years,  after the mass washing of spinach using bleach proved not only to be quite stupid, but also pretty bad at killing the bad guys, finally it is time to listen to our grannies and ancient food wisdom!

Here it is:

What do you usually coat your lettuce with? Vinaigrette? The word comes from the French vinaigre… vin aigre… or sour wine in English. Or what else? What do we usually squeeze on our cucumbers? Lemon.

Vinegar can be used to clean pretty much anything in the house, from windows to toilet bowls. It is not a surprise using vinegar or lemon is such a widespread habit in our culinary heritage. I would not dare to say my delicious vinaigrette is enough to sterilize a surgery room, or an “organic” Spanish cucumber…  but I am quite confident that is weakens the threat enough for me to eat my greens raw without fear!

Here in Melbourne, we are lucky to be living somewhere where we can grow pretty much all of our raw veggies all year round, if we can discover the pleasure of eating seasonally of course. I know for sure I won’t find anyone’s “killer bacteria” on my lettuce!

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