Friday, April 30, 2010

Eggs in Europe

Travelers from the United States may be quite surprised when they are shopping at markets and in stores in Europe to find that eggs are often not refrigerated. In fact they are often not even in cartons, but available for the picking into your own container.

At the markets in Spain you will find stacks of eggs at egg stands - brown, white, ecologico, conventional. In France, Germany and Switzerland the same holds true. Once the eggs are purchased, most people store them in their refrigerators at home, but some will leave them in a cool spot if they will be using them within a few days.

Part of the problem in the United States is that the food is often subjected to what I refer to as "shelf-life syndrome" where the focus is not on nutritional value or freshness but rather on how long the products will last on the shelves minimizing waste for manufacturers, grocers and big-box stores. As consumers, we loose, of course, since we not only get food altered to last far longer than nature intended, but we also miss out on the vitality, the richness and the beauty that fresh, local food offers.

I am afraid that eggs in the United States meet with the same fate, unless you are lucky enough to live where there are small farms, so hence they are refrigerated to help them last a long time.

When egg shopping I would err on the side of organic especially when buying room-temperature eggs since studies have shown that while all eggs run the risk of Salmonella, only about one quarter of organic and free range have the Salmonella contamination found more readily in conventional eggs, with the bonus that organic eggs have been found to contain more Vitamin E, beta-carotene and omega-3 fats with up to  a third less cholesterol than industrial-produced eggs.

Having spent time on a farm when I was a kid and later having had my own homestead-scale farm, I am familiar with the practice of storing eggs on a cool, shaded shelf especially when they will be used quickly.  I think this was, and is, customary for truly farm-fresh eggs. So don't be alarmed or put off by the piles of open-air eggs while you are traveling and be thankful for the culture of fresh.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Organic Moon Beer in Spain

While you can find some micro-brewed beer in Spain it is not as abundant as in some other countries, wine being the historical abundant and local alcoholic beverage. But lovers of finely crafted small batch beer will be happy to know that about half-way between the cities of Valencia and Alicante the Articultura Land Cooperative makes special certified organic beer. The Cooperative, located in Agullent, Spain, grew out of a three-fold desire to produce local products crafted with care, employ organic and sustainable land management practices, and generate income with social and environmental responsibility.

The coop produces two organic wines - one a Monastrell, the other Mersequera - as well three different beers. The Lluna (Moon in Valenciano) brand of organic artisanal beer (cervesa artesana ecologica) includes Cervesa Lluna, a golden light beer, Cervesa Lluna Bruna, a brown ale and Cervesa Lluna Negra a dark stout beer.

The beers are sold at certain natural foods restaurants and stores mostly in the Alicante and Valencia areas as well as in a few spots in Barcelona, and only two in Madrid.

In Valencia, one of my favorite restaurants, Kimpira, serves the Lluna beers. Kimpira makes delicious vegan and macrobiotic meals. Their offerings are not regular macrobiotic or vegan fare, but rather beautifully presented gourmet food. You can also find the Lluna beers (appropriately given the name) at La Lluna restaurant and you can hope they are serving their unusual and delicious torta de zanahoria (carrot cake). Health food stores selling Lluna include my favorite Ecorganic ecomercat as well as the Angel Biomercado. If you are in the Girona and Costa Brava area you can find them at my favorite Nana Biosupermercats. Barcelona visitors have to travel farther afield out of the old part of the city for stores offering Lluna beers. See the web site for all store locations under On trober-la.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thoughts on Traveling, Volcanic Eruptions and Mother Earth

Happy Earth Day - celebrate for a lifetime!

I think it is most appropriate that for the week or so preceding Earth Day that Mother Nature reminded us of her power. While travelers around the world had to deal with flight delays and cancellations as well as commerce being disrupted, the Icelandic Volcano eruption gave the world a pause. What seemed like an eternity to those stuck in airports was really just a few days in an era of constant flights when a part of the globe had a breath of no air traffic. Travel by rail swelled and some people took the cue to change their state of mind and enjoy some extra time wherever they were.

Airline companies have been complaining about how much money per day they lost and about undue flight restrictions, but all would-be travelers I have spoken with agree - as possibly inconvenient or uncomfortable having plans disrupted might be, they would rather be on the ground in one piece than 30,000 feet in the air with a frozen airplane engine - that is what most would call a no-brainer. And if the airlines are wanting to utilize the tenuous risk-assessment model, I suggest they leave that people-unfriendly calculation to the nuclear power industry (where it shouldn't be employed either), and stick to common sense as I am sure anything they have lost is still far less than what a major accident would have cost them.

In New England you learn a bit to live with the mentality of succumbing to Mother Nature. When there is a big snow or ice storm and driving is precarious, you hunker down and enjoy the respite. If you try to persevere in spite of it you usually end up in a ditch -- or worse.

Travelers, businesses and most everyone can heed the lesson and open their minds to a more creative way of looking at the world and what we are"entitled" to as a group of world citizens who feel they should be able to travel whenever and wherever they want. In this false world we have created of instant gratification, and the expectation of instant gratification, maybe we need more pauses. Maybe we should have certain weeks in the year when there is no air traffic (I can hear the screams now) and give ourselves and Mother Earth a literal and figurative breather, allowing for the possibility of changing how we treat the planet and each other.

As more of us humans lose touch with the reality of Mother Nature and her forces and are under the misguided notion that we reign supreme over the earth - think again. The Earth has been here far longer than we have and will surely be here long after we have destroyed ourselves. Whether we humans debate it, ponder it, like it or not -  the Earth does have dominion over us, not the other way around. Thank goodness.

Photo courtesy of NASA:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Green and Local Recipes.....Gluten-Free Pizza with Sheep Cheese & Pesto

A word about my cooking style. As you can see from my recipes I am an "approximate" cook, not a meticulous baker. In our home, my husband, a fine carpenter and house builder, is the baker, extending his precision to eclairs, cakes and other recipes requiring exacting measurements. I, on the other hand, fall into the "a pinch here, a handful there" category, able to improvise with what I have pretty easily. For creations I particularly like I make mental notes of quantities and special ingredients. Here is a pizza favorite, easily changed and adapted for personal preferences in terms of cheeses and toppings, made with some local Spanish delicacies.

Sheep Cheese and Pesto Gluten-Free Pizza with fresh Peppers, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Olives

Ingredients per pizza
Gluten-Free Crust - 1 8-10" crust
Olive Oil (over 40 organic olives oils in Spain to choose from) - 1 Tablespoon
Pesto - 1-2 Tablespoons
Green and Red Peppers - 1/4 each
Olives - handful
Sun-dried Tomatoes - 1-2 slices chopped

Bake the crust with nothing on it for a couple of minutes. Then rub a little olive oil on the crust - not much- about 1 tablespoons - rubbing it to all parts of the crust with your fingers.

Next spread a similar amount of pesto (see below) on the crust. If you are traveling without access to a food processor or great chopping facilities, I would opt for pre-made pesto sold at the markets or in jars in stores.

Slice thinly or grate the cheese. Sheep (Oveja) cheese is quite prevalent in Spain. If you are using it for taste - any will do. If you have allergies to cow milk, then make sure you read the label or ask at the market counter to make sure it is queso puro de oveja sin leche de vaca (pure sheep cheese without cow milk).

My favorite cheese for this pizza is made from smooth raw sheep milk, Queso Extramuros, crafted by artisans in the Natural Park of Sierra de Espadán, in Castellon north of Valencia. Los Corrales makes a variety of cheeses from goat and sheep milk, curing the rind with olive oil so it is edible.You can find this special cheese at the organic food stall, La Morhada, at Valencia's Mercado Central. This cheese melts very quickly so the trick is to watch the pizza as it will easily get overcooked - just a few minutes in the oven. Once it is gently melted, remove the pizza from the oven. Add chopped green (and red) peppers, organic olives and some chopped sundried tomatoes.

Serve with a mixed green salad and Limonada con Menta. All I can say is "yum!"

The Crust:
In Spain gluten-free (sin-gluten) products are fairly abundant and easy to find in large supermarkets and health food stores as well as small herboristerias. The easiest to use are the pre-made crusts, but if you are feeling  creative you can make a crust from scratch - all you need is the flour mix, water and oil ( I do not use yeast in mine). If you are traveling it is simplest really to buy the pre-made crust, or next to that buy a gluten-free flour mix - otherwise you end up with multiple bags of different kinds of flours (rice, tapioca, potato starch, or others depending upon your personal preferences). The pre-made crusts are small, one-two person portion size. Depending where you find yourself in Spain brand names of Gluten-Free pre-made Crusts will include Proceli, Schar, Sense Gluten, and Artediet.

Homemade Pesto (if you have access to a food processor or great chopping  and mixing facilities):
Basil (albahaca in Spanish)- A pile of fresh basil leaves - closer to a small mountain as far as I am concerned. Basil ranks up there with olive oil in my book - the more the better.
Nuts/Sunflower Seeds - Pine Nuts (piñones)are  traditional. I use those or sunflower seeds (semillas de girasol) due to allergies to other nuts, but you can certainly use walnuts (nueces) or almonds (almendras) if you like. About 1/2 cup for every 2-3 large handfuls of basil.
Lemon Juice - just 1- 2 tablespoons
Garlic (ajo)- 1-3 cloves - personal preference
Olive Oil (aceite de oliva) - to make a pasty to runny consistency
Cheese (queso)- Parmesan is traditional, but you can use whatever you like...I tend to not add the cheese if I am using it on pizzas or other dishes that will contain cheese

Put the nuts/seeds in a food processor and grind, then add the garlic, lemon juice, and as much basil as will fit in the bowl with about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend  and then keep adding olive oil while the food processor is on until the desired consistency is reached. If you are adding cheese, do that last.

1 Day until Earth Day - celebrate for a lifetime!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Green and Local Recipes.....Limonada con Menta

It is sunny, warm and lovely in Valencia Spain with the smell of orange blossoms in the air - a perfume that has yet to be captured as perfectly as nature makes it.

As usual the bounty at the mercado central allows for divine treats made with ingredients grown within a few miles from my door. Today's delight is mint lemonade, a personal favorite.

Limonada con Menta (Mint Lemonade)

Local Lemons - 5
Raw Honey from Orange Flower Blossoms (Miel Cruda de Azahar) - 3-4 Tablespoons
Fresh Mint - 1-2 Handfuls
Good Water - 1-2 Liters/Quarts

Fresh squeeze 5 lemons from the market, or if you are lucky enough to have a friend with lemon trees in their yard, which many do in Spain, 5 from the yard tree.

Mix 3-4 Tablespoons of honey into the lemon juice concentrate (more or less to taste depending upon how sweet or tangy you prefer your lemonade). The raw honey tends to be crystallized so I advise using a fork for stirring. While heating the honey is the usual way to easily combine it with a liquid, the heating somewhat defeats the purpose of using the raw honey rich with enzymes and other nutrients. Once the honey is dissolved into the lemon juice add the water, again to taste according to how condensed or diluted you like your lemonade.

Next cut or crush the fresh mint and add it to the lemonade.

You can serve as is, or add extra crushed mint to the glass.


2 Days until Earth Day - celebrate for a lifetime!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Extremadura - Wild and Wonderful

8 days until Earth Day - celebrate for a lifetime!
Attention traveler’s to Extremadura Spain--- please click here to View the NEW Supplement to the Best of Green Award Winning Green Earth Guide: Traveling Naturally in Spain.
Find tips and tools to help you travel naturally in the wild and beautiful region of Extremadura, Spain.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Natural Body Care on the Road in Europe and Spain

10 days until Earth Day - celebrate for a lifetime! 

If you are "traveling naturally" in Europe you will happily find a large variety of natural body care products in health food stores and pharmacies. High quality cosmetics and body care products  tend to have a special label on them - BDIH Certified Natural Cosmetics. This is a branch of a German association dealing with health and body care. The guidelines for BDIH Certified Natural Cosmetics cover raw materials, animal protection and preservatives, as well as ecological and social "compatibility."

There are over 100 Certified producers - mostly European companies - with a heavy emphasis on German firms including well known names such as Weleda, Dr. Hauschka, and Logona. If you are traveling in Spain and wanting to try some Spain-made natural body care products, you can look for Geoderm Ecological Cosmetics.

Geoderm is the first body care company in Spain to be BDIH certified. Based in Benitachell in the region of Alicante along the Mediterranean, the company offers a variety of products made from organic ingredients including lotions, shampoo, cleansers, creams and mint-free toothpaste for those taking homeopathic remedies.

Look for the Geoderm products in health food stores and drug stores around Spain. Other common Spain-made natural body care products include handmade bar-soaps and Agua de Azahar (orange blossom water). There are also regional artisans making natural products such as La Casa de la Luna Media a cooperative making herbal body care products and natural medicinals from organic herbs in the Castellon area of Spain about one hour north of Valencia city.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Best of Green Award Winner!!

The Green Earth Guides are honored and delighted to have won Treehugger's 2010 Best of Green Award in Travel and Nature for Best Guide Books.

The Green Earth Guides are amidst extraordinary other Travel & Nature award winners such as the Oscar-winning film, The Cove, the World Wildlife Fund, the Svalbard Global Seed Bank, as well as almost two hundred innovative, outstanding Best of Green winners in categories covering Design & Architecture, Fashion & Beauty, and Science & Technology.

Happy Earth Day - celebrate for a lifetime!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Eco-Traveler Alert: Dolphin Shows- Don't Go

Travelers contemplating going to see any Dolphin shows thinking they might be considered "eco" due to the "natural" content - please take note:

These are NOT environmentally friendly and create a horrible (and profitable) trade in dolphins resulting in gruesome deaths for the captured but rejected dolphins.

Please watch the Academy-Award winning documentary, The Cove, to learn more about this issue and the genocide-like horrors that take place in Japan.

Even the best-intentioned facilities require dolphins from the wild. Please do not support this activity. Countries with the highest number of dolphinariums include Japan (34), the United States (31), Mexico (19), Spain (10), Ukraine (7), Turkey (5), Russia (5), Italy (5), Cuba (5), Germany (3), France (3), and Dominican Republic (3).

The Cove - watch it!

Action after Watching The Cove

Some non-profit organizations offering more in depth information about dolphins:
Dolphin Care UK- Information about why "Swim with Dolphins" programs should be stopped

Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society offers plentiful information including why worldwide  captivity programs should be stopped

Cousteau Society

See the list of Dolphinariums around the world so you can know what to avoid and also, if you are so inclined, to write letters expressing your revulsion at Dolphin capture and captivity.

Photo: Bottlenose Dolphin - NASA

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Piece of Magic Ancient Forest

I learned about some of the last remains of the once bountiful European primeval forest not from a guidebook or fellow traveler, but rather from the book, The Zookeeper's Wife - an excellent read. The Białowieza Forest, originally all within Russian borders, now lies partly in Belarus, known there as Belovzhskaya Pushcha,  and partly in Poland almost due east of Warsaw. Fortunately for everyone the forest was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and about fourteen years later as a Biosphere Reserve.

The protected forest covers almost 38,000 acres. Tree lovers and huggers will especially appreciate the grandmother oak trees some over 800 years old and reaching 150 feet tall! Interestingly this patch of forest has alternated through hundreds of years of history between a protected forest reserve and a hunting ground. Most of the wild animals were hunted to near extinction, but now many of the indigenous animals - wolf, lynx, peregrine falcon- can be found at the park zoo including the Wisent (pronounced Vizent) - the European version of the American Buffalo which now has a protected reserve within the park.

To help preserve this treasured plot of forest, tourists are not allowed into the deepest part of the reserve - only researchers are allowed access. Guided tours are available to certain areas. But there are routes in the Hwozna Protective Unit for walking and biking (skiing in the winter), as well as special guided tours through some of the more restricted areas of the park - the Orłówka Protective Unit. All must be arranged through the park.

The Park Website, fortunately with an English version, offers extensive  information about the flora and fauna in the park, museum opening times, entry fees, as well as details about the 105 guest beds available in the adjacent Palace Park.

The Website also instructs you in how to behave should you come upon one of the massive Wisents in your touring - most importantly remain calm (if you can) while you marvel at these incredible creatures and majestic, wise trees.

Białowieza National Park 
17-230 Białowieza, Park Pałacowy 11, Poland 
Tel: (+48) 85 682-9700 or 85 681-2306 
E-mail:; Web; You can reach the park by train and bus.

The Zookeeper's Wife, Diane Ackerman. Norton 2007

Friday, April 2, 2010

Flea Hunting In Zurich

Zurich is home to possibly the largest year round flea market (called flohmarkt in German) in Switzerland. Held every Saturday morning with maybe as few as three exceptions (see Web site for closed (geschlossen in German) Saturdays), the market is open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm in a park at Helvetiaplatz.

In the warmer months up to 400 vendors can be selling their wares, but in the winter you can find as few as only six stalls. The winter, with the snow, cold and wind, is for the truly hale and hearty or utterly desperate.

To find the market, walk or take the tram or bus from the main train station (Hauptbahnhof). Look for tram 8 or bus 32 to Helvetiaplatz, or tram 2 or 3 to Bezirksgebaude.

Like any flea market, Zurich's offers a range of items - you can find wonderful treasures or items that should honestly be in a dumpster somewhere, but the exploring is what makes it fun.