Know Why Organic Matters

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As farmers’ markets shutter for the season and backyard gardens go to seed, many of us will retreat to the grocery store for the bulk of our food purchases. The question is, when “local” options dwindle, will you opt to buy organic?

There seems to have been a sort of backlash against organic in recent months. Some people say it’s too expensive, that in this economy organic food just isn’t relevant. Others say the complex bureaucracy of USDA Organic Certification shuts out small farmers who can’t afford the manpower to keep up with the paperwork. There’s some truth to both of those arguments.

But there’s another fact that’s been left out: The organic label is still consumers’ only institutionalized way of having a say in what kind of food they buy. When I buy organic carrots, I know at the very least they’ve been grown without chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and that, ideally, they’ve been grown in a way that nurtures soil, surrounding ecosystems and community. When I buy organic cookies, I know they don’t contain genetically modified ingredients. When I buy organic meat and milk, I know they don’t contain synthetic hormones or come from cloned offspring. Whether any of these things factor directly into our health is still being debated, but there are enough reputable studies saying yes–or even maybe–to make me dubious of putting blind trust into the conventional food system.

Does an organic sticker mean that something is going to taste better? Not necessarily. Are organic standards the end-all be-all answer to fixing our food system? Probably not. Sure, “organic” may be flawed, but until there is another structure in place that consumers can trust, organic does matter.

This week as you shop, whichever way you pick, be aware of the role the organic sticker plays in protecting our rights to choose our food.

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Creamy Corn Polenta

This polenta bridges the gap from summer to fall. Starchy, last-of-the-season fresh corn is ideal for this polenta recipe, giving it a natural creaminess, while the vanilla brings out its sweetness.

Creamy Corn Polenta


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Creamy Corn Polenta


  1. 1 tablespoon butter
  2. 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  3. 4 cups corn, (roughly 4 ears), divided
  4. 1 cup polenta
  5. 4 cups water
  6. 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 3/4 cup lowfat milk
  8. 1 vanilla bean, split
  9. Dash nutmeg


Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and sauté onion and 2 cups corn kernels for 5 minutes, until onion is translucent. Stir in polenta and coat with butter. Whisk in water and salt, and bring to a boil. Transfer pot to oven (uncovered) and cook 30 minutes.

Puree remaining 2 cups corn kernels and strain and reserve liquid. Discard solids. Pour corn juice and enough milk to collectively measure 1 cup into a small saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the liquid, and add the pod and nutmeg. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, remove from heat and let steep with the vanilla bean for 10 minutes. Remove bean.

Carefully remove polenta pot from oven and whisk in milk mixture. Return to oven and continue cooking another 20 minutes. Remove from oven, whisk again, and serve.

  • Janice M. Epstein

    well said. thank you for helping us not get lost in all the hubbub and focused on what matters.