Thursday, January 13, 2011

Alert! Beware of "Pictsweet"; Keeping Warm; and Alternatives to Plastic Wrap

Hello Philly Foodies! 

I hope that you are enjoying the Winter so far, keeping as warm as you can, and cooking up lots of cold weather dishes!  And, aren't we all missing our Farmers' Markets?  The good news is that two in our area remain open all year:  Clark Park and Fitler Square.  All that work freezing and canning is paying off now, isn't it?  A friend messaged me the other day telling us how much he was enjoying the canned peaches in syrup we gave him as part of his Holiday gift box.    Yes, there's nothing like eating a delicious, sweet peach half, dripping with syrup, while sitting in front of the fire!

Before we go any further, I want to share something that is very concerning for those of us who are trying to promote fresh, seasonal and fairly produced food products.  There is what will seem to Philadelphians a "new" producer of frozen vegetables and mushrooms now advertising on local TV.  The company name is:  "Pictsweet" and there are many, many issues as to why you want to avoid it - and why you want to educate others to avoid it as well. 

Pictsweet is a Tennessee (Bells) based factory, with a mushroom factory in Salem, Oregon.  It was founded in the late 1940's and incorporated in 1956.  Originally the business was family owned by one family; that is now not the case.  The products of Pictsweet are most commonly sold in Wal-Mart, Kroger's, and other, membership driven Big Box stores.  In recent times, products of Pictsweet have been recalled frequently - lastly in 2010 due to the discovery of glass shards in bags of frozen vegetables.

Pictsweet also has an abysmal record as an employer.  In Salem, working conditions are awful to say the least (due in part to how mushrooms must be raised), and are not addressed for workers or for the surrounding community.  Workers are paid minimum wage - no matter how long they have worked for Pictsweet!  They are never paid overtime no matter how many hours they work and there is very little in the way of benefits.  The mayor of Salem made some statements against the company's practices and received death threats!  Just a little family farmer?  I think not.

The reason I bring up all of this information - available easily through Google or any search engine and the Better Business Bureau - is due to the fact that Pictsweet is now running TV ads in our area.  The advertisements feature a man who is supposed to be dressed up as the advertisers idea of what a farmer looks like, while a man on a tractor passes behind him.  The pitch is that Pictsweet is coming to you "right from the Farm" and is raised by Farmers in a natural and sustainable way.  Not so!

This is another example of the growing abuse by the factory food industry of co-opting words like "Farm", "Organic", "Local", and "Family Owned"!  We have got to be educated consumers and we must pass the message along to others who may be confused by it.  Factory food production is a business in America that is seriously under fire; a good thing, by the way.  Rather than change their practices and methods, they have obviously made the decision to "throw a little farm and organic terms at 'em".  That's us - the purchasing public - who are perceived by those in advertising as folks who don't pay significant attention to detail and who spend our money without doing the due diligence!  All you have to do is recall the fact that High Fructose Corn Syrup is soon to be known as Corn Sugar, if the producers get their way.  Has it changed?  No.  Is it still in almost every mass produced factory made product?  Yes!  They just figured that changing the name was all that was necessary.  Don't let them get away with this - learn the facts and pass those facts along.

And let's face it, in this area of the country, we have many better options than "Pictsweet" frozen factory produced products!

Keeping Warm:  How are you faring with keeping your heating bills manageable?  Even if you have unlimited disposable income (and if you do, please feel free to get in touch! ), remember that for most of us, fossil fuels are involved with heating our homes - we have to figure out how to reduce our dependence on these fuels.  By now your home should be closed up tight - that means good insulation around windows and doors.  Also, something we sometimes forget:  if you aren't using a room or aren't using it very often, evaluate your need to heat that room.  There is so much information available on the internet re: keeping the heat inside your house.  Take the time to check it out.  Also we have some local businesses that can be of help as well.  For example, Greenable in Northern Liberties is a great spot for products, ideas and consults.

Let me share a few things we've learned that has our heater running minimally.  First of all, we keep our thermostat set at 65 degrees during the day and overnight.  In our home, "layering" is the way to go.  We wear sweaters, sox, and generally long pants - it IS winter, after all.  Even our Terrier has a house sweater! Really, living in high, artificial heat is not very healthy - when you get used to a lower temperature, it is very difficult to spend any time in a space that's heated to say, 76 degrees or more. 

Also, as we are blessed with Southern exposure on one side of our home (end of the row) - we take advantage of this "passive solar" reality.  We open all drapes and shades on that side of the house first thing in the morning and let the sun beat in all day.  The trick is to get those drapes and shades closed back up when the sun goes down!  After the sun sets, we raise our thermostat to 67 degrees for a few hours.  It goes back down to 65 degrees at 11:00 PM.  As I have mentioned here, we use bio-ethanol fuel in our fireplace - we no longer burn wood, but a nice small fire is not only warming,  it is psychologically warming, so we do that as much as possible.  Lastly, and especially if you have furry family members, remember to clean the filter in your heater regularly - you'd be surprised how much stuff builds up!  Good luck with your efforts to stay warm, enjoy your home, and still manage your use of fossil fuels!

Worrying that you use too much plastic wrap?  I do! It's horribly non-biodegradable.   I just found some great suggestions for substitutes at:  Check it out!

Snow in the City at 11:00 PM
 Just a thought:  Let's try to enjoy our frequent snow storms.  I know that they can be a real hassle, especially for those who have no option and who have to navigate around in heavy snow, freezing weather, and treacherous travel conditions.  But during one storm or another - and we do seem to be getting more, not less - look upon a snow storm as Nature's way of saying, "go ahead, have some down time".  Find your inner child and have some FUN.  Go out and join in the neighborhood shoveling, take the kids sledding, build a snow person and then come inside to hot chocolate and a fire and some board games - Scrabble is a biggie for me.  Yes, it all sounds so corny.  It is - we need a little "corny" from time to time - it's what is missing in most of our lives.

The seed catalogs are all out!  Have fun dreaming of planting time!  Please keep in touch.


  1. Great info regarding Pictsweet. I hadn't heard of them. Thanks

  2. Pictsweet used to be the best for frozen but that has changed! Back in the '70's and '80's if I couldn't get fresh the it was Pictsweet. I won't buy from them anymore...and mostly due to the recent commercials I've been seeing...he didn't look like a typical family member for a farm family. We are lucky enough to have access to my sister in laws organic farm that has been in my husband and her family since 1930. They mainly grow strawberries but plant seasonal gardens...we are in Florida so we are very fortunate.

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  4. Just another incompetent liberal with no idea how business works trying to claim opinions as fact. SAD!