Success-The 100-Mile Diet

Smith A, MacKinnon JB. 2007. The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. Toronto (ONT): Vintage Canada.


I’ve loved ice-cream ever since I was a kid, it always been my weakness. But I never realized, there was a way I could be getting more out of my ice cream; eating tastier, healthier, and more environmentally friendly!! The 100-Mile diet by Alisa Smith and J.B Mackinnon inspires a beautiful connection with the food sources your good be supporting. This evening I presented my very own local dish at a class dinner. Mmm…pumpkin ice-cream!


I started my ice cream by finding a locally sourced plant based product. I had some pumpkin puree in my freezer from the local dunes berry pumpkin farm only a few minutes down the road from my house. I roasted the pumpkin and blended it up, with no need for any additives like the puree you would find in the store. My second ingredient was locally produced cream from Blackwell dairy farm. This dairy farm is located only 45 minutes away from my house, and you can buy the products from the local Coopers supermarket. For the sweetness ice cream needs, I found locally produced honey also at the supermarket. The honey came from Westsyde Apiaries only 5 minutes down the road. My meal was complete!


Hmm… but eliminating imported ingredients like vanilla and cinnamon really eliminates that zip! This ice-cream needed a little something. I activated my horticulture senses and then it came to me….Mint! A fresh sprig of mint propagated from the TRU greenhouses, and grown my windowsill, was the perfect addition to this eat local desert.

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Only 25 minutes in the ice-cream maker and I was good to go! Local food isn’t as hard as you would think! I compared a spoonful of my home-made ice-cream, and compared to store-bought vanilla and I was extremely surprised! Mine had a better texture, tasted like real cream, and the sweetness of honey tasted fresh. I felt good inside and out. Iv’e never had ice-cream more satisfying. The store-bought ice cream tasted like the any remaining milk products were highly processed and unnatural. The sugar tasted dirty!! I will honestly never go back to this so called ice cream in the store!


The desert section at the dinner was my favourite part. I think the blend of all the fresh fruits, cakes and creams was AMAZING! I was blown away at the amazing job everyone did.


I honestly haven’t finished the entire book yet, and with this busy semester I really don’t have time! But the first half that I completed was full of great ideas. Alisa is a great writer but J.B’s side is a bit dry. Throughout my eat local project, I have definitely increased my contribution to supporting local farmers. When I get a chance to finish the book,”100 Mile-diet” I can’t wait to find out more strategies to support local food!

Try it for yourself!


Homemade Pumpkin Ice-Cream Recipe



1 1/2 cups Blackwell Dairy Farm Cream(18%)

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cups raw honey

Mint Leaf to garnish




1) Whisk first three ingredients together in bowl.

2) Pour ingredients into ice cream maker. 

3) Garnish with mint leaf to serve. 



We’ve always loved variety. Why not farm that way?

This week’s reading is by my favourite author, Michael Pollan. I had the pleasure of experiencing his books for the first time this year. It has been a positive impact on my diet nutritionally and deepened my connection with the food I eat. This week I got to read “Omnivore’s Dilemma”. I finished part 2 of this book, focusing on pastoral grass. I read chapters 10-14, they were all enjoyable but my favourite chapter was 11, “The Animals: Practising Complexity”. I learned how to greatly appreciate the unique and rarely acknowledged symbiotic relationships between animals, plants and humans on a farm. Pollan gathers valuable and wise knowledge while personally getting to know polyfarmer, Joel Salatin, a man I’ve admired for a few years ever since I saw his appearance on Food inc. Michael gets to work with Joel on the farm and get intimate with important species that help produce food for humans. Joel helps Michael explain some of the ways buying local food, can allow you to see these important symbiotic relationships for yourself, forming a deeper, personal, and satisfying connection to the food you’re eating.


I really enjoy how Pollans writing uses imagery. He does this by explaining specific details about his surroundings, creating an image in your mind of what he is experiencing. Pollan writes in such a way that introduces his topics by completely engaging and mesmerizing his reader.  He creates a scene for his readers; page 186, “When one of his cows moves into a new paddock, she doesn’t just see the color green; she doesn’t even see grass. She sees, out of the corner of her eye, this nice tuft of white clover, the emerald-green one over there with the heart-shaped leaves….the cow opens her meaty wet lips, curls her sandpaper tongue around the bunched clover like a fat rope, and with the pleasing sound of tearing foliage, rips the tender mouthful of leaves from the crown.”

This quote makes natural agriculture systems seem so simple. But as Pollan titled one of the chapters, “practising complexity” it must not all be simple. A successful polyfarm includes a variety of species that have interdependence on one another. Pollan got to witness cattle up close, grazing on all sorts of grass species growing in Joel’s so called, “sunfarm”. The sunfarm is one way(the only way until fuel came along) energy is captured, turning it into food energy for humans. There are a variety of species involved in this chain of events in which solar energy is captured. This chain involves 3 primary species, cattle, grasses, and humans. Joel explains how he captures the sun’s energy through the grass in his pasture. The cows will eat the grass, and stomp their manure back into the soil to (reducing carbon emissions and fertilizing their food source). The humans  will move the herd of cattle around the pasture in a cycle, they shouldn’t stay in one spot for too long. They’re always looking for their favourite grasses; so they grass needs a chance to re-establish its own energy before it transfers more to the cow(very important cows have lots of space to graze because overgrazing in one area leads to depletion of root systems because grass energy is constantly being used). Once they have consumed enough energy, then it’s time for the humans to enjoy a meal. Cows have rumens, allowing them to digest cellulose in grass. Humans aren’t capable of digesting cellulose, therefore we get our energy directly from the cow. Throughout this chapter, I really enjoyed acknowledging this chain of events of capturing this sustainable source of sun energy that provides the food I eat.


Pollan introduced me to something I haven’t explored much. He taught me one way that  farmers can increase quality of their chicken products, save on cost of production(saving consumers money too), and help save the environment all at once! Having multiple species on a farm allows the organisms to benefit from one another. On page 214, “In nature there is no such thing as a waste problem, since one creatures waste becomes another creatures lunch. What could be more efficient than turning cow pies into eggs?” Nowadays conventional ways of farming leave excess manure that needs to be treated. But on a polyfarm, chickens will enjoy feasting on grubs in the cow manure, which will increase the flavour and nutrient content of the eggs they produce, or the meat they will become. Chickens will also scratch the manure into the ground with their feet as they are eating grubs. This will provide a free fertilizer for the pasture, that will benefit the grass with a plethora of nutrients, allowing it to grow healthily to supply the energy for the cow. I never realized what a wonderful cycle this could be! This weeks reading really made me realize connecting with the animals that you eat, and acknowledging these natural agricultural systems, is a really phenomenal feeling, that I think everyone should have the pleasure of experiencing. 


Fulfilling Our Human Desires

I always enjoy Michael Pollan’s writing. He has a way of engaging the reader, mesmerizing us with his interesting botanical facts and personal stories we can relate too. He makes me feel connected to his topics and relate to his personal experiences. I really enjoy his stories, it is as if you can feel the emotions he’s experiencing as he tells it. This week, I had the pleasure of reading Chapter 3 of Michael Pollan’s book, “Botany of Desire.” The theme of this chapter is “Desire: Intoxication, Plant: Marijuana.”


We have all experienced desire for an escape, an altered experience of the world, an altered state of consciousness. Even young children can hold this desire. Do you ever remember spinning violently in circles when you were young? Maybe you were seeking sugar on a daily basis? These are prime examples of how humans begin to desire an altered state of consciousness at an early age. Is this normal? I think so.









But think about it.


How often do you see adults spinning violently in circles?


How do they fulfil their desire for intoxication?


Pollan shares some facts and personal stories, about the ways humans fulfil their intoxication desires with psychoactive plants, both today, and throughout history.


My favorite story Pollan told was the Peruvian Legend about the Tukano Indians discovering “Jaguar Eyes.” The Tukano Indians lived in the Amazon Jungle amongst the wild animals and plants. The Indians noticed the jaguars would act very strange, as if they were hallucinating, when they consumed the bark from the yaje vine. The Indians found this especially odd as jaguars aren’t usually herbivores. Those that followed the jaguar’s lead, also experienced an altered state of consciousness, hallucinating, seeing the world through what they called, “Jaguar’s eyes.”


If you can imagine what “Jaguar Eyes” must be like, you can probably imagine that not everyone desires that experience. Today, a popular plant to cause a more mild experience of altered consciousness is marijuana. Before the 1930’s, marijuana was often used medicinally to treat pain, convulsions, nausea, glaucoma, neuralgia, asthma, cramps, migraines, insomnia, and depression. Nowadays, humans commonly use marijuana recreationally. The potency has dramatically increased in the past century, most likely due to the popularity of recreational use; from 3-5%, now it’s not unusual to see over 20% potency. The effects of marijuana can vary from person to person, but generally, it will mildly impair movement, memory and emotions, making users happy, relaxed, and have a stimulated appetite. Even though growing or using this plant is illegal in a lot of places, the desire for marijuana intoxication proves powerful enough that humans still participate, disregarding the harsh legal consequences.


Pollan really made me realize how strong our desires for intoxication truly are. I never truly thought about how I personally started this desire very young. For me, it began with a love for ice-cream. That sugary taste (derived from plants), had me hooked the second it touched my tongue. This desire continued to evolve as I was growing up. Many day to day activities gave me an experience of altered consciousness such as meditation, exercise, horror movies, music, spicy foods, and the occasional risk, like a scary ride at the amusement park . But is this enough? Or were plants meant to fulfil the human desire for intoxication?


Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World. New York: Random House, 2001. Print. Pages 113-179

The Hidden World of Seed Warfare

Hanson, Thor. The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, & Pips, Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History. New York: Basic, 2015. N. Print. “Chapter 8-11.”

This week’s reading definitely reminded me of my favourite television show, “Breaking Bad”. The beginning of Chapter 11 brought me back to the scene in the show, where a chemist teacher and heroin addict are working together to climb their way up the drug chain, and they come across a dilemma where they see murder as their only choice. A deathly plant-based poison seemed to be an ideal weapon choice. Who would’ve thought I could relate Breaking Bad to biology class!

Regardless of the somewhat eery topics, I thoroughly enjoyed pages 113-175 in Thor Hanson’s book, “The Triumph of Seeds”. My favourite part was Chapter 11, “Death by Umbrella.” I was a little freaked out when I discovered the meaning behind the title of this chapter.

Who would’ve thought an umbrella would become the optimal weapon for getting away with murder! The umbrella gun is engineered to shoot a tiny pellet that has 2 holes drilled in the side to leach poison into the target’s body. If you were to draw a dot with the tip of a pen, that’s how small the pellet is. I never would’ve imagined such advanced technology like this existing and being used! You may even be familiar with the plant that they derive this poison from, the caster bean plant. Caster beans are popular ornamental plants; there is even one on my school campus. The poison in the plant is really in the seed of the caster bean, which contains a peculiar, and deadly storage protein called ricin. This protein is highly beneficial for the growth of the plant during early stages, but if an animal ingests this protein, the odd structure of ricin can penetrate and kill living cells. On page 166, Thor explains how “ricin sets off a wave of cell death” and how it’s one of the most lethal substances known on earth. A tiny pellet can have the power to kill every cell in the human body many times over. I found this entire topic fascinating and I will never look at an umbrella the same!

What I really enjoyed about this chapter was the contrast between his topics of discussion. He begins the chapter talking about poisons from seeds being used in historical events, but he ends on a much more personal note. He explains how these powerful and peculiar proteins can also benefit humans, rather than just poison us. Hansons’ most powerful statement for me was on page 171, “But our almendro-tasting moment was so deeply ironic. At the time, neither of us knew that Steve’s cancer had reawakened and spread to other parts of his body, and that within a few months his doctors would probably start prescribing a variation of the very compound we’d been joking about.” I thought this was a really interesting aspect of the chapter. Hanson engages us in these stories of how seeds have undoubtedly impacted technology. Whether they are used to help fight a deadly disease like cancer, or to become a deadly murder weapon, like the umbrella. This week’s reading, has shown me the hidden world of seed warfare.


Secret Desires, Aren’t So Secret

This weeks reading was on chapters 1 and 4 of Michaels Pollans book, Botany of Desire. I finally understand this title. Plants have evolved to fulfil our desires, just as we fulfil theirs. Plants know our desire for sweetness and control.







Pollan M. 2001. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World. Toronto (ON): The Random House Publishing Group. Pages 3-58, 183-239


Pollan explains the human desire for the sweetness of the apple, and our control of the potato. Both chapters explain how for centuries, plants and people have been co-evolving, forming a symbiotic relationship. I find this book engaging and thrilling to read, as it opens my eyes to so many new connections I never knew existed. Pollan includes thought-provoking facts, as well as personal stories. My favourite chapter was Chapter 4, Desire Control, the Potato. I enjoyed this section the most because Michael made this much easier to understand the story of the potato. I suppose I preferred this chapter more because I love getting my hands dirty rather than tending to fruit trees. I’ve always felt a strong connection when I’m in the garden. Pollan expresses his connection to the garden throughout this chapter. I enjoyed how he related back, multiple times, how he planted the Newleaf potato as an experiment. This made his perspective, ideas, and concepts easier to connect to.


In chapter 4, Michael tackles a strange and mind-boggling concept.

Page 185, “Agriculture is by its very nature, brutally reductive, simplifying natures incomprehensible complexity to something humanly manageable.”

But the strangest fact is that, nature supplied the necessary genes or mutations that made agriculture possible.

Nature also created humans, and humans created gardens, then gardens provided new niches ready to be inhabited by these novelty genes and mutations.


If that isn’t cool I don’t know what is!





“The People of Corn”

Pollan, M. 2006. Omnivores Dilemma. England:Pengiun Books Ltd. pages 15-119


I poured myself my morning glass of orange juice, and began to read. With my glass only half finished, Michael Pollan had already managed to completely change my perspective on the so called “orange” juice I was drinking. Do I really know what I’m putting into my body? It’s almost like can feel the corn running through my veins as I sipped my healthy citrus drink.


I was absolutely amazed with all of the products that we use that are made from corn! Juice along with many other products Pollan listed such as;

  • Beer
  • Coffee Whitener
  • Cheez Whiz
  • Frozen Yogurt
  • TV Dinners
  • Ketchup
  • Canned Fruit
  • Candies
  • Most Soft Drinks
  • Soups
  • Snacks
  • Cake Mixes
  • Frosting
  • Gravy
  • Frozen Waffles
  • Syrups
  • Hot sauces
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard
  • Hot dogs
  • Bologna
  • Margarine
  • Shortening
  • Salad Dressing
  • Vitamins
  • Relishes


Corn travels into these products by chemical names such as;

  • Glucose Syrup
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Unmodified or Modified Starch
  • Crystalline Fructose
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Lecithin
  • Dextrose
  • Lactic Acid
  • Lysine
  • Maltose
  • HFCS
  • MSG
  • Polyols
  • Xantham gum
  • Caramel Colour


Also, some non-food items containing corn;

  • Toothpaste
  • Cosmetics
  • Trash Bags
  • Disposable Diaper
  • Cleansers
  • Charcoal Briquettes
  • Matches
  • Batteries
  • ‘Shine’ on Magazines
  • Wax on Cucumbers
  • Pesticides
  • Ingredient in Cardboard
  • Parts of Building Structures (Wall board & Joint Compound)
  • Linoleum
  • Fibreglass
  • Adhesives


I will never look at corn the same. My citrus juice I drink every morning, is sweetened with both glucose and fructose syrup as the first ingredients. Sad part is, most of my favourite foods are made of corn! So why are we “The People of Corn”? How did this happen?


In Michael Pollans’ book, he goes into great detail explaining the many reasons humans have grown so reliant on corn. The most engaging section of the book was, There Goes The Sun, pages 41-47.  In this sub-chapter, Pollan explains how there were excessive amounts of Nitrogen left over from World war 2, from the all of the chemical warfare used. The idea arose that we should use the excess, nitrogen-rich chemicals for the farmers fields as the first man-made, synthetic fertilizer. Corn farmers had amazing results and continued using it until the world had a surplus of corn! With all of this corn, and advancing technology, scientists came up with a variety of ways to use corn, such as all of the synthetically produced chemicals listed above. We did this to ourselves. Omnivores Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, tells an amazing theory about how we transformed ourselves into “The People of Corn”.

Shift Your Perspective



Wow. What an eye-opening read.


This weeks reading consisted of chapters 4, 5 ,6 and 8, of Jared Diamonds book, Guns, Germs, and Steel. Each chapter had inter-related and thought provoking topics; Farmer Power, History’s Haves and Have nots, To Farm or Not to Farm, and Apples or Indians.


For me, Diamonds most thought-provoking theory is that agriculture was an essential step in the creation of guns, germs and steel. But how? Diamond focuses on the concept that, “Depending on their geographic location, societies differ in how readily they can receive technology.”


Diamond goes into much detail explaining this theory. He can be hard to follow sometimes but I was still engaged by all of his interesting ideas. His writing style is very factual and in depth. I appreciate how he asks “Why?” after a lot of his thoughts, it was almost like a little reminder about the bigger picture he is focusing on.


Diamond explains that throughout history, certain locations have had an advantage and were extremely successful due to the plants and animals they’ve had access to. Access to highly productive crops, usually within the Poaceae(grass) family, played a significant role in the success of a farmer. For example, look at the success of wheat? Its easy to plant, collect the seeds, store the food, and has a high yield;not all geographic locations had access to crops with all of these characteristics.  Farmers were also more productive if they had access to species such as cattle, goats, ox, sheep, etc. They could use domesticated animals for meat or leather, or continuous supply wool or milk. Raising livestock began to eliminate the need to hunt for wild game. Domesticated animals were also used as manual labour to plough fields, creating a highly productive and less labour intensive form of farming.  Farmers that had a highly productive crop, and domesticated animals in their geographical region were destined for success. The combination of domesticated plants and animals promoted an extraordinary agricultural advance for humankind, creating more energy and time for us to enhance technological skills. Agriculture was an essential step in the creation of guns, germs and steel.


Absolutely amazing! This book has completely shifted my perspective on the impact of agriculture.


Diamond, J. 1999. Guns, Germs, and Steel:The Fate of Human Societies. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., New York. Page 81-113, 131-156.







Discover Your Connection To Nature

Pollan M. 2001. The botany of desire. Toronto (ON): Random House of Canada Limited. 271 p.

Diamond J. 1999. Guns, germs, and steel. New York (NY): W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 480 p.

I have only read one chapter from each of these books, the introduction chapter of The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, and chapter 7 of Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, and I’m already hooked! I found that both of these authors used a really nice balance of scientific, and passionate writing styles. Michael Pollan shares his thought-provoking concepts about the plants view on the world, while Jared kept me engaged with his plethora of facts. Each book was thoroughly engaging and I look forward to reading more very soon.


I think The Botany of Desire is the best book I’ve ever read! Michael Pollan was very impressive in the sense that he formed a whole new perspective on plants for me. He made me feel personally connected to his writing and made me think of things I’ve never thought of before. On page xv, I came across a thought provoking statement, “Did I choose to plant these potatoes, or did the potato make me do it?” Pollan explores this concept further as he tells a magnificent story of our natural human desires that connect us to plants, as well as a story about the plants themselves. Pollan focuses on the story of co-evolution between humans and 4 familiar plants; apples, tulips, cannabis, and potatoes. He goes through a number of concepts, writing them in such a way that its easy to understand and relate to. He explains the desires that connect us to these plants, the  sweetness of the apple, beauty in the tulip’s, intoxication in cannabis, and control in the story of the potato. This book really got my attention and I hope it will be a valuable and enjoyable read to you as well.


I found Jared Diamonds’ book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, to be very enjoyable. Jareds writing style seems to be very in depth and factual, sometimes less engaging than Michaels, probably due to less of a personal connection. But overall, what I’ve read so far has made me gain a lot of knowledge about natural selection, and the evolution of wild plants to crop plants. One concept I enjoyed from Jared was on page 116, “When strawberry seeds are still young and not yet ready to be planted, the surrounding fruit is green, sour, and hard. When the seeds finally mature, the berries turn red, sweet, and tender. The change in the berries’ colour serves as a signal attracting birds….strawberries evolved through natural selection. The greener or more sour the young strawberry, the fewer the birds that destroyed the seeds by eating berries before the seeds were ready; the sweeter and redder the strawberry the more numerous the birds that dispersed its ripe seeds.” I like how Diamond made this concept easy to relate to, and chose strawberries, probably because a lot of people have a memory of picking fresh strawberries as a child. This was a good reminder that us along with other animals, share a connection with plants, as we pick the biggest, sweetest berry.

The Triumph of Seeds

Hanson, T. 2015. The Triumph of Seeds. New York: Basic Books. p xiii-18; p55-80.


The Triumph of Seeds, by Thor Hanson, is an eye-opening and scientific novel that I would suggest to all my fellow botany enthusiasts. So far I’ve completed the introduction, chapter one, four and five. I find this book very impressive as it is factual but remains captivating. Hanson shares his personal story about how seeds play a role in his life and how he was inspired by his toddlers enthusiasm for seeds. The author explains the huge importance of seeds throughout history and the powerful influence they hold on the world today.

Hanson began his story by taking us through the avocado germination process he is undergoing in his Raccoon Shack. I was chatting with my classmate who is also reading this book and we were both inspired to start growing an avocado ourselves. He also starts growing peas as an experiment, inspired from an evolutionary scientist, Mendel. Hanson shares the story of Mendel, who made great evolutionary discoveries but was never acknowledged for his work during his lifetime.

I really enjoyed Hansons writing style. He acknowledged a connection between human and seeds that I never knew existed until I read this book. He included thought provoking facts like on page xxii, “Homo sapiens may have never evolved in a world that lacked seeds.” This made me think about how often seeds come up in my daily routine. Honestly, mostly through food! Reading this book made me appreciate all that plants provide for us everyday, through food, clothes, paper, and so much more.

I also really enjoyed how Hanson made scientific processes easy to understand. For example on page 68, “A towel is just the beginning… People can cover up their nakedness with whatever they want: shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, cocktail dress, or even a suit of armour.” After reading this I found myself asking, why all this variety in clothing? In the statement above, Hanson provides us with a comparison of the naked human body and a evolving gymnosperm seed. The evolution of gymnosperm to angiosperm was a long process but it allowed time for great changes to arise. Angiosperms developed structures that would appeal to pollinators just as a cocktail dress appeal to humans. A seed may want to wear a suit of armour to wait until the growing conditions are right. Each angiosperm developed structures based on their individual needs, thus, a variety of beautiful and diverse structures were evolving.

The 100-Mile Diet

The 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, is an inspiring story about the adventures of a Vancouver couple, while they dedicate themselves to local food for an entire year. All of their food sources must be produced within 100-miles of their home. They begin their 100-mile diet in March and end in February, writing one chapter for each month. Throughout the first 6 chapters of the book, Alisa and James share all their satisfying and trying moments of shopping locally.


I thoroughly enjoyed that Alisa included a lot of personal connections in her writing. She used her senses to captivate her readers with the feeling, smell, and the appearance of her surroundings. It seems like she takes joy in becoming connected with the seasons more and more throughout the year. I also like how she acknowledges her personal growth throughout the seasons. At the beginning of the book, Alisa was not enjoying her “shrinking butt” and constantly eating potatoes in every shape and form. She complained about her cravings for foods we take for granted, like sandwiches and salads. But by late spring, Alisa was embracing the season and producing all the fresh veggies she desired in her own garden. As a horticulturist, this is my favourite and most gratifying way to eat locally and become more connected with the seasons.


So far, the first half of this book has a nice balance of facts, personal connections, and experiences. It’s motivating to begin each chapter with a healthy, simple, and inexpensive recipe. The wealth of information this novel has provided me, has inspired me to gain more knowledge about where my food travels and explore the ways I can support local food productions. This is a captivating and eye-opening novel that I would suggest to anyone.