I teach a culinary class at the Deer Isle Stonington high school on “Introduction to Food Systems and Food Safety.” This semester we’re studying the Maine Local Twenty, the 20 food groups that Maine has the capacity to produce for its citizens to enjoy all year.
Access to nutritious food is a basic human right, and economic disruptions; coupled with supply chain shocks, limit access to nutritious food. The COVID-19 pandemic has created short- and long-term disturbances, highlighting the weaknesses of the global, industrial food system, and causing even greater food insecurity in our most vulnerable populations: children and the elderly.
In an ideal food system, as much food as possible to meet the population’s needs is produced, processed, distributed and purchased within the region. This regional food system model creates maximum community resilience and provides economic, environmental and social benefits to all stakeholders in the region.
Maine people, currently at the very end of a long, industrial food chain, have become extremely susceptible to food shortages. Although the state produces enough crops to meet the total energy needs of Maine’s 1.3 million residents, we import 90% of the calories our citizens consume. Can Maine create a sustainable and resilient food system? Can Maine feed itself?
History confirms that generations of Maine people, including Native Americans, have sourced adequate food to feed their peoples a nutritious daily diet. Formerly the breadbasket of New England, Maine has been or is currently a leader in the production of grain, potatoes, wild blueberries, apples, milk and dairy products, eggs, maple syrup and seafood.
The Maine Local Twenty was based upon research that established Maine’s land base and water supply was adequate to provide the nutritional needs of its 1.3 million residents. Twenty food groups – wild blueberries, apples, potatoes, carrots, beets and beet greens, garlic, salad and braising greens, tomatoes, winter squash, cabbage, onions, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, ground meat, seafood, dry beans, maple syrup and wheat – were identified as foods that Maine people could enjoy year-round.
This month the students are cooking with Maine apples. Thanks to our early ancestors and dedicated heritage apple saviors, we can enjoy the subtle flavors, textures and aromas of dozens of varieties of America’s favorite fruit: apples. Bright red apples made into delicate pink sauce, cinnamon flecked apples in pies or crisps, tart apples for snacks, and freshly pressed apples in tangy cider.
There are hundreds of varieties, but four major categories. Firm-tart apples like Granny Smith, Rhode Island Greening and Northern Spy and firm-sweet apples like Golden Delicious and Pink Lady are best for baking. Tender-tart apples like McIntosh, Cortland and Macoun break down easily during cooking, and make a superb sauce. Tender-sweet apples, like Gala and Fuji are delicious in salads and eaten out of hand.
The recipe for Sunshine Muffins, with the original title of Applesauce Carrot Muffins, did not inspire these young folks. When the satisfying aroma of cinnamon baking tickled their noses, they were willing to sample these treats. High in nutrients and fiber, and low in sugar, these muffins meet all the USDA school food requirements, are easy to prepare, and best of all; they actually taste good!
- 1 ½ cups Maine whole grain flour whole wheat or all purpose
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup grated Maine carrots
- ½ cup applesauce
- 3 eggs
- ¼ cup Maine maple syrup
- ¼ cup melted butter or oil
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Gather the ingredients and tools. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.
- Fold in the grated carrots.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the applesauce, maple syrup, eggs, melted butter and vanilla extract.
- Add to the dry ingredients, stirring just enough to combine. Do not over mix!
- Spoon into the muffin tin and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 18 – 20 minutes.