Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Planning your own urban garden is quite simple with a little help from your local gardening shop and some careful research.
The most important steps to beginning your garden are:
· First, decide what you want to plant
· Second, research peak planting season for each plant
· And third, research the best method of planting for each variety
Research using a search engine had seemed like the best solution at first, but I soon found that the immense amount of information on the Internet from bloggers and websites is not always valid and can be overwhelming. You can save yourself the keystrokes and simply read the back of the seed packets. Instructions for planting will always be on the package. If peak-planting season is not provided, the staff at gardening stores are usually happy to help and enjoy sharing tips. If you find you have missed planting season don’t fret; instead buy starter plant.
The clerk at my local gardening shop explained that purchasing potting soil for a potted garden is key. The potting soil locks in moisture and nutrients. If you are using smaller pots I advise filling them with solely potting soil. If you are working with larger pots, as I am, fill the bottom third of the pots with regular dirt from your backyard and fill the top layer of the pots with potting soil. This helps to keep costs low.
Having missed planting-season, I bought tomato starter plants and planted basil, rosemary and pepper seeds. They are all maturing nicely and I cannot wait to incorporate these fresh slow food ingredients into delicious summer recipes. Picking your own tomatoes off your balcony for a salad to be prepared that afternoon while peering at the Boston skyline is truly an urban gardening luxury and a perk to being “green."
Monday, June 13, 2011
With the beautiful weather on its way to Boston, farmer’s markets are sprouting across the city and surrounding towns. The only thing better than summer produce from local farms is produce grown in your own backyard. For many foodies in the city it seems nearly impossible to begin a home garden. However, a small plot of land or none at all should not stop the urban foodie from gardening. Planting pots are a simple solution to tight quarters. Coming in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, pots can be placed on porches, balconies and small backyards. Living in a small city about five miles outside of Boston, I plan to begin a small home garden in my 20’ by 30’ backyard. With the tight space and not exactly ideal soil, I am going to use large pots to grow vegetables and herbs including cucumbers, tomatoes, basil and mint. Currently, I am waiting for the extra large pots to be delivered but I will keep you posted on simple solutions to gardening in the city and my other gardening adventures. Wish me luck!
By: Bianca Tamburello
Saturday, March 26, 2011
- The quintessential, classic Italian combination of tomato, basil, and mozzarella. However, the generous layer of perfect pesto and drizzle of balsamic vinegar make this a sandwich to write home about. This is my go-to summer sandwich when the tomatoes are practically jumping off of the vines and the basil is wreaking havoc in home gardens everywhere. It was my first sandwich here and the one that made me a Dave's disciple.
- Layer upon layer of freshly sliced turkey breast with sun-dried tomato pesto, aged asiago, caramelized onions and baby spinach leaves. Certainly not your typical turkey sandwich. Order it and you will understand why this WAS my favorite Dave's creation.
- I really don't like ordering the same thing twice when I eat out, especially in a place like Dave's where the possibilities are endless. But this gem right here has a piece of my heart and I can't but help but order it nearly every time. Paper thin-sliced prosciutto and oozing mozzarella with sweet, but not cloying, fig jam on a sinfully crusty ciabatta roll (my personal favorite). Oh and my addition of the caramelized onions? No explanation other than the fact that I have an unhealthy obsession with all-things caramelized. I am also a huge fan of the classic, yet timeless, combination of salty & sweet. Let's just say this sandwich is the next chocolate-covered pretzel.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
We shut off the lights when we leave a room. We recycle every can, plastic bottle, and cardboard box that crosses our paths. We (hopefully) compost our fruit and vegetable scraps. We remember to bring our reusable bags to the grocery store.
With the world's ever-increasing awareness of the condition of the environment, more and more individuals are taking responsibility for themselves and their daily actions in order to preserve their future and that of the generations to come.
However, how many times a day do you think about...bees? Sure, we all have that cute, little teddy bear filled with golden nectar sitting in our cupboard that, albeit most likely crystallized, you reach for every time we need to sweeten our cup of tea or yogurt. But other than that, bees are probably not at the forefront of our minds.
However, according to "Vanishing of the Bees," bees provide us with a lot more than an unrefined sweetener.
On Sunday, February 27th, Slow Food Boston graciously hosted a screening of the documentary "Vanishing of the Bees" and subsequent panel discussion at Boston University. Given the turnout for the event, apparently a great deal of people are concerned with the well-being of the bees.
The focus of the documentary was the increasing prevalence of a condition known as "Colony Collapse Disorder," a phenomenon in which bees mysteriously disappear from their hives.
FASCINATING. And your point is...?
Well, according to the film's synopsis, "commercial honeybee operations pollinate crops that make up one out of every three bites of food on our tables." In other words, if bees are disappearing, beekeepers cannot stay in business, and thus are unable to raise the lovely little bees that pollinate our plants. Therefore, this problem has both economic and personal consequences.
While there are several theories as to why this bee epidemic is on the rise, there are two major hypotheses that resounded:
1. The increase in the use of pesticides, and in particular systemic pesticides
When we typically think of pesticides, the image of a plane flying over fields of crops, dousing our food with a disparaging amount of pesticides comes to mind. While spray pesticides still flow like water, one of the primary culprits of the bee epidemic is the rise of systemic pesticides. Essentially, the seeds of our favorite fruits and vegetables are manufactured to absorb the pesticide as they grow and thus incorporate it into the plants' tissues. BRILLIANT, RIGHT?! Ehh... not so much.
This is disturbing because no matter how much we wash our beloved apples and romaine lettuce in an attempt to "remove" the pesticides, it is impossible to do so when the pesticide is an actual component of that fruit or vegetable. And although pesticides are helpful for farmers because they poison the pests that eat their crops, the cost is the lives of bees. Without bees, our crops will not be pollinated. Without pollination our crops will not grow. Without crops the United States' infamously endless supply of food will diminish.
2. The ubiquity of "monocultures"
A monoculture refers to a large area of land that is devoted solely to one crop. Want to guess the most prevalent monocultures in the United States? Corn and Soy. Yup, that's right-- the usual suspects. According to the film, nature is not meant to exist as a monoculture. Mother Nature has no uniformity. While the pervasiveness and subsequent implications of corn and soy crops in America is a whole other blog post, it goes without saying that the United States' food production is working against the natural diversity and as a result, the bees are not tolerating it. In order to eat pollen, bees must ferment it. And without a diverse diet, that nature typically provides, the bees cannot ferment the pollen and consequently cannot survive.
The condition of the bee population is directly related to the condition of our environment. Why? Well, since bees are the entities that pollinate our fruits and vegetables and thus determine whether or not we will have those strawberries in June or those apples in September. If something were to happen to those furry little buggers, what would happen to our beloved produce?
What shocked me the most was that both the film and the panel discussion mentioned the dishonest sale of "pure" honey. In fact, the majority of the honey on supermarket shelves is not 100% honey even if the label claims to be. The most common additives used are water and syrup made from beet juice or palm sugar. Sure it reduces the cost of production for the manufacturers but all we receive is another dishonest product that we need to be wary of.
How do you ensure that you are spending your precious dollars on a genuine product? Buy local. According to the panel of beekeepers, the only way to know the contents of your honey is to form a relationship with a beekeeper. If you are unsure of the authenticity of a beekeeper's honey, simply ask "What do you feed your bees?" Their answer will let you know.
The three beekeepers in attendance were Wendy Mainardi of Allandale Farm in Brookline, Laurie and Dean of Golden Rule Honey in Leominster, and Mike Graney of eatlocalhoney.com. All three offer pure, authentic, and most importantly, local, honey. After taste-testing all of the honey and honey-based products, I don't see why you would trust your honey purchases to anyone else.
So. What can we do to help?
1. Reduce the use of toxic chemicals in our homes.
- So rather than using that bottle of neon yellow Clorox to mop your floors, try to find a natural cleaning alternative. This website is particularly helpful.
2. Choose organic produce.
- After all the talk of the ubiquity of pesticide use, this should be pretty self-explanatory. And while organic produce IS more expensive than conventional, wouldn't you rather pay the few extra dollars now rather than pay a much heftier "price" in the future?
3. Go to the Farmers' Market.
- While this is not the easiest feat to accomplish in the dead of winter in Boston, there are alternatives out there. The Somerville Winter Farmers Market is an amazing initiative in which every Saturday, local farmers to bring their seasonal, delicious, produce, meats, dairy, etc. to those of us who are fed up with the unnaturally shiny Granny Smith apples that you can practically see your reflection in and the wrinkly, lackluster greenhouse tomatoes that we encounter in our neighborhood grocery store in the winter. The Winter Market is an awesome alternative when our beloved summer produce is not available. But when summer does finally come around (it's already spring!) you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be at the Copley or Newton farmers markets wandering around the stands, oogling the breath-taking bounties, utterly intoxicated by the deep, sweet scent of strawberries in June and the aroma of blood-red Heirloom tomatoes and just-picked peaches in August. In other words, there is no (good) excuse not to check out your local Farmer's Market.
These sustainable acts are often done in hopes of helping the environment but with little direct and tangible benefit. However, after learning about the condition of the bee population and how little acts can make a big difference, the decision between the organic and the conventional head of broccoli should be an easy one.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Roasted Golden Hubbard Squash Soup: Ras el Hanout Marshmallow, Crisp Shallot, Bee Pollen, Caviar Lime.
Keener Corn Grits: Vegetable Mignardises, Roasted Butternut Squash, Mustard Oil.
Hand-Made Burrata: Shaved Vegetable Salad, Mountain Honey-Walnut Vinaigrette, Sour Flat Bread.
Tyrolean Ragu: Wild Boar, Venison, Bitter Chocolate, Red Wine over Cavatelli.
Scituate Cod: Kohlrabi, Capers, Brown-Butter Hazelnut, Turmeric, and Celery Fondue.
Assortment of Creams and Ices: Blood Orange Yogurt, Cranberry Sorbet, Chocolate Sorbet
Tangerine Dream: Genoise, Vermouth-Infused Tangerine, Thyme-Buttermilk Ice Cream, Meringue Brulee.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Author of "The Locavore Way" Amy Cotler hosted a discussion and booking signing with Slow Food BU this past Wednesday. The dreary weather didn't stop a committed group of slow foodies, who listened intently to Cotler's tips and engaging stories. With a background as a chef and recipe developer, she originally approached local, fresh food from a taste and pleasure perspective.
She acknowledged that we may all come from different places in our interest in sustainable, local foods. But the benefits, to the environment (less toxic), economic development (keeps your money close to home), and personal health, benefit us all. Cotler reiterated that change happens from the ground up, that small things can start in the community and build to a big-scale change. Often this starts with a simple self-interest. "I want local foods because____."
When the issue of budget and high price of local foods was brought up, she shared some simple tips for cutting costs, such as buying in bulk, sharing 2nd offerings from farmers, and savoring fruits and vegetables ONLY when in peak season. She reminded us that grains and beans, dried, are very very inexpensive, and meat needs to only be eaten occasionally. Learning to cook is a precious skill that will save you a lot of money, and probably earn you a few new friends. It was a great way to beat a rainy night! Thanks to all that came, and to Amy for sharing her wisdom and time with us!
Looking for winter local food?
Check out the Downtown Crossing Holiday Market, Somerville Winter Farmers Market, or Sherman Market!
If you want more information on Sustainable Agriculture check out the National Sustainable Ag Coalition.
What makes YOU choose local foods? What are some of your tips for staying local in the winter?