Love your Mother (Earth)

It’s April 22 – Earth Day. Think of it as the universal Mother’s Day.

Time to pause and think about our individual impact on the planet, and how we can introduce changes into our daily routine to make the Earth a better place, today and for future generations.

Here are a few simple things you can start work into your daily routine:

- Bike, walk, bus or carpool to work, or telecommute. (How many single-occupancy vehicles are out there in rush hour?!)

Less Gas, More Ass! – cartoon by ohwell
Source: www.wall2wallmtl.com

- Rethink your drink. Bring your own travel mug for coffee and bottle for water. Don’t buy bottled water! (especially in Canada, where our tap water is generally potable.)

- Be waste-conscious. Remember the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? We were taught that back in kindergarten, but it’s good to have a refresher… Reduce comes first! Try to avoid products that are heavily packaged. Buy a head of lettuce instead a bag of lettuce. Go bulk where possible. Reuse comes second. Bring your lunch in a yogurt container or peanut butter jar. Save wrapping paper. Recycle is the last of the three R’s. That means sorting your waste properly into recyclables, compostables and trash. Use those green-bins people!

- Sharing and repairing are the new buying! Before you buy 0r dispose of something – Pass it on. Fix it. Give it to a friend. Re-gift. Hand-me-down. Thrift it. Re-purpose it. Borrow it. Free-Cycle it. Kijiji it. We need a serious attitude check when it comes to the amount of consumer goods we purchase and throw away. Giving our household goods, clothes, tools, toys and electronics a new life slows down the rate at which we need to produce consumer goods, which is good thing for Mother Earth, not to mention our wallets!

- Where possible, choose Local. Food and products that have been transported around the globe may sometimes come at a slightly lower price in the grocery store, but they come at a much higher environmental price than locally-produced foods and goods.

- Organic is not a fad. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to conclude that chemicals that kill insects and plants aren’t good for us. Neither are they good or for our ground water, soil, animals, and important insects, such as bees. Wherever possible, choose organic food options… or hey, why not grow your own!! There are a lot of tips here in this very blog to help get you started.

- Be water-conservative. Check out this past post on simple ways to reduce your tap-water usage at home!

- TLC. When I was a kid, before leaving the house, we were required to do the “TLC” checklist: 1. turn down the Temperature; 2. turn off the Lights; 3. put out the Cat. The Cat aside, I think it’s all good practice for us to turn down the thermostat a few degrees and make sure all of the lights in the house are off before we head out for the day.

Happy Earth Day, y’all. And remember – always treat your Mother with respect.

#5: They’re baaaaack! In-season garlic scape hummus recipe

Day 5 of 30 days of blog posts about why we love growing our own food…

Reasons #5: Scape season is back! … and this delicious in-season garlic scape hummus.

Garlic scape hummus. The perfect afternoon nibble.

Garlic scape hummus. The perfect afternoon nibble.

Garlic scape season is something I didn’t pay much attention to before I started growing my own garlic. It was kind of like fiddlehead season – one of those fleeting things that you often failed to notice until it had almost already passed, scanning over a near-empty box of pathetic, wilted ferns in the market with a sigh of “oh well, maybe next year.”

Garlic scape, ripe for the picking.

Garlic scapes are ready to harvest when they curl.

Now that we grow garlic in our own garden, scape season is something that we can’t help but anticipate. For a few sweet weeks of the year, scapes take the place of garlic cloves in almost all of our cooking. A few of my favourite recipes use raw scapes, like my delicious Garlic Scape, Basil & Kale Pesto for example (check out the post and recipe from last year.) They’re also delicious in BBQ marinades and tossed in roasted veg.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried my hummus, but it is kind of a big deal. It features as my go-to appetizer and is a frequently requested potluck contribution. I love the opportunity to make hummus with scapes, because their flavour is robust but not overpowering the way garlic cloves can be. The aroma doesn’t linger on your breath for days afterward either.

In-Season Garlic Scape Hummus

Ingredients (makes about 2 cups):

  • 4 garlic scapes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can of chick peas, thoroughly rinsed (By all means, you can soak and cook your own chick peas, but these days I allow myself the little convenience of canned chick peas.)
  • Juice and pulp of 1 lemon (or more, depending on how zippy you like it)
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil (add slowly and adjust to desired consistency)
  • 1 teaspoon of tahini OR 1 teaspoon of peanut butter OR 1 dash of sesame oil (sometimes tahini is overpowering… I advise using sparingly.)
  • About 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • If you’ve got a jar of spicy eggplant in the fridge, I love adding a splash of the spicy oil! If not, a pinch of dried chilis, finely chopped, adds a nice little kick.
  • Pinch of salt, to taste.
  • Finely chopped fresh cilantro as garnish, if desired.

Directions:

  • Combine ingredients in your food processor.
  • Blend for at least 1 minute or until smooth(ish).
  • Taste and adjust by adding additional oil, lemon juice, cumin or salt.
  • Serve immediately, with veggies, pita or whatever takes your fancy. Goes very well with fresh garden radishes and snap peas!
  • Cover and chill what you don’t eat right away. Keeps about 2 days in the fridge.

Enjoy!

#3: I’m Siiiinging in the Rain…

Today is Day 3 of 30 days of blog posts about why we love growing our own food.

Reason #3: It make you love (is worship too strong a word?) the rain.

Water is Life, people.

It covers over 70% of the planet and comprises 65% of our body mass. (Yes I looked those stats up just now.) It is the world’s most precious yet most often abused natural resource. It is easy to take for granted that we – urban Canadians – have unlimited access to free-flowing, clean water that is conveniently pumped (in both hot and cold form) into our homes.

Being a gardener heightens your awareness about the importance of the natural rainfall. True, you can usually water your garden with a sprinkler or hose in time of drought, but no gardener will tell you that they prefer tap water over the real deal. For one thing, rain brings your garden precious nitrogen from the sky and is not full of chemicals like chlorine or fluoride. For another, relying as much as possible on rain to water your garden, whether falling directly from the sky or collected in a barrel, is part of what gardening is all about – being connected to the earth.

Gardeners pay attention to the rain. During those hottest weeks of July in Ottawa when the humidex hits 40C, you will see the gardeners nail-biting at the “Chance of Thundershowers” forecasts and scanning the horizon for building cumulonimbus clouds. “Will it, or won’t it?” When colleagues complain of the weekend weather forecast being a wet one, I am secretly doing a mental rain dance (looks something like Elaine from Seinfeld) and thinking “ooh wee, them rain barrels gone be fulled riiiiiight up!”

I love the water. I love gently pushing a canoe through water with a paddle. I love playing in the waves and pretending I can surf. I love it when it transforms into fluff in mid-air and then blankets the earth so I can slide down mountains on it. I even love getting drenched in a downpour on those cycle commutes home from work when I have nothing waterproof to wear.

Once a man doing Tarot on the street asked me to pull a card from a fanned-out deck in his hand. I pulled this one…

The Two of Cups - "The Lord of Love" Image from http://shadesofmidnight.wordpress.com

The Two of Cups – “The Lord of Love”
Image from http://shadesofmidnight.wordpress.com

Must be the Piscean blood?

We could all do to conserve and respect our water a little more, or maybe in some cases a lot more. Food for thought. Water for food.

Check out this previous blog post on 3 Super Simple Ways to Use Less Tap Water.

 

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Early Season Planting… Hurry Up and Wait!

Getting the garden going in the spring is always an exercise in patience. The snow melts, then it comes back. The temperature jumps up to 20+ degrees for a few days but then is back down to near freezing. It can be hard to know what should be planted and when, and how to plan for a garden that doesn’t all get planted at the same time.

Several crops can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked, and actually prefer to germinate in cool soil, including spinach, radishes, beets, greens, kale and peas.

Sprouted Giant Winter spinach, Jericho romaine lettuce and Early Wonder beets, early May

Sprouted Giant Winter spinach, Jericho romaine lettuce and Early Wonder beets, early May

Here is a list of everything that we planted outdoors in the month of April and the source of the seeds. The items that are in bold are things that we’ve done before that we’ve loved and would recommend:

  • Romaine lettuce (seeds harvested from 2012 season, originally Ferme Tourne-Sol)
  • Red Oak leaf lettuce (seeds harvested from 2012 season, originally Ferme Tourne-Sol)
  • Curly green leaf lettuce (seeds harvested from 2012 season, originally plant given by friend)
  • Astro Arugula (seeds harvested from 2012 season, Greta’s Organic Garden)
  • Black Seeded Simpson lettuce (Page Seed Co)
  • Giant Winter spinach (Greta’s Organic Garden)
  • Rainbow Dinosaur kale (Urban Harvest)
  • Vates Blues Curled kale (Urban Harvest)
  • Red Russian kale (Ferme Tourne-Sol)
  • Plum Purple radish (The Cottage Gardener)
  • Raxe radish (Ferme Tourne-Sol)
  • Atomic Red carrot (Urban Harvest)
  • Scarlett Nantes carrot (Ferme Tourne-Sol)
  • Jerusalem artichoke (Ferme Tourne-Sol)
  • Detroit Dark Red beet (Ferme Tourne-Sol)
  • Early Wonder beet (Greta’s Organic Garden)
  • Sugar Snap pea (Ferme Tourne Sol)
  • Fordhook Giant swiss chard (Urban Harvest)
  • Sweet Peas flowers (Aimers – bought at Lee Valley)
Plum Purple radish and Sugar Snap peas, early May

Plum Purple radish and Sugar Snap peas, early May

This year we really had our shit together and got our early planting started as soon as the ground was thawed enough to turn over the top 12 inches of soil. But we didn’t just bury the seeds any-old-where in the garden. We planned the early planting with a few things in mind this year – succession planting, crop rotation and interplanting with later season crops.

Succession planting -  Some crops mature quickly, which means that you can/should plant several “batches” of them throughout the growing season to maintain a constant supply of your favourite salad fixin’s! These include lettuce, arugula, spinach, beets and radishes (and carrots to a lesser degree.) Successive rounds of planting can be done every 2-4 weeks for these crops.

This has implications for your first round of planting in the early season; it means that you don’t need to plant all the beets you can eat in one go! Plant some now and more later…  We planted our sunniest garden plot with a small assortment of salad greens, beets and radishes. 2 weeks later, we planted another plot in the garden with radishes and beets. Another round of lettuces will be planted in the coming week. It should be noted, however, that certain crops don’t do well when it gets hot, hot, hot. Spinach and beets will likely not do well when planted into July and August; best to do a couple of plantings in spring and wait for later summer to plant again for fall harvest.

(Tip: The book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew has some extremely helpful and simple planting charts to help plan succession planting. Highly recommended for urban gardening newbies!)

 Crop rotation - Each crop in the garden needs a different balance of mineral nutrients (namely nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) from the soil. As a result, the soil can become depleted of one or more nutrients when the same crop is planted in the same place year after year. To avoid this, we are doing our best to switch up the location of crops in the garden. For example, cucumbers are nitrogen-suckers! We will be putting cucumbers in a different spot this year and planting beans – a nitrogen-replenisher – in their place. This is an important consideration in the early season as you plan out the location of your crops in the yard and put in some of the longer-growing early season crops such as kale, chard and peas.

Interplanting – This year we are going to dabble much more with interplanting – the art of planting more than one type of crop together in a harmonious and beneficial way. As noted above, we did our first spring planting in the sunniest garden plot, which is also occupied by our garlic, planted last fall. (See previous post Why yes I do have garlic breath.) This sunny spot is primo tomato growing location, so our plan is to interplant tomato seedlings with the early season greens, radishes and beets. As the tomatoes grow and require more space we will be eating the radishes and beets and will thin out the lettuce. In the heat of the summer the few heads of lettuce that remain will enjoy partial shade from the towering tomatoes and (in theory) will not bolt as quickly as lettuce that is exposed to the direct blazing sun… stay tuned to see how that works out!

If you haven’t planted anything yet and are reading this thinking “Aww man, I’ve missed the boat and now it’s too late!” then please stop worrying. You can plant now. Or next week. Just please do plant this spring!