Thursday, May 27, 2010

urban scavenging = waste reduction

Last weekend I went to LA to celebrate my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary! While I was down south my mother introduced me to an amazing woman by the name of Leah. Leah has helped my mom, who has been a Kindergarten teacher in Culver City Unified School District for 25 years, start composting all the food scraps generated on the Kindergarten yard. Now Leah and a "green team" of parents are working to bring composting and recycling to the whole school. As you can imagine, this woman is my new hero.
In addition to being a recycling angel, Leah is also a gardener and urban scavenger. After a brief conversation with her, it was clear that she knew where all the good, under-harvested fruit trees in her neighborhood were... not only is she is a recycler, she's a waste source reducer by not letting delicious fruit go to waste! 

As a gift, Leah picked a neighbor's kumquat tree and brought over the bounty. Sour and sweet, I miss the delicious flavor of kumquats... no local citrus in Seattle. 

Knowing that I would not be able to eat that many kumquats in a single day, I decided to preserve the harvest by making marmalade.

Kumquat Marmalade:
4 cups of kumquats sliced like pennies, seeds reserved
3 cups sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of your fruit)
4 cups water

1. Enclose the seeds in cheese cloth.
2. In a large, non-reactive pot add the kumquat slices, seeds, and water.
3. Bring to boil.
4. Once water has started to boil add sugar, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours.
5. Cover pot with a lid and let sit over night or at least 5 hours.
6. The next day remove the seeds and return the mixture to a boil.
7. Allow the mixture to simmer for approximately two hours, or until it reaches the right consistency.
I test consistency by adding a teaspoon to a freezer-chilled plate. If it gells you are done. 
8. At this point you have marmalade that is either ready to be popped in the fridge or canned.
If the marmalade is too thick (it becomes hard), it is easy to fix by simply adding more water. 

Monday, May 10, 2010


Who says pickles are just for cucumbers?
I grew up thinking that a pickle was a cucumber soaked in a vinegary brine. That was until about 12 years ago, when I visited a sake bar in lower Manhattan (yes I was underage, but that is entirely beside the point). There, I ate so many different types of pickled vegetables I couldn't believe it. Today I like to pickle an assortment of vegetables at home. It's surprisingly easy to do.

Here I pickled a combination of broccoli, carrots and onions. These pickled veggies taste great as snacks, but also make amazing additions to green salads.

Here's how I made it:

For the brine:
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 Tbs kosher salt
1 Tbs sugar
3 cloves smashed garlic
1 Tbs whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves

1 onion chopped
3 carrots chopped
1 small head of broccoli chopped into florets and cubed stalks (the stalk is my favorite part)

Place veggies in a jar full of brine, shake, wait a day or two before enjoying. Store in the refrigerator.

Get creative with what you put in the brine. You can't go wrong. Capers, hot sauce, chili peppers, and fresh herbs are a few ideas.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why I love biosolids

Bok choy from my home garden grows in a combination of native topsoil and biosolids compost.

In the last few weeks several people have come to me asking about the safety of biosolids-use in their home gardens, and moreover, have asked why I advocate the use of biosolids. In short, biosolids composts are safe, highly-regulated, sustainable, climate-friendly products, that your plants will LOVE. They are high in nutrients, support healthy soil microbial communities, and improve the tilth (physical attributes) of soil. Farmers around the world, including US farmers, have known this for ages.

 Me holding a handful of Groco compost at the Alleycat Acres Beacon Hill site.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

working meal for the alleycats

Last Sunday, at the alleycat acres Beacon Hill site, a cohort of volunteers and I got to work thinning romaine lettuce, carrots, chard, turnips and radishes. Rather than composting the thinnings, I took them home to make a meal for Monday night's alleycat acres meeting.

A snack platter of baby radishes, Essential bakery's herb bread, and butter.

Radishes were followed by a salad of baby greens with champagne vinaigrette. I made the salad fit for a meal by adding hard boiled eggs, goat cheese, and spring new potatoes (the vegan cats were away in Maine).

Fresh greens surrounded by laptops!