Blogs for November, 2013
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
The holiday season has a special place in our hearts and home. Whether you are hosting a houseful of family & friends or enjoying some time for yourself, our Holiday Lookbook has something for everyone on your list. From serving trays to salt & pepper sets to unbelievable brownie mixes, flip through the pages to shop our favorite products of the season!
With Thanksgiving on Thursday, I paused to wonder just where some of those traditional foods hail from, how they’re grown, what it takes to get them from farm to table to MY BELLY. And realized I often have no idea where the food I’m eating comes from.
I housesit for friends who posted a small “mindfulness reminder” image on their refrigerator. It reminds you to begin with an empty plate, recognizing it will be filled with precious food. Some of the next steps include contemplating your food: This plate of food, so fragrant and appetizing, also contains much suffering. Then, beginning to eat: With the first taste, I promise to offer joy. With the second, I promise to help relieve the suffering of others. With the third, I promise to see others’ joy as my own. With the fourth, I promise to learn the way of non-attachment and equanimity. (From Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment)
Such basic steps slow you down, and remind you that food comes from a specific place and often a specific someone, and that it nourishes both body AND soul, especially on a day like Thanksgiving, set aside to gather with loved ones. An added bonus is the extra enjoyment and savoring of the taste of your food, as this New York Times piece reminds us.
The cranberry is one of the three native fruits to North America, introduced to the European settlers by the Native Americans. According to cranberries.org, the name was derived from the similarity of the spring blossoms to a Sandhill crane. Mariners carried the berries on board to prevent scurvy on their sea voyages.
Does your scurvy-free Thanksgiving table feature fresh, chunky cranberries, or do they still jiggle slightly, showing the rings of the can, having just slithered out onto the plate? Though, according to The Farmer’s Almanac, cranberries “favor acidic soil …. [and] also like sand, which is why they call places like Cape Cod, Massachusetts, home,” it is possible to grow your own! A ground-cover plant, a small, personal crop of cranberries doesn’t require the bogs often seen for mass production, but they do like a cool climate. And they’re rarely grown from seed, so if you’re not one to wait long, choose a 3-year-old cutting that will yield a crop right away. Check out GardeningBlog.net for tips on replacing your soil with the kind cranberries will thrive in.
Even if you don’t choose to plant your own, that’s no reason not to know where it hailed from. You don’t have to get as detailed as the “Portlandia” chicken episode and visit your nearby bog, but, in accordance with a day of giving thanks, and honoring the journey your food takes to your table, it’s not a bad thing to know how your cranberry grows.
For today, meet Cranberry Bob. Modern Farmer interviewed this cranberry farmer from Vermont, to learn more about Bob’s bogs. A family business, his wife and three kids all help pack the berries, and they deliver them around the state, exhausting themselves by the end of the holiday season, having produced over 20,000 pounds of cranberries. (The story features a recipe for a Winter Pudding with Caramalized Cranberries that you might want to add to your holiday menu.)
What’s your favorite way to prepare cranberries? Do you practice mindfulness at meals? Have you noticed a difference in dining when you do? Leave us a note here, or on Twitter – @RebeccaSnavely and @TheCityFarm.
(Photo: Modern Farmer)
Thanksgiving is almost here, despite the strains of canned Christmas music in stores across the country, rushing us toward December. Don’t let big box stores steal a day of thankfulness and gratitude! It’s the best time of the year for time-honored traditions that often don’t cost a thing.
A recent request for off-beat Thanksgiving traditions revealed some unexpected traditions: an American married to a Scotsman now celebrates St. Andrew’s Day as well, with a bit of haggis added to her Thanksgiving Day menu. One friend’s family chooses a “theme” for Turkey day, and the clan comes in costume, whether it be Greek gods, football players, or garden flowers (and a gnome). And then there’s the friend whose grandmother “dresses” the turkey in a bikini, a la Amelia Bedelia, that delightfully literal children’s book heroine:
“Amelia Bedelia is Mr. and Mrs. Roger’s new maid, and she has a big list of things to do while they are away. But they sure do ask her to do strange things! The list says to dust the furniture, draw the drapes, and dress the turkey. And Amelia Bedelia does just that: she carefully sprinkles dust all over the furniture; she takes out a pad of paper and draws a beautiful picture of the drapes; and she wastes no time taking out a needle and thread and making a nice little suit to dress the turkey with.” (Exodus Books)
Grandma’s turkey-bikini (turkini?) must add a touch of scandal when one requests the breast meat. Does your family have any unlikely traditions to celebrate Thanksgiving? Have you incorporated any other countries’ customs into your day?
With southern California’s sunny Novembers, it’s often an outdoor meal. It’s always fun to burn the booze and butter with a morning walk or a game of flag football (or does your family go for the full tackle?). If you live where it’s already rainy or even snowing, what indoor games are your favorites? Is the TV tuned in to the Macy’s Parade? Do you, grown adult, actually prefer sitting at the kid’s table, where you can really dig in to your pumpkin pie?
If you’re growing a winter garden, have you harvested anything to add fresh farm-to-table bites to your menu? According to Bon Appétit, one thing you don’t want fresh your garden is a puree of your own pumpkin for that classic pie. The magazine’s site highlights common mistakes to avoid for each course of your meal.
The Thanksgiving dinner is the most important part of my day, so I don’t want electronics distracting from what is important, tasting and sharing the delicious meal! There’s a strict no TV, iPads, games or phones rule. And no kids’ table, I enjoy eating and talking with everyone!
Take a look at a few authors’ Thanksgiving traditions over at Real Simple, from Garrison Keillor’s prayers to the music accompanying Allegra Goodman’s memories.
What stories shape your Thanksgiving celebrations? I’d love to know some of your traditions! Do you make / grow your own decorations? Is there a family recipe that must be on the table? Do you donate to the food bank? Or take a moment at the table to share what you’re thankful for? Leave a note in the comment section, or tell us on Twitter @TheCityFarm.
This year, I’m especially thankful for the new City Farm community that we’re growing here, together. Have a lovely, warm Thanksgiving.
(Photos: Exodus Books and Delight for the Eyes)
I was buckling into my seat, bound for Kosovo. It was the morning of my 30th birthday, and I was going to live for three months in a foreign country, where I didn’t speak the language or have the ability to digest their local foods, made almost entirely of gluten. I was THRILLED. I was living my wanderlust dream. My seat-mate decided takeoff was the perfect time to talk potatoes.
“I bet you guessed the potato originated Ireland?” he chuckled. I murmured that, indeed, I had NEVER given passing thought about where the potato originated, and looked more closely for my escape route, the one the flight attendant promised me would be lit in case of emergency. It was not lit.
We flew 9 hours to Heathrow together, the Potato Man and I. I learned that the potato actually originated in Peru, indigenous to the Andes, which PotatoGoodness.com confirms. The Inca Indians cultivated potatoes around 8,000 BC to 5,000 BC, and only in the 1500s were they introduced to Europe. Sir Walter Raleigh introduced them to Ireland in 1589.
I wish I hadn’t been so absorbed with the launch of my 30s, that I hadn’t simply been envisioning my seat-mate as Mr. Potato Head, and popping out his mouth so he’d leave me in silence. That I might have paid closer attention to what the Potato Man had to say, and why he so badly wanted to say it. People who are passionate about what might seem mundane often reveal fascinating lessons in conversation, gems of wisdom even they didn’t know they had.
Take the potato, for instance. There is an International Potato Center blog that highlights potato farms all over the world that are helping to ease hunger. There are debates on cold storage, and, of course, Monsanto’s role in genetically modifying the vegetable. When a disease swept over the potato crop in 1840s Ireland, they experienced what is known as the Irish Potato Famine, destroying families and communities. Understanding Evolution over at Berkeley reminds us that “because Ireland was so dependent on the potato, one in eight Irish people died of starvation in three years during the Irish potato famine.” The site discusses the dangers of a crop with a low genetic variation that can lead to such disaster.
Check out this episode of Al Jazeera’s “earthrise,” and travel with Russell Beard to Peru, where “a meeting of old knowledge and new science is safeguarding the future of the world’s favorite vegetable,” see the world’s largest collection of potatoes, and witness a local festival celebrating the potato in the Sacred Valley of the Andes.
And a typical American eats 127 pounds of them each year or about one spud per day, according to The Saturday Evening Post.
So. The Solanum tuberosum. It’s NOT as boring a subject as I first thought my potato-prattling seat-mate to be. And they taste far yummier straight from your backyard than the store shelf. Will you plant potatoes in your garden? If you live where the ground freezes, the Farmer’s Almanac recommends you plant the seeds zero to two weeks after the last spring frost. Organic Gardening offers seven ways to plant your potatoes, from hilled rows in the ground to containers and grow bags.
How will you grow yours? How will you prepare them for Thanksgiving? And, will you pay more attention to the mudane story-teller buckled up beside you on your next flight? Tell us in the comments or on Twitter: @TheCityFarm and @RebeccaSnavely.
(Photo: Mr. Potato Head slims down, c/o TIME; Growing Red, White & Blue Potatoes – Saturday Evening Post)
One of my favorite traditions during the holidays is to go around the table…each person taking a turn talking about something for which they are thankful. There are often surprises with this little exercise. It gives family and friends an opportunity to learn something about each other.
Of course, the other great thing about the holiodays is the meal. Although some people perpetually search for the new and improved, I find comfort in the familiarity of the food being served. Years ago I bought a cookbook called, “The Presidents’ Own White House Cookbook.” Inside I found a wonderful traditional pumpkin pie recipe which I make every year. Here it is for you to try. Hope you like it…and I wish you a Happy Holidays season!
White House Pumpkin Pie
1 partially baked 10-inch crust
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/3 tsp. ginger
1 (1 lb.) can pumpkin
3 cups milk
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. melted butter
Line the unbaked pie crust with brown paper to come up above the sides. Fill the center with uncooked rice or beans (something to weight it down) and bake the crust for 15 minutes at 375ᵒ. Meanwhile blend the sugar, flour, salt, allspice and ginger. Stir in the pumpkin and beat in the eggs. Blend the milk and vanilla thoroughly into the mixture and stir in the molasses and melted butter. Remove the paper and rice from the pie shell and pour in the pumpkin filling. Bake at 375ᵒ for about 40 minutes, until the custard is set.
It was New York in the fall, colorful leaves beginning to drift down to the sidewalks. We had just walked under the gingko tree outside my friend’s Brooklyn row house. It was like the scene in the movie “Clue,” when Mrs. White enters the manse, sniffs the air, and, as her host Wadsworth had been tracking dog poo around on his shoes, she checks her own. I sniffed my friends’ apartment, grabbed the handrail of the stairs, and carefully lifted a boot. The smell wafted upwards, the smushed ginkgo seed pods clung to my sole, and reeeeeeked.
Why, then, would you plant a ginkgo? According to the elegantly entitled HuffPo article “Ginkgo Trees that ‘Smell like Vomit,’” “unlike most tree species common in the U.S., the ginkgo is dioecious, meaning trees are male or female. Female ginkgoes produce the troublesome seeds, which are covered in a fleshy coating that contains butyric acid, also found in rancid butter.”
You might be wondering, why would I plant a “rancid butter” tree in my backyard? Because you could plant it along your NEIGHBOR’S fence, in honor of their dog that won’t stop barking!
I KID! But ginkgos are gorgeous, and the stench only lasts so long in the fall season, whereas the tree itself is a living fossil which dates back over 270 million years ago. Native to China, the tree is so hardy it withstands smog and atomic bombs: Four ginkgo trees withstood the atomic bombs in Hiroshima, Japan, and still stand today. You’ve got to give this tree props, and possibly a place in your yard. If you can’t stand the smell, plant the male, as the city of Santa Monica has done. But if you can handle a little stinkin’ nature, the female tree is truly beautiful.
Houzz.com has some helpful tips for choosing where to plant your Ginkgo. As they grow over 100 feet, it’s wise to consider where you’ll want this ancient tree to set down its roots. Don’t count it out if you don’t have a yard: Big Plant Nursery notes that they do very well in a pot or container.
What do you think? Will you take a chance on a ginkgo? Tell us, or share photos with us on Twitter: @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely.
(Photo credit: Ginkgo & row house by Rebecca Snavely, yellow fall ginkgo by John Hagan.)
The apple is a weighty fruit – from the confusing origins of what could be called an apple (up until the 17th century, all fruit, excluding berries, but including nuts, were deemed “apples,”) to its role in the DOWNFALL of HUMANITY. Thanks, tree of knowledge of good & evil. Did you know that a man’s “Adam’s apple” is thusly called from a story that the forbidden fruit lodged in his larynx?
And according to Irish folklore, if a woman peels an apple in one continuous ribbon and tosses it behind her shoulder, she will see the initials of her future husband in the shape of the rind. (It’s like the organic version of girls playing M.A.S.H.)
As if determining a lifelong mate wasn’t enough pressure on the fruit, it’s assumed that Isaac Newton formed his theory of universal gravitation of the moon toward the Earth after observing an apple fall from a tree. So next time you’re out at an apple orchard, pay attention to passing brilliance.
The apple. It’s got a lot going on. I started thinking about it last week, on Halloween, remembering a childhood filled with fall fairs hosted at our church, the basement barely transformed by hanging orange and red paper leaves, kids taking off plastic masks to bob for shiny red apples in a galvanized tin tub. Based on photographic evidence of my disgusted look, I clearly found a communal pot of kid-spit unhygienic. (I’m still hunting for that old photo.) But when it comes to fall and apples, I most clearly remember my school field trips to a local orchard in Eugene, where we were allowed to climb the wooden ladders to choose our favorite right off the tree.
It’s hard for me to say goodbye to October and embrace the shorter days of November. But thankfully, apples are still in season, making an easier transition into darker evenings spent at home when they’re filled with the smells of baking apples, in crisps, in pies, in crumbles… Better Homes & Gardens Magazine gives a basic tutorial on how to prep apples, and which ones are best to bake. Their recipes make my mouth water, especially baked apples with feta and thyme. What’s your favorite fall recipe for your apples?
And if you want to grow your own, so you can pick fruit straight from the tree, check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac, full of tips on soil conditions, where to plant, and what variety to buy for your region. If you live in the chilly north or central parts of the States, you’ll want to plant in the spring, but if your weather is moist and warm, fall planting can work as well.
Tell us your apple stories and share recipes on Twitter @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely.
And ‘fess up. Who just peeled an apple and tossed it over her shoulder?
(Photo credit: Top: Northeast Flavor, Bottom: Jillie of All Trades)