Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Unidentified Farm Objects

Been getting some interesting, unfamiliar veggies in our CSA shipments lately:

Pattypan squashes (see image) look like UFOs... bumpy, green-yellow-speckled ones with stems, that is. They have a pretty good shelf life (about a week), but best before they get rubbery: look for tight, shiny rind on squash in general. Delicious roasted with olive oil/salt/pepper and herbs, also good grilled or steamed (chop the big ones, but small ones you can steam whole - I saw them cooked this way at a fancy gala once).

Garlic scapes are delightful too: these long, swirling stalks can be chopped and steamed for a flavorful addition to soups or salads. Eat raw to repel vampires and other undesirables.

ABCs of greens:
Arugula (peppery and strong, use sparingly unless you're into that kind of thing)
Broccoli leaves (big, waxy gray-green color. chop and boil in chicken stock for soup)
Collards (saute with olive oil, salt, etc)

Zucchini update: My two plants are dying a slow death of powdery mildew, and the recent squash vine borer attack is hastening their demise, but I've got so many zucchinis piled up in the kitchen and freezer right now that I shed no tears.

Now harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, with eggplants soon to follow. Patting myself on the back for planting parsley and basil with the tomatoes, as these herbs are a great finishing touch for salads and sandwiches.

The latest on green cars

If you've been listening to NPR lately then you already know about the CARS (aka "Cash for Clunkers") program. Read about it here.

And just today the EPA announced that its Green Vehicle guide has been updated to include 2010 models.

In related news, President Obama signed a bill that will set a national fuel economy standard of 35.5 MPG by 2016. This policy will cover car models from 2012-2016 and it's estimated that 900 million metric tons of GHG will be reduced as a result.

Curious about your current vehicle's fuel economy? Check it out here for an estimate. For a real-time test, keep track of your odometer reading the next few times you fill your gas tank: then you can calculate your actual miles per gallon.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beet It

Today I pay dual homage to the late great Michael Jackson and my favorite vegetable of the week with a sweet and easy recipe I adapted from "The Vegetable Dishes I can't live without" by Mollie Katzen of the Moosewood cookbook fame.

Take a bunch of beets with stems and leaves: cut the stems, leaving about an inch of stem on the beets. Scrub the beets, trim off stringy roots, and wrap in foil (still damp - the moisture will help steam). Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until soft when stabbed. After they cool a bit, you can rub off the skins and chop coarsely. Meanwhile, trim stems off greens and wash - you can chop the stems to eat, or discard. When the baking beets are almost ready, chop leaves and stems into bite-sized pieces and saute with olive oil, minced garlic, dash of salt until halfway wilted (saute stems first, as they take longer to soften). Add the chopped baked beets to the cooking pot, then saute to desired level of wiltedness.

Recently I heard a farmer say that the best way to get kids to eat beets is to tell them that it'll turn their poo red... incidentally, this trick may work on some curious adults too, or at least serve as a warning for hypochondriacs!

My garden is churning out so many zucchini lately that I'm alternately freezing them and giving them away. My Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food book is getting a good workout. And I'm shopping for an Energy Star chest freezer, but the selection out there isn't what I would've thought, considering the rebates that are available... or maybe the stores I've hit are just picked over already? I'm also shopping for a nice big stainless steel pot to try my hand at canning this summer... any suggestions?


Monday, July 13, 2009

Recycling makes cents (and dollars!)

Baltimore City recycling news: 1+1 pickup started this week on July 13th, read all about it here.

Meanwhile in the county... In 2008, Baltimore County made $5 million from selling recyclables. That's million with an M. That's money that they didn't have to extract from us in the form of taxes. Doesn't that sound like another compelling reason to participate in curbside recycling, in addition to keeping useful materials out of landfills and reducing the need to mine or manufacture new? In San Francisco, residents are being compelled to recycle more forcefully by way of a new law that fines people for not recycling. More cities are expected to follow suit... so get into the habit of recycling now!

Some small town residents of New York and New Jersey are required to purchase trash tags for each bag they toss. Outside town limits, residents must hire private waste haulers to pick up trash in addition to purchasing trash tags. Recycling and composting a great way to cut down your household expenses in these areas, and the locals are catching on.

Know any towns that sponsor municipal compost pickup? In typical backyard composting, it's easiest to keep your green-to-brown mix simple by using only uncooked foods free of fats and oils. However, in large scale composting operations like Waste Neutral Group based here in Baltimore, it's possible to tweak the mix such that even cooked food scraps break down properly. Baltimore County already turns our curbside yard waste pickup into mulch and compost (which is free to residents)... maybe someday they will add weekly food scrap pickup too?

In the meantime, I know what you're thinking. Composting can be a dirty business. "But I can't compost, I live in an apartment." --actually, yes you can. NatureMill makes a composter small enough to fit into a corner of your kitchen.