Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shrimp Braised with Kale and Green Garlic

Closeup of Shrimp Braised with Kale
US White Shrimp: Large and Reasonably Sustainable

Recipe Adapted from Recipes from the Root Cellar

I love shrimp and have noticed that readers do too. However, in years past it’s not been easy to find sustainably produced shrimp. Old school fisheries involve dragging a net along the bottom of the ocean, with a huge amount of bycatch: about 4 lbs. for every 1 lb. of shrimp caught. Many shrimp farms are open to the ocean, leaching antibiotics, commercial fish food, and shrimp waste into the environment. Some shrimp farmers destroy native mangrove ecosystems to build farms. Luckily, the Monterey Bay Aquarium publishes sustainable shrimp guidelines, and they are getting easier to follow. Trending now are hook-and-line caught shrimp and closed-system farms. The rebuilding of the US Gulf of Mexico fisheries after Hurricane Katrina and the pioneering of closed-system farming enterprises in Thailand and Vietnam are both great news for shrimp eaters. And if I’m reading the guidelines right, we can now buy sustainable shrimp at Costco for under $10 per pound.

Friday, April 26, 2013

DIY Square Foot Garden (SFG): Making a Hoop House

Hoop House with Cover Closed
Easy, Functional Hoop House

Instructions by Bruce

My last two posts were about making a square foot garden: building the raised beds, and mixing the soil and planting. Today is the final chapter, on what it takes to sustain the garden: water, fertilizing, and temperature control. Making an inexpensive hoop house will allow you to plant earlier and get growing despite nighttime temperature dips. You can also use the hoop house to foil most bugs while providing the diffused lighting that seedlings prefer. I’ve also included a few tips on early-season garden maintenance. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

DIY Square Foot Garden (SFG): Making Soil and Planting Seeds

Bruce Filling Raised Bed with Soil Components
Bruce in Action

Instructions by Bruce

Once you have a raised bed built for your square foot garden (details in Sunday’s post,) you’re ready to fill it with soil, make the square foot grid sections, and plant your seeds. You can also build a hoop house to protect small plants from cold temperatures; I will give hoop house instructions in my next post. All New Square Foot Gardening, the latest and greatest book by SFG pioneer Mel Bartholomew, recommends soil made from equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and organic compost from several sources. Vermiculite holds moisture and reduces the amount of watering necessary. But there is considerable debate about it due to its high cost and sustainability (it’s mined). Bruce reduced the amount of vermiculite in the mix. He noted that a high quality compost mixture also holds substantial water as well as loosening the soil—vermiculite’s other soil-building contribution. Bruce replaced the classic SFG wooden grid with a woven grid of nylon twine secured by wood screws, both of which we had on hand. Without a grid, as Mel Bartholomew points out, it’s not a square foot garden.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

DIY Square Foot Garden (SFG): Raised Bed Construction

Bruce Posing with Hammer After Making Raised Bed
My Hero of the Raised Beds

Instructions by Bruce

After doing a fair amount of research, hubby Bruce built some raised beds with a protective hoop house over the top.  He’s made a set of raised beds once before, and made some improvements this time. An IT guy by trade, Bruce made the construction sound easy. We were both intrigued by square foot gardening (SFG), a method of dividing the garden into square foot sections and planting one crop per square foot. The space requirement for a SFG is only 20% of that needed for a conventional garden. And you’re less likely to grow more than you can eat. It’s a great method to get food variety in a small space. We’re growing beans, lettuces, chard, squashes, braising greens, dill, and cilantro, despite recent near-freezing temperatures in the yard at night. I’m sharing Bruce's method for building the raised beds and hoop house over the next three posts. I encourage you to build your own too!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Shredded Root Vegetables over Pasta

Plate of Shredded Root Veggies over Pasta
Cheerful and Healthy Root Veggies

Recipe Adapted from Recipes from the Root Cellar

It’s that time of year when it’s officially spring, yet the temperature in our DIY “hothouse” where we’ve started garden seeds was 34 degrees last night. Looks like it will be a few weeks before we enjoy local spring veggies like snow peas, snap peas, and asparagus. In the meantime, we have winter root veggies like carrots, beets, turnips, and parsnips—and most of us are darned tired of them. Here’s a recipe for those wintry veggies that’s light-textured and sunshine-colored, the perfect antidote for a locavore’s early springtime blues.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Top Ten Reasons to Join a CSA Farm

Strawwberries in Field
LEF Strawberries on the Vine
Strawberries in Basket
LEF Strawberries in the Basket

Ideas Collected from CSA Subscribers

Springtime is the perfect season to join a CSA farm.  CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, is an arrangement where consumers subscribe to a local organic farm and receive a “farm share” of produce every week. You get a box of perfectly ripened local fruits and veggies straight from the fields, fresher and more flavorful that from any market. In turn, your CSA subscription gives the farmer resources to purchase seeds, soil amendments, and farm equipment, and assures him or her of recipients for the farm’s produce when crops are booming. Most CSA farms offer several box sizes and a choice of payment options. If you’re in the Santa Cruz/South Bay/Monterey area, I highly recommend Live Earth Farm, which has spaces for a few more subscribers this year. Our first boxes have included lettuce, cilantro, spinach and other greens, young carrots, beets, green garlic, and LEF’s legendary strawberries. I’m not exaggerating…you’ll not find any better strawberries anywhere. Folks from other US locations can find a farm on the CSA map provided by LocalHarvest.org.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April Veggies and Recipes

Double Pink Dogwood Blossom with Woods in Background
April Dogwood in my Yard

New Year in the Garden

As I said last year, April is one of my favorite months. Flowers burst into bloom in such rapid succession that we lose track of those whose blooms have faded. My husband built a cold frame for our garden last week, and tiny lettuces, beans, squash, and herbs are up already. We just received the first produce box of the year from our CSA, Live Earth Farm. Despite all of the springtime growth activity, our local veggie and fruit choices are still somewhat limited. Yet we’re assured, as days grow longer, of more variety and more food bounty soon. In the meantime, Santa Cruz locavores can check out Santa Cruz Local Foods.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pineapple Orange Stuffed Sweet Potatoes or Yams

Four Stuffed Sweet Potatoes on a Platter
Recipe Adapted from Old Photocopy

During the early days of spring, many of us await strawberries and other early-season produce none too patiently. In the meantime, I’m drawn to tropical fruits that are harvested year-round, like bananas and pineapples. ‘Course, they’re not exactly local, but are still “in season.” It’s a perfect time to use up the last of the wintry veggies, before we start harvesting their spring counterparts. Like the two gigantic yams (or sweet potatoes?) I've had since January. It’s also the perfect time to enjoy oranges; soon their season will be just a memory.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs and Easter Eggs on Platter
Easter Eggs Becoming Deviled Eggs

Recipe by Robin

Got Easter eggs? My husband and I had 26 left over after my natural egg dyeing experiments this year. Unless you’re Cool Hand Luke, that’s too many eggs to eat in a few days. Enter Daev’s perfectly-timed birthday potluck. Deviled eggs are one of the US’s most popular appetizers, and full of good nutrition. Web MD states that eggs are high-protein, vitamin-rich “powerhouses of disease fighting nutrients.” True that mayonnaise adds some fat, but the quantity per egg half is low. Try a low-fat mayonnaise to cut it down even more.