Archive for the ‘green gadgets’ Category

Broccoli Sprouts, and a Good Green Gadget

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I’m aware of the nutritional benefits of sprouts, but except for bean sprouts to use in some Chinese dishes, I am not very interested in them except in the winter, for a simple reason; my whole yard is full of things that I would rather eat.  But this winter I decided to see whether, when fresh food from the garden is limited, sprouts could fill in to a degree.

I decided on broccoli sprouts for my experiment  because of their rather remarkable nutritional profile, and since I already know that I do not care to eat them as they come from the sprouting jar (too stringy,) I was planning to grind them into green smoothies. I ended up with some definite opinions about the process.

First, I have tried pretty much every sprouting gadget out there at this point, and have returned to half-gallon wide-mouth mason jars with the specialized sprouting lids shown above. They are called Masontops and are available on Amazon,  and they are pretty much the ultimate in a low-tech inexpensive gadget that actually works really well.   I tried all kinds of fancy sprouting set ups and found this to be the simplest and the most mold proof.

Second, get seeds that will actually sprout. I buy the broccoli seeds from Food for Life.

Start in the jar in the usual way, soaking overnight to begin with and then being sure to rinse and drain twice per day. The phalanges on the Masontops allow you to sit the jar upside down in the sink to drain really thoroughly.

A point will come when the seeds begin to hang together in a mat the shape of the jar rather than being loose, as shown above. At this point, I move them out of the jar and into an 8” x 8” Pyrex baking dish. I keep them covered with a damp dish towel, and continue to rinse twice per day.

After another day or two the sprouting seeds will be forming a mat in the dish. Now, I set them out in the morning  sun for about an hour, turn the whole mass over, and sun them for another hour. This is so they can increase their production of sulforaphane and other antioxidants.  Then they go in the refrigerator, and can be used at any point over the next few days.

Green smoothies are not exactly a gourmet delight, but they are an extremely handy breakfast to carry off to a busy day at work, and they actually don’t taste bad if I put in some ginger and orange rind to take the curse off. For one breakfast I use a large handful of broccoli sprouts, a little fresh turmeric and two coins of fresh ginger, a few dark green outer lettuce leaves or cabbage leaves, and  a slice of orange rind.  By this I mean a slice of the outside of an orange that includes both the zest and the white pith underneath, but no orange flesh. The pith of orange rind is not bitter.  I like a good sprinkle of stevia based sweetener.  I throw it all in the Vitamix with half a glass of water, blend on high speed for about a minute, pour into a shaker cup, and top up with sparkling water.

I usually drink the concoction out of an opaque blender cup,  but here I have poured a bit out into a cordial glass so that you are prepared for the color, which can startle people who aren’t used to it.  Personally I have no problem with green food as long as the color is not artificial, and it can be used to keep you focused on the idea of leafy greens being a really, really good thing.

There is a nutritional rationale to most of these choices:

Broccoli sprouts,  because of their high sulforaphane content.  You can read here about a study showing down-regulation of inflammatory markers in overweight people ( i.e. already in a state of inflammation) who consumed broccoli sprouts daily.

Outer leaves of lettuce or cabbage because that’s where most of the nutrients are. Outer cabbage leaves, especially, are nutritional powerhouses but I don’t have time to cook them every day, so the Vitamix ensures that they get used.

Glass jars, because most plastic sprouting  devices are subject to mold sooner or later.

Sun exposure, because there is good evidence showing that two hours of exposure to UV light causes the sulforaphane  content to increase significantly.

Fresh turmeric and ginger because they are antioxidant powerhouses, and the ginger disguises the slightly cabbagey taste of the sprouts.

A slice of orange rind because the rind contains more vitamin C than the flesh or juice of the orange but contains little or no sugar, and besides it tastes good.

Green smoothies  because I start my day with two servings of green vegetables down the hatch,  but can consume the veggies in the car at stop lights or when I get to work, and don’t have to get sprouts caught in my teeth.

 

Glories of Spring, and a Green Gadget

Spring in the garden is so beautiful that there is nothing you can do but admit to the cosmos that you could never have deserved this rush of glory but somehow received it anyway. The season conduces to a stance of awestruck gratitude. This is also the great season for salads, and on an average day my salad bowl contains somewhere between 12 and 20 species.  I don’t know how I managed to miss the existence of the Bluapple, a wonderful little device that absorbs ethylene gases and helps your salad greens stay fresher longer.  Two of these little devices and a year’s supply of refills come in under $20, a bargain when you consider how often it will save you from throwing away your salad materials.  Personally I always want to eat my salad greens within a few days of picking, but with this in my salad crisper, they are beautifully vibrant at the three day point, much as if I had just picked them out of the garden.  This is significant for working people because washing and drying salad greens takes time, and if you could do it a day or two ahead of time without loss of quality, you will definitely eat more salads.

A Minor Pleasure

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When scrabbling in the dirt in spring, I often long for badger claws. It would seem that I’m not the only one who ever thought of this, because now there are garden gloves with badger claws. Mine are the Garden Genie brand and I love them, especially for scratching seeds into the surface of wide beds and scratching mulch back from surfaces that I’m about to plant. They have claws on the right hand only. There is another brand, Honey Badger gloves, that are available with claws on the left hand or on both hands. In my view claws on both hands would be an impediment but then I haven’t tried them out.

I should also add that my old dog loves being very lightly scratched on the head with badger claws.

And here are some more crocuses, just because I can’t quit going on about them in early spring.

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Good Businesses: The Urban Store


Although my readers come from all over (even Kuwait, if you can believe it,) I try to keep an eye out for businesses and services that are of interest to my local readers here in Albuquerque. One of my most interesting findings so far is The Urban Store, at 3209 Silver Ave SE. Kathy and Chuck promote all things having to do with sustainability. Their mantra is “Grow, Eat, Return.” Grow good healthy local food, eat it, and return whatever’s left to the soil in a clean and usable form to grow more food and keep the cycle going.
When I first looked around the shop, I said to Kathy “You have all the stuff that really works.” After tiresome (and expensive) experimenting, I’ve found a lot of “green gadgets” that work and a lot of others that don’t. At the Urban Store the experimenting has been done for you, which will save you considerable time and money in the long run. They carry the Naturemill Composter, as well as a great variety of less high-tech composting systems. They have the books written by experienced people who actually know their stuff, and they don’t have the glossy but inaccurate ones thrown together to capitalize on the current fads. They have dehydrators and yogurt makers and cheesemaking supplies and kits to make organic wine and beer. They have an assortment of really well-crafted gardening tools, and shelves of bulk seeds, vermicomposting setups and solar ovens and lots more.
Now here’s the stuff that fascinates me: they work cooperatively with Desert Plastics, a local firm, to make rainbarrels and a wonderful micro-vegetable garden called the Urban Garden. This device, shown below, enables anyone to grow vegetables anywhere. It is cast from resin with UV inhibitors, and comes in 21 colors. It has its own drip system and drainage, and comes with 2 covers for protection from cold or blistering sun. The components are 100% recyclable. It is lighter and more durable than wood (which they also sell.) You can buy just the garden for $295, or for $400 they will deliver it to your site, fill it with organic soil, plant it with seeds for the veggies that you prefer, and give you some organic bug treatments and lots of training in how to micro-garden. The Urban Grower can make a garden out of a patio, balcony, or hard piece of ground that would be too much trouble to dig. They also carry rainbarrels, both stock and custom, and at next week’s Coop Tour they will be debuting a cast resin chicken coop. I’ll be there to take a look, because a chicken coop that’s easy to clean would hold a lot of appeal for me.


This store places a lot of emphasis on teaching, and in fact they will come to your site to consult on how to do whatever sustainable project you want to do.
I won’t use the term “green business,” because that has become a tired and overused marketing phrase with little meaning. Instead, I refer to “good businesses,” the sort that enrich our community and allow us to live better than we could without them. This is a good, even a great, business. You can visit them online, but it will be more fun to stop in and talk with them about how you’d like to make your life a little more sustainable. Whatever you have in mind, odds are that they already know a lot about it and can help you. And have fun! Ultimately, all this is not about giving-up in a grimly austere spirit. It’s about pleasure, and about how much you can have, and how good you can feel about what you do.

Green Gadgets: the Naturemill Composter


When I first saw this composter in an upscale catalog, I thought of it as a symbol of our shortcomings as a nation. Why, I thought, would any sane person spend hundreds of dollars to contain and electrify a natural process and pretend it’s “sustainable?”
Well, I was wrong. This is a neat solution for people with no room for a compost pile, but even for people like me who have a large yard and a compost pile, the Naturemill can become an irreplaceable link in efforts to live more sustainably. Here’s why:
1. The Naturemill is compact and energy-efficient. The maker estimates that it draws the same amount of power as a small lightbulb.
2. The compost reaches high temperatures, with the aid of thermophilic bacteria. That means that you can compost meat, cheese, bread, and other things that I would never put in my outdoor pile. Yes, I know that an outdoor thermophilic pile can compost these items, but I can assure you that in the time before it composts completely, it will draw rodents and roaches, even in an off-the-ground tumbler. I consider it unfair to yourself, neighbors, and the groundwater to try to compost these items outdoors in a suburban area.
3. Virtually any food waste item except citrus rinds and bones can be composted quickly and neatly in any quantity that a home kitchen is likely to produce. People with back pain or other problems that preclude managing a large compost heap can compost with almost no effort. It’s as easy as scraping plates into the garbage, and all you do is add some wood pellets (included when you buy it, and then you can use the wood pellets sold cheaply for fuel) and some baking soda. A concise booklet comes with the machine that’s full of good info about how to avoid problems.
4. Pay close attention here: it can compost pet waste at temperatures that make the finished compost safe. Nationwide, enormous quantities of dog and cat droppings are going into landfills or sitting around endangering the quality of water. There are communities where it’s illegal to put them in the garbage. So what do you do with them? I have been looking for a household solution for a while, and have constructed pet septic systems and every other damn thing, and this is the best solution I’ve found. I hope it goes without saying that you don’t keep it in the house if you are going to do this. The unit is well sealed and under most circumstances you don’t notice any odor when it’s closed, but if you are composting pet waste, there is an odor when it’s opened that is nothing like fresh droppings but which I certainly wouldn’t describe as pleasant. The finished compost smells earthy and like other compost.

The best commendation that I can make is that someone as frugal, thrifty, and outright cheap as me spent $400 for the Pro XE model and considers it money well spent. Read more about it at Naturemill. If you buy one, please let them know that Heather at My Urban Homestead sent you.