June 2015 - Our Daily Green

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Week #3 Community Supported Agriculture: featuring lots and lots and lots of lettuce

This is the season when lettuce is exploding from local gardens. With week three's CSA, I had almost three full pounds of lettuce. As much as I am slightly embarrassed to admit, I have gotten spoiled by the washed and prepped grocery store lettuce. "It's so convenient!" I tell myself. Until I taste lettuce that was just picked that day. Taste trumps convenience but I've found a wonderful way to have both that I must share with you.

I filled my sink with water and submerged all three pounds of lettuce, rinsing the dirt from the leaves. I removed all the cores and loosely tore up the leaves and shook as much water as I could from them.

Look how fresh and crisp that is! 
Portion family-serving sizes of the lettuce and lay it in the middle of a thin cotton towel (a tea towel). 
Didn't even make a dent in the bowl
Fold the towel over each side, swaddling the tender leaves.  

Roll each towel up gently, to absorb the water and keep the lettuce fresh. 

When ready to serve, simply unroll the towel into the bowl... 

And fluff the greens... VOILA! 

What I really like about this method of preserving my lettuce is that it is waste free. I used to wash lettuce and stick it in individual plastic bags with a few paper towels. But by using cloth towels, I can use them over and over. I've been trying more and more to minimize the plastic in our lives and re-using items instead.

Mama Daily Green used to do something like this in the "pre-salad spinner" days -- can you even imagine a day when salad spinners didn't exist? She sewed towels into bags to dry the lettuce. Of course that was after we walked uphill 10 miles each way in the snow to pick the lettuce.

Besides the lettuce, we also received:

  • Strawberries -- oh they are so good and disappeared so quickly. 
  • Chard -- another favorite way to use chard is as filling for fatayer, a Lebanese spinach pie. Sitto (my husband's grandmother always used Swiss chard instead of spinach). 
  • Cucumber -- first one of the season and it went deliciously into one of the many salads we've been enjoying
  • Zucchini -- Noodleless Zucchini Lasagna. While it was delicious, even after salting and squeezing the moisture out of my sliced zucchini "noodles", it was still very soupy. I'm open to suggestions to recreate the recipe with less moisture. 
  • Shell peas -- washed and snacked on. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Week #2 Community Supported Agriculture: featuring strawberries

Even though we're only on our second week of our Community Supported Agriculture, we've already learned a few things. Over the years, we've forgotten what it's like to eat seasonally. The artificial ripening and shipping of crops from around the globe has dulled our taste buds to the flavors of what is locally ripe and available. We forget how awful the firm but lacking-in-flavor red berries that masquerade as strawberries are any other time of the year but June (in Ohio).

But last week, in addition to our share, we also went strawberry picking at a local farm. Sixteen quarts of strawberries later, we were on our way to strawberry jam, strawberry ice cream, strawberry smoothies, strawberry salad, strawberry shortcake, etc. We felt like the Bubba Gump Shrimp of strawberries.

Bubba: Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it.

weighing the strawberries for the jam

Six of the sixteen quarts

Between picking strawberries and our weekly share, we were able to share our strawberries with friends and strangers. We gave a handful to the kids at the library where we picked up our share then gave one to some young college interns at a networking event. We also shared some of the strawberries with our neighbors. We think we won over some folks to the benefits of in-season fruit. Or more accurately the strawberries won them over!

While they are still in season, we'll also share one of our favorite hints on keeping the berries from molding (provided you actually don't eat them all in one sitting). This works on any berry, including raspberries and blackberries. Gently wash the berries in a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 10 parts water. The vinegar kills the mold spores in the berries and they will stay fresh longer. 

This week's share included: 

  • Strawberries
  • Napa Cabbage: we are going to make what else? A Napa cabbage and strawberry salad 
  • Red Leaf Lettuce: wilted lettuce
  • Chicory: Greens with a caveat. Chicory is quite bitter. It must be boiled and squeezed out before you eat it unless you enjoy extremely bitter food. Save the water you boil it in for houseplants. 
  • Kale: Colcannon
  • Snow Peas: eat raw as a snack and add to stir-fry. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Natural, organic pest control solutions for the summer

As the weather heats up, the bugs come out, and many homeowners find themselves searching for ways to keep insects out of their homes. There are countless forms of chemical treatment out there, but if you're looking for something that's more environmentally friendly, you may have to get a little creative. Here are a few ways that you can control some of the most common summer pests without using chemicals that are harmful to the environment.

Mosquito Control

Photo courtesy of: FreshGreenKim
Mosquitoes are a common pest during the summer, especially when you want to sit outside and have a nice evening barbecue. If you want to keep the mosquitoes away, try a few of these natural methods for repelling them:
  • Rosemary and sage: If you're using your barbecue, try putting some rosemary or sage on the hot coals. The smoke will repel mosquitoes.
  • Garlic juice: You can make your own mosquito-repelling spray by mixing 1 part garlic juice with 5 parts water. Put it in a spray bottle and apply to exposed skin to repel mosquitoes for up to 6 hours. You can also soak strips of cotton in this mixture and hang them up to repel mosquitoes in a certain area.
  • Flowers: Planting certain flowers in your garden can repel mosquitoes while beautifying your yard. Catnip, marigolds, rosemary, lemon balm, and citronella grass will all repel mosquitoes.

Ant Control

Cucumis sativus Blanco2.299
Illustration courtesy of:
 Wikimedia Commons
Ants can be bothersome at a picnic, but they're a nightmare when they start making their way into your home. If you have an ant problem in your home, try some of these environmentally friendly forms of ant control:
  • Cucumber: Many species of ants are repelled by cucumber. Place some slices or peels near points of entry or in areas where ants are most active.
  • Mint: Mint is another plant that naturally repels ants. You can plant this herb near points of entry, place a few sprigs around your kitchen, or even use bags of mint tea to repel these insects.
  • Cornmeal: Ants' digestive systems can't process cornmeal, but they're still attracted to it. Place small piles of cornmeal where you see ants, and they will take it back to the nest; it can take about a week, but eventually the colony should die off from eating the cornmeal.

Fly Control

Another common pest in the summer is the house fly. Though they're harmless insects, they're a major irritant, and they can leave germs everywhere they go. Try some of these natural fly repellents to keep them at bay:
  • Herbal bags: Create bags from small pieces of cheesecloth and fill them with crushed bay leaves, mint, eucalyptus, or cloves. Hang or place them around the house to repel flies.
  • Basil: You can plant this herb near your doors or keep it in small pots inside to help repel flies as well as mosquitoes.
  • Eucalyptus oil: Apply a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a cloth or rag, and leave it somewhere flies tend to congregate; the scent will drive them off and leave you with a fly-free zone.

These forms of natural pest control are quick, simple ways to handle some of the most common pests you'll see this summer without damaging the environment or exposing your family to potentially harmful chemicals. For more long-term solutions, many pest control companies now offer environmentally friendly pest control treatments.

We'd like to thank today's sponsors at Critter Control of Florida for these helpful hints. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Introducing Straw Straws

It's a drinking straw, made from straw!

From the "I wish I had thought of that" department, these all-natural straws are grown, not made from plastic, and could be a greener way to slurp your smoothie.

Sometimes the most sustainable way forward is backward, and considering the environmental havoc that plastics are creating in our world, perhaps it's time for the old-school method of making drinking straws from the stalks of rye to have its day in the sun again.

I'm not a fan of drinking straws, and can't actually remember the last time I opted to use one, but when you have kids, you do all sorts of things you never thought you would, and straws are now a part of our daily life because my children love to use them. And because plastic tends to be a handy material for a lot of consumer goods, even though it's a complete environmental boondoggle, I'm always on the lookout for more responsible alternatives.

We've tried glass straws, which are really great until they hit the floor and shatter (contrary to some of the claims of the makers of borosilicate glass straws, they aren't that durable, and certainly can't stand up to a three foot drop onto porcelain tile), so we've switched over to stainless steel straws. But a new alternative is on the way, and if this Kickstarter project reaches its goal, straws made from actual straw could be another way to get the plastic out of our lives.

According to the book Sundae Best: A History of Soda Fountains, customers of restaurants and soda fountains that were concerned about touching their lips to a glass that another customer used (and which might not be disinfected), were offered straws made from the stalks of rye grass, hand-cut and cured as a sideline by farmers that already grew rye for animal feed. In the late 1880s, however, Marvin C. Stone was unsatisfied with using rye straws, and invented the paper straw (which was made with paraffin-coated manila paper), and rye straws went out of fashion.

Straw Straws is bringing them back, and while they won't last nearly as long as a plastic straw, they are biodegradable and renewable, and could help provide a greener alternative to the 500 million plastic straws used every single day.

Alex Bennett, founder and Chief Straw Man of Straw Straws, has this to say:

The straws are hand-harvested and hand-cut from pesticide-free winter rye grown in Germany, and are sterilized and "approved by the FDA as a food contact substance." Straw Straws will also be grown in two locations in Maine by this Boston-based startup, which also pledges that Bennett "will not pay himself any money for one year from the time the Kickstarter launches."

The Kickstarter campaign for Straw Straws seeks to raise $12,500 by July 7th to fully launch the product, and backers can be the first to receive a package of these biodegradable drinking straws with a pledge of $25 or more.

Our Daily Green is happy to support this effort. We have not been compensated in any way for posting this article, we just think that Straw Straws are great and we'd love to see them succeed. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Five tips for better vehicle maintenance

The longevity of your car has a lot to do with how you take care of it. But what if you aren't sure which checks you should be performing on a regular basis? What steps can you take to keep your vehicle fully operational for decades to come? Here are just a few tips for better automobile maintenance.

US Army 53009 Car Show brings good turnout
Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven L. Shepard (United States Army)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Know Your Car

You should understand everything that goes on under the hood. You should know all about emissions, gas mileage and powertrain components. Take some time to learn more if your car knowledge isn't what it could be. If you aren't familiar with the inner workings of your vehicle, it'll be that much harder to recognize a problem when it appears.

2. Change The Oil

It may sound like an obvious suggestion, but you'd be surprised how many drivers are surprised when they realize how long it's been since their last oil change. Put it on your calendar so you won't forget. Your engine will thank you.

3. Wash It Regularly

Not only will it improve the shine of your car's exterior, but by hosing off all the salt, dirt and congealed nastiness from your underbelly, you'll also help to prevent damage and decrease aerodynamic drag. This in turn will boost your fuel economy.

4. Inspect Your Tires

Your wheels should be firm, tough and free of any accumulated debris. You'll also want to make a habit of greasing your wheel bearings so they stay lubricated enough to prevent wear down the line. Grease is cheap, but replacement spindles aren't.

5. Check Your Readings

You should be glancing at your dashboard every time you climb in the driver's seat. Are your brake lights blinking? Did you forget the all-important oil? Don't ignore any warnings given to you by your car. This is the kind of procrastination that leads to expensive repairs when the problems can't be brushed aside anymore.

If you're hoping to keep your car around for a long time, use these tips to boost performance and prevent malfunctions. Your vehicle is one of the most valuable things you own, so take care of it properly!

One of the key points to Our Daily Green's philosophy is less consumption and taking care of what we already own.We are so grateful to today's sponsor for these helpful hints to care for our car. 

What is Community Supported Agriculture?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is actually an idea that has been around the United States since the mid-1980s. As the local food movement grows, more and more folks are looking for ways to eat seasonal, local vegetables and fruits. Yet only 2% of the population actively farms. While Our Daily Green has a small garden with some of our favorite vegetables and herbs, we lack the space and time to grow all our own food. This is where CSAs come in. From the USDA publication library:

In basic terms, CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community's farm... Typically, members or "share-holders" of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer's salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm's bounty throughout the growing season... Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.

This is the first year Our Daily Green has joined our local CSA and we've recently received our first week's share. In the past we would haphazardly find farm markets, pick and choose a handful of items but rarely try anything new or different. We spent the weekend searching for recipes and realized that this would make a great weekly feature, how we used our share. This summer, each Monday, be sure to check out Our Daily Green for recipes from our produce share and share any ideas of your own.

In the future, we will feature step by step photographs. Since the idea came this week as we were washing our last dish, you'll have to imagine how delicious everything looked.

Here are the foods that came in this week's share and how we have used it so far:

  • Swiss Chard: Swiss Chard & Feta Tart from Jamie Oliver's recipes.  
  • Green Leaf Lettuce: Wilted lettuce with bacon & onion dressing 
  • Strawberries: just washed and devoured-- SO delicious this time of year -- heading back to same farm for Pick My Own later this week to make jam & strawberry ice cream 
  • Lettuce Mix: fresh salad
  • Bok Choy: stir fried with teriyaki, onion, and wasabi.       
  • Asparagus: haven't used it yet, but love asparagus on the grill, broiled or in a quiche 
  • Scapes (583373543)
    Garlic Scapes courtesy of:
    Dwight Sipler from Stow, MA, USA via Wikimedia Commons
  • Hinona Kabu Turnip: never had seen or heard of these before, but they are an heirloom vegetable. As you know, I used the greens in my pesto, but the turnips tasted something like a very mild radish and cabbage. Reminded me somewhat of kohlrabi. I decided to experiment with lacto-fermentation (which worked beautifully for my pickles last summer). Will let you know in a few weeks how this went.  
  • Garlic Scapes: Originally thought to make pesto but only received 4 scapes, which would make about a tablespoon... then I glanced at the fluffy green turnip tops and VOILA! our pesto was saved. We'd made pesto with radish tops before. Pesto actually will work with any most leafy greens. Don't let them go to waste. Turnip green & garlic scape pesto, with olive oil, pine nuts, a pinch of salt, and Parmesan cheese. Whirl in a food processor and enjoy over pasta or served on crusty bread. 
Stay tuned every Monday for our CSA report. If you want to join a CSA in your community, just search Local Harvest by zipcode for the one nearest you.

Friday, June 5, 2015

What to do with dead batteries (guest post)

Some rights reserved by JohnSeb
I used to think it was illegal to put batteries in regular trash, but that is exactly what New York instructs its residents to do. Except in California, D-cell and smaller alkaline batteries are not considered hazardous waste for trash disposal purposes. (The Environmental Protection Agency includes batteries in its list of hazardous household waste.)

 All batteries combine two metals and an electrolyte. Alkaline batteries use zinc, manganese, and for the electrolyte, either potassium hydroxide or  sodium hydroxide.

These electrolytes leak out of damaged batteries. They are corrosive,  reactive, and unstable when exposed to water. They cause severe burns if they come in contact with skin or eyes. They are definitely considered hazardous in large quantities, but legally at least, the amount of either metals or electrolytes in batteries is considered to pose no environmental or health risks.

photo from: Mathieu BOIS  via Wikimedia Commons
Just because something is legal does not make it right. No responsible chemistry teacher would ever allow students to conduct the crazy experiment that takes place in modern landfills. Chemicals that ought to be kept separate mingle there.

The water that percolates through the landfill soaks every battery discarded there, where the electrolytes combine with bleach, ammonia, and countless other chemicals that necessitate elaborate and expensive leachate collection systems. Rechargeable batteries, which contain mercury, and lithium batteries make their own additional contributions to this toxic broth.

Legal recognition of hazardous household wastes has come only fairly recently. These include paints, cleaners, oils, pesticides, and electronic wastes. It is illegal to put any recognized hazardous household waste in the trash.

Consider dead batteries hazardous household wastes even if they do not meet the legal definition in your jurisdiction. And don't forget rechargeable appliances with non-removeable batteries. What to do with hazardous substances depends on where you live.

Some communities, and I hope all medium-sized to large cities and suburban areas, have hazardous household waste drop off centers that are open year-round. Other communities designate certain days when residents can drop their hazardous wastes. A few communities might not offer any collection of hazardous household wastes at all.

If your community does not have a drop off center, or if you don't know where yours is, visit Earth911.com or phone them at 1-800-CLEANUP (1-800-253-2687).  You can also purchase a mailing box from The Big Green Box™ and mail your batteries to them. The price of the box includes all postage, handling, and disposal fees.

Thank you for today's post from writer David Guion who publishes the blog Sustaining Our World and has written multiple e-books on sustainability.