Garden & Agriculture Archive


The Morel of the Story? Think Like a Mushroom

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Calling all you fungi (and fun gals), it’s time to celebrate National Mushroom Month.

Our mycological-minded authors know more than a thing or two about the fascinating world of mushrooms—whether its foraging, cultivating, or concocting tasty recipes, we here at Chelsea Green have the books that are sure to answer your mushroom musings.

NEW Mushroom Books in 2014

Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation - In this comprehensive mushroom guide, mycologist Tradd Cotter shares innovative new methods for urban and off-grid growing, making mushroom-infused beers, morel cultivation, and more. Hear from the author himself and get a taste of his infectious enthusiasm for fungi as he urges people to “think like a mushroom” during his interview on Radio Vermont’s Mark Johnson Show. And, check out Cotter’s wild and cultivated mushrooms in the slideshow of images at the end of this post.

Farming the Woods - This book by Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel looks at agriculture from a completely new perspective—one that relies on forests for growing a wide range of food and medicinals, rather than open fields with straight rows of crops. Chapter 5 is all about mushrooms including stats on US production, cultivation tips, consumer demand, and species profiles. Here’s a preview of the foreword and introduction for Farming the Woods.

Chelsea Green Classics Featuring Mushroom Content

The Resilient Farm and Homestead - Ben Falk, award-winning author and expert permaculturalist, has written a manual for developing durable, beautiful, and highly functional human habitat systems fit to handle an age of rapid transition. Read what he has to say about the power of fungi and how, in addition to providing food and medicine, their existence makes ecosystems more resilient.

Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist – Think mushrooms and cocktails don’t mix? Think again. Michael Judd shares this recipe for a Maple Mushroom Martini featuring mushroom infused vodka.

Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares - This fascinating and fresh look at mushrooms—their natural history, their uses and abuses, their pleasures and dangers—is a splendid introduction to both fungi themselves and to our human fascination with them. Author Greg Marley sat down with us back in 2010 to talk about mushroom culture around the world and of course, his favorite edible mushroom.

And now, a slideshow of ‘shrooms…

The Endless Arugula Bed

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Want to save time and money while enjoying your greens as soon as possible in the spring? Consider extending your growing season by overwintering your crops—it’s both frugal and forward thinking.

Ben Falk, author of The Resilient Farm and Homestead, experimented with a bed of arugula by planting it in late September. Using a simple structure of quick hoops and greenhouse film to overwinter the crop, he was able to harvest the sweetest, most flavorful arugula he has ever tasted as early as mid-March!

Try producing your own endless bed of arugula, or experiment with another crop of your choosing, using these instructions from Falk’s book. If you do, you’re sure to have an ample supply of pesto in your future from your excess harvest.

The Resilient Farm and Homestead

Make Your Own Fruit Wine

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Have an excess harvest of a favorite fruit that you don’t know what to do with? Look no further—making your own fruit wine is easy, safe, and it’s as delicious as homemade pie or jam without the expiration date!

All you need is an abundance of the fruit of your choosing, orange juice, wine yeast, sugar, and patience. When it comes to flavors, the sky’s the limit.

Below is a recipe for blackberry wine from Michael Judd’s Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist.

Judd’s book is chock-full of advice on everything homegrown and homemade including growing your own fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, herb spirals, raised-bed gardens, recipes, and more.

Edible Landscaping With a Permaculture Twist

An Exploration of the Magical World of Mushrooms

Monday, August 18th, 2014

What would it take to grow mushrooms in space? How can mushroom cultivation reduce our dependence on herbicides? Is it possible to use mushrooms to clean up oil spills?

For more than twenty years, mycologist Tradd Cotter has been investigating the fascinating world of mushrooms and researching the answers to questions just like these.

In his new book, Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, Cotter offers readers an in-depth exploration of best mushroom cultivation practices with the attitude that mushrooms can be grown on just about anything, anywhere, and by anyone. He also shares his groundbreaking research on challenges such as cultivating morels, “training” mycelium to respond to specific contaminants, and using mushrooms in disaster relief situations.

Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation is divided into three parts. Parts 1 and 2 provide a basic foundation of knowledge about mushrooms as well as a series of low-tech applications for both indoor and outdoor cultivation, while Part 3 focuses on advanced and experimental techniques that require a higher skill level and more technical equipment. Finally, Part 4, “Meet the Cultivated Mushrooms,” includes informative profiles of over 30 mushroom varieties.

Cotter hopes this book sparks a passion in its readers and inspires them to contribute their own findings to the body of knowledge about mushrooms. “I hope this book serves you well in giving you the skills necessary to explore mushroom cultivation and empowering you to dream up experiments and ideas on your own, “ he says in his Introduction. “Part skill, part art, part intuition, mushroom cultivation will give you a lifelong relationship with this incredible kingdom of life.” Read the full introduction here.

We asked Cotter about his own relationship and work with mushrooms. Below are a few of his responses. To hear more from the author himself and to get a taste of his infectious enthusiasm for fungi, listen to this interview on Radio Vermont.

An Interview with Mycologist Tradd Cotter

CG: What, or who, inspired you to get started growing mushrooms, and what keeps you inspired to continue?

TC: It’s hard not to be inspired by the mushrooms I grew myself. It just never gets old. After 22 years I can still honestly say I wake up anxious and excited to peek into the growing room or wander down the trail to see if anything is fruiting. From the moment I cultured my first mushroom after many failures, and not giving up, these mushrooms have taught me how to keep challenging myself to make these dreams come true.  Mushrooms are constantly surprising me and revealing their gifts, and I am lucky to have stuck with this so long to access their hidden talents and share them with the world.

My personal support comes from my wife Olga, who also runs the business and shares this life devoted to fungi, along with friends, family, professors, and most importantly our customers and attendees to workshops and lectures, where I look out and see a room full of amazed faces, smiling and grinning, having a good time.  I love to entertain and help people understand complex concepts through basic analogies and a little off-the-hip humor. The mushrooms themselves are very inspiring, too. I love a challenge, and many of them have never been cultivated before, so these mushrooms in particular are life-long dreams to be able to set goals high and keep making an effort to succeed. Fail forward as they say.

CG: One of the most interesting aspects of your book, and which sort of goes against conventional wisdom, is that you don’t need to invest in a huge amount of expensive equipment and infrastructure in order to get good yields. Can you give some examples of the “low-tech” and “no-tech” methods you describe?

TC: I began my journey cultivating mushrooms at a high-tech facility, then worked my way backwards to see how far I could go using very little—next to nothing in fact—to cultivate mushrooms just about anywhere on anything.  Since resources and equipment is a limiting factor for starting a mushroom farm for most folks, I wanted to show the world how easy it is to get started and build on a gradual degree of difficulty rather than trying to invest a lot of time and money into a project that may prove overwhelming. The entire concept of cultivation is scalable, so my best suggestion to growers is to start small, learn the easiest mushrooms to grow, then build on your success and expand your growing to a level you are comfortable with, whether it’s just a few logs at home or a large scale commercial operation. Training yourself to become a great, intuitive grower is better than fancy equipment and high-tech conditions if you don’t understand the fine-tuned details of every species, and failing at that level can be disastrous financially. Only a small percentage of the population will make the leap to the high-tech tier of cultivation, and so that is why this book fills the void for the rest of us! These small scale home and farm systems and experiments are all anyone may need to grow enough mushrooms for themselves or their family, it’s about finding a system that meets your comfort level, and there are many options in this book for everyone. From cultivating mushrooms on spent coffee grounds and paper waste at your home, office, or school to cloning mushroom with cardboard and expanding them like a bread culture into thousands more, this book is designed to teach you that there are no limits to your imagination.

CG:What’s the most exciting project you’re working on right now at Mushroom Mountain?

TC: I am working on several parallel projects, such as the fire-ant cordyceps, which is an amazing find that we are working with that could help millions of people and livestock, which is a fungus I discovered in South Carolina that is target specific to a small clade of ants that include Fire Ants instead of killing all of the insects and organisms in the area with broad spectrum, chemical based insecticides. The fungus mummifies the ants and sprouts small antlers from their brains!

But my favorite has to be the medical screening of fungi using a patented process we developed. I describe it in the book in a way that anyone can use the method for basic research, but it has really blown up into an amazing mistake. Sometimes we are so set in our way of doing things that making a error can make you notice another way that was always there, just hidden from view. Fungi are factories, and many mushrooms are tooled to create amazing combinations of antibiotics and enzymes, or medicinal and industrial products, much like an assembly line.  All I am doing in our lab is giving the mushrooms a challenge and direct them to produce a product that I am looking for. Imagine walking into a hospital with strep throat, where they take a throat culture, and one day later you have a personalized cocktail of natural antibiotics the fungus created just for you! I just don’t see any limits to this natural technology and see it as a game changing process that could lead to many discoveries and rattle the pharmaceutical industry.

I love these serendipitous moments of accidental discovery, and the realization that this will never get old to me. Every time we make a discovery of this magnitude it can lead to many more, and that is why I share my ideas like these in the book—so others can build on them and have fun exploring for themselves using my experience as a bridge to a new way of thinking.

 

Join Tradd Cotter and explore the magical world of mushrooms in Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation.

 

How to Save Tomato Seeds

Friday, August 8th, 2014

As your favorite variety of home grown tomatoes start ripening on the vine this summer, be sure to save those seeds for next year’s planting.

Award winning author and activist Janisse Ray points out in her book, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food, that, “in the last one hundred years, 94 percent of seed varieties available at the turn of the century in America and considered a part of the human commons have been lost.

In her book, Ray travels across the United States visiting people dedicated to preserving heirloom food varieties simply by growing them and diligently saving and sharing their seeds.

Like Ray, you too can be a seed-saving revolutionary. Read the excerpt below to learn how to save tomato seeds. It takes a bit of care to get the seeds out of the gelatinous tomato goo they’re suspended in, but once you’ve done it you can use those seeds to cherish and perpetuate the unique flavor of your tomatoes.

For more information on seed saving, learn how to breed your own plants from expert gardener Carol Deppe (Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, The Resilient Gardener) and what the right questions are to ask when determining what crops will grow best on your land from author John Navazio (The Organic Seed Grower).

*****

How to Save Tomato Seeds

By Janisse Ray

Pick nice tomatoes that would be perfect for a mean kid to mash up. If they’re large, slice them in half at the equator. Hold them over a canning jar. (Try not to use plastic for anything. Plastic is bad stuff.) Milk the pulp, meaning the gelatinous matrix that suspends the seeds, like frog eggs, into the jar. If you’re working with cherry tomatoes, you’ll have to hold the whole tomato between your fingers and squeeze. The only thing left will be the skin.

Put the jar lid on, give it a shake, and label it with the name of the variety inside. If you don’t label the jar, you will forget what it contains. If you have two tomatoes you’re saving, you think you can sit Yellow Mortgage Lifter on the right and Pruden’s Purple on the left and remember what’s what, and pretty soon you’re wondering if Yellow Mortgage Lifter was on the right or the left. Just do it.

The tomato hull can still be eaten. I think sauce is a good idea at this point.

Fermenting, which is what you are doing with the goopy mess in the canning jar, is the best way to save tomato seeds because the process dissolves the gel—which contains chemicals that inhibit germination. Fermentation causes the seeds to germinate more quickly when you plant them the following spring. Fermenting also breaks down the seed coat where seed-borne diseases like bacterial canker, spot, and speck can lurk. Let the mess stand for two or three days in a warm location, longer if the temperature is below 70°F. The books say to stir daily but I don’t.

When a layer of blue-gray mold covers the surface of the tomato-seed funk, the process is complete.

Occasionally in hot weather (seven months a year here), I have had the seeds start to germinate inside the goop, which means that I’ve left them too long untended and they think they’ve actually been planted and it’s time to race off again into plant-building and fruit-making. Don’t be like me.

Look at the underside of the jar. The viable seeds will have sunk to the bottom. Pick off the scum, then fill the jar with warm water and begin to pour off the now-rotten goop, being careful not to pour out your seeds. You may have to add water or rinse seeds off the insides of the jar and pour again, slowly. Viable seeds keep sinking to the bottom. Do this until you have mostly seeds and water in the jar.

Now dump the seeds into a large metal strainer whose holes are smaller than the seeds, rinse, drain for a few minutes, then spread them on a screen or on a plate covered with newsprint or a clean rag (don’t buy paper towels). Leave the seeds until they dry.

Label—very important!—and store.

 

Photo by Jonathan Billinger, Wikimedia Commons

What Happened to the Essential Nutrients in Our Food?

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Everyone needs vitamins and minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium and others to stay strong and healthy. In the following excerpt from Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country, author Courtney White explains why these essential nutrients have decreased in our food and how we can get them back. 

*******

Essential Minerals: Cover Crop Workshop, Emporia, Kansas
by Courtney White

It must have looked silly. Twelve of us were hunched over in a corn field under a blazing July sun, a few miles north of Emporia, Kansas, swishing butterfly nets among the corn stalks like deranged collectors chasing a rare breed of insect—deranged because it was a record-breaking 105 degrees! The federal government announced two days before I arrived that the Midwest was in the grip of the worst drought since 1956. Legions of farmers had begun plowing under or chopping up their stunted corn and soybean crops, already writing off the year as a complete failure. There we were, however, swishing our nets back and forth fifty times in a good-looking corn field owned and farmed by Gail Fuller, with nothing between us and the blazing sun except our determination to follow instructions and find spiders.

We found lots of spiders.

Back under the shade of a large oak tree, we handed our nets to our instructor, an affable entomologist with the US Department of Agriculture, who searched through them enthusiastically, pulling out spider after spider with his bare fingers (most spiders are poisonous, he told us, but very few can pierce human skin). Peering over his shoulder, I was amazed not only by the quantity of spiders in my net but by their diversity. I never knew so many odd-looking spiders existed! And who would have expected it from a corn field, in a record drought, during midday heat … which was exactly the point of the exercise, of course.

In a conventionally managed, monocropped Midwestern corn field, planted with genetically modified (GM) seeds, fertilized with industrially produced nitrogen, and sprayed with synthetic chemicals, there would be no spiders, the entomologist told us— drought or no drought. There wouldn’t be much of anything living, in fact, except the destructive pests that could withstand the chemicals. The corn field we had just swept, however, was different, and I knew why. Fuller’s field was no-tilled, it had a cover crop (and moisture in the soil as a result), it didn’t use GM seeds, its corn coexisted with a diversity of other plants, and livestock were used to clean up after the harvest—all the things I had learned in my travels so far. All in one field, all under a broiling sun.

Seeing them together, however, wasn’t the reason I had driven across humid Kansas in mid-July. I came to hear Jill Clapperton, an independent soil scientist and cover crop specialist, and to ask her a question: What happened to the nutrition in our food? And a second one: How can we get it back?

These questions first formed in my mind two years earlier, when I heard pioneering Australian soil scientist Christine Jones say at a conference that it was possible to buy an orange today that contained zero vitamin C. As in zilch. It got worse. In Australia, she continued, the vitamin A content of carrots had dropped 99 percent between 1948 and 1991, according to a government analysis, and apples had lost 80 percent of their vitamin C. She went on to say that according to research in England, the mineral content of nearly all vegetables in the United Kingdom had dropped significantly between 1940 and 1990. Copper had been reduced by 76 percent, calcium by 46 percent, iron by 27 percent, magnesium by 24 percent, and potassium by 16 percent. Furthermore, the mineral content of UK meat had dropped significantly over the same period as well—iron by 54 percent, copper by 24 percent, calcium by 41 percent, and so on.

This is important because all living creatures, humans included, need these vitamins and minerals to stay strong and healthy. Iron, for example, is required for a host of processes vital to human health, including the production of red blood cells (hemoglobin), the transportation of oxygen through our bodies, the conversion of blood sugar to energy, and the efficient functioning of our muscles. Copper is essential for the maintenance of our organs, for a healthy immune system, and to neutralize damaging “free radicals” in our blood. Calcium, of course, is essential for bone health. And every single cell in our body requires magnesium to function properly. Vitamins are organic compounds, by the way, composed of various chemicals and minerals, including carbon.

A deficiency or imbalance of these minerals (necessary to us only in small amounts) can cause serious damage to our health, as most people understand. That’s why taking vitamin pills has become such a big deal—and big business—today, especially where young children are concerned. But few people stop to think about why we need vitamin pills in the first place. It’s not simply because we don’t eat our veggies, or because we drink too much soda, but because the veggies themselves don’t have the amount of essential nutrients that they once did. As Jones quipped, for Aussies today to gain a comparable amount of vitamin A from carrots that their grandparents could, they’d have to eat themselves sick.

What happened to the nutrition in our food?

Well, the quick answer is that industrial agriculture happened. The hybridization of crops over the decades for production values—yield, appearance, taste, and ease of transport—has drained fruits and vegetables of nutrients. But the main culprit is what we’ve done to the soil. As a consequence of repeated plowing, fertilizing, and spraying, the top few feet of farmland soil has been (1) leached of its original minerals and (2) stripped of the biological life that facilitates nutrient uptake in plants. Some farms, especially organic ones, resupply their soils with mineral additives, but many farms do not, preferring to rely on the Big Three—nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus (NPK)—to keep the plants growing. According to the industrial mind-set, as long as crops are harvestable, presentable, digestible, and profitable, it doesn’t matter if their nutrition is up to par. If there’s a deficiency, well, that’s what the vitamin pills are for!

However, it was the next thing that Jones said that spun my wheels. There was another way to remineralize our bodies without having to rely on pills or their corporate manufacturers: restore essential elements the old-fashioned way—with plant roots. With carbon, specifically. Building humus by increasing the amount of carbon in the soil via no-till agriculture, planned rotational grazing, and other practices that stimulate mycorrhizal fungi/root activity and the production of glomalin, she said, would (1) increase the availability of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sulfur, copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, and boron to plant roots (which are good for plants); (2) reduce availability of sodium and aluminum (which are bad for plants); and (3) increase the pH in the soil (from acidic to neutral—good for everything).

Access to these essential minerals in combination with carbon means vitamins and other types of nutrients, including acids, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, can be produced within a plant.

One key to building soil carbon on farms is cover cropsplants that keep the land covered with something green and growing at all times, even in winter. I went to Kansas to find out more.

“A feast for the soil”

Clapperton, who hails originally from Canada but lives today on a Montana ranch, told the workshop audience that the key to rebuilding soil health is to start a “conversation among plants.” Cool-season grasses (such as barley, wheat, and oats) and cool-season broadleaf plants (such as canola, pea, turnip, lentil, radish, and mustard), she said, need to dialogue constructively with warm-season grasses (including millet, corn, and sorghum) and warm broadleafs (such as buckwheat, sunflower, and sugar beet). Who gets along with whom? Who grows when? Who helps whom? If you can get these plants engaged in a robust conversation in one field, she said, you’ll be creating “a feast for the soil.” That’s because increased plant diversity, as well as year-round biological activity, absorbs more CO2, which in turn increases the amount of carbon available to roots, which feeds the microbes, which builds soil, round and round.

This is exactly what happened on Fuller’s farm. When he took over the operation from his father they were growing just three cash crops: corn, wheat, and soybeans. Today, Fuller plants as many as fifty-three different kinds of plants on the farm, mostly as cover crops, creating what Clapperton called a “cocktail” of legumes, grasses, and broadleaf plants. He doesn’t apply any herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers either, despite the recommendations of his no-till neighbors and chemical manufacturers who advise them. That’s because Fuller considers “weeds” to be a part of the dynamic conversation as well. Besides, chemicals kill life, Clapperton reminded us, including spiders, dung beetles, and even grasshoppers.

As a result of this big, robust conversation, Clapperton said, the carbon content of the soil on the Fuller farm has doubled from 2 percent in 1993 (when they switched to no-till) to 4 percent today. That’s huge. But what about the mineral content of Fuller’s crops?

That’s risen dramatically too, she said, and it’s done so for two reasons: First, no-herbicide/no-pesticide no-till means the microbial universe in the soil remains intact and alive, and if the soil dwellers have enough carbon (as an energy source) they will facilitate the cycling of minerals in the soil, especially earthworms, who are nature’s great composters. Second, a vigorous and diverse cover of crops will put down deeper roots, enabling plants to access fresh minerals, which then become available to everything up the food chain, including us. And by covering the soil surface with green plants, or litter from the dead parts, Clapperton said, a farmer like Fuller traps moisture underground, where it becomes available for plants and animals (of the micro variety), enabling roots to tap resources and growing abundant life.

“Aboveground diversity is reflected in belowground diversity,” she said. “However, soil organisms are competitive with plants for carbon, so there must be enough for everybody.” Predator-prey relationships are also important to nutrient cycling, she said. Without hungry predators, such as protozoa and nematodes, the bacteria and fungi would consume all the nutrients in the soil and plants would starve. Predators aboveground play a positive role too, including spiders and especially the number one predator, ants!

How do essential minerals get into plants?

There are two principal paths: First, minerals can dissolve in water, and when the water is pulled into the plant through its roots, the minerals are absorbed into the cells of plant tissue. Whichever minerals the plant doesn’t need (or doesn’t want) will remain stored in the cells. Second, mineral nutrients can enter a plant directly by being absorbed through the cell walls of root hairs. Some minerals, such as phosphorus, can also “hitch a ride” with mycorrhizal fungi, which then “barter” them for carbon molecules from the plant roots. Of course, if there aren’t any minerals in the vicinity, no uptake into plants is possible!

It all begins with a dynamic conversation at a cocktail party for plants—where everyone is gossiping about carbon!

Standing under the oak tree at the end of the workshop, after we had oohed and aahed over a giant wolf spider someone discovered under a shrub, Clapperton reminded us why using nature as a role model—for cover crops in this case—was so important: we need to recycle nutrients, encourage natural predators to manage pests, and increase plant densities to block weeds, which in a natural system are all integrated and interconnected strategies.

This reminded me of something the great conservationist Aldo Leopold once wrote:

“The black prairie was built by the prairie plants, a hundred distinctive species of grasses, herbs, and shrubs; by the prairie fungi, insects, and bacteria; by the prairie mammals and birds, all interlocked in one humming community of cooperations and competitions, one biota. This biota, through ten thousand years of living and dying, burning and growing, preying and fleeing, freezing and thawing, built that dark and bloody ground we call prairie.”

One biota. With carbon at its core.

 

Photo: Ben Collins, Wikimedia Commons

What is a Plant Guild?

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Technically speaking, a plant guild is “a beneficial grouping of plants that support one another in all their many functions,” and “support animals and humans for all their food, medicine, and utility needs.”

Ok, but…what exactly does that mean and, more importantly, how do you create a guild that is right for your food forest or permaculture project?

Enter three plant experts and permaculture designers, Wayne Weiseman, Daniel Halsey, and Bryce Ruddock, who have it all figured out and are in the mood to share.

“Each niche, yard, lot, or field has a long list of potential plants that will thrive there, and it is our task to define them, and design an ecosystem to support our and nature’s abundance,” write the authors.

Their book, Integrated Forest Gardening: The Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems is the first of its kind and will be of immeasurable benefit to permaculturalists of all abilities for years to come. A comprehensive book about plant guilds that answers specific questions like how to actually configure a guild, how to select the plants, what function each plant serves, and more.

Called “a rich feast of nature love” by Peter Bane (publisher, Permaculture Activist), Integrated Forest Gardening benefits readers of any scale.  Whether you are a permaculture designer and professional grower, or backyard gardener completely new to the concept of permaculture, you’ll find a wealth of information along with extensive color photography and design illustrations in this detailed guide to developing what is most basic to any permaculture system—plant guilds. Read Chapter 1 in the excerpt below.

Award-winning author Toby Hemenway believes, “Integrated Forest Gardening fills a major gap in the canon of permaculture books.”

“No longer is this subject mysterious and daunting,” writes Hemenway. “In this book we now have specific instructions for designing and installing multispecies plant groups. Chapter 7, which describes fifteen guilds and their plant members, is a golden nugget worth the price of the book alone.”

The idea of being able to take this book and replicate its principles in one’s own community, whether that be on a rural farm, or in a town or city, is exactly what the authors envisioned when they set out to write it. Their hope for this book is to cause a ripple effect, encouraging more people to embrace the vast potential of our plant world.

“Plant guilds are not limited to a few simple functions. You have ample opportunity to design and develop diverse guilds that focus on specific modalities: animal foods, oils, fibers, medicines, spices, endlessly. You might embed yield functions in a broad services guild, or you can design based on a particular theme that meets basic needs. Experiment, explore, ask yourself, What do I need for my family’s sustenance? Proceed from here.”

For more from the authors, check out their permaculture month where they answered questions submitted by readers. Learn about water harvesting ditches known as swales, the research behind plant guilds, and notes on implementing plant guilds based on differing water requirements:

Are Swales Right for You? – Wayne Weiseman
Plant Guild Research and Development – Bryce Ruddock and Daniel Halsey

Integrated Forest Gardening: Chapter One

Putting Grasslands to Work

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

This year’s annual international conference of the Savory Institute will be held in London the first week of August, and will feature two Chelsea Green authors – Courtney White (Grass, Soil, Hope) and Judith Schwartz (Cows Save the Planet) along with Joel Salatin whose books Chelsea Green distributes.

The conference theme — “Putting Grasslands to Work” — will focus on ways in which holistic management can improve soils, increase nutrient density, sequester carbon, and reverse desertification. In other words, have grasslands do the work of healing the planet.

“The age of Holistic Management is upon us. There is an undeniable need for humans to honor the complexity of the natural world,” notes the conference website. “We’ve seen a new awakening among people to embrace living in harmony with their environment.The movement has reached critical mass and is exploding all around the globe.”

White and Schwartz will take part in a two-part panel discussion about the untapped potential of soil. As both authors point out in their respective books, soil can be seen as a way to solve some of our most intractable environmental problems.

“I don’t mean to come across as naive, or to suggest that we can throw some cattle and compost on the ground and go on wasting and polluting as before. But neither am I willing to be paralyzed by despair, nor take refuge behind that barricade of indifference, no matter how tempting at times. I know how bad things are. But we’ve got to start somewhere. Soil restoration can be done anywhere: one watershed, one community, one abandoned field. At whatever scale, attend to the needs of the soil, and the ecological cycles will begin to get back in sync.,” writes Schwartz in the introduction to her book.

As White notes in the prologue to his book, “Here’s the really exciting part: if land that is bare, degraded, tilled, or monocropped can be restored to a healthy condition, with properly functioning carbon, water, mineral, and nutrient cycles, and covered year-round with a diversity of green plants with deep roots, then the added amount of atmospheric CO2 that can be stored in the soil is potentially high. … soils contain about three times the amount of carbon that’s stored in vegetation and twice the amount stored in the atmosphere. Since two-thirds of the earth’s land mass is grassland, additional CO2 storage in the soil via better management practices, even on a small scale, could have a huge impact. Grasslands are also home to two billion people who depend on livestock—an important source of food and wealth (and culture) to much of the earth’s human population. Both these animals and their human stewards could be mobilized for carbon action.”

And mobilize for action is what the Savory Institute conference is about. Check out their website, and if you’re in London the first week of August, be sure to stop by for information and inspiration.

25% off Essential Books for Homesteaders

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

In this age of rapid change, how can we best adapt to sustain our food systems and regenerate our land?

Drawing from time-tested holistic techniques our authors show homesteaders, farmers and growers of all sizes how to remain resilient.

Whether you grow veggies and herbs on your balcony, intensively garden a half-acre on your homestead, or make a living off the land, we’ve got a book (or two) for you. Now through July 31st SAVE 25% on books for your homestead or small farm. 

Our books and authors never skim the surface – they think in systems and farm holistically, applying the wisdom of letting nature do the heavy lifting and giving the skills to empower you.

We hope you’re having a busy and abundant growing season!

Happy reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing

P.S. Don’t forget to look at our full list of sale books here: www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/sale


Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only). International orders can be placed by phone (802-295-6300) or email.


Homesteading Books: 25% off until July 31st 

The Resilient Farm and Homestead
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Dried Tomato Recipes: Enjoy Your Harvest All Year Long

Monday, July 7th, 2014

As your tomatoes start ripening on the vine this season, think ahead to how you want to preserve your summer harvest and enjoy it all year long.

Here are a few versatile dried tomato recipes that are easy to make and don’t require freezing or canning.

For more recipes using traditional preserving techniques like salt, oil, drying, cold storage, vinegar, and fermentation, read Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning by the Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante, on sale now for 35% off until July 15.

Tomatoes Dried Naturally

  • Tomatoes
  • Almond oil (or another mild oil)
  • A clean rag
  • Drying apparatus
  • A glass jar

Tomatoes are by far the vegetable most often preserved by drying in various forms.

We prefer to use the ‘Beefsteak’ variety, a pulpy tomato with fewer seeds.

Peel the tomatoes. (If this poses a problem, soak them for a few seconds in boiling water.) Cut them lengthwise (from bottom to top) into slices approximately 1/4-inch thick and remove the seeds. Place the slices on a clean rag to absorb the juice. Oil the dryer screen lightly, preferably with mild almond oil, so that the slices will not stick. When the slices are dry on one side, turn them over; they will be hard when dry. Store the tomatoes well packed in a glass jar.

To use, pour one cup of boiling water over one-half to three-quarter ounces of dried tomatoes per person, and leave them to soften for a few minutes. Add a teaspoon of olive oil, season to your tate, and serve with a purée or a grain dish. We also add these tomatoes to grains or vegetables that are nearly done cooking.

Odile Angeard, Cognin

Stuffed Dried Tomatoes in Oil

  • Tomatoes
  • Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Anchovy fillets (optional)
  • Fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • Oil
  • Drying apparatus
  • A glass jar

I dry my tomatoes in a solar dryer, cut in half and seeded (easily done with a small spoon). When the tomatoes are dry, stuff a little finely chopped parsley and garlic between the two halves. If you like, add an anchovy fillet, or a basil leaf. Place the reassembled tomatoes in a jar and cover with oil. These are delicious added to a salad during winter.

Anonymous

Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil

Variation 1:

  • 4 lbs. tomatoes
  • 1 lb. coarse salt
  • Oil
  • Drying apparatus
  • Gauze
  • A clean, dry cloth
  • Glass jars

Choose very ripe, small, oblong tomatoes. The Italian variety “Principe Borghese’ is an excellent drier, as are many smaller plum or “paste” tomatoes.

Cut the tomatoes in half, place them on a tray set in the sun, add salt, and cover with gauze to protect from insects. During the day, turn the tomatoes over twice; at night, bring them inside to protect from moisture.

A few days later, when you see that they are very dry but not totally dehydrated, remove some of the salt with a clean, dry cloth. Put the tomatoes into jars and cover them with approximately three-quarters of an inch of oil over the tomatoes, coming up to three-eights of an inch below the rim. Close the jars tightly and store them in a cool place. In Italy, tomatoes preserved in this manner are eaten as hors d’oeuvres, with no additional preparation.

Marie-Christine Martinot-Aronica, St. Dizier

Variation 2:

  • Tomatoes
  • Vinegar
  • Hot peppers, mint leaves, or whole garlic cloves (optional)
  • Oil
  • Drying apparatus
  • A glass jar

Choose tomatoes that are firm and completely intact, preferably plum tomatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise. Allow them to dry on trays in the sun, bringing them in whenever it is humid, and in at night to avoid dampness. When they are dry, soak the tomatoes in warm vinegar for twenty minutes. Drain and put them in a jar, alternating layers of tomatoes with one or two hot peppers, mint leaves, or whole cloves of garlic. Press well to allow any air to escape, and then cover with oil. These tomatoes will keep for a very long time. We eat them as hors d’oeuvres or with rice, pasta, meat, or fish.

Babette Cezza, Vergt


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