Simple Living Archive


How to Use Lambsquarter from Root to Plant to Seed

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Some people might take one look at a patch of lambsquarter and yank it out of the ground to rid their garden or yard of an undesirable weed. Not wild-foods advocate and author Katrina Blair. At her home in Durango, CO, she tends to her lambsquarter and a number of other so-called weeds with the utmost care.

Why, you ask? Because according to Blair’s extensive research weeds are entirely misunderstood plants. In her new book, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, she focuses on the thirteen plants which together comprise a complete food source and extensive medical pharmacy and first-aid kit.

Blair’s philosophy is sobering, realistic, and ultimately optimistic. If we can open our eyes to see the wisdom found in these weeds right under our feet, instead of trying to eradicate an “invasive,” we could potentially achieve true food security and optimal health.

Lambsquarter is one of Blair’s 13 “super weeds.” You can blend its leaves into a green juice, sprout its quinoa-like seeds and use them in a salad, mash its roots into a cleansing soap, and more. In the following excerpt, learn all about the edible and medicinal uses of lambsquarter and find recipes for a variety of lambsquarter-based foods and products.

Happy foraging!

*****

Edible Uses of Lambsquarter

Lambsquarter is exceptionally nutritious. Our bodies can produce fourteen of the essential amino acids, but eight of them need to be found in external sources. Lambsquarter is one of those valuable sources.

The whitish dust present on each leaf is made up of mineral salts from the soil and is an indication of its mineral-rich value. Often the lambsquarter leaves will taste salty and therefore make quite a nutritious salt replacement or addition to dishes! Lambsquarter seasoning is made easily by drying the leaves and mixing them with other spices.

Lambsquarter is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. For example, 3.5 ounces of raw lambsquarter, which is about 1 cup of greens, contains 73 percent vitamin A and 96 percent vitamin C of your recommended daily allowances suggested by the USDA. It is also a fantastic source of the B vitamins complex including thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.

Use Like Spinach

Wild lambsquarter vary in their tastes. The flavor is related not only to different species, but also to the stages of growth and to the soil conditions. In general, however, all lambsquarter leaves are edible. The wild greens can be used just like spinach. They can be eaten fresh in salads, juiced, and added to any recipes that call for greens. They are best eaten when younger, however; when the leaves mature with age, the flavor can change due to a greater potency of oxalic acids. I find that when lambsquarter has built up too many oxalic acids, I experience a slight burning sensation in the back of my throat. This is why I recommend tasting the leaves by themselves before harvesting any quantity of them. This is especially important when making green juices or smoothies. When downing a liquid in several gulps, your body does not have the time to tell you to stop.

Harvest Seeds in the Fall

The seeds make a highly nutritious food staple for multiple uses in recipes. They can be harvested in the fall and ground into cereal or used as flour for bread. Similar to quinoa, lambsquarter seeds can be easily sprouted in one to two days. Add the sprouts to any meal to benefit from the rich nutrients.  Lambsquarter seeds also make great microgreens. They start out small and frail looking but given time grow into healthy plants with delicious flavor.

All lambsquarter seeds are edible; however, some are easier to use for a food staple than others. The wild versions have varying natures of seed production. Some varieties are easy to harvest and separate the chaff, while others are quite difficult. When possible, separate the seed from the outer layer and always taste the wild grains alone before adding any seasoning or salt, to get the true taste of the food. This practice will protect you from overeating something that your body would normally tell you to stop eating.

Wild grains are more potent than domesticated grains and a small amount is often enough to sustain your energy. Another way to increase the seeds’ resources is not to cook them, but instead to sprout them. Sprouting the seeds is a natural way to let the outer layer fall off on its own. Using lambsquarter sprouts is a way to increase seed benefits and sustain your winter storage to last even longer! If wild plants are potent already and go a long way, sprouted wild grains are even more concentrated in nutritional value and truly go the extra mile for supporting your optimal health.

Medicinal Uses of Lambsquarter

Lambsquarter is an important source of food that can be considered a key staple, while at the same time it is also an extremely valuable medicine. When the leaves are chewed into a green paste and applied to the body, it makes a great poultice for insect bites, minor scrapes, injuries, inflammation, and sunburn. The greens are beneficial for soothing arthritic joint pain when chewed into a mash and placed directly on the sensitive areas.

The leaves support the decrease of pain by reducing inflammation and bringing about an increase of circulation.

A tea of the leaves is beneficial for diarrhea, internal inflammation, stomach aches, and loss of appetite. The tea can also be used as a wash to heal skin irritations and other external complaints. Soaking the body in bathwater with lambsquarter tea added will support skin health by toning and tightening the tissues.

The green leaves when eaten in their fresh raw state are particularly beneficial for supporting the healing of anemic blood conditions. The leaves are exceptionally rich in iron and help to increase blood cell count and overall vitality of the circulatory system. The greens and seeds are very high in protein and phenolic content, and also have significant antioxidant capacity for eliminating unwanted free radicals in the body.

The roots contain a significant amount of saponin, which creates a natural soapy quality when mashed or beaten. In addition to the roots being extremely useful in making a cleansing soap, the composition of saponin also creates a cleansing and laxative effect in the body when drunk as a tea. Lambsquarter root tea is helpful for removing excesses from the body by the way of assisting elimination.

The young greens, especially when tender in the spring, can be juiced for their calcium and vitamins A, C, and B complex in addition to vital enzymes, chlorophyll, and trace minerals. The juice has a gentle detoxifying nature. Lambsquarter is an important green in this day and age of accumulated pollution. The greens are valuable for purifying the body of unwanted toxins due to their exceptionally high chlorophyll content. The chlorophyll binds with or chelates toxins that may be stored in fat cells and removes them in the urine. Our body is wise and tends to isolate toxins away from our vital organs by storing them in fat cells. When the toxins are released into the bloodstream it is key to have a source of chlorophyll to bind up the toxins until they are discharged from the body. We want to assure that they are not redeposited in the body while in the bloodstream. Fasting is a beneficial way to detoxify the body; however, because of the concentrations of petrochemicals found in our daily environment, it is wise to avoid fasting on water alone. It is best to have the support of wild greens in the form of dilute juices to protect our cleansing bodies from the potential side effects of environmental toxins causing harm on their way out.

The young lambsquarter green juice is delicious, but when the leaves get older, make sure to taste them first to know if the flavor is agreeable to you. The gentle astringent properties of lambsquarter make it healthy for tightening internal organs as well as externally for skin. The juice makes a beautifying and cleansing body wash. It is also a useful mouthwash for tightening the gums and eliminating bad breath.

The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: Lambsquarter Recipes

Chelsea Green Celebrates 30 Years of Craft and Cutting Edge Books

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We here at Chelsea Green have always had a nose for authors and books that are years ahead of the cultural curve. That knack is clearly on display in a new anthology that we’re making available to celebrate our first thirty years in publishing.

More than one hundred books are represented in this collection and reflect the many distinct areas in which we have published—from literature and memoirs to progressive politics, to highly practical books on green building, organic gardening and farming, food and health, and related subjects—all of which reflect our underlying philosophy: “The politics and practice of sustainable living.”

The Chelsea Green Reader offers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher—something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.

“I like to think of these brief excerpts as individual stones in a cairn. A cairn is a landmark, a pile of rocks built by hikers high above tree line in the mountains. It grows larger and larger over the years as new hikers passing by contribute a new stone, or replace one that might have fallen. A cairn is there to confirm, even on a foggy day, that we are on the right path, and it indicates the way forward, to the summit,” writes Senior Editor Ben Watson in the book’s preface.

“Every book is a stone, or a brick in the wall, of an edifice that is always being constructed, constantly evolving, and never quite finished. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that a publishing company is colloquially referred to as a ‘house,’” Watson adds. “At Chelsea Green we continue to build, with our authors and their ideas, a great house, one that represents our deeply held values and beliefs, our hopes and our dreams.”CGP_grasshopper_olive green

From the beginning, Chelsea Green’s books were nationally recognized, garnering positive reviews, accolades, and awards. We’ve published four New York Times bestsellers, and our books have set the standard for in-depth, how-to books that remain relevant years—often decades—beyond their original publication date. Books in this volume range from ones that appeared in our very first catalog in 1985 (and remain in print today) to ones that have long since gone out of print, but not forgotten as important touchstones for us as a publisher.

“Chelsea Green was born from a single seed: the beauty of craft. Craft in writing and editing, in a story well told, or a thesis superbly expressed,” writes cofounder and publisher emeritus Ian Baldwin in the book’s Foreword.

This attention to craft has even informed our business model: In 2012, Chelsea Green became an employee-owned company as a way to “practice what we publish” and lay the groundwork to ensure that the founders’ legacy remained intact in the decades to follow.

The move made Chelsea Green unique among book publishers in an industry dominated by investor-driven, multinational corporations. Only a handful of independent book publishers can claim employee-ownership status, and of those Chelsea Green will be near the top in terms of the percentage controlled by employees.

With the rise of the Internet, new media platforms, and a constantly shifting bookselling landscape, the future of publishing is anything but predictable. But if Chelsea Green’s books prove anything, it is that, despite these challenges, there remains a hunger for new and important ideas and authors, and for the permanence and craftsmanship of the printed word. Today our ongoing mission is stronger than ever, as we launch into our next thirty years of publishing excellence.

“People are moved by what they read,” adds Baldwin in his Foreword. “That pertains whether they read an ebook or a printed one, and they want to connect with the writers who make their lives richer. Part of the publisher’s role is to help make this vitalizing connection. This nexus among author, publisher, and reader is, I believe, unlikely to wither anytime soon.”

The Ultimate Guide to Sheet Mulching

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

A fresh bed of sheet mulch isn’t as productive as one that’s six months old, so fall is the perfect time of year to start a new layer of mulch for your spring plantings. The layers of mulch and organic matter also help to protect the soil during the long winter months making it ready for your plantings come spring.

In the following excerpt from Gaia’s Garden, author and gardening expert Toby Hemenway presents a step-by-step tutorial on how to prepare and install the ultimate, bombproof sheet mulch.

For more tips on building soil fertility, conserving water, enhancing pollinator habitats, and creating your own backyard ecosystem, check out Gaia’s Garden, Second Edition: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture.

***

The Ultimate, Bombproof Sheet Mulch
By Toby Hemenway

Sheet mulching can be as simple as putting down layers of newspapers topped by eight to twelve inches of nearly any mulch material. But if you want to build the perfect sheet mulch, here’s how.

If this is your first sheet mulch, start small. Sheet mulch gobbles up a tremendous amount of organic matter—the roughly two cubic yards held by a full-sized pickup truck will cover about fifty square feet. But don’t scrimp. It’s much better to blanket a small area thoroughly than to spread the mulch too thin to smother weeds or feed the soil properly. Choose a site that’s not more than 200 square feet, in the proper location for the intended plants, and preferably near the house. Remember your zones: Deeply mulched beds will soon be covered with a riot of plant life, and you want these awesomely productive areas right outside your door, to easily tend or to admire the many avian and insect visitors.

What You’ll Need:

1. A two- to three-foot stack of newspaper, minus any glossy sections, whose inks may contain metal pigments (the black and colored inks on standard newsprint are soy-based and nontoxic), or about 300 square feet of corrugated box cardboard without staples or plastic tape. You can also use cloth, old clothing, or wool carpet, provided they contain no synthetic fabric, but these take far longer to decay than paper.

2. Soil amendments, depending on your soil’s needs: lime, rock phosphate, bonemeal, rock dust, kelp meal, blood meal, and so on.

3. Bulk organic matter: straw, spoiled hay, yard waste, leaves, seaweed, finely ground bark, stable sweepings, wood shavings, or any mixture of these, ideally resulting in an overall C:N ratio between 100:1 and 30:1. Grass clippings are also good, but only when mixed with other “brown” mulches—otherwise their high nitrogen content causes anaerobic—and hence smelly, slimy—decomposition. You will need about four to eight cubic yards of loosely piled mulch for 100 to 200 square feet, or six to ten two-string bales of hay or straw.

4. Compost, about a quarter to half a cubic yard (six to twelve cubic feet).

5. Manure: a quarter to one cubic yard, depending on the concentration and amount of bedding mixed in. About six cubic feet of composted steer manure or other bagged product will be plenty.

6. A top layer of seed-free material, such as straw, leaves, wood shavings, bark, sawdust, pine needles, grain hulls, nut husks, or seagrass. You will need roughly one cubic yard or two to four two-string bales.

If you can’t find every item, don’t worry. Sheet mulching is very forgiving. As long as you have enough newspaper or cardboard, plus organic matter of almost any kind, you’ll end up with great soil. Store your supplies near the chosen site so you won’t have to move them too far on sheet-mulch day. Keep them dry, too.

What To Do:

The day before you mulch, water the site well unless the ground is already moist from rain. The organisms that will be turning your mulch into rich earth can’t work without water, and, once the mulch is in place, it takes a lot of water to moisten the bottom layers. Conversely, it takes a long time for the layers to dry out—you’ve got lots of water storage.

After the water has soaked in overnight, slash down any vegetation. Don’t pull up weeds—leave all the native organic matter right there, including the roots. Just clip, mow, scythe, or weed-whack everything down in place. It’s great worm food, and the nitrogen-rich greens and roots will be a tasty starter for the decomposers. Remove any stumps or big woody pieces.

Next, add any soil amendments. If your soil is acid, sprinkle on some lime. For alkaline soil, a little gypsum or sulfur will help. A dusting of rock phosphate or bonemeal will supply phosphorus. Greensand, kelp meal, or rock dust will add trace minerals. Use a soil test or your own understanding of your soil’s fertility to guide the type and quantity of soil amendments.

If your native earth is clayey or compacted, now is a good time to open it up a bit. Just push a spading fork into the ground, rock it a little, and pull it out. Do this across the entire mulch site. Don’t turn the earth, just poke some holes into it and crack it open to allow better moisture and root penetration and soil-critter movement.

Then add a thin layer of high-nitrogen material. This can be manure, blood or cottonseed meal, fresh grass clippings or other lush greens, or cast-off produce from restaurants or markets. For concentrated matter such as rabbit manure or blood meal, sprinkle down enough material to just cover the soil. Grass clippings or bedding-rich manure should go down about an inch thick. While this layer isn’t essential, it attracts worms and burrowing beetles, which will aerate and loosen the soil.

Now the fun begins: putting the sheet in sheet mulch. Lay down newspapers and/or cardboard to create a continuous light-blocking layer that will smother existing plants. Cardboard is very satisfying to use since those big sheets, especially boxes from appliances and bicycles, cover the ground fast. Overlap the sheets by six inches or so to keep weeds from sneaking between them. Newspaper should be laid down one-eighth to one-half inch thick.

As you spread out the sheets, wet them thoroughly. Do this frequently if a breeze comes up—watching your sheet mulch flap away is pretty demoralizing. Soak the sheets several times to make sure the water seeps through. If you’re sheet mulching with a group, this is when hose-fights usually erupt, tugging any well-orchestrated work-party toward mayhem.

Try not to walk on the paper, especially after it’s wet, as this pulls the sheets apart and creates gaps. Pretend you’re painting a floor: Start at the far side and work toward the access or materials pile so you won’t walk on your work.

Next, toss down another thin layer of nitrogen-rich manure, meal, or fresh green clippings. This will entice the worms up through the soon-to-be rotting sheets and coax plant roots downward.

On top of this, pour on the bulk mulch, about eight to twelve inches of loose straw, hay, or other substances listed above. Weed seeds in this layer aren’t a big concern, as a thick, seed-free stratum will lie atop this one. Weed seeds seem to rot rather than germinate in the slowly composting mass.

Bales of hay or straw don’t have to be fluffed up to their original grassy bulk. Just break the bales into thin “flakes” about one to two inches thick and lay down about three thicknesses of these. Broken into several layers and moistened, the dense flakes will expand and compost perfectly well.

To create an easily compostable sheet mulch, pay attention to the carbon:nitrogen ratio in the bulk mulch layer. If you’re using high-carbon materials such as straw or, especially, wood shavings, sprinkle on nitrogen in the form of blood meal or other nitrogen-rich source, or “dilute” the carbonaceous mulch with perhaps one part clover hay, seaweed, grass clippings, or other high-nitrogen mulch for every four of high-carbon matter (see Table 4-1 for a list of mulch materials and their C:N ratios). A mulch that is extremely low in nitrogen, such as wood shavings, will be slow to rot down and may cause anemic plant growth. You don’t need a perfect C:N balance—just make sure there’s some nitrogen in the mix to feed the compost critters.

As you build this layer, spray on water every few inches. This layer should be damp but not wet; you’re looking for that wrung-out sponge state. This can require a surprisingly large volume of water. It may take a couple of minutes of soaking every few inches to achieve the damp-but-not-wet state.

Atop the bulk mulch, add an inch or two of compost. If this is in short supply, add compost plus whatever soil is on hand to reach the final thickness. Or, if the pile will have a few months to compost before planting, you can substitute manure or several inches of easily compostable material for this layer. But if you plan to plant the sheet mulch within a few weeks, a layer of compost will be necessary to act as a seedbed.

The final layer is two inches of weed- and seed-free organic matter, such as straw, fine bark, wood shavings, or any of the others listed above. Besides smothering weeds, this layer gives the project, in landscaper jargon, “that finished look,” which will endear you to your more fastidious neighbors. For planting seeds and starts, push this layer aside to reach the compost/soil layer right below, just as you would with any mulch.

The 13 Weeds Essential for Human Survival

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Did you know there are 13 plants you can find, whether at home or traveling, that can help you maintain a state of optimal health with minimal cost and effort?

In The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, author Katrina Blair introduces these 13 global “survival plants”—dandelion, mallow, purslane, plantain, thistle, amaranth, dock, mustard, grass, chickweed, clover, lambsquarter, and knotweed—that both regenerate the earth and support human survival. They grow everywhere where people live, from the hottest deserts to the Arctic Circle, and provide important forage for the bees and other wild pollinators especially today as human development is encroaching on wild habitat. They help regenerate the soil and bring fertility back to land that has been disturbed or overgrazed. The wild weeds are exceptionally nutritious as protein rich food sources.  The weeds typically have more nutrition than anything we can buy from the store. These 13 weeds each have powerful medicinal qualities and through utilizing them on a regular basis not only can they help cure illnesses but also prevent them from occurring.  The weeds often grow in abundance so overharvesting is not a concern.  The weeds are generally free and widely available to most humans living on the planet as an important survival resource.

With more than 100 unique recipes, Blair teaches us how to prepare these wild plants from root to seed, including information on growing “wild” microgreens, sprouting, fermenting, making wild green powders, and gleaning weeds from local lawns as a principled stance against pesticide use.

Introducing the 13 Weeds

Purslane (Portulaca) seeds are one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids. The leaves and stems are juicy, succulent and taste lemony.

Mallow (Malva) has a pleasant mellow flavor and is delicious in salads and juices while gently drawing out congestion from the body.  The whole plant blended and strained also makes a great base for homemade lotions and shampoos.

Plantain (Plantago) is not only a great food, but also acts as the perfect first aid kit in a myriad of ways.  The leaves chewed into a mash draw out snake venom, spider bites, infection, and assist rapid healing of any injury.

Clover (Trifolium) replenishes the soil with nitrogen and re-mineralizes our bodies with a full spectrum rainbow of trace minerals that support the integrity of long-term health.

Curly dock (Rumex) leaves are used for lettuce when young and the seeds ground fine make great flour for adding to breads.  The root works as a fantastic natural antibiotic and immune builder.

Lambsquarter (Chenopodium) has far greater nutritional value than spinach and its seeds turn into the highly nutritious grain, quinoa.

Amaranth (Amaranthus) also known as pigweed is a wild food of choice.  The greens are delicious raw and for making into green chips and the little black seeds and leaves are packed with protein.

Grass (Poaceae) grows everywhere and is a true blessing because all wild grasses are edible. It makes a fantastic survival food because it contains all 8 essential amino acids making it a complete protein.  Chew the blades for the juice and spit out the pulp if it is too tough to break down.

Chickweed (Stellaria) is a delicate plant with five white flower petals that uses the support of other plants to grow higher.  It tastes mild, like fresh green springtime.  It can be used in salads, green juices, and salves.  It supports our ability to let go of excess and increases our bodies efficiency.

Thistle (Carduus) greens make a fantastic juice.  Harvest the greens carefully from the back stem or use gloves.  Place them in the blender with plenty of water, an apple, and a lemon.  Blend and strain the pulp out.  Drink this delicious thistle lemonade and experience a good energy that comes from shifting your body towards an alkaline healing state.

Knotweed (Polygonom) grows low to the ground and is often overlooked. It is a wild buckwheat that is highly nutritious and delicious. It is a first succession pioneer species and helps regenerate the soil.

Dandelion (Taraxacum) reminds us how to survive in style.  The whole plant is edible and highly beneficial for good living.  The roots are eaten raw or prepared like a wild potato, the greens are delicious with a slightly bitter flavor, the flowers taste like honey, and the stems make great musical flutes.

Wild mustards (Brasica) are spicy edibles and encourage good circulation in the body.  They each have four flower petals that come in different colors of the rainbow.  The greens make a flavorful addition to dishes and the yellow seeds create great condiments and add local variety to your spice rack.

The Wild Wisdom of Weeds is about empowering ourselves to maintain a state of optimal health with minimal cost and effort, and offers a tangible way to connect with our sense of place by incorporating wild edible and medicinal plants into our daily practices.

Save 35% off your purchase of The Wild Wisdom of Weeds when you buy it direct from us before October 13.

Happy Homesteading

Monday, September 29th, 2014

It’s still September … how did you celebrate International Homesteading Education Month? Or did you?

Here at Chelsea Green, we know that back-to-the-land folks homestead all year round, come snow, sleet, rain, hail, or midterm elections. The world revolves around collecting eggs, hoeing rows, or harvesting apples. We consider ourselves chief defenders of your self-sustaining right to generate your own renewable power, compost your kitchen scraps, build a straw bale dream home, and otherwise care for the planet and your community.

Our friends over at Mother Earth News and Grit are always on the lookout for a Homesteader of the Year and often have great tips, too, for how you can make the most use of your land.

We, too, have plenty of books for all kinds of homesteaders—back-to-the-landers to those who just wish they were. From Philip Ackerman-Leist’s memoir Up Tunket Road to the more in-depth, how-to books such as the award-winning The Resilient Farm and Homestead, or the more recent Farming the Woods. 

Check out some of our best homesteading books below, and also check out our current sale on a selection of new and bestselling permaculture books—35% off now through October 13.

Happy Homesteading!

The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach

By Ben Falk

This award-winning book offers actual working results in living within complex farm-ecosystems based on research from the “great thinkers” in permaculture, and presents a viable home-scale model for an intentional food-producing ecosystem in cold climates, and beyond.

 

Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader

By Philip Ackerman-Leist

The inspiring true story of a young couple who embraced the joys of simple living while also acknowledging its frustrations and complexities.

 

Farming the Woods: An Intregrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests

By Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel

An essential book for farmers and gardeners who have access to established woodland, and are looking for productive ways to manage it.

 

The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times

By Carol Deppe

Filled with detailed information about growing and using five key crops: potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs.

 

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency

By Mat Stein

A comprehensive primer on sustainable living skills—food, water, shelter, energy, first-aid, and more.

 

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses

By Eliot Coleman

Grow produce of unparalleled freshness and quality in customized un- or minimally-heated greenhouses.

 

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture

By Toby Hemenway

Learn how to apply basic permaculture principles to make your garden more diverse, more natural, more productive, and more beautiful.

 

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers

By Harvey Ussery

The most comprehensive and definitive guide to date on raising all-natural poultry.

 

 

Back to Basics with Fermentation

Monday, September 15th, 2014

For thousands of years, people have been using fermentation as a nourishing way to eat and preserve a variety of foods including vegetables, fruits, milk, grains, beans, meats, and more. Only in the last century has our culture distanced itself from this traditional approach to nutrition and adopted an industrialized food system complete with highly processed and genetically modified foods.

This month, we are celebrating Chelsea Green authors that are committed to bringing the nutrient-dense, traditional foods and preparation methods of our past back into the mainstream.

The fermentation revivalist himself, Sandor Katz, deserves to be recognized as one such revolutionary. Katz is the author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentationa New York Times Bestseller and the definitive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation.

His books have inspired a new generation of home fermenters—even author Michael Pollan caught the bug. “Sandor Katz writes about the transformative power of fermentation with such infectious enthusiasm that he makes you want to try things just to see what happens,” writes Pollan in his foreword to The Art of Fermentation.

With Katz’s simple, 4-step method to fermenting vegetables, attempting a homemade sauerkraut has never been easier. All it takes is Chop, Salt, Pack, and Wait. Check out the excerpt below for details.

And, here are some other books featured in our series on nourishing foods…
The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet by certified holistic health counselor Hilary Boynton and whole-foods advocate Mary G. Brackett – You’ll find additional info on this restorative diet and a sampling of appealing, family-friendly recipes here.

Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by chef and food activist Jessica Prentice – With recipes that display the richly satisfying flavors of foods tied to the ancient rhythm of the seasons, this book will resonate with anyone interested in traditional food philosophies like the Paleo diet, the Weston A. Price approach to nutrition, and, of course, fermentation.

Fermented Vegetables: The Basics

(The following excerpt from The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz has been adapted for the web)

The English language does not have its own word for fermented vegetables. It would not be inaccurate to describe fermented vegetables as “pickled,” but pickling covers much ground beyond fermentation.

Pickles are anything preserved by acidity. Most contemporary pickles are not fermented at all; instead they rely upon highly acidic vinegar (a product of fermentation), usually heated in order to sterilize vegetables, preserving them by destroying rather than cultivating microorganisms. “For pickles, fermentation was the primary means of preservation until the 1940s, when direct acidification and pasteurization of cucumber pickles was introduced,” writes Fred Breidt of the USDA.

My vegetable ferments are usually concoctions that do not fit any homogeneous traditional ideal of either German sauerkraut or Korean kimchi. But of course, everything I’ve learned about sauerkraut and kimchi reveal that neither of them constitutes a homogeneous tradition. They are highly varied, from regional specialties to family secrets. Nonetheless, certain techniques underlie both (and many other related) traditions, and my practice is a rather free-form application of these basic techniques rather than an attempt to reproduce any particular notion of authenticity.

In a nutshell, the steps I typically follow when I ferment vegetables are:

1. Chop or grate vegetables.

2. Lightly salt the chopped veggies (add more as necessary to taste), and pound or squeeze until moist; alternatively, soak the veggies in a brine solution for a few hours.

3. Pack the vegetables into a jar or other vessel, tightly, so that they are forced below the liquid. Add water, if necessary.

4. Wait, taste frequently, and enjoy!

Of course there is more information and nuance, but really, “Chop, Salt, Pack, Wait” is what most of it amounts to.

Photo: Sandor Katz illustration by Michael Tonn
Photo: Shredded vegetables in jar by Devitree

Take it Slow: 15 Life Lessons from a Unicyclist

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Have you ever wanted to slow down, let life’s winds wobble you, and devote yourself to the act of anticipation rather than immediacy? Simple. Learn how to ride a unicycle. Or, if that’s not your speed you could follow a few of author Mark Schimmoeller’s thoughtful, guiding principles.

Even for those of us who have never experienced the peculiar pleasure of seeing the world from atop a unicycle, Schimmoeller’s lessons are relatable and strike a deeply human chord. Take a read through his book, Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America, and you’ll see what we mean.

His memoir is about more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a way of life that Americans find increasingly rare: one that practices a playful, recalcitrant slowness.

Peppered throughout the book are what Schimmoeller considers his “guiding principles”—moments of often humorous, pithy advice on how unicycling is inherently connected with the nature of slowness and the art of getting there, no matter where “there” exists. Fifteen of these principles from Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America are listed below.

In Schimmoeller’s characteristically unassuming way, these best practices appear to be for fellow unicyclists, but truthfully he is reminding us that it isn’t the means of transportation that matters.

These ruminations on the importance of mindfulness end up speaking to each of us, if not as literal unicyclists, then as travelers traversing often rocky terrain without stopping to enjoy the view.

Could you benefit from taking a moment to slow down to a unicyclist’s pace? How many of the following guiding principles can you relate to? Share your favorite on Facebook or Twitter today using #slowspoke.

15 Life Lessons from a Unicyclist

(adapted from Slowspoke: A Unicyclists Guide to America by Mark Schimmoeller)

  1. Relax the emphasis on arrival.
  2. In squandering time you demonstrate its availability.
  3. Unicyclists must become devotees of anticipation.
  4. If you find yourself looking up at the sky instead of at the terrain in front of your wheel, it’s likely you have fallen.
  5. Don’t go on a straight road unless you can curb your desire to get someplace.
  6. Adventure begins only from a feeling of security.
  7. Motion without consideration of beginnings and endings can shelter a unicyclist from time and speed and progress.
  8. The art of unicycling is knowing, in part, when to give in to desire.
  9. It doesn’t make a difference one way or the other if a unicyclist takes a break.
  10. The act of falling partway plus corrections equals movement.
  11. The simple act of reducing your velocity…could eliminate a significant number of sharp turns in the world.
  12. It’s conceivable that someone could study wobbliness long enough to discover a corollary of strength.
  13. When it comes to attracting the opposite sex, don’t compete with bicyclists.
  14. There are limits, too, to slowness on a unicycle…The pace should inch just ahead of sorrow.
  15. A unicycle is who you are. For whatever reason, you are not any other form of transportation. You are a unicycle. Please love yourself.

Photo: Roger Cornfoot, Wikimedia Commons

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

New Inspiring Books from our Publishing Partners

Friday, August 29th, 2014

From learning how to address personal, social, and environmental concerns in simple practical steps in our daily lives to building a low-impact roundhouse, we’re bringing a handful of new books to US readers for the first time.

At Chelsea Green Publishing, we partner with like-minded publishers and writers around the world to bring their books on sustainable living to a wider readership in the United States. Below is the latest selection of books available from one of our strongest publishing partners, Permanent Publications. They publish books that encourage people to live more healthy and resilient lives, as well as the internationally recognized magazine Permaculture: Practical Solutions for Self-Reliance which is read in 77 countries.

New Books from Permanent Publications:

Sacred Earth Celebrations explores the eight Celtic festivals, how they were celebrated and understood in the past, the underlying changing energy of the Earth, and the ways we may use this energy to create meaningful celebrations for today to deepen our connection to the Earth and our fellow human beings. It is an uplifting and inspiring source book for anyone seeking to celebrate and honor the changing rhythms and seasons of the Earth and her cycles.

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse is a captivating story of one of the UK’s most unique homes. Now in its third edition, Author Tony Wrench shares his many years of experience, skills, and techniques used to build this affordable low-impact home. He offers advice on roofs, floors, walls, compost toilets, wood stoves, kitchens, windows, and planning permission. Complete with color photographs of life in and around the dwelling, this is both an engaging story and a practical “how to” manual for anyone who loves the idea of low-impact living.

The Unselfish Spirit is an essential twenty-first-century guide to unlocking the secrets of how we as a race can collectively grow our consciousness to solve the complex web of challenges that threaten life on Earth. Author Mick Collins draws inspiration from such diverse fields as cosmology, new biology, and quantum physics, along with insights from depth psychology, occupational science, and mysticism. More than just a learned exploration about psycho-spiritual transformation, this book is a pathway to evolving entirely new ways of living creatively and harmoniously as a species.

7 Ways to Think Differently explores ways to address personal, social, and environmental concerns in simple practical steps in our daily lives, helping us to make incremental, achievable changes. As well as addressing our internal landscapes, author Looby Macnamara explains how individuals and communities can work together to achieve positive change. This book is for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world. It offers potent medicine for a world full of challenges. (this book is available September 24, 2014)

Easy to Make Drying Trays

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Looking for a way to enjoy the edibles from your summer garden into the winter months? Expand the lifespan of your fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and herbs at home by making your own drying trays.

Assembling your own trays and drying produce at home is easy, environmentally friendly, and inexpensive—not to mention you can reap the benefits of your summer harvest all year long!

For more preserving techniques like this one (as well as recipes), read Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canningon sale now for 50% off until September 7!

How to: Drying Methods and Materials

Photo: Leslie Seaton, Wikimedia Commons


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