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Chelsea Green - Page 4 of 414 - The Politics and Practice of Sustainable Living. : Chelsea Green

Janisse Ray to Keynote First Annual Harvest Conference

August 21st, 2014 by admin

Do you have a green thumb? Perhaps you’re more of an activist, interested in preserving the integrity of heritage produce? Or, maybe you’re just looking for some guidance and optimism in an era that seems irrevocably scarred by environmental unrest and a lack of community spirit.

Join like-minded individuals at the First Annual Harvest Conference this September 5-6 in North Carolina hosted by the Organic Growers School.

Chelsea Green’s own activist, naturalist, farmer, and award-winning author Janisse Ray (The Seed Underground) will be giving the keynote address, “A Field Guide to Hope,” on Saturday, September 6 at 8pm at AB Tech, Asheville, NC. Her presentation offers wisdom and hope in an era marked by environmental turmoil and celebrates individuals and organizations, both large and small, who are reclaiming local, diverse food and creating more sustainable communities.

Here are two other ways to connect with Janisse Ray at the conference:

Full-Day Workshop: “Speaking of Nature—Place-Based Creative Writing”
Friday, September 5, 9am-4pm
The Pavilion at Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa, NC
If you are a nature writer, garden blogger, or farmer with a love of literature, join Janisse Ray and other writers at this full day writing workshop. It offers the unique chance to hone your skills through writing prompts, nature-as-muse experiences, and journaling, all guided by Ray herself.

Class: The Seed Underground
Saturday, September 6, 2pm-3:30pm
AB Tech, Main Campus, Asheville, NC
In her award-winning book, The Seed Underground, Ray shares the inspiring stories of determined gardeners (herself included) who are striving to save increasingly rare heritage seeds from the threat of monoculture. Learn about this startling loss of seed diversity in modern agriculture, and the methods employed by those farmers who are looking to preserve delectable varieties like Old Time Tennessee muskmelon and Long Country Longhorn okra for future generations.

The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food is on sale now for 50% off until September 7.

Whatever your field of interest, be sure to catch Janisse Ray at the first annual Harvest Conference this September!

End of Summer Sale!

August 19th, 2014 by admin

We’re having our end of summer sale to make room for our forthcoming fall releases!

We’re offering four chances to save big—up to 75% off—on some of our new and bestselling books, as well as old favorites.

We have some amazing deals on select titles:

Then everything else is 25% off with the discount code SUMMER at checkout. But hurry it is only while supplies last!

As always, we offer FREE shipping on orders of more than $100.

Happy reading from your budget-conscious friends at Chelsea Green Publishing


Sale runs through September 7th. 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.


Deepest Discounts: $4.99 Bargain Books
Cooking Close to Home
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $4.99
Sippewissett
Retail: $22.50
Sale: $4.99
Walking on Water
Retail: $15.00
Sale: $4.99
Organic Dairy Production
Retail: $12.95
Sale: $4.99
All Books 25% off with discount code SUMMER
Integrated Forest Gardening
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $33.75
Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $30.00
The Sugarmaker's Companion
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
The Art of Fermentation
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
The Heal Your Gut Cookbook
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
The Wild Wisdom of Weeds
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
Farming the Woods
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
Deeper Discounts: 50% off Books
Wild Fermentation
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $12.50
Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $12.50
Rebuilding the Foodshed
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $9.98
The Small-Scale Poultry Flock
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $19.98
Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $20.00
Market Farming Success, Revised and Expanded Edition
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $14.98
The Holistic Orchard
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $19.98
The Man Who Planted Trees
Retail: $22.50
Sale: $11.25
Deepest Discounts: 75% off Books
A Sanctuary of Trees
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $4.99
Home Baked
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $9.99
Composting
Retail: $7.95
Sale: $1.99
Up Tunket Road
Retail: $17.95
Sale: $4.49

Gardening  Food  Simple Living  Renewable Energy
Nature and Environment Green Building Business Science

Sale runs through September 7th. 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.

An Exploration of the Magical World of Mushrooms

August 18th, 2014 by admin

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.

 

Chelsea Green Author Receives National Medal of Arts Award

August 15th, 2014 by admin

In a recent ceremony at the White House, president Barack Obama presented the National Medal of Arts to novelist, poet, essayist, and Chelsea Green author Julia Alvarez.

Currently a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College, Alvarez is a highly successful author in multiple different genres, including poetry (Homecoming, The Other Side/El Otro Lado), novels (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent, In the Time of Butterflies), nonfiction (Something to Declare, Once Upon A Quinceanera: Coming of Age in the USA), and books for young adults (How Tia Lola Came to Visit/Stay, Finding Miracles, and Return to Sender). Her work grapples with themes of heritage, familial dynamics, and the navigation of cultural differences.

The marriage of her activism and her prosaic prowess is perhaps most evident in her book A Cafecito Story, published by Chelsea Green in 2002. This eco-fable is based on her experience founding and cultivating Alta Gracia, a sustainable coffee farm and literacy center in the Dominican Republic. Alvarez writes about the rejuvenating power and cultural significance of reclaiming this coffee farm and returning it to traditional growing methods.

This book is not only a beautifully crafted story, it’s a reminder that fair trade, sustainable agriculture has the potential to positively impact hundreds of thousands of real lives.

Congratulations Ms. Alvarez on this prestigious award!

 

Easy to Make Drying Trays

August 14th, 2014 by admin

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

Carbon Shock: How Carbon is Changing the Cost of Everything

August 13th, 2014 by admin

Carbon. It’s in the air. It’s in the soil. It increasingly fuels and disrupts our economies, and is recasting geopolitical power.

Enter Carbon Shock: A Tale of Risk and Calculus on the Front Lines of the Disrupted Global Economy, where veteran journalist Mark Schapiro takes readers on a journey into a world where the same chaotic forces reshaping our natural world are also transforming the economy, playing havoc with corporate calculations, shifting economic and political power, and upending our understanding of the real risks, costs, and possibilities of what lies ahead.

In this ever-changing world, carbon—the stand-in for all greenhouse gases—rules, and disrupts, and calls upon us to seek new ways to reduce it while factoring it into nearly every long-term financial plan we have. But how?

From the jungles of the Amazon to the farms in California’s Central Valley, from ‘greening’ cities like Pittsburgh to rising powerhouses like China, from the oil-splattered beaches of Spain to carbon-trading desks in London, Schapiro deftly explores the key axis points of change.

Carbon Shock offers a critical, and often missing, perspective on this important topic as global leaders prepare to meet for the next round of climate talks in 2015, and the Climate March in New York City is planned for this Fall. Early praise for Schapiro’s book notes that his book does what other books often fail to do — provide both critique and solutions.

“Mark Schapiro transcends standard discussions about the well-known culprits and ramifications of climate change and takes us on a harrowing, international exploration of the universal economic costs of carbon emissions,” writes Nomi Prins, author of All the Presidents’ Bankers. “In his path-breaking treatise, Schapiro exposes the multinational corporate obfuscation of these costs; the folly of localized pseudo-solutions that spur Wall Street trading but don’t quantify financial costs or public risks, solve core problems, or provide socially cheaper and environmentally sounder practices; and the laggard policies of the US, Russia and China relative to the EU in fashioning longer-term remedies. Not only does Schapiro compel the case for a global effort to thwart the joint economic and environmental plundering of our planet in this formidable book, but he expertly outlines the way to get there.”

Bestselling author Alan Weisman (The World Without Us) adds, “We can be grateful that Mark Schapiro has navigated some dreaded territory – the arcana of global finance – to show with blessed clarity exactly where we are so far, what’s failed and why, what might work, and where surprising hope lies.”

Who Pays?

At times trying to roll back the impacts of climate change can seem daunting – but not nearly as much as the notion of paying for its effects given today’s fossil-fuel funded political debate. But, as Schapiro notes in a recent OpEd in the Los Angeles Times, the fact is that American taxpayers are paying for the costs of climate change now. These costs don’t hit people all at once but sporadically, in different places and at different times. They don’t feel like a carbon tax, though they amount to one.

“The costs of recovering from climate-change signposts like Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina and major drought are well documented,” writes Schapiro in his OpEd. “What’s less known are the costs — the trap doors — that have normally been accounted for in some ledger other than atmospheric chaos.” Those include food, crop insurance, and health care, among others.

For almost two decades, global climate talks have focused on how to make polluters pay for the carbon they emit. It remains an unfolding financial mystery: What are the costs? Who will pay for them? Who do you pay? How do you pay? And what are the potential impacts? The answers to these questions, and more, are crucial to understanding, if not shaping, the coming decade.

Carbon Shock evokes a world in which the parameters of our understanding are shifting—on a scale even more monumental than how the digital revolution transformed financial decision-making—toward a slow but steady acknowledgement of the costs and consequences of climate change.

Carbon Shock is on sale now for 35% off until August 19th.

 

Summer Savings: Everything on Sale!

August 11th, 2014 by admin

In celebration of sunny days, afternoons in the garden, and curling up to a book in the sun, we are putting all our books on sale!

We’re offering four chances to save big—up to 75% off—on some of our new and bestselling books, as well as old favorites.

 Browse amazing deals on select titles:

Then everything else is 25% off with the discount code SUMMER at checkout. But hurry it is only while supplies last!

As always, we offer FREE shipping on orders of more than $100.

Happy reading from your budget-conscious friends at Chelsea Green Publishing.


Sale runs through September 7th. 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.

All Books 25% off with discount code SUMMER
Integrated Forest Gardening
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $33.75
The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat (with CD)
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $37.46
The Wild Wisdom of Weeds
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
The Art of Fermentation
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
Retail: $150.00
Sale: $112.50
The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $30.00
From Asparagus to Zucchini
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $14.95
Deep Discounts: 50% off Books
Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $12.50
Wild Fermentation
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $12.50
Gaia's Garden, 2nd Edition
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $14.98
The Resilient Gardener
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $14.98
Four-Season Harvest
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $12.48
Whole Foods Companion
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $20.00
The Organic Grain Grower
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $22.50
The Small-Scale Poultry Flock
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $19.98
Deeper Discounts: 75% off Books
Food Not Lawns
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $6.25
Up Tunket Road
Retail: $17.95
Sale: $4.49
Home Baked
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $9.99
Composting
Retail: $7.95
Sale: $1.99
Deepest Discounts: $4.99 Bargin Books
Cooking Close to Home
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $4.99
Sippewissett
Retail: $22.50
Sale: $4.99
Sustainable Food
Retail: $7.95
Sale: $4.99
Diary of an Eco-Outlaw
Retail: $17.95
Sale: $4.99

 

Gardening  Food  Simple Living  Renewable Energy
Nature and Environment Green Building Business Science

Sale runs through September 7th. 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.

The Elephant! Returns: “The Father of Framing” Offers Bold New Strategies

August 11th, 2014 by admin

Ten years after writing the definitive and bestselling book on political debate and messaging, George Lakoff returns with new strategies about how to frame the key political issues being debated today: climate change, inequality, immigration, education, personhood, abortion, marriage, healthcare, and more.

The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate picks up where the original book left off, but delving deeper into:

  • How framing works;
  • How to frame an integrated progressive worldview covering all issues;
  • How framing your values makes facts, policies, and deep truths come alive;
  • How framing on key political issues—from taxes and spending to healthcare and gay marriage—has evolved over the past decade;
  • How to counter propaganda and slogans using positive frames;
  • How to speak to “biconceptuals”—people with elements of both progressive and conservative worldviews; and,
  • How to think about complex issues like climate and the increasing wealth gap.

This book is the essential progressive guide for the issues that define our future: climate, inequality, immigration, health care, and more. (preorder your copy today, books ship in early-mid September)

What is framing and reframing? “It is not easy or simple. It is not a matter of finding some magic words. Frames are ideas, not slogans,” writes Lakoff. Framing is about what is right, why it is right, and how to communicate what needs to be said out loud every day in public. Framing is about ideas — ideas that come before policy, ideas that make sense of facts, ideas that are proactive not reactive, positive not negative.

The Impact of the First Edition on American Political Debate

Since his publication of the original version ten years ago, Lakoff, called “the father of framing” by The New York Times, has been the go-to expert on how progressives can better engage supporters, and opponents, on important issues. He has worked with numerous progressive groups to help them articulate their goals and values to citizens, frame the political debate, understand how conservatives think, and learn how to think and talk about shared values. The original edition, for instance, turned the tides for same-sex marriage by helping progressives frame the debate in terms of love—and the freedom to marry who you love—and subsequently realign policies that have benefitted millions of people.

“Ten years ago, when we published the first edition of Don’t Think of an Elephant!, the country was living through the Bush years, progressive messaging was in tatters, and the book—written and published in a whirlwind before the 2004 elections—became an instant best seller,” recalls Margo Baldwin, president and publisher of Chelsea Green Publishing. With more than a half million copies sold in it’s lifetime, the book has remained a top-selling political classic. “Times have changed dramatically,” notes Baldwin, “and it’s time for a fresh look at framing and the issues we are facing today, and in the future.”

In this all-new book, Lakoff reveals why, after a brief stint of winning the framing wars in the 2008 elections, Democrats and progressives have returned to losing them and how they can start winning again. Lakoff urges progressives to go beyond the typical laundry list of facts, policies, and programs and present a clear moral vision to the country—one that is traditionally American and can become a guidepost for developing compassionate, effective policy that upholds citizens’ well-being and freedom.

What’s New in The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!

In addition to the new topics listed above, Lakoff has written several new sections in this updated and expanded edition, including:

Framing 102 explains how readers can begin to provide the frames that will allow the public to automatically and effortlessly grasp complex, systemic issues like climate change, the wealth gap, and other issues that much of the public currently misunderstands. This new section delves into:

  • How journalists and other communicators can do a better job explaining systemic causation.
  • How to emphasize that private gain depends on public support.
  • How constant public discourse leads to brain change, with emphasis on how conservatives have used this to their advantage and where progressives have fallen short.

Framing for Specific Issues examines how progressives can take back public discourse on immigration, education, health care, poverty, corporate personhood, pensions and unions, discrimination (race, gender, and sexual orientation), and more.

As well, several popular sections of the original book have been updated. Such as:

  • Framing 101, the classic explanation of the mindsets through which progressives and conservatives view the world, and political issues.
  • How to Respond to Conservatives, including new information on how to speak to conservatives about unions, pensions, student debt, and other issues that have risen to the surface since the first edition.
  • What the Right Wants, Frequently Asked Questions, and What Unites Progressives have been updated as well, including discussion on how progressives have splintered during the Obama years and where to find values-based common ground.

Stay After Class & Receive Extra Credit!

For readers who’ve stayed with us this far in the blog post, we thought we’d offer you some interesting tidbits about the original Don’t Think of an Elephant!

Don’t Think of an Elephant! was Chelsea Green Publishing’s first New York Times bestseller. There have been three others since: The End of America by Naomi Wolf, Obama’s Challenge by Robert Kuttner, and The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. The book, however, was listed in the “self-help” category rather than the political nonfiction list, which stirred up its own little controversy.

Did you know? The book takes its name from a favorite assignment that Lakoff gives his students to explain how politicians frame public debate.

The original book went from manuscript to printed book in just five weeks to capture the attention of the mid-term elections in 2004—a relatively unheard of turnaround time in the publishing world at the time (and still).

How to Save Tomato Seeds

August 8th, 2014 by admin

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?

August 6th, 2014 by admin

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


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