Wild Wineberries

When your family calls you to come upstate because it is berry week, you go. There is one week out of the entire year that the town I grew up in is overflowing with wild berries that are so sweet and delicious! I spent the afternoon picking them with my sisters and the early evening making my first pie (I am more of a crisp type of girl) and it was delicious!

Similarly to my post on edible plants, foraging for food is extremely sustainable if done responsibly. These berries are wild, abundant, and delicious. They can be used for anything any other berry can be used for AND they are totally free!

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Edible Plants

Have you ever been walking in a park, looked at a leaf, and wondered, “what do you taste like?” and wanted to take a nibble?

Well… that is what I spent my day doing yesterday, eating park plants.

I know that sounds dangerous, gross, and unsafe, however, rest assured that it was an edible plant walk in Prospect Park coodinated by the Organic cotton clothing company Loomstate. I came out unscathed except for a few huge mosquito bites. Luckily I have a great remedy for that thanks to Rhett Godfrey, Loomstate’s Sustainability Director.

If can’t think of anything more Zero Waste than responsible, sustainable eating from nature!

I learned from Rhett that there are three main types of wild plants: edible, medicinal or magical (which he called old school medicinal). You will see a few examples of all of them below. 

STOP! Safety first. Before eating any wild plants it is really important to make sure you will not have a bad allergic reaction to any of them. To test for this first take the plant you are about to eat and rub a bit of it on the soft part of your inner elbow. Wait a few minutes and look for a rash or irritation. If you are all clear, take a bit of the plant and rub it right on your lip. If again, no rash forms, go ahead and eat! Also, be sure to look out for poison ivy (above).  Young poison ivy has a shiny leaf where as the darker green tends to be more matte. It has two ears and a nose meaning to straight leaves and one leaf pointing down.

Ok… on to the fun stuff.

1) Yellow Wood Sorrel. (Edible) This plant, often referred to as clover, is insanely delicious. It has three leaves that are shaped like hearts as opposed to clover which has tear shaped leaves. It also has a standing fruit that looks like mini okra. When eaten, the seeds inside the fruit will explode in your mouth and fill it with a bright, sweet, lemony flavor. You can eat the flower, fruit, and stems!

2) White Pine. (Edible) White pine can be identified by its almost white appearance. It is really amazing because there is really nothing on a white pine tree that isn’t edible. Even the sap! Its needles are clustered in groups of five on one base. I ate the base of the needles, the light green part, which was sweet and woody and had such a great aftertaste! In the spring when new needles form, you can eat more of the needle. They can also be cleaned, cut up, and steeped for a nice pine tea!

3) Lady’s Thumb (E): Lady’s thumb has a long leaf with a pointed tip. To identify it, it has very small pink clustered seeds and the leaf, if you look closely, has a darker green mark on it almost like a lady’s thumb print! It is mucilaginous which means that it has a gelatinous quality that prevents it from burning in the sun. It is a great source of potassium, iron and niacin.

4) Honewort (E): It can be identified because it has stems of three and leaves of three. You can pick it, dry it, and use it like chervil. It has flavors of parsley, carrot top, or chervil. 

5) Mugwort (Magical): This can be used for people to remember their dreams. You take the mug wart, rub it up in your hands, and put it next to your pillow. It contains small amounts of thujone (or the chemical found in absinthe). It smells great, almost like a poultry spice. In asia it is used to season goose. Two ways to identify it are to look underneath for a white color, or to rub it and smell. Women use this leaf to make tea to treat PMS. 

6) Sassafras (E,Med): Sassafras is amazing. It requires a ton of light to grow and drops its seed close to the parent plant so you can see groups of it. The leaves come in a few different shapes, a trident, dinosaur foot, flame, or average leaf shape. It is dried and ground to be used as a thickener for gumbo and the native americans would use it as a liver tonic in the spring after they sustained themselves on salted fish and meats throughout the winter. It has a bubble gum orangey flavor. You can pull out the root and expose the inner white bark which is full of safrole, the main ingredient of root beer. You take the root, cut about a three inch piece, and steep it in boiling water for 20-25 minutes. It smells EXACTLY like root beer! 

7) Wine Berry (E): These berries are sweet and tart and have long sticky stems. The underside is a different color than the top leaf.

8) Plantain Weed (E): This plant is also known as the white mans footprint because when the white man was in America in the 1500’s their horses would create muddy tracks in the soil where the plant would grow. They have unique parallel veins and can be identified because all of the leaves grow out of the same place. The stalk can be used as a digestive and the leaves contain allantoin which promotes skin healing. It also helps take the itch away from mosquito bites and seriously works if you just rub it on your skin or put it on and adhere with a bandage. 

9) Burdock (not edible): this is the plant that inspired velcro- it sticks to EVERYTHING! 

It was an incredible day and I learned SO MUCH! Stay tuned for some more wild edibles this week! Thanks Loomstate!

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How to Store Your Vegetables Without Waste

I used to bring produce home from the market and throw it in my refrigerator unwashed. Unfortunately, after one day, ready to eat a salad, I would pull my lettuce, kale, or spinach out and it would be wilted and crunch-less. The technique I am about to show you keeps my leafy greens fresh and crunchy longer than any other storage method I have tried and it is completely waste free!

Step 1: Wash your greens and leave them to dry in a colander 
Step 2: Lay out a cotton/linen napkin and put your greens in the bottom right corner
Step 3: Fold the bottom right corner of the napkin and tuck the greens in
Step 4: Begin to roll the greens towards the top right corner
Step 5: Roll until you meet the top left corner of the napkin and put the corner on top
Step 6: take the two outer edges and bring to the center
Step 7: Knot the outer edges of the napkin and pull tight and you are done!
Storage Option 1: Store on your shelf in the refrigerator
Storage Option 2: Store in your humidity controlled crisper drawer

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A Week of Organic Food for Under $40.00

I have made a decision to only bring Organic, fresh food products into my home to decrease the amount of synthetic pesticides and herbicides and plastic I am exposed to in my daily life. Many people get the impression that comes with a very high price tag, especially in New York City. However, with some preparation, some kitchen staples, a good market, and a little bit of effort you can easily feed yourself for the week without draining your bank account.

**Please note, I am a vegetarian which cuts my grocery costs exponentially**

Here is what I recommend as Kitchen staples:

  • Bulk Brown Rice. There are lots of different shapes and sizes, I like short grain sweet
  • Bulk Quinoa 
  • Bulk Beans: black beans are my favorite
  • Olive Oil 
  • Apple Cider Vinegar 
  • Salt (I buy this in bulk too)
  • Pepper (I buy this in bulk and put it in a grinder)
  • Eggs – good protein, perfect for breakfast!

Kitchen Luxuries (but staples for my home):

  • Bulk Coffee- I love Equal Exchange
  • Bulk Tea- I use chamomile
  • Bulk Sugar
  • Honey- while not necessary, I think it adds something extra special to salad dressing

This is what I bought this week:

  • Kale– Lacinato
  • Kale– Green
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Avocados (3) 
  • Carrots 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Green Beans
  • Apples
  • Bananas 
  • Grapes
  • Ginger
  • Dried Cranberries 
  • Almod Butter 
  • Bread
  • Garlic (left over from my dad’s house!) 

Watch throughout the week as I transform these ingredients into my daily meals!

***Note: I saved $3.53 because of a student discount that the store I shop at offers***

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Homegrown Food

I used to lead an education program for New York City kids on water. One of the first questions i’d ask to them was “does anybody know where our water comes from”? Some of the more spunky kids would raise their hands, waving them around, getting up on their knees in their chairs, making weird shapes with their faces, practically busting at the seams to answer, and i’d call on one of them. “Where?”, i’d say. “THE SINK!” they’d belch out proudly. The sink everytime.

It is adorable and so innocent but my job was to let them know that our daily conveniences are not so convenient. No. Water does not come from the sink. It comes through the sink, but it takes a long time and a lot of work to get there. Water is a product of rain. Just like food does not come from the grocery store. It too is a product of very hard work and a lot of travel.

This lesson is why I am so proud to have a father who is captivated by the art of growing his own food and why I, as a daughter of a very picky eater, am happy to see him consume the bounties of his labor. Moreover, I am excited that my two younger sisters have an image to put in their minds when they think of the origins of food: our little, but fruitful garden. Here it is:

 

 

Fresh, Organic strawberries, garlic, and garlic scapes!

My take-home bag to NYC. This bag has been used for more birthday gifts than I can count!

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Unclogging Your Drain Naturally

It is never fun to have your drains clogged with hair in the shower or food in the kitchen. I put off cleaning out my drain because I thought it would be difficult and take forever. Luckily my boyfriend showed me this easy and effective method to help remove the buildup from clogged drains! It was actually kind of fun and reminiscent of elementary school volcanoes!

DIY Natural Drain Cleaner

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 gallon of boiling or extremely hot water
  • bathtub stopper or thick washcloth

Steps:

  1. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda into your drain. Be sure that it all goes down. You can use your fingers or a long tool such as a chopstick to help.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup white vinegar into the drain and cover immediately with a stopper or a rag in order to keep bubbles in the drain instead of them releasing into your sink or tub
  3. Wait 2 minutes
  4. Pour the second 1/2 cup of white vinegar down the drain and, like in step 2, cover
  5. Once covered, wait 15-30 minutes
  6. Uncover and dump one gallon of boiling or very hot water down the drain

Note: Depending on how clogged your drain is you might have to repeat.

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Zero Waste Takeout

Sometimes you just want to sit on your couch and eat your favorite Thai food while watching Arrested Development. Unfortunately, a delivery of Thai would include many plastic containers, plastic forks, napkins, menus, a brown paper bag, a plastic bag over that, and a printed receipt.

It is important to remember that many cities, including New York City, do not actually recycle to-go containers contrary to what many think. So with a little bit of effort  including a phone call, three mason jars, and a little walking, I had my Thai food sans waste and guilt!

The Steps to Zero Waste Take-out:

  1. Pick your restaurant
  2. Call ahead… “I want to come in and get food for pickup, is it okay if I bring my own containers?” If yes…
  3. Thank them profusely
  4. Plan what you are going to order. In my case it was two soups and some sticky rice
  5. Gather the necessary containers (3 ball jars for me)
  6. Head to the restaurant, order, and give them your containers
  7. Get your food, thank them for being so great and letting you bring containers, walk home, sit on couch, eat, laugh, ahhhhhhh

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