Posts tagged ‘Brooklyn’
Finally, after what seemed like an endless cold spell that nearly ruined the first half of April, this past weekend brought a heat wave that gave me permission to plant my seeds outside. The timing really couldn’t have been better, to be honest, because with the heat wave came a tidal wave of soil. I liken this soil to a tidal wave because when the truck dumped the five yards of it onto the sidewalk in front of my house Saturday morning, it reminded me of tidal wave nightmares that I used to have when I was a child. I think the dreams were symptoms of being overwhelmed by homework and whatnot, whereas the enormous quantity of soil represented my and Boyfriend’s naivete about the actual size of a yard of soil.
I have never been responsible for anything so massive in my life – this was literally a ton (maybe more) of dirt. With the help of my brother and some neighbors, we hauled it, bucket-by-bucket through my railroad apartment and out into a heap in the back yard until it was clear that we weren’t going to need any more back there. The rest (about 3 yards or so) was left for the neighbors to take.
In most neighborhoods, a pile of dirt would be an unwanted eyesore, but this might as well have been a pile of gold. We have a serious soil shortage here in NYC. So the folks next door grabbed a bunch, and then throughout the day a variety of characters, including a few community garden representatives, brought trucks and buckets and picked away at the heap until it was all gone. Thanks to Craig’s List for facilitating those connections.
Now that I had my soil and my warm weather, I got to work planting my seeds. I found a nice companion planting chart online and planned out what plants would go where, and then started shoving the little guys into the soil. I put in about 20 kind of vegetables (corn, beans, tomatoes, radishes, peppers, greens, etc), and another dozen or so herbs as well as some flowers. Planting seeds is always quicker and less labor-intensive than every other part of gardening, and once I was done I felt like there must have been something I left out. Dirt? Check. Seeds? Check. Water? Yes, I watered everything. Check.
Now I can sit back and wait for them to spring to life. Soon I’ll be weeding like a madwoman, so I might as well get some rest while I’ve got the chance.
My garden is still a ways away from the green eden that I imagine it will be in a few months, but it’s coming along. Last weekend my dad came down to visit and brought a little electric chain saw that my grandpa used to use in his own tiny back yard in Jersey back in the 80s. We used it to cut down some dead trees that were hanging precariously over the garden (one of them already fell down a few weeks ago on a particularly windy day), and then chop up the tree branches and trunks to use as fire wood and for lining out my garden beds. The beds are still empty and I need to get some more good compost to fill them with, but it’s exciting to see where my food will be growing this summer. I plan to get test the yard soil tested to make sure I don’t end up poisoning myself – I hear you can send it to Rutgers and they’ll test it for you. Which reminds me, I should call them. Later!
Roasting a whole chicken is one of the easiest ways to make a delicious meal. And then when you’re done with it, you can get a whole second meal out of the carcass.
Most contemporary Americans go straight for the boneless chicken breasts when shopping for poultry, but not only are they expensive, those little cutlets are lacking in flavor and doomed to end up dry and mediochre on your plate. I recommend going for a nice big hunk of bone-in chicken, like wings and legs (great for the BBQ), and I’ma particularly big fan of the whole chicken. This is how most chickens come at the farmers market, and pound-for-pound it’s the cheapest way to buy a bird.
Roasting chicken is easy. You simply rub it down with salt and pepper, put it in a pan and throw it in the oven at 450 degrees for about an hour to an hour and a half. Don’t cover it, don’t stuff it (make sure there isn’t a bag of organs in there, though) – just put it in the oven and watch TV or something until an hour has passed. You can tell it’s done because the skin gets a beautiful golden brown color. Take it out of the oven, spoon some juice from the bottom of the pan onto to the top to give it a nice, juicy shine and let it rest for a couple minutes before diving in and carving it up. It goes great with potatoes and winter root veggies (throw them in the oven in a different pan while the bird is cooking), or with a salad in the summer time.
Once you’ve gobbled (clucked?) up the roaster, hold on to the leftover carcass. It’s still good.You can pick the extra meat off the bones and make a nice chicken salad sandwich with it, or put the meat aside and use it in a chicken soup. The rest of the carcass gets thrown in a pot – skin, bones and all – and boiled in several cups of water until you’ve got a nice broth. Don’t stir the chicken while it’s boiling – you want to leave it alone and get a nice, clear broth out of it.
Usually I use my chicken broth in chicken soup (broth, salt, chicken, onions and veggies – very simple and delicious). But you can also use it in sauces, polenta, stir fry or anything else that calls for broth. This time I made a nice borscht with it. (more…)
Look how big my seedlings have grown! It’s only been a week and a couple days since the little guys were just ova, and now they’re real live plants. Not all of them have grown to this size yet – the herbs and peppers are slower growers than the ones you see here (from left to right: cabbage, basil and brandywine tomatoes). Pretty soon it will be time to separate them out into larger containers to their little roots can spread out and their stems and leaves can get big and strong. Watching these teeny guys grow makes me feel like a proud mommy – I almost teared up when I saw the first little sprout push up through the soil. In a few short months I’ll be picking their fruits, chowing down and then saving their seeds for next year.
The other night Boyfriend and I made a tasty dinner out of a mix of some green but mostly conventional ingredients. This is kind of how all of my meals look these days, as I’ve been out of work and pinching pennies. Although there are lots of ways to save money while still eating green, I haven’t been leaving my neighborhood much (the little work I’ve been doing of late has been from my couch), and there isn’t a lot of organic and sustainable food in Bushwick (yet! – this weekend we had a great discussion about this).
Anyway, here’s the meal broken down:
The potatoes are from my local grocery store, and I picked them out because they were labeled “eastern potatoes,” which I assumed meant they were kind of local but I have no clue whether or not that’s true. I sliced them up and fried them in olive oil (pricey, but good for you) – a technique that I learned from my Step Dad, who traditionally makes these kinds of fries to go with big weekend bacon-and-eggs breakfasts.
The rolls, tomatoes and arugula came from the grocery store, and although the rolls were baked locally, the rest probably hailed from California or Mexico. (more…)
New York isn’t widely known as a “green city”. It’s overshadowed by Seattle, San Francisco and a host of European cities that have high-tech recycling programs and fancy compost bins, but the Big Apple is getting greener every day. Here are some of the cool green things that have been happening in New York lately:
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer recently released a document called “Food in the Public Interest,” which outlines a groundbreaking plan to improve human and environmental health in the City and puts a strong emphasis on promoting local food systems, farmers markets and urban gardens. A Brooklyn Healthy Food Campaign is also underway to promote expanded food access in the borough, plus there’s a Brooklyn Food Conference coming up in May. Finally, a Food Co-op has just opened its doors in the South Bronx, and there are about a half dozen other planned co-ops in various stages of development in Brooklyn.
In the past couple of years, New York has added over 100 miles of bike lanes in its car-dominated streets, and recently I’ve noticed the addition in my own neighborhood where a few main thoroughfares have been painted with bike-friendly stripes. New York has the largest hybrid-electric bus fleet in North America, and although Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC effort to switch over the City’s entire taxi fleet to hybrids and electric cars by 2012 was shot down in court, there has still been a noticeable increase in hybrid taxis on the road. The Toyota Prius has also gotten pretty popular in town, and I feel like every time I go out I see one cruising around.
New York has the country’s largest recycling program, which requires all residential and commercial buildings to recycle paper, metal, plastic and glass. In 2002, the recycling program was essentially shut down due to budget problems resulting from the September 11th attacks, but recycling was restored in 2004 and in 2008 the City recycled over 6,000 tons of trash per day, up by about 700 tons daily from 2007. (more…)
It’s only been a few weeks, and President Obama and his staff have already done more good for the environment than the Bush Administration did in 8 years.
In a piece published in the Huffington Post yesterday, NRDC president Frances Beinecke listed 13 major steps that the Obama Administration has taken to promote green energy, reduce the emission of harmful toxins like mercury, and give the EPA and the state of California jurisdiction over greenhouse gases, as well as reversing some of GW Bush’s eleventh-hour environmental injustices like granting leases to oil companies to drill on public lands in Utah.
Although the current president hasn’t done much by way of regulating agriculture and water use, focusing mainly on the energy crisis, Beinecke notes that working for environmental change under the current administration “is a tremendous relief.” This gives me (and I’m sure thousands of others) faith that Obama is setting the stage for a government that is responsive to the concerns of environmentalists and that will ultimately adopt policies and legislation that put human and environmental health ahead of corporate interests.
This morning I checked my handy Farmers Almanac to find out when this year’s last frost will be, and it turns out that it’s in five short weeks – which means I’m a week late at starting my seeds! There was no need to fret – it’s better to start your seeds a little too late rather than a little too early – but I didn’t want to hold out too long so I got right to work and planted about 20 out of the 40 veggie, herb and flower seeds that I bought this year. Starting your plants indoors is relatively simple, and it only took me about 2 hours to get all my seeds in dirt. Here’s an overview of what seed starting takes: (more…)
This time of year pickins at the farmers market tend to be slim, but there’s still plenty there to make a tasty meal. You’ll find a host of meat, cheese and bread, as well as lots of pickled stuff, root vegetables, squash and hardy winter greens.
Last night I feasted on a well-rounded meal procured almost entirely from the Union Square Greenmarket. It included garlic and parmesan sausages from my meat guys at Tamarack Hollow farm, an acorn squash, swiss chard with garlic and boiled red potatoes. Salt, olive oil and fresh parsley came from my local grocery store, but all the big items were from small local farms.
It turned out to be a highly satisfying, seasonal meal with little to no guilt involved (except for the Budweiser I washed it down with). And it was easy to make – just quarter and boil potatoes, saute the snosages, sizzle up the chard in garlic, oil and a little water, and steam the squash with salt and butter. Follow these simple steps and you’ve got a hearty, well-balanced winter dish made of some of the most affordable farmers market fare.
I got this book as a christmas gift and it’s turned out to be the best present I ever received. It’s called The Urban Homestead, and it was written by an LA couple -Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen – who have a real knack for sustainable living in the urban environment. They cover all sorts of things, from making your own homegrown booze to city bike travel, but my favorite parts of the book are the sections on growing food. These guys have a full-fledged food forest in their back yard, and have also cultivated all sorts of crops on the road median out in front of their house. The book offers a slew of tips on mulching, container gardening, irrigation, and is a great place to start if you’re interested in growing some food but don’t have tons of experience. It’s been a pleasure to read this time of year, while I make decisions about what seeds to buy and daydream about digging in the dirt.
The authors also have a blog, which I recommend checking out, too – the web ads a layer of interactivity and accessibility to the authors that I can really appreciate. These guys are real pros – and they can write, which is always a plus. And they have chickens, which I’m kind of jealous about (for some reason I’m finding myself increasingly draw to animal husbandry – unfortunately I think my cats would torture and perhaps even kill a chicken if given the chance).
Big props to Kelly and Erik – you’re an inspiration! And if you ever find yourself in Brooklyn, you’re welcome to stay at my house and help me make my yard into an urban oasis.