Our favorite products, gadgets, restaurants, bars, wine, beer, and food websites and blogs.
Take one part food co-op, one part novel idea, and sprinkle on some great interior design and you get Unpackaged, a grocery shop in London where all the products are, as the name implies, not in packaging.
Owner Catherine Conway started off with a market stall and expanded into a shop in 2006 because, as she says in a video interview with Reuters, "I used to go to the local health food shop ... and every time I came home with my dry goods, I'd immediately empty them into a glass jar and throw the packaging away." READ MORE
Care2.com has recently come up with 35 tips to repurpose food "waste." It's something we think about a lot at CHOW, and hounds are doing plenty of brainstorming on the same topic. The USDA estimates that Americans throw away more than 25 percent of the food we prepare, about 96 billion pounds each year.
With that in mind, here are some of our favorite ways to eat up that trash: READ MORE
As anyone who tries to eat locally soon finds out, condiments can be a sticking point. Finding locally-made salt is all-but-impossible in most areas, and good luck finding local black pepper or cardamom.
Capers are also nigh-on impossible to source locally. Made from the unripened flower buds of a plant that grows wild all over the Mediterranean, they travel a long way to get to your plate. But, unlike salt, there’s a great substitute that can flourish almost anywhere in North America: pickled nasturtium buds. I had a chance to taste some recently. Pickled in salty brine, they taste almost exactly like capers, but better: piquant, peppery, juicy. And they’re huge, about the size of a malted milk ball instead of a pea.
Summer is the perfect time to pick the buds, according to Sandor Ellix Katz, author of the book Wild Fermentation. Look for a crinkled, brain-like nodule at the base of bloomed-out nasturtium flowers. Pick them, soak them for about a week in a solution of 3/4 tablespoon of table salt for each cup of water, and use them in sandwiches, salads, pastas, and whatever else you’d use capers in.
So all your lettuce mysteriously died but you ended up with a bumper crop of tomatoes. Now what? Enter Veggie Trader, a new site that connects home gardeners with one another to trade their surplus fruits and vegetables.
Here’s the drill:
• Register for the site (free)
• Post your veggies and browse others’ via zip code
• Negotiate a trade in your ’hood
A few things to be aware of when using the site: You are responsible for knowing about state quarantines (there’s currently one in the SF Bay Area), licensing, taxes, and all the local bureaucracy in your area. The site also recommends not trading out of your state because laws vary so widely. And you are forbidden from trading meat, eggs, or dairy items.
If you’re into the idea of community trading, bartering, and local food supplies, you might want to check out Fallen Fruit as well. It’s a site that’s aiming to eventually map all of the public fruit trees in the United States. And here’s what our etiquette columnist Helena Echlin learned from the site’s cofounder about picking fruit off your neighbors’ trees.
Form-and-function blog Yanko Design put together a smart contest a few months ago called “Design for Poverty.” It was hoping to, “address different aspects of poverty” and “collapse the systemic process and give back the dignity every person deserves.” Judging was based on concept, cost to implement, and deployment. The winner, Evan Gant, came up with a system to collect the rainwater off houses in developing countries through a simple tube system that attaches to the gutter. The system is described in more detail, along with those from other finalists (dig the sleeping bag insulated with garbage!), at the Yanko Design site.
It’s bad enough that manure may help spread things like salmonella and E. coli; now it’s adding antibiotics to our diet too?
Environmental Health News reports that vegetables fertilized with livestock manure absorb small amounts of the drugs routinely given to American farm animals to increase growth and reduce infection. Even organic produce isn’t necessarily safe, since there are no regulations in place regarding antibiotics in manure used as fertilizer.
Steve Roach, a public health program director for Food Animal Concerns Trust, told EHN that “‘the clearest public health implication from treating livestock with antibiotics is the development of resistant bacteria that reduces the effectiveness of human medicine.”
Root veggies are probably the most risky, because they absorb the bulk of their nutrients from the soil, and we eat the root—as opposed to the leaves—of the plants. Crops destined for processing, like corn, are pretty safe; and composting manure before spreading it on the fields can help reduce the levels of antibiotics. But if you want to be sure your vegetables are free of antibiotics, you might try buying from a veganic farm.
As one regulatory debate ends, another begins: An advisory board to the USDA has approved criteria that would permit farmed fish to be labeled organic, the Washington Post reports.
It’s already debatable whether any fish can, or should, be labeled organic. The USDA previously ruled out all wild fish: The Chicago Tribune explains the agency’s logic: “The whole notion of ‘wild’ is at odds with the government’s rigorous criteria for classifying organic livestock production. Wild, after all, can’t be controlled.” But somewhat perversely, the USDA says organic farmed fish can eat fish meal that’s made from wild fish. (Wild fish that aren’t threatened species would be allowed to make up 25 percent of farmed feed.) That’s angered the Consumers Union, which says that allowing partially nonorganic feed would set a lower standard for fish than other organic foods, amounting to what the CU calls “a dangerous precedent.”
In any case, you won’t see organic fish soon: A USDA spokesman told Scientific American that there’s no timetable for taking up the recommendations. And even if the criteria are approved, organic fish won’t be easy to find: So few fish farms meet the proposed standards that George Leonard, a marine ecologist on the advisory board, told the Post the criteria are essentially for “a sustainable farming practice that does not yet exist.”
A columnist for the Guardian has written a lovely column about his Lamb Club, a group of friends who get together and take apart lamb carcasses. “Others enjoy poker or literary discussion in a book group, but for me and a small group of neighbours it’s dismembering a sheep,” he writes.
But what’s truly remarkable is that the Guardian also features an online-only 44-photo step-by-step guide for readers who want to butcher their own lamb at home. There’s some seriously mounting enthusiasm for amateur butchering in the States, but I can’t imagine an American newspaper doing something similar.