cazort's Profile

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Getting rid of roly-poly's(or pill bugs)?

I suspect these are not the right culprit. Roly-poly's, or pillbugs, from my experience, tend to eat organic matter in the soil. From what I know, they tend to eat only things that are already decaying, and they are a healthy part of your garden ecosystem.

Beans usually will get eaten by a variety of things though, if they are allowed to touch the ground. You generally need to train them up high enough that they're dry and not in contact with the ground or vegetation easily accessible from the ground. I suspect if you do this, your beans will be in better shape!

Aug 03, 2012
cazort in Gardening

weeds growing through weed cover

I find that weed cover sheets always eventually give way to the plants. It's a losing battle--I've seen plants push up through an asphalt driveway, so even thicker, tougher weed covers are futile in the long run.

I've always found that the best approach to weed control, if you have plants that are out-competing the things you're trying to grow, or if they are otherwise undesirable (like non-natives), is to plant more things that you want to grow, and specifically, find things that will grow well with the key crops you are growing. Look up companion planting, and find plants that will work well with what you've chose to grow already.

Having bare ground in your garden is unnecessary and has numerous disadvantages, and, unless you're in a very arid climate, will always require a heavy amount of maintenance. Instead, just let the garden fill out, by planting it densely with things you want.

Crab grass usually is a sign that your soil is somewhat degraded, because it tends to thrive in more exposed, nutrient-poor areas. It generally cannot germinate except in exposed soil, and in rich soil, it tends to be out-competed by other plants which grow taller and faster than it. Growing legumes (anything related to beans, peas, clover) are a great way to enrich your soil, and you can find legumes that are more groundcover-like, as well as bushy ones, depending on what you want to fill.

I wouldn't worry much as long as all your plants are growing great though. The big problem is if weeds start out-competing your plants, like, growing taller than them. I'd fixate your efforts on anything that is shading out your plants or growing too close to them and not worry about the rest! Good luck!

Aug 03, 2012
cazort in Gardening

Food Blogger Rant

I would agree with you that bloggers can tend to be too verbose; this is something I struggle with myself, as I have a tea blog and also another blog.

I don't have much interest in reading individual recipes though. I rarely (as in once every two years) use a recipe to cook anything and I tend to find recipes uninteresting. So, when I read food blogs, it's the other stuff that I want to read.

I'm very interested though in the cultural heritage of individual ingredients and dishes, their evolution over time, and people's experiences with cooking them. I like reading in depth about a particular ingredient and how to use it, and I like it when people abstract a recipe to communicate a whole way of cooking or way of approaching something.

I also like it when people relate food to other topics, like culture, philosophy, ecology, and the like. For example, I like it when someone writes about making something out of an invasive plant but then writes about the history and ecology of that plant in the same post...or when someone writes about baking a certain type of fish in a certain way, and then writes about sustainability issues pertaining to harvesting that fish. THAT's what draws me in, not recipes on their own. And that takes more than a paragraph!

Aug 03, 2012
cazort in Food Media & News

Visiting the city this Sunday - University City recs please

I love City Tap House's beer selection. I find the atmosphere there to be a bit modern and sterile for my tastes though.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in Philadelphia

Visiting the city this Sunday - University City recs please

West Philly definitely "empties out" parking-wise at night. In general, there's abundant parking from 41st street west, and from maybe about locust street south. Farther east and north, parking can still be tight at night, but you can find spaces much more easily at night than during the day.

Spruce street , 41st street, and baltimore avenue can be good places to look for free parking.

It is not everyone's scene, but there are abundant Ethiopian places in West Philly that are lively bars with great Ethiopian food too.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in Philadelphia

Visiting the city this Sunday - University City recs please

I tend to really hate bars, but even I like Local 44, so that says something. I think it has fantastic food and a great beer selection.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in Philadelphia

How do you define "gourmet"?

Haha @ your snarky use =)

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

How do you define "gourmet"?

I think "gourmet" is an entirely subjective word that is almost meaningless in most circumstances in which it is used--usually, it is an empty word used for marketing purposes.

I only use the word "gourmet" casually...not when I need any sort of precise meaning or definition, and I recognize it's entirely subjective.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

Butter/Margerine - healthy replacement

I'm not convinced that saturated fats are at all bad for you.

For years, people did not distinguish trans-fats from natural saturated fats, and all the research that I've seen that has made this distinction has failed to find any problems with saturated fats.

There's also the problem that most saturated fats are from animal sources, and there are serious problems with the food supply with respect to animal fat sources in the US. Many harmful chemicals are fat soluble, so it seems plausible that there could be other explanations, other than the fat itself, for negative associations between saturated fat and health.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

Butter/Margerine - healthy replacement

Why do you want to avoid butter? I am not convinced that any "butter alternative" is healthy.

But I would suggest, depending on your needs, cocoa butter, palm oil, or coconut oil, or, if you're able to get it, cooking-grade shea butter, as alternatives. I would not use any other "butter alternative" as nearly all of them are processed and include all sorts of food additives.

It took years for us to realize that trans fats greatly contributed to heart disease, and now it's coming out that it has a lot of other problems too, like even contributing to aggression...if there is another additive that has a similar or equally bad effect, I don't trust the structures in our society to catch it and remove it from our food supply. I'd rather stick with natural, less-processed foods that have been in traditional diets for a longer period of time.

Oh, and that includes the good old-fashioned substitute for butter: lard. Which I wouldn't recommend unless you can get it from a high-quality source so it's not factory farmed and loaded with antibiotics or other chemicals.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

Yellow versus White Onions

I find this sort of thing oscillates hugely over time and from one location to another.

It's probably just a local, temporary case of supply-and-demand.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

Why should I buy tilapia?

Tilapia CAN be farmed in an environmentally friendly manner, but in the absence of an independent certifying agency, or recommendation from something like Seafood Watch or EDF's Seafood Selector, I would not recommend buying it.

In terms of the advantages, Tilapia has a mild flavor and is flexible, and tends to be tender and have a moist texture. I find it to be very versatile; it's a little more substantive though than trout or flounder, which is another advantage.

There are many upsides to this fish, but I'd be very cautious about buying it unless you know where it's from. Check out these two sources:

http://apps.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=16310

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

Both say it's a best choice if produced in the US, and a good alternative or okay choice if produced in Latin America, but something to avoid or a worst choice if farmed in China or elsewhere in Asia. A possible exception might be a few farms in Asia that have third-party sustainable certifications, such as what you see in some supermarket chains, like Aldi.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

Why should I buy tilapia?

I'm not concerned with whether or not it's "trendy" to like or dislike Tilapia. What I am concerned with is whether or not this fish is being produced in a healthy and sustainable way.

And so far, what I have seen suggests that, especially when it originates in China, it is not. This is the official stance of Seafood Watch, and EDF's Seafood Selector, and I trust both these authorities more than I trust any chef or cookbook author.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

Why should I buy tilapia?

Rate it highly on what? On taste? Or on sustainability? Or health? I want to eat what tastes good but I care first and foremost about whether what I'm eating is being sustainably produced and is safe and healthy to eat. And everything I've seen on Tilapia, like from Seafood Watch and EDF's Seafood Selector, has made me be cautious of it, especially when it originates in China.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

Fruits That Aren't Too Sweet

I love pawpaws but I've never seen them for sale...they're great if you are lucky enough to find a patch of them in the wild. But I know some people that dislike the custardy texture.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

Fruits That Aren't Too Sweet

My favorite fruit is the black raspberry and my runner-up is the blood orange. Incidentally, they have some of the same chemical components, which I found fascinating when I learned it long after I had developed a love of both fruit.

I'd explore plums. Plums are extremely diverse, and many varieties are sweet (sometimes sickeningly so) but they can also be very subdued. I've had plums that were fresh and clean tasting with very little sweetness, and other plums that were intensely sour and pungent, also with very little sweetness.

Most types of fruit come in both sweet and less-sweet varieties. Rather than thinking of a broad type of fruit, try exploring new varieties of each familiar type of fruit. Even fruit we think of as being very sweet, like mangoes, have varieties that are less sweet. And, with fruit that are not overly astringent when unripe, unripe or less ripe fruit can often be less sweet.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

Fruits That Aren't Too Sweet

I love blackcurrants, but I don't think they're suitable for eating raw. I think of them as being good for making jam and baked goods...they can be very pungent, sour, and astringent.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

What is all the fuss about Red Velvet Cake

I also fail to see the appeal in this type of cake. I avoid coloring things, unless they are colors that are included primarily for flavor (think Paprika, Turmeric, etc.).

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

White tea?

White tea ranges hugely in how dark it is, depending on a wide range of factors.

Lighter is not necessarily better. For example, most white tea in China is grown in two counties in Fujian province: Fuding, and Zhenghe. Fuding teas tend to be lighter than similar teas grown in Zhenghe, including teas of comparable quality. I've seen some written claims that the Zhenghe teas actually taste better because they are being selected for bolder flavor rather than the Fuding teas which have been selected more for their delicate appearance.

The grade and type of white tea also greatly affects the color. "Lower grades" tend to consist of larger leaf, and tend to have a darker color, and a richer, stronger flavor.

Whether or not this is a good thing is largely a question of personal taste. I personally tend to prefer the low grades, with, among Chinese white teas, my favorite type being "Shou Mei" or "Longevity Eyebrows", which is not the lowest grade, but is lower grade than white peony or silver needle.

I do think that brand / company / source of the tea tends to be more important than the type. White tea often oxidizes more as it is stored, because, unlike green tea, it is not heated enough during its production to kill the enzymes that cause oxidation. So freshness is more important than with green tea even. But then...some people really like aged white teas. I recently tried a shou mei tea aged since 2009 and it was quite outstanding!

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics
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White tea?

Best is subjective.

I've sampled 30 or so pure white teas, and I just don't tend to like baihao yinzhen (which is also called silver needle white tea). This tea is widely considered the "highest grade" of white tea, and it tends to fetch the higher price, but the question of whether or not it is "best" is a matter of personal taste.

I personally prefer darker white teas, including Bai Mu Dan (white peony), and Shou Mei (longevity eyebrows). Silver needle tends to be so pricey, and its flavor is subtle, something that I'm not always in the mood for, whereas the darker ones are both more affordable, and I think more accessible to most tea drinkers in the West. But I also have found that the particular source of tea is usually more important than the variety. I've had examples of all three of these grades / types that I've loved and examples of all of them that I thought were low-quality.

I think a more important issue is to find a reputable company to buy from.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics
1

Food packaging that you love/hate?

That seems so silly and unnecessary! I love food that is just sold as-is...like large, whole pieces of fruit. The fruit's skin is its own packaging...although that leads to another critique of "packaging", the waxy coating put on some fruits, like those awful mass-produced apples shipped around the country from the Pacific Northwest.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

Food packaging that you love/hate?

I also share your feeling on glass jars/bottles vs. plastic.

Another type of packaging that I strongly dislike are tea bags...I'm a huge tea drinker, and tea bags often involve (1) the bag, often with a staple, string, and tag (2) often a wrapper around the individual bag (3) a box to contain the bags (4) shrink-wrap. So much unnecessary packaging when you could just be buying and brewing loose-leaf tea.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in General Topics

"volunteer" raspberries??

Haha...I've never heard of birds spreading fish eggs but they definitely spread plant seeds. Many birds have tight associations with specific plants; for example, the Yellow-rumped warbler, which is the only warbler to winter in much of the Eastern US, is the only animal that can digest (and derive energy from) the wax in bayberry fruit.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in Gardening

"volunteer" raspberries??

I've had this happen too! I've had both black raspberries (which I love) and Japanese wineberries (which I'm less a fan of) come up on their own, as well as, less commonly, various types of blackberry, or red raspberry.

Raspberries are biennials, which means that the first year they will just grow as a shoot with no flowers or fruit. This shoot will lose its leaves in fall but persist through the winter, and will then flower and fruit the next year, after which it will die. The plants also reproduce vegetatively; typically, a first year shoot will grow to the ground and where it meets the ground, a new small plant will form, which will become a first-year-shoot the next year.

If you want fruit, leave the bare canes. Favoring these bare canes one year will mean more fruit the next year, as the plants will store their energy and grow more vigorously.

I'd look carefully to try to figure out what variety is coming up. Some raspberry plants taste better than others. Pale whitish stems = black raspberry, which I think is tastier and is also native to much of the US, green stems covered with red hairs = wineberry, which I am less a fan of and which is an invasive plant in many parts of the US.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in Gardening

Teeny, tiny white bugs on my indoor parsley plant. What to do?

This also sounds more like white fly / whiteflies to me. I have had a persistent problem with whiteflies when I've tried to grow herbs indoors that I normally grow outdoors.

The plants are harmless to humans and will not infest anything other than plants, but they can ultimately kill the plants they are infesting, and they are, unfortunately, generalists, and can spread from plant to plant, infecting other houseplants.

I've had more of a problem with whiteflies on tender deciduous herbs, like parsley, and less of a problem with them on more leathery, thick-leaved evergreen houseplants, but they can sometimes spread to these plants too. Be careful about them spreading.

Also, if it's a warm time of year, placing the plant outdoors will typically kill or limit the whiteflies. They are more of a problem indoors because there are few natural indoor predators. However, in a few cases an indoor infestation can spread to other plants outdoors, just something to keep in mind. For frost-hardy plants, they are killed by frost.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in Gardening

Is there a "best way" to harvest basil?

I've found that if you pinch off the stem, it often sprouts out and grows bushier, whereas if you just pluck off individual leaves, it often gets leggy.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in Gardening

Is there a "best way" to harvest basil?

The larger leaves, grown in low light, can also be more tender. Although basil tends to be a light-loving plant and cannot take as much shade as many herbs, I find that if the leaves are too tough, growing it in a slightly shadier location increases the size of the leaves and makes them thinner and more tender.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in Gardening

Is there a "best way" to harvest basil?

Yeah...the plant becoming woody is not necessarily a sign that it's gone. I've seen fairly woody basil plants continually resprout and be good for sustained harvesting, and I've also seen basil plants with tender stems flower and either die down or go unpleasantly bitter.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in Gardening

Planting in Rocky Soil

Some plants, many herbs in particular, really thrive on rocky and gravely soil. If the soil is deficient in nutrients, I'd recommend finding some native legumes or other nitrogen fixers, and planting these, because it can be one of the quickest ways to enrich the soil in an environmentally-friendly way.

If you have otherwise rich soil that happens to be filled with scattered rocks, I wouldn't worry about that. It makes digging a nuisance, but most plant roots will just work around the rocks. Smaller rocks and gravel can make soil drain better, in some cases, so they can be an asset so long as there's enough organic matter to give the plants you want the nutrients they need.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in Gardening

Fish Peppers?

I've never grown Fish peppers, but I've tasted ones grown locally near Philadelphia. The ones I saw would ripen to a dark red color, and could actually get quite diabolically hot...so be cautious with them! The level of heat in a pepper varies so much based on conditions though, so it could be that I just had an unusually strong example of them, but the ones I ate were consistently hot--like, Serrano hot, way beyond Jalapeno hot.

Aug 02, 2012
cazort in Gardening