Posts Tagged ‘local’

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Making D.C. A Home For The Bees

You Can Help Save The Bees,  In Four Simple Steps

Written by EcoWomen Board Member Allyson Shaw

With the first days of spring, soon come the baskets of fresh strawberries, bundles of artichokes, brilliant flowers,  and piles of bright, leafy greens. But with the spring bounty comes a startling statistic: according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one of every three bites of food we eat is dependent on pollination from honeybees. And as every beekeeper knows, the bees are in an imminent crisis.

Heidi Wolff, a George Washington University alumna, began keeping bees when she was 17 years old. She says it was the “golden age” of beekeeping.

“You just put them in a box and let them do their thing,” Wolff said.

But just over the past decade, beekeepers have reported an annual loss of 40 to 50 percent of their hives – some have even lost 100 percent. Wolff says she now must feed her bees supplements and constantly check in on them.

While the exact cause of the population collapse is unknown, scientists believe it is a combination of pesticides, disease, poor nutrition, habitat loss, and inbreeding. In particular, more and more studies are now pointing to a certain class of insecticides, neonicotinoids, as a leading cause of bee death. Unlike other pesticides, “neonics” are absorbed into the plant and stay in the plant throughout its life.

Fewer bees means smaller harvests and higher food prices. Last June, Whole Foods partnered with The Xerces Society to show us what the grocery store would look like without honeybees. Our fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are in danger! Luckily there are ways you can help:

Plant things bees like!

It turns out, Washington, D.C. in an excellent home for bees. Wolff said urban bees are often healthier than their country counterparts because city bees can find a wider range of nutrition in a smaller radius. This spring, consider adding one of these native pollinator-friendly plants to your window box:

  • Coreopsis (Tickseed). This lovely daisy-like flower is drought resistant, hardy and easy to grow. It is a great source of protein-rich pollen for passing pollinators, since it has a long bloom time: from June to frost.
  • Passiflora (Passion Flower). This beautiful hanging plant grows like crazy in a pot or in the ground. It is the host to several pretty butterflies and is a very interesting nectar source for passing pollinators. It’s Wolff’s favorite flower!
  • Check out the Center for Food Safety’s handy list of plants for more options!

Use natural pest remedies

Homeowners can sometimes use more pesticide per square foot than farmers, Wolff said, because people “go wild with the Raid.” Neonics are used on common agriculture seeds, like corn, but can also be found in household pest-control products. Please refer to the Center for Food Safety’s list of products that include neonics and avoid those products — instead, you can utilize plants that will help control pests naturally:

  • Lavender smells lovely and also repels fleas, moths and mosquitos.
  • Basil is said to repel thrips, flies and mosquitoes.
  • Catnip can keep away flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants, and weevils.
  • Tea tree oil has been known to repel mosquitoes, lice, ants, and many other insects that bite.

Support local farmers

As if you needed another reason to buy local, organic produce! Small-scale farmers are more likely to use integrated pest management strategies, Wolff said, in lieu of neonics.

Call for action

You can sign the Center for Food Safety’s petition to tell the EPA to immediately suspend all outdoor uses of neonicotinoid pesticides. You can also join their BEE Protective Campaign to make change in your community by encouraging your city, municipality or county to suspend neonics until proven safe.

What will you do to save the bees? 

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How To Pack Your Vegan Lunch

Written By DC EcoWoman Katharine Eaton

When the air gets cooler and the leaves turn color, we tend to crave heartier meals. Cue the soups and stews! But these can be precarious on your commute and a hot lunch might give you an afternoon slump.

The recipes below are easy to pack, store well in the fridge, and do not need to be reheated. In fact, they’re best served at room temperature. They are also healthy, flavorful, protein-rich and gluten-free.

All portions serve one but you can easily multiply the ingredients for more.

Butternut Squash Hummus

Autumn is gourd season! This recipe calls for butternut, but you can use any other kind of winter squash or pumpkin instead. Note that this single serving- sized portion will not use the whole butternut squash.

1 small butternut squash
½ cup chickpeas, cooked or canned
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup finely chopped mint
Bread or crackers, for serving

Peel the butternut squash, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes until you have 1 cup of cubes. Save the remaining butternut squash for another recipe – or for more hummus.

Steam the butternut squash cubes until they’re tender. Peel and crush the garlic.

In a food processor or blender, blend the steamed butternut cubes, chickpeas, garlic and olive oil into a smooth consistency.

Season with salt and pepper and fold in the fresh herbs.

At lunchtime, give the hummus a good stir and eat it on your choice of bread or crackers.

Raw Beet Slaw

No roasting or boiling, just the season’s sweetest root vegetable in its purest form. This recipe also makes a great Thanksgiving side dish.

1 medium-sized beet (about 1 cup shredded)
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp stoneground mustard
1 tsp raspberry jam (or any berry jam you have on hand)
Salt and pepper
¼ cup hazelnuts
1 cup mixed salad greens

Peel the beet and shred it with a box grater or a food processor with a grating blade, using the large hole grater. Put the shredded beets in a bowl and fold in the chopped parsley.

Mix the oil, vinegar, mustard and jam into a paste and thoroughly stir it into the beets. The juice from the beets will thin out the dressing; so don’t be tempted to make more. Season the slaw with salt and pepper.

Heat a pan over medium-high heat and dry-roast the hazelnuts, stirring frequently, until they’re fragrant and their skins start to blacken. Remove the nuts from the pan and let them cool. Place the cooled hazelnuts on a clean kitchen towel, roll it up and rub off the skins through the fabric. Pick out the clean hazelnuts and discard the skins. Roughly chop the nuts.

To pack your lunch, pack the hazelnuts, salad greens, and the beet slaw separately. Combine all components right before you eat.

Kale, Potato and White Bean Salad

Ah, le kahl… The summer pests that feast on leaves are gone and kale flourishes once again. Potatoes and white beans add creaminess and celery adds crunch.

2 small red-skinned potatoes (about 1 cup cubed)
2 large kale leaves (about 2 packed cups chopped)
2 tsps olive oil 2 tsps apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
2 tsps stoneground mustard
¼ cup white beans, cooked or canned 1 stalk celery
1 tbsp capers or chopped pickles, optional
Salt and pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes, add them to the water and cook them for about 10 minutes, until they’re tender but still firm. Drain the potatoes (do not run them under cold water or put them in an ice bath).

Remove the kale stems and cut or rip the leaves into 1-inch pieces. Put the kale in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of the vinegar and 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Using your hands, knead the kale for at least 1 minute. The vinegar will break down the green and you’ll be left with about 1 cup of kale.

Whisk the remaining olive oil and vinegar with the mustard. Chop the celery stalk into small dice.

Carefully toss all the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. The still-warm potatoes will absorb some of the dressing.

Let the salad cool before storing it in the fridge for next day’s lunch.

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By DC EcoWomen and Recent Honeymooners Lisa Seyfried and Dawn Bickett

You did it! You planned a successful green wedding.  You composted, you recycled, you upcycled, you thrifted, you ate local.  You did everything that you could to minimize the impact of your wedding day.

But now there is another hurdle.  You want to plan a trip away from everything (and everyone!) and relax.  How do you carry the green theme into your honeymoon?

Here are a few tips:

1. Go Somewhere Local.

You don’t have to go to Hawai’i or a fancy villa in Tuscany to celebrate with your new partner.  You can go to that little B&B an hour away that doesn’t get phone service.  You can go on those great little day trips that you’ve been meaning to take for years but never had the time. You can go camping in the Appalachian Mountains – and get there with public transportation, too!

2. Practice Eco-Travel Tips.

While you’re on your trip, bring your own water bottles and opt for local snacks. It can be really romantic to wander a new town’s farmer’s market with your new person.  You can also scale up the usual fare by eating at restaurants that serve local, eco-friendly food.  On our honeymoon, we found fancy restaurants that served meat from the area that was grass fed and finished – so yummy!

3. Spend Time with Each Other.

Ok, I know, this is a given.  But you don’t have to get wrapped up in new and exotic activities to make a honeymoon special.  Taking a walk down to the beach in the early evening is just as special as paying tons of money to horseback ride down the beach.  Instead of waiting in lines for planned fun, go off the beaten path and explore what’s right in front of you. Which brings me to the next point…

4. Pick a Hotel or Lodging with Care.

Do your research.  Pick a place to stay that’s close to what you are looking for.  If you like hiking, pick a place that has lots of trails that start right by the hotel.  Make sure it’s public transit accessible.  Find out what kind of place it is; are they also eco-friendly?

5. Consider Ecotourism Destinations.

Dying to go somewhere exotic?  Don’t give up on having a green honeymoon.  If staying local just isn’t your scene, try ecotourism.  Ecotourism programs provide a way for you and your new partner to enjoy fragile parts of the natural world while supporting their conservation.  From Costa Rica to Iceland, you can make memories without the impact of that luxury resort.  And if you are relying on long air trips to get you there, consider buying carbon offsets to start to balance out the cost to the climate.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Making the Most of your Local Veggies

The dinners I remember best are the ones I threw together with odds and ends of ingredients.

There was the lentil barley salad made with twelve almonds and one and a half bruised peaches, the pizza whose toppings included roasted cauliflower and eggplant, and the “Great Depression” dinner where some college friends managed to turn a handful of peas, a sweet potato, soy sauce, chickpeas, and leftover lentils (sensing a theme?) into Shepherd’s Pie.

During the summer growing season, my fridge and countertops are usually overflowing with vegetables, some of which I’ve never before seen. Google is my friend, but more often than not I rely on a handful of basic recipes to pull together a new version of a meal.

 

Pesto

Besides its standard use as pasta sauce, pesto makes a great topping sauce for pizza, a garnish for soups, and a sandwich ingredient (try it with sliced August tomatoes). You can make it with almost any green, leafy vegetable. Try using beet greens for a surprisingly pink sauce, or mustard greens for one that’s tangy and spicy. The traditional pesto is made with basil and pine nuts, but I like variety. My nut of choice – the almond – tends to be slightly sweeter, but walnuts also make a great substitute. Puree together four cups of greens, one or two cloves of minced garlic, a half cup of olive oil, and a quarter cup of nuts. Adjust and add salt and parmesan cheese to taste.

Freeze any extra pesto in an ice cube tray for meal-sized leftovers

Pizza

Vegan, vegetarian, or meat-lover, it’s surprisingly easy to elevate this simple dish into one worthy of a dinner party. Caramelize your leftover onions, slice up those tomatoes, and toss on some shredded raw kale. Throw caution to the wind and mix together fresh mozzarella, arugula, and sliced cherry tomatoes. Play around with the types of cheese and the sauce.

Fritters

An egg (or, if vegan, ground flaxseed), a couple tablespoons of flour, and shredded veggies make an easy and delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Mix the ingredients with your hands, separate into golfball sized chunks, then flatten and fry on a skillet. Try shredded sweet potato and chipotle flour or zucchini and Old Bay seasoning, then add to sandwiches or eat alone.

Veggie Pie

My Mom makes spinach pie for special occasions, and when I went away to college I learned to make it with my own twist. I’ve used collards, kale, and beet greens in addition to – and instead of – spinach. To make the pie, I start with Tamar Adler’s olive oil tart dough.* Next, I mix together handfuls of cooked greens, about a sixth as much cheese, and (if there’s one laying around), an egg. As always, salt to taste.

Another twist: try mixing together pureed roasted veggies instead of greens. My favorite version includes roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, and asiago cheese.

Salad

The best salads make full, hearty meals. Starting with a base of raw greens (spinach, kale, mesclun), try mixing together a grain (bulgur, barley, quinoa, brown rice), a protein (lentils! chickpeas, crumbled feta), something sweet (raisins, chopped apples, strawberries), and something salty (roasted almonds or sunflower seeds, croutons, crumbled pretzels). Experiment with texture: try chopped kohlrabi and blueberries, or roasted beets and goat cheese. Try cooked greens instead of raw, or omit them entirely and throw in a roasted vegetable instead. Anything bitter (turnips, I’m looking at you) will be sweeter when roasted and even tastier when drizzled in vinegar or oil. Serve with a slice of toast rubbed with raw garlic and herbs. Need to kick it up a notch? Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over your bowl.

*An Everlasting Meal is my favorite cookbook of all time, and that’s saying something. About a quarter of the books I own revolve around food.

Written by Caroline Selle, the Zero-Waste Girl

posted by | on , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Farm at Walker Jones

The following is a guest post by Courtney Hall Gagnon

Walker Jones Educational Campus

On April 27th, volunteers from DC Ecowomen enjoyed a sunny Saturday morning of volunteering at The Farm at Walker Jones. Walker Jones, an educational campus located at the corner of New Jersey and K Streets, was transformed in 2010 into an oasis of urban agriculture.

Between the green roof on the school and the farm on the ground, the farm produces over 3,000 pounds of food annually that for local neighborhood residents, students, and DC Central Kitchen. Eight beehives also occupy the farm and the green roof on the educational centers. DC HoneyBees, a local nonprofit, set up and maintains the hives.

Nineteen DC Ecowomen shared the farm space with several other volunteers during a Servathon. The main task of the day was weeding the herb and tea garden and open space that will eventually become home for more food grown at the farm. Working together in the perfect spring weather of DC provided plenty of opportunities for networking, and good conversation to pass the time.

Tea Tree Bud

The tea garden might have been the most surprising section of the farm. Tea trees are an unusual sight, even on an urban farm. Their leaves will be ready for harvest next year by students and they will make their own varieties of green and black tea using ingredients grown only on the farm.

During lunch, volunteers had a mini book club discussing six articles that focused on eating and growing local food versus the more typical supermarket diet. This led to an interesting and educational discussion about alternatives for growing food in the often tight living quarters of the city.

David Hilmy, the Farm Lead Teacher, gave volunteers plenty of clear instruction and spent time during lunch explaining the many functions of the agricultural activity at Walker Jones Educational Campus. He’s the physical education teacher at Walker Jones, but also a trained botanist, and has taken on the agriculture activities at his school as part of his curriculum. His enthusiasm for his students, teaching, and the farm was evident, and it is clear how much the farm could benefit from his management.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Farm at Walker Jones, contact him at [email protected]

Volunteers gathered for a lunchtime Q&A