Hosted by Carter Wallace and Rishi Kumar
This episode first broadcast on 12/13/12
This weeks segments:
Rishi Kumar on Perennial Vegetables
More about perennial vegetables and how to grow them:
– Perennial Vegetables, the book
– Perennial Vegetables: Grow More Food With Less Work
– Where to Buy Perennial Vegetable Seeds
Chris Kerston of Chaffin Family Orchards
Rosie Diveen on Mindful Eating
Carter: Hello, and Welcome Focus on Food, LA’s media voice for the issues around food justice, urban ecology, DIY kitchen empowerment, and building community through an engagement with our Food. I’m Carter Wallace
Rishi: and I’m Rishi Kumar. And we are the founders of the Institute of Urban Ecology. This is soft launch of our new podcast series which can be found online at instituteofurbanecology.org. Today’s show will be feature a lesson in building living soil through a process called sheet mulching, an interview with author Ramiel Nagel on the link between our diet and tooth decay, and as always a visit to the focus on food kitchen with our resident food artist, Rosie Diveen.
Carter: So join us now, as we walk away from the false dependence on Food Inc, and encourage our own resourcefulness and wisdom, as we realize a healthier, happier, and holier present.
As Americans, most of the vegetables we eat have their ancestry in the cold climates of Europe. In Europe, winters bring cold winds, frost, and snow, making it difficult for many vegetable plants to survive. Most European crops were therefore annuals: plants that grow from seed and die in one season. Traditionally, Europeans grew most of their vegetables in the warmer summer months, which they then preserved and stored for winter.
In warmer climates, however, such as Asia, Africa and South America, the life and culture of food followed a different rhthym. Many of these cultures, due to their warm climates, were able to eat fresh vegetables year round. Like the Europeans, many of the crops in these regions were annual, but these cultures also survived off of a variety of PERENNIAL crops. A perennials is a plant that grows for two years or more. Perennial crops require less effort because they don’t have to be planted every year, and require less maintenance because their deeper root systems allowed them to access more nutrients and more water from deeper in the soil.
Luckily for us Southern Californians, our climate is very similar to those warmer climates of the tropics and the mediterranean. So although most of the foods we grow and eat today are annuals, thats more due to our cultural heritage than to realities of our climate and geography. Perennial vegetables can give us high quality, nutritious, delicious food, for a fraction of the work and water, and so today I am going to take this time to introduce to you some of my favorite perennial vegetables.
The first perennial I’ll introduce you to is one thats been in my life for over 5 years, and goes by the name New Zealand Spinach. As its name implies, this plant is indigenous to New Zealand, and it eaten just like Spinach, a plant it is not related too. New Zealand Spinach grows as a spreading ground cover, its long tentacle like stems extending up to 15 ft. It grows best in the summer, when it produces leaves prolifically, but will give you spinach-like greens year round. Because it contains medium to low levels of oxalic acid, I recommend you blanch the leaves and then rinse them in cold water before eating. I’ve found these leaves go great with Asian flavors like ginger, sesame, and soy sauce, but feel free to use them in any dish you might put spinach in. To grow New Zealand spinach, you’ll have to start from seed. Seeds are not commonly available in local nurseries, but can be found easily online in many heirloom vegetables catalogs.
The next vegetable I’ll introduce you to is my favorite perennial replacement for lettuce. It is a small plant with a beautiful flavor that some of you may be familiar with, and its called Sorrel. Sorrel is a lettuce-like green with a distinct sour, lemon-ey twist. Sorrel actually grows wild in many countries including our own, and it can be found near streams and roadsides even here in beautiful Southern California. Its more wild relatives are known as dock, but the garden variety sorrel has been cultivated to have a more delicate texture and flavor. I love sorrel in my sandwiches, salads, and sauteed with beets and potatoes. The best thing about sorrel is how easy it is to grow. You can either start with some seeds, which germinate and transplant easily, or with a seedling which can be found at most nurseries. I like to keep at least 10 sorrel plants for all my salad needs. They grow well in part to near full shade, require little water, and do well under general garden neglect. Simply pick the outer leaves as they get bigger, leaving the smaller ones to continue to grow. Sorrel plants last about 3 years.
Finally, the last and my favorite perennial vegetable I’ll introduce you all to is the Tree Collard. The name of this plant does an excellent job in describing it. The tree collard is literally a collard green plant that grows like a tree. Now, most people don’t get too excited when they hear that collard greens are for dinner, but let me tell you, you all should be excited about the possibility of collard greens year round. Collard greens have been ranked as the most nutritionally dense foods in existence. If you’ve heard of the ANDI score, which stand for aggregate nutritional density index, collard greens have an ANDI score of 1000. OUT of 1000. The leaves of this plant are literally packed with energy of Mother Nature. They contain more protein by weight than beef. Thats right muscle men, if you really want to build that bulk, you’ll need to include these in your garden and your diet. Tree collards can be eaten any way that regular collard greens can be eaten, as a wrap for a raw burrito, sauteed with other vegetables, or for that extra oomph in your day, as a raw green juice. To grow tree collards, you’ll need to get a plant from a friend or nursery. There are two varieties available, white veined and purple veined. Either is great. Tree collards are becoming quite popular these days, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding them at your local nursery. If they don’t have them in stock, many nurseries can special order them for you. Personally, I’m growing twenty of these plants at The Growing Home, because we just can’t get enough.
So those are three of my favorite perennial vegetables, though there are dozens more I’ve grown, and probably hundreds more i’ve yet to encounter. I highly encourage all of you to take advantage of this wonderful climate we have here and grow some of these amazing, year round food plants. As always, you’ll find more info about perennial vegetables online at our website instituteofurbanecology.org and keep listening to focus on food for more garden tips and tricks!
Interview with Mark McAfee
[No transcript available]
Mindful eating is very pleasant. We sit beautifully. We are aware of the people that are sitting around us. We are aware of the food on our plates. This is a deep practice. Each morsel of food is an ambassador from the cosmos. When we pick up a piece of a vegetable, we look at it for half a second. We look mindfully to really recognize the piece of food, the piece of carrot or string bean. We should know that this is a piece of carrot or a string bean. We identify it with our mindfulness: “I know this is a piece of carrot. This is a piece of string bean.” It only takes a fraction of a second.
When we are mindful, we recognize what we are picking up. When we put it into our mouth, we know what we are putting into our mouth. When we chew it, we know what we are chewing. It’s very simple.
Some of us, while looking at a piece of carrot, can see the whole cosmos in it, can see the sunshine in it, can see the earth in it. It has come from the whole cosmos for our nourishment.
You may like to smile to it before you put it in your mouth. When you chew it, you are aware that you are chewing a piece of carrot. Don’t put anything else into your mouth, like your projects, your worries, your fear, just put the carrot in.
And when you chew, chew only the carrot, not your projects or your ideas. You are capable of living in the present moment, in the here and the now. It is simple, but you need some training to just enjoy the piece of carrot. This is a miracle.
I often teach “orange meditation” to my students. We spend time sitting together, each enjoying an orange. Placing the orange on the palm of our hand, we look at it while breathing in and out, so that the orange becomes a reality. If we are not here, totally present, the orange isn’t here either.
There are some people who eat an orange but don’t really eat it. They eat their sorrow, fear, anger, past, and future. They are not really present, with body and mind united.
When you practice mindful breathing, you become truly present. If you are here, life is also here. The orange is the ambassador of life. When you look at the orange, you discover that it is nothing less than fruit growing, turning yellow, becoming orange, the acid becoming sugar. The orange tree took time to create this masterpiece.
When you are truly here, contemplating the orange, breathing and smiling, the orange becomes a miracle. It is enough to bring you a lot of happiness. You peel the orange, smell it, take a section, and put it in your mouth mindfully, fully aware of the juice on your tongue. This is eating an orange in mindfulness. It makes the miracle of life possible. It makes joy possible.
The other miracle is the Sangha, the community in which everyone is practicing in the same way. The woman sitting next to me is also practicing mindfulness while eating her breakfast. How wonderful! She is touching the food with mindfulness. She is enjoying every morsel of her breakfast, like me. We are brother and sister on the path of practice. From time to time we look at each other and smile. It is the smile of awareness. It proves that we are happy, that we are alive. It is not a diplomatic smile. It is a smile born from the ground of enlightenment, of happiness.
That smile has the power to heal. It can heal you and your friend. When you smile like that, the woman next to you will smile back. Before that, maybe her smile was not completely ripe. It was ninety percent ripe. If you offer her your mindful smile, you will give her the energy to smile one hundred percent.
When she is smiling, healing begins to take place in her. You are very important for her transformation and healing. That is why the presence of brothers and sisters in the practice is so important. This is also why we don’t talk during breakfast. If we talk about the weather or the political situation in the Middle East, we can never say enough.
We need the silence to enjoy our own presence and the presence of our Dharma brothers and sisters. This kind of silence is very alive, powerful, nourishing, and transforming. It is not oppressive or sad. Together we can create this kind of noble silence.
Sometimes it is described as “thundering silence” because it is so powerful.
Rishi: For more on anything you heard today, visit the Focus on Food tab on our shiny new web site: InstituteofUrbanEcology.org, and like us on facebook, and follow us on twitter at focusonfood fm.
Carter: That’s InstituteofUrbanEcology.o r g, and facebook and twitter at focusonfoodfm. And feel free to write us with any questions, comments or interest in getting your hands dirty, at email@example.com. So thanks for listening and stay tuned to Focus on Food where we will showcase the many ways we are reclaiming our access to healthy food and vibrant communities.
Rishi: To keep up with us on our latest classes, events, and work parties, sign up for our newsletter and subscribe to our podcast at instituteofurbanecology.org.
Well that’s all for this show. As a parting thought, we encourage you to take a moment before every meal to say thanks, for gratefulness is great fullness. Until next time…