An open letter to Trader Joes

...t what exactly does “cage free” mean? Unfortunately the USDA does not regulate the term cage free so its definition in terms of the actual living conditions of the hens who laid the eggs is uncertain. Perhaps you could redesign your packaging to give us an actual representation of where these eggs came from to clarify a few issues for us. To save your marketing folks some time we’ve done it for you: First off we removed the chic...

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Mead!

...cked up at our local home brew shop. We rehydrated the yeast according to the directions on the package, letting it sit for 15 minutes before we tossed it in the must. 6. We put the must in a used one gallon apple cider bottle and fitted it with a fermentation lock. Mr. Doug Harvey gifted us with an old hydrometer (used to measure the density of a liquid) which we used to take a reading of 15% on our finished must. When fermentation is complete w...

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In Praise of Disorder

Loose chickens in Houston A neighborhood whose demographics fall somewhere between the extremes of the crack den and the country club presents just the right level of civic inattention to allow the urban homesteader to get away with many of the illegal projects profiled in this blog: greywater, backyard poultry, and front yard vegetable gardening, to mention just a few. Ideally you have a balance between order and disorder–neither gunfir...

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Physalis pruinosa a.k.a. “Ground Cherry”

...on several hybrids exist of these plants. Clammy ground cherry pie anyone? As for the fruit of Physalis pruinosa itself, it does not ship well, hence you’ll never find it in American supermarkets, which only seem to carry things that have been shipped for thousands of miles and are therefore both durable and, inevitably, tasteless. Cultivating strange things like this is one of the best arguments for growing your own food–access to fl...

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Bike to Work Week

It’s bike to work week and time to RIDE! That being said, we’re a little disappointed by the iconography our Metropolitan Transit Authority is using to advertise what we otherwise think is a worthwhile cause. It reminds us of an essay by Michael Smith about a poster designed for the equally clueless New York City Department of Transportation. Our MTA seems to feel that only children should ride bikes–at least that’s the u...

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Is Bob’s Red Mill’s Farro Actually Spelt?

...” To add to the confusion spelt and einkorn, are also known as faricella, or “little farro” in Italian. Confused? According to a 1997 article in the New York Times, “Farro, Italy’s Rustic Staple: The Little Grain That Could,” “true” farro is emmer (Triticum dicoccum) and considered superior to spelt. The distinction between farro (Triticum dicoccum) and spelt (Triticum spelta) is important. Triticum...

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Loquat Season

...that mostly goes to waste. Many of these trees live in public spaces, the parkway and people’s front yards making them prime candidates for urban foraging i.e. free food. The tree itself has a vaguely tropical appearance with waxy leaves that look like the sort of plastic foliage that used to grace dentist office lobbies back in the 1960s. In short it’s a real tree that looks fake with fruit that nobody seems to care about. The loquat...

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L’hamd markad – Preserved Salted Lemons

...whole lot of fruit all at one time. There are two ways to deal with this–share the harvest and/or preserve it. Homegrown Revolution has done both this week by mooching some lemons off of a friend’s tree and preserving them by making one of the essential ingredients of Moroccan food, L’hamd markad or preserved salted lemons. L’hamd markad is easy to make. Here’s a recipe from Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse: 12 o...

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Irish Soda Bread

...cipe my comrade in arms decided to post as representative of the best of quick breads. For years I’ve been making a much better whole wheat-ish quick bread (which he seems to have forgotten) and this is how it goes: Irish Brown Soda Bread 1 3/4 c. all purpose flour1 3/4 c. whole wheat flower3 T. toasted wheat bran3 T. toasted wheat germ2 T. old fashioned oats(note: change up or skip these nuggety bits as necessary–they just add textur...

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Growing Chayote

...llis over his carport. Giovanni has wisely intertwined the chayote with an equally prodigious passion fruit vine making for a combo that produces many pounds of fruit all summer long. Chayote (Sechium edule), for those not in the know, is a wonder plant of the gourd family hailing from Mexico and Central America. It has a mild slightly sweet cucumber-like taste. They can be boiled, pan fried, steamed, baked, pickled or chopped up and tossed raw i...

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