Plantago coronopus, a.k.a. Buckhorn Plantain, a.k.a. Erba Stella

Cruise down the produce isle of a supermarket in the United States and you’ll only find highly domesticated foods. Thumb through the pages of the Silver Spoon (the Joy of Cooking of Italian Cuisine) and you’ll discover entire chapters devoted to the use of wild or semi-wild plants. This summer I grew one of these semi-cultivated Italian vegetables, Buckhorn plantain (Plantago coronopus) also known as Erba Stella and Barba di frat...

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Pot o’ Goodness: Low, Low-Tech Water Conservation

Mrs. Homegrown here: Continuing on the greywater theme, on big cooking days, when I’m doing a lot of boiling, steaming, soaking and rinsing, I collect all that used water in a big pot and take it out to the garden to water the plants. It’s full of nutrients, and won’t cause any blackwater* problems as long as you: Use it immediately. It will turn foul if left to sit too long. Pour it straight into the soil–don’t s...

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Bean Fest Begins!

...d to be spiced to perfection with some sort of rare cumin. It was delicious beyond describing. The cook had mastered the hidden art of beans. As homey and friendly as beans are, they can be tricky. Make a couple of misteps in cooking and you end up with bland hippie slop. These days I get it right more than I get it wrong, but I’m always looking to improve. So I’m crowd-sourcing my bean quest. Let’s celebrate the humble bean and...

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Bean Fest, Episode 4: Frijoles Refritos

...fairness, that real, home cooked lard from well-raised pigs is not such a bad fat. For what it’s worth. To make refried beans you just need to have some cooked beans on hand, the classic choice being pintos.  In Tex-Mex cooking the pintos meant for refritos are first cooked with onion, garlic and a pork rind. Considering that refritos are fried in a bath in oil, garlic and onion, you could theoretically start with very plain boiled beans. B...

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Advances in Gardening Series: A Progress Report

...In the dead center is what I call The Hippie Heart (and yes, that’s tm’d too.). I’ll come back to the heart: I like the view better from the other direction. In the center foreground you can see twig with a label tied to it. That’s one of our brand new fruit trees.: This below is a pretty uninspired picture of The Hippie Heart, a raised bed which is about 5 feet across, made by simply digging up and mounding earth–...

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Making Salves, Lip Balms & etc.: Close of the Calendula Series

...e mix starts to cool. I find that the lip of a liquid measuring cup gives enough control to fill even those fiddly little plastic lip balm tubes. Let the containers sit, open, until they are completely cool. Then lid them and label them. Clean up: The best way I’ve found to deal with the waxy grease residue (since I stopped using paper towels) is to shake a generous amount of baking soda into the dish and then rub it around. The soda lifts...

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Clean your bathroom without resorting to Poison

...dirt. Whatever I clean, however I clean it, will get dirty the next time it’s used, so why all the struggle and germ phobia? All cheap white vinegar is the same, but I like El Pato brand because of the duck on the label. Why doesn’t El Pato make t-shirts? The vinegar spray is great because it doesn’t leave any residue behind (which soap does), shines up things fairly well, disinfects to some extent because it is an acid...

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Plum Lemon Tomato Power’s Heirloom Tomato

...d those loads of melamine laced pet food from China, they did somehow manage to track 1,840 confirmed cases of food-borne illnesses in domestic tomatoes. Again, urban homesteading revolutionaries, GROW YOUR OWN! We found that label and it’s a tomato called “Power’s Heirloom”. Here’s how the Seed Saver’s exchange catalog copy describes it, “First offered in the 1990 SSE Yearbook by Bruce McAllister from Fr...

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What Mountaineering Accidents Can Teach Us About Food Preservation

...and stored in the refrigerator at 40°F or lower for no more than 7 days. It may be frozen for long term storage for up to several months. Package in glass freezer jars or plastic freezer boxes, leaving ½-inch headspace. Label, date and freeze. The take home from the botulism review is that the problem is rare and that home food preservation is very safe assuming you follow standard procedures, most notably using a pressure canner to can lo...

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