5 surprisingly easy edible gardening projects for Spring

March 30, 2017 by  
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Spring has officially sprung and it’s a great time to renew your connection to this beautiful planet we call home. One great way to deepen your connection with the earth is to get outdoors, digging in the dirt and planting food to green the land and provide sustenance for yourself and your family. Newbie gardeners may feel apprehensive about trying to grow edible plants, but there are many simple gardening projects that are easy to do, both indoors and out. From planting fruit trees, to growing leftover herbs , to creating a butterfly garden, here are eight great beginner gardening projects to get you started in deepening your connection to the earth and understanding how to provide for yourself. GROW YOUR OWN TOMATOES INDOORS Who doesn’t love the taste of home-grown cherry tomatoes? While growing tomato plants may seem daunting to a newbie gardener, they are actually surprisingly easy plants to cultivate, either indoors or out. I’ve grown many tomato plants indoors, in window gardens, both in New York City and in San Francisco (two places with wildly different climates), so it doesn’t really matter where you live, if you want to grow delicious tomatoes – you just need to grow them indoors. The trick to successful tomatoes is starting them in the spring with seedlings and then understanding that they require a lot of sun, heat and water to ripen to sweet delicious tomatoes, so you need a bright window (ideally south facing) and daily watering once they start fruiting. I picked my tomato seedlings up at my local Home Depot , but you can find them at most garden centers in the spring. Tomato plants are self-pollinating – which means they don’t need pollinators or other plants to grow fruit, but if you are indoors (without a lot of bees flying about) you can aid the pollination process along by shaking the flowers gently every day or using an electric toothbrush to vibrate them. START A KITCHEN SCRAP SCALLION GARDEN Did you know you can regrow new scallion plants from the bottom end of leftover scallion scraps? Check out Inhabitat editor Yuka Yoneda’s great DIY scallion farm tutorial on how to do this in 10 minutes, using a recycled plastic container, an exacto knife, and your scallion scraps. Why be wasteful when you can be resourceful!? This trick also works (albeit with a slightly different technique) using old onions or garlic that have sprouted. You can plant and sprout onions and garlic and then chop up their greens on an ongoing basis when you need chives. PLANT AN APPLE TREE An apple a day keeps the doctor away – or so goes the old saying, dating back to a Welsh proverb from 1860 . Apples really are good for you, and they’re nature’s perfect snack; tasty, crispy, easily transportable, and they keep well for a long time. They’re also relatively easy to grow in almost every climate in the US. The trick with apples is to understand the concept of chill hours, and know what types of apples grow best in your local climate. Every cultivar of apple needs a certain number of cold winter frost hours (chill hours) to produce fruit in the spring. Some cultivars need more than others and can only be grown in climates where it gets very cold in the winter such as the Northeast (sadly my favorite type, the Honeycrisp apple , falls in this category). Other types, such as Fuji Apple , can be grown in mild climates like that of San Francisco, which don’t get a lot of chill hours. Sapling apple trees can be found at most local garden centers. I got a fabulous multi-variety grafted tree from my local Home Depot. PLANT A POLLINATOR GARDEN WITH NATIVE FLOWERS If you’re wondering why this one is listed under “edible” – it’s important to understand how crucial pollinators are to our food supply . Honeybees , bumblebees and butterflies help pollinate plants, including many of the farmed ones that we eat as food, such as apples, citrus, cherries, pears, soybeans, almonds, peaches, melons, corn, blueberries, coffee, chocolate. Without pollinators , we wouldn’t be able to enjoy much of the food we eat today. And you may have heard that our most important food-crop pollinator , bees, have been dying in large numbers, leading to colony collage disorder. You can support bees, butterflies and other pollinators by planting an organic pollinator garden of native flowers, so your local bees and butterflies have nectar to eat, and then in turn, can help pollinate food for you to eat! Mixes of native pollinator seeds can be found in most garden centers. If you are concerned about colony collapse disorder, don’t use chemical pesticides in your garden (especially neonicotinoids ). Instead use natural pest management techniques, such as bringing in ladybugs , lacewings, mantises, and other predator bugs that eat pests. GROW CITRUS FROM SEED You can easily buy a lemon or an orange tree from a local garden center , but growing your own citrus tree from seed is so much more fun! It is really easy to grow citrus from seeds – watch the video above to see how to do it! The trick to caring for citrus is to understand its growing requirements. Citrus are tropical and subtropical fruits, which mean they need a lot of sunlight and heat. You can grown citrus outdoors year round in Florida and California, but if you live in a climate with colder winters, you’ll need to grow your citrus indoors in pots you can bring into your house before frost. Citrus also generally requires a lot of fertilizer with high nitrogen – some growers like to use special citrus fertilizer . If you want a citrus plant that will produce reliable fruit you’ll need to purchase a commercially grafted variety from a store, like this bad boy . Citrus hybridizes readily, which means that citrus plants you grow from seed could produce some weird hybrid unknown fruit – could be good, or very bad. It also takes many years of growth before a tree grown from seed will set flowers and fruit. Grow your own citrus from seed > GROW AVOCADO FROM SEED In a testament to the growing popularity of avocados, Inhabitat’s most popular post of all time is a guide to growing avocado from seed . Growing avocados from seed is definitely more challenging than growing citrus, but the challenge is part of the fun. Check out this perennially popular how-to for the avocado-growing technique that works for me every time. Similar to the other fruit trees we discussed in this article, if you want an avocado tree that reliably produces good fruit, you should buy a commercially grafted tree. Avocados grown from seed can take ten years to bear fruit, and the fruit is most likely a hybrid, and will not taste like the Hass Avocado from whence the seed came. But growing from seed is so rewarding! Grow your own avocado from seed >

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5 surprisingly easy edible gardening projects for Spring

A big pawprint: The environmental impact of pet food

March 30, 2017 by  
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Pets can have a large ecological footprint, and their food is a big contributing factor.

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This Cider Saved Apples from Rotting Away

March 21, 2017 by  
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As Utah’s only hard cider maker, Mountain West prides itself on using as many local ingredients as possible. And now, they’ve taken that to a whole new level, with a sustainable twist. The Salt Lake City–based cidery has teamed up with nonprofit…

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This Cider Saved Apples from Rotting Away

Quebec food waste program to rescue 30.8 million pounds of food

March 14, 2017 by  
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Sending leftover food from grocery stores to food banks may seem like a simple answer to food waste , but management and distribution have complicated the process in the past. Now in Canada , Food Banks of Quebec (FBC) has launched their province-wide Supermarket Recovery Program (SRP) to simplify distribution and management, enabling over 600 grocery stores to easily give back. FBC first launched the SRP, which they say is the first of its kind in Canada, a few years ago. Last year that initial pilot, with 177 grocery stores participating, collected around 5.5 million pounds of food and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 2,000 metric tons. This year the FBC launched their province-wide program, with 611 supermarkets participating. According to Global News, the province-wide program will collect around 30.8 million pounds of food and result in 13,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emission reduction every year. Related: This Danish grocery store selling expired goods is so popular that it’s opening a second branch Sam Watts, the executive director of Welcome Hall Mission, a group providing services for the poor in Montreal, said it used to be difficult for supermarkets to accommodate food banks asking them for donations one by one. The SRP makes it easy for them to give unused produce away. Food will be gathered from their stores on a schedule, and then taken to a distribution center and delivered to food banks. As a middleman handing storage – enabling food to stay fresh or frozen – SRP enables leftover food to get safely and swiftly to people who need it. Watts said in a Global News video, “Just to try and put competing companies together in a project like this, it took some real political will. The idea behind it is hey, we’ve got enough food in Quebec to feed everybody, let’s not be throwing things out. Let’s be recuperating what we can recuperate and let’s make sure we get it to people who need it.” Via Global News Images via Masahiro Ihara on Flickr and screenshot

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Quebec food waste program to rescue 30.8 million pounds of food

7 Food Ingredients Your Children Should Never Eat

March 8, 2017 by  
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As parents, it’s our job to make sure our children are being raised in the healthiest environment possible. One of the keys to this is ensuring they are getting the proper nutrition through their diet. While some kids can be picky eaters, we…

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Germany’s environmental ministry nixes meat, fish at official functions

February 24, 2017 by  
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The German equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency is saying yes to sauerkraut, no to bratwurst—officially, at least. Barbara Hendricks, minister for the environment, announced last week that the Umweltbundesamt , Germany’s federal environmental arm, will serve neither meat nor fish at state events. She cited as a reason the inordinate environmental burden they pose on the environment, especially in the case of livestock farming, which studies show generate more greenhouse-gas emissions than transportation. This isn’t a novel stance for the ministry. In 2009, the Umweltbundesamt counseled Germans to return to the prewar tradition of eating meat only on special occasions, if not for their health, then for the sake of the planet. “We must rethink our high meat consumption,” said then–environment minister Andreas Troge. “I recommend people return to the Sunday roast and to an orientation of their eating habits around those of Mediterranean countries.” A nation that offers hundreds of varieties of sausage may not be so easily swayed, however. Germans consume a lot of meat—about 60 kilograms (132 pounds) per capita per year, according to some estimates . Unsurprisingly, Henrick’s pronouncement has already drawn criticism, with one political rival accusing the minister of “nanny-statism” and forcing vegetarianism on people. “I’m not having this Veggie Day through the back door,” said Christian Schmidt, minister of food and agriculture. “I believe in diversity and freedom of choice, not nanny-statism and ideology. Instead of paternalism and ideology. Meat and fish are also part of a balanced diet.” A member of Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union party, Schmidt previously called for a ban on giving meat substitutes names like “vegetarian schnitzel” and “vegetarian sausage” because they are “completely misleading and unsettle consumers.” Infographic: The true environmental cost of eating meat He also censured German schools for eliminating pork from the menu out of consideration for Muslim students. “We should not restrict the choice for the majority of society for reasons of ease or cost,” he said. Meanwhile, Hendricks’s detractors have dismissed her a hypocrite, since meat and fish will still be offered in the staff cafeteria. “The ban only applies to a handful of guests, not to 1,200 employees,” said Gitta Conneman, a senior minister from the Christian Democratic Union. “This is pure ideology, a ‘people’s education’ for the diet.” But, at least for now, the environment ministry isn’t budging. “We’re not telling anyone what they should eat,” it said in a statement. “But we want to set a good example for climate protection, because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish.” Via ThinkProgress Photos by Marco Verch and Oliver Hallmann

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Germany’s environmental ministry nixes meat, fish at official functions

Duke University researchers use light to convert carbon dioxide to fuel

February 24, 2017 by  
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What if the carbon dioxide building up in our atmosphere could be put to good use as fuel ? For years chemists have chased a catalyst that could aid the reaction converting carbon dioxide to methane , a building block for many fuels – and now Duke University scientists have found just such a catalyst in tiny rhodium nanoparticles . Duke University researchers converted carbon dioxide into methane with the help of rhodium nanoparticles, which harness ultraviolet light’s energy to catalyze carbon dioxide’s conversion into methane. Rhodium is one of Earth’s rarest elements, but according to Duke University it plays a key role in our daily lives by speeding up reactions in industrial processes like making detergent or drugs. Rhodium also helps break down toxic pollutants in our cars’ catalytic converters. Related: Scientists create a new kind of matter called time crystals The fact that the scientists employed light to power the reaction is important. When graduate student Xiao Zhang tried heating up the nanoparticles to 300 degrees Celsius, the reaction did produce methane but also produced an equal amount of poisonous carbon monoxide . But when he instead used a high-powered ultraviolet LED lamp, the reaction yielded almost entirely methane. Jie Liu, chemistry professor and paper co-author, said in a statement, “The fact that you can use light to influence a specific reaction pathway is very exciting. This discovery will really advance the understanding of catalysis.” The scientists now hope to find a way to employ natural sunlight in the reaction, which Duke University says would be “a potential boon to alternative energy .” The journal Nature Communications published the research of seven scientists from Duke University’s chemistry and physics departments online this week. Via Duke University Images via Chad Scales/Duke University and Xiao Zhang/Duke University

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50,000 new seeds deposited in Arctic Circle’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault

February 23, 2017 by  
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Nearly 10 years ago, a group of scientists got together to build the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle , to prepare for a world threatened by climate change , wars, and natural disasters. According to The Crop Trust , an organization that supports the storage facility, the vault holds the world’s largest and most diverse seed collection – and just received a major investment of 50,000 new seeds . The Svalbard Global Seed Vault works to ensure food security and biodiversity for the future, and it appears many countries value that mission. The Crop Trust reported around 50,000 samples from seed collections in the United States, United Kingdom, Benin, Belarus, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Morocco, and Bosnia and Herzegovina recently arrived at the seed vault, which lies between Norway and the North Pole. Related: Syria withdraws seeds from Doomsday Vault as bombs disrupt crop research The Crop Trust executive director Marie Haga said at the vault, “Today’s seed deposit at Svalbard supported by The Crop Trust shows that despite political and economic differences in other arenas, collective efforts to conserve crop diversity and produce a global food supply for tomorrow continue to be strong.” The seed vault helps countries today too – in 2015 a research center in Syria had to withdraw some seeds they’d stored as war plagued Aleppo, but they were recently able to return some of the seeds to the vault along with the rest of the recent deposit. The seed vault could store as many as 4.5 million seed varieties; until the recent deposit, there were over 880,000 samples stored, and the total has now reached 930,821 seed samples, including potato, wheat, sorghum, rice, lentil, barley, and chickpea seeds. The vault’s extreme location helps protect the seeds; permafrost and thick rock keep the samples frozen. The Crop Trust describes the facility as the ultimate insurance policy, saying it “will secure, for centuries, millions of seeds representing every important crop variety available in the world today. It is the final backup.” Via The Crop Trust ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Global Crop Diversity Trust on Facebook and Wikimedia Commons

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50,000 new seeds deposited in Arctic Circle’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Tech to table: Lessons from Google’s foodservice strategy

February 17, 2017 by  
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Increasingly, a variety of technologies are transforming the world of food, from robotics in restaurant kitchens, to e-labeling for food storage, to wearable technologies for food inspectors. These technologies are helping us reduce food waste and lower impacts at every step of the food chain. 

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Tech to table: Lessons from Google’s foodservice strategy

Dramatic lookout tower in Tasmania is built from repurposed shipping containers

February 11, 2017 by  
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The Devil’s Corner Cellar Door was designed as a contemporary interpretation of the traditional rural vernacular. The project comprises five timber-clad shipping containers carefully placed to form inviting spaces with thoughtfully curated views. Three distinct openings frame unique views—SKY, HORIZON, and TOWER—with the hope that they will help visitors gain a better appreciation for the landscape. Related: Gravity-defying staircase floats above Belgium’s famous “fairytale forest” “By creating a dynamic scenic lookout and providing associated facilities, visitors are drawn to a new upgraded cellar door for the Devil’s Corner wine label,” write the architects. On the opposite side of the building is the Cellar Door, made up of timber-clad volumes set around an open courtyard. The semi-protected courtyard hosts the food market and overlooks views of The Hazards’ granite peaks. + Cumulus Studio Via Dezeen Images via Cumulus Studio

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Dramatic lookout tower in Tasmania is built from repurposed shipping containers

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