Monday, February 28, 2011

A Few Things to Try

This year's Eco-Savvy Symposium at Green Spring Gardens offered a wealth of information on small space gardening and bumper crop uses (even urban gardeners can end up with zucchini up the wazoo).

First off, resourceful gardeners can grow things anywhere. Sarah Bush, of Edible Revolution, presented creative ideas for taking back our food sources, one backyard at a time. Repurposed wine barrels convert to strawberry containers, re-useable grocery bags find a second-life as potato grow-bags, and 55 gallon drums make great raised beds for edible flowers and herbs.

So where can we find and reclaim these treasures? Would you like to build your own cold frame, but wonder if you're the only one who never finds usable, perfectly weathered windows and cedar planks lying by the side of the road? Turns out American Disposal Services is surprisingly efficient at collecting Fairfax County garbage, and I think those HGTV guys get up before dawn and take all the good stuff. If your neighborhood search doesn't turn anything up, try Rebuild Warehouse in Springfield. This incredible resource aims to "train unemployed and underemployed unskilled workers for “green collar” jobs and to educate the community in affordable ways to live sustainably." They will supposedly build cold frames and raised beds, as well as provide materials for rain barrels, stone work and construction jobs.

Once you've built your garden beds and barrels, you'll have to figure out how to prepare all your wonderful produce. If you have too much to eat off the vine, try fermentation, a crazy-sounding method of food storage, and a cure-all. According to Monica Corrado, founder of Simply Being Well, fermentation aids in relieving everything from Autism to Colitis. I was skeptical at first, but it's really just sauerkraut, kim chee, and other vegetables cured with live enzymes, as opposed to vinegar. As Monica says: "canned food is dead; fermented food is living." I tasted the fizzing kraut and can attest to its flavor - just like Bubby's or Bubbies, which you can find only in the refrigerator section of stores like Whole Foods. If it's not in the fridge, we learned, it is pickled, not fermented. But why buy it when you can make your own?

I went home and made yogurt cheese, extracted whey, and would have gone on to ferment beets and turnips, except that it was a beautiful day and we were outside until after dark getting our garden ready for spring. After last year's canning excitement, I'm not quite ready to give up on "dead" food like raspberry kiwi jam, but we'll definitely be spreading yogurt cheese on our bread, and we'll have a few tablespoons of living things on our plates from here on out.

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