Archive | June, 2012

Good morning

Breakfast this morning. Peaches with sweet and purple basil from the garden and balsamic from Olive Del Mondo.

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Raised bed

Took a ride out to Smithfield Peat Company today to get some yard waste compost for my planting box. With buckets and plastic storage bins loaned from a friend, I was able to get enough to fill my box. The company sells top soil, gravel, mulch, compost, and more by the yard. I was shy of a yard but they were very generous to let me have just as much as I needed.

It’s late in the season to be preparing the box, but some of my plants are really going to appreciate being transferred to this cozy bed.

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Strawberry rhubarb salad

I’d like to share this sweet and tart salad I’ve been making with ingredients from the farmer’s market. Back in May I started buying rhubarb and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I’ve been experimenting with different recipes and this one is my favorite so far. It’s so simple and easy to make. The recipe below is loose. The measurements will depend on the size and number of salads. I just wing it.


spinach, rhubarb, strawberries (optional), red wine vinegar, honey, olive oil, and water

Tear and rinse spinach and place it on a plate.

Cut the rhubarb on a diagonal to get two-inch pieces. 

Place the pieces in a skillet and add enough water to float them. Bring to a boil and stir in about a tablespoon of honey. Simmer them until soft (they cook quickly, maybe 3-5 minutes).

Remove the rhubarb from the liquid with a slotted spoon or spatula and place over the bed of spinach, but leave one or two pieces of rhubarb in the skillet to make the dressing.

Add about a tablespoon of red wine vinegar to the skillet and simmer the liquid until it thickens to a syrupy consistency. Let cool and then stir in olive oil. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.

Add sliced strawberries if desired.

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Sugar snap peas

From City Farm.

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No trash tailgating

I have been meaning to share this image of a recent trash-free tailgating session. Last month I went to a concert in Mansfield, Massachusetts with my two best friends in the world. We made a hearty quinoa dish with apples, walnuts, kale, carrots, olive oil, and lemon juice, packed it in one large container and carried it in a cooler. We brought water in glass bottles, homemade trail mix in a jar, some fruit, and three forks. The venue doesn’t permit concertgoers to carry in their own food or beverages so we loaded up on the protein-rich meal in the parking lot for stamina, eliminating the need to purchase overpriced, over packaged food from inside. As we grazed and chatted, I stood admiring my friends in the pink light of the setting sun thinking, “I could do just this all night.” But the show ended up being pretty fantastic too.

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Chioggia beets from Arcadia Farms!

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From City Farm! Well, at least what’s left of them…

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Bed frame

Built a planting box today for my tomatoes. My landlady suggested the project and I took her up on it. I will put it in a corner in the driveway that gets a lot of sun and hopefully they’ll grow well there. The wood is salvaged from outside the Ajay Land Company building where I share a studio. There was some slight warping to the found boards, so the box turned out a bit wonky, but it will serve it’s purpose well. Now I need some dirt!

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Tea in Sahara

Yesterday I had a meeting at Tea in Sahara on Governor Street in Providence. I love this little cafe. It’s in a quiet residential neighborhood and the owners are so friendly. Hot beverages are served in ceramic mugs but iced beverages are poured into number 1 plastic cups with lids and straws. So when I ordered my iced jasmine tea I asked the woman behind the counter if she could put it in my canteen and she was happy to do it. I sat working and sipping while the thunderstorm rolled through and cooled the city down.

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Heat wave

I decided the last couple days were too hot to cook at home (indoors or out), so I opted for takeout. I love the Saag Tofu from Rasoi, an Indian restaurant just over the border in Pawtucket. The employees are always so nice and they never have any problem putting my order in the containers I hand them (I give them two so that the saag and rice stay separate until I’m ready to eat). It’s a lot of food, but it stores well in the fridge so I always get two meals out of it. I brought my filled containers back to work and sat on a bench outside enjoying my dinner as the sun set. It was still in the 90s at 8:30pm.

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Olive del Mondo

After shopping the Lippitt park farmer’s market on Wednesday afternoon, I stopped by the recently opened Olive del Mondo at 815 Hope Street. My friend Seth sent me word about it at the beginning of the week and I was excited to check it out. As I’ve mentioned in many other posts, I have been getting my oils and vinegars from the Alternative Food Co-op in Wakefield, RI. I travel down there every 1.5 to 2 months to restock. The co-op products are very satisfactory—especially for cooking, but when it comes to dressing oil and vinegar, I have longed for a bulk source of specialty products. Growing up, my Italian father was always so excited to bring home dark green earthy olive oils and thick sweet balsamic vinegars to feed us. He’d open a bottle or can, drizzle it’s contents over a tomato or soak it into a piece of bread and present it to me with ebullience saying, “you’ve got to try this!”  It spoiled me.

As I stepped into Olive del Mondo, a huge smile came over my face. Glinting stainless canisters or “fustis” of oils and vinegars line the walls and island displays. Printed cards carefully describe the contents of each. I immediately noticed the emply dark glass bottles with cork stoppers that fill the lower shelves, and thought, “this looks promising”. I approached the young woman at the counter and introduced myself. I expressed my excitement and asked about the bottling system. Jennifer (that’s her name) explained to me that customers buy a small or large glass bottle to fill with the oil or vinegar of their choosing and then when they’ve finished with the product, they can bring the bottle back to the store to be washed and reused. The shop is equipped with a washing and drying system (bottle trees) in back. Fantastic! Plastic sampling cups and utensils are provided for customers to try different flavors, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem to use one’s own sampling vessel brought from home.

Jennifer and her husband Salvatore—who came in while we were talking, opened the business together. Both are graduates of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and their sensibilities show in the details of the store layout. We chatted about waste reduction projects. They told me it was a bit of a struggle to convince the Department of Health that the reusable bottle system could be sanitary, but eventually they were able to get it approved. I asked about the containers their products are delivered to the store in and Salvatore told me that they do come in plastic jugs (this is standard in shipping because of plastic’s lightweight characteristic—more weight equals more money and fuel). One jug fills one entire fusti. The plastic shipping container is certainly an imperfection in the bulk goods shopping system. It’s something that I discussed with Rosemary, the manager of Alternative Food Co-op, when I toured the store in January. She told me that paper and burlap are still being used to distribute many dry bulk goods, but today most liquid bulk products are shipped in plastic.

It’s important to acknowledge that buying imported food products is not a Zero Waste practice. As implicated by the shop’s name, the products Olive del Mondo carries are shipped here from around the world. While writing this post I realized that I did not know where the olive oil I buy in bulk at the co-op comes from. So I called them up and spoke to Liz, who is the store buyer and she told me that currently the olive oil they are purchasing in bulk is indeed imported and that it’s an issue they are both aware of and concerned about. So far they have not been able to find a distributor of bulk domestic olive oil.

When it comes to shopping for liquid bulk goods, variety is not always easy to come by… but there’s no shortage of it at Olive del Mondo. I really enjoyed speaking with Jennifer and Salvatore and I so admire the work they’ve done to set up the reusable bottle system. Currently, oil plays an important role in my diet, as it’s one of my main sources of fat. And while vinegar is a source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, the real reason I continue to consume it is that I simply love it. I passed on sampling in the shop because I didn’t have a vessel on me, but I did purchase a small bottle of 18-year aged balsamic and a reusable pour cap (the standard stop caps cannot be returned for reuse). As it turns out, it’s the most delicious balsamic vinegar I’ve ever tasted. I will savor every last drop.


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Garlic scapes

From Schartner.

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Summer solstice

Today was a great day. I hit up the farmer’s market, stopped into the new olive oil and vinegar shop on Hope Street and bought some amazing aged bulk balsamic vinegar (more on this soon!) and then headed for the coast to watch the sun set on the longest day of the year (and for some relief from the heat). It was particularly beautiful tonight. I managed to get a swim in too. Happy summer solstice!

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Growing flax this year. The dime-sized periwinkle blue flowers only last a day before dropping off.

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Father’s day

I love giving plants as gifts. I gave my dad a black cherry tomato and a Thai basil for Father’s Day. The tomato will have to be repotted in a larger container, but otherwise these are low maintenance plants that my parents can grow right outside their kitchen. The basil is so delicate and sweet and the tomato is one of my favorite cherry varieties. When I was growing up, my dad used to make me salads and sauces from the tomatoes and basil my parents grew every year in their vegetable garden. They no longer have a vegetable garden, so they’ll make good use of these.

The irises I gave my dad last year are flowering now. As they spread, there will be more blooms each year.

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Jewel tones

Red, purple, and yellow cherry and grape tomatoes from the farmer’s market.

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New arrivals

My North American pitcher plant is shooting up new pitchers. These are still just babies. That little hook end will grow into a reddish speckled fan shaped pitcher.

My first pepper of the season is coming along like a champion. This one is a chili.


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A welcome visitor

I was out of town for most of last week. I arrived home to a few surprises in the garden, including this ladybug pupa which is currently attached to a leaf on my Chicago Hardy Fig.

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Scrub update

I think it’s finally time to retire this hemp dish washing “scrub”. It’s the same one I made and started using back in November. There are holes in it now, which I think resulted from snagging the yarn on silverware, but It has held up remarkably well for the amount of work it’s done. I can’t imagine ever returning to a traditional dish sponge. One of the things I love most about this little knitted square is that it never smells bad. I just wash it with soap and water and hang it on a nail to dry between uses and it stays quite clean. I loathe the smell of a cellulose sponge after it’s picked up billions of bacteria. Hemp is naturally mildew resistant and antimicrobial. Now that this one is starting to fall apart, I’ll cut it up into little pieces and throw it in the compost. I knitted a new scrub to replace it.

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Precious things

Today was the first Wednesday Lippitt Park Farmer’s Market of the season. Venders showed up even in the rainy weather. I bought these red beauties from Dave at Schartner Farms and they are the best strawberries I have ever tasted! I no longer buy strawberries year-round because they are always packed in PET plastic clamshell containers. So I look forward to and appreciate the short growing seasons of certain produce more than ever.

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Salad burnet

I’m growing salad burnet this year. It has a cool crisp flavor that is similar to the taste of cucumber, great in salad or as a garnish. I love the way the rain clings to the points of the small leaves.

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My first calendula flower is starting to open up. I’m always amazed at how vibrant colors look under an overcast sky.

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In the making

Soon to be a sweet yellow pepper.

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I made a little support teepee for my gherkin cucumber plants with sticks from the yard. I’ve never grown them before so I don’t know how big they’ll get. But I may need some stronger sticks…

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It was beautiful out today. The weather report predicts rain for the next five days straight, so I spent some time in the garden. My bush basil and italian parsley are aphid-free and flourishing.

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Pest control

Little black forager ants (I believe they’re sugar ants) have been appearing on two windowsills in my apartment. When I open up the screens and stick my head out I can see them scaling the brick exterior. And as I mentioned before, there are tons of ants in the garden too. Amazingly, they don’t seem to have found their way into the kitchen yet, but I have seen some lone rangers crawling around on the floor in the living room and bathroom. I imagine that if I don’t act their numbers will likely grow.

I’ve been reading about environmentally friendly ways to keep ants out of the home and it seems that there are two different approaches. The first is to deter ants from entering by keeping surfaces clean at all times, storing food in sealed containers, and strategically placing natural ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, lemon juice, castile soap, baking soda, or vinegar in the areas that the ants frequent.

The second approach is to actually exterminate the ants by using a slow acting homemade insecticide bate made from sugar, water, and borax (or boric acid—an odorless, non-volatile powder that is considered a safer alternative than more hazardous synthetic chemical pesticides). When the mixture is placed on pieces of cardboard or absorbed into cotton balls, the forager ants will feed on the it and carry it back to the nest where they pass it to the other ants, eventually killing the colony. When an insect consumes boric acid, it poisons the stomach and affects the insect’s metabolism. Every source I’ve found that gives a recipe for this bate cautions readers to keep it away from children and pets. Boric acid can be toxic to humans and other mammals if inhaled or ingested in large quantities.

I’m going to try my luck at deterring them before resorting to the poison. I have all of the deterrent ingredients mentioned above on hand. All of them were purchased in bulk without packaging.

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