Tag Archives | trash-free food storage

Turnip tip

Turniptip

One of my turnips from this weekend’s farmer’s market has an especially nice hourglass figure. I wonder what biological factors caused the variation in the shape of this usually spherical root vegetable. I love turnips. They’re members of the Brassicaceae family (along with kale, cabbage, radishes, etc…). I usually eat them thinly sliced in a fresh salad. To store them, I remove the greens, which will draw water out of the root if left attached. Then I float the turnips in a bath of water in a container kept in the refrigerator. They’ll stay fresh and crunchy for more than a week this way, though they never last that long in my house because I eat them so quickly. The greens needn’t be tossed out—they’re edible, and quite tasty. They can be used raw in salads and stir-fried as a stand alone dish or with other ingredients. They can also be added to soups or used to make a broth. I get such a kick out of growing, shopping for, and eating plants that can be consumed in their entirety. Roots, stocks, leaves, flowers, fruit, and all. No pealing or shucking required.

During a class discussion on recycling in my Master Composter Training course, I learned that food storage plastic wrap (Saran wrap, Clingwrap) is not a recyclable plastic film. Plastic film receptacles are located at major grocery stores and pharmacies across the state of Rhode Island to collect stretch plastic poducts like plastic bags, which shouldn’t go into your bin with your other recyclable items. I thought that plastic wrap fell into this category and would sometimes deposit rinsed pieces that had been used at catered events at my office. Learning that the material cannot be processed to become resource material (plastic lumber for decking or park furniture for instance) secured plastic wrap a place at the top of my list of household trash “offenders”. In preparation for a No Trash Talk I gave recently, I spent a lot of time thinking about ways to present basic tips to people who are interested in reducing their waste output but don’t know where to begin. At the end of the talk I encouraged audience members to start in the kitchen, and I tried to impress upon listeners that one habit we should all try to break is purchasing and using plastic wrap. I really think it’s a completely unnecessary product and a waste of money. I’m not sure what case can be made to suggest that using plastic wrap is easier than using a container to store leftovers. Besides, who wants to futz with that stuff anyway? It’s always clinging to itself and it never stays put. Food storage can be effective, efficient, and convenient without disposables!

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Yerba Maté

This morning I harvested the leaves of my yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis) plant. Actually the truth is I shocked the little shrub by bringing it indoors for the winter and it let go of all its leaves. So I collected the fallen and the falling, and put them into a glass jar to dry. Once they’re dehydrated I will grind them up to make tea. I think the plant will bounce back and start pushing out new leaves soon.

It’s difficult to express how much I enjoy growing my own food. I don’t have any ground to plant in, so my garden is potted. In the summer I grow fruit, vegetables, and herbs. In the winter I bring everything indoors. Some plants go dormant in the basement (my fig trees for instance), others tough it out on the windowsills in my apartment. Having the green inside my home helps me through the grey winters in Providence.

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The perfect thing

A big part of the No Trash Project has been learning to plan ahead. I’ve had to train myself to always carry a reusable bag with me, even if I’m not headed directly to the store. If I know I need to shop for food, I will pack smaller produce bags and at least one reusable container. As I’ve mentioned before, I am now in the habit of carrying lunch and dinner with me to work and on the road. When I first began this project I was carrying around plastic tupperware. I soon found that the plastic stained easily, held food odors, and it was difficult to remove meat counter price stickers from the worn, scratched lids. I transitioned over to glass Frigoverre storage containers for a while. While they were far easier to clean (oils don’t stick to glass the way they stick to plastic) they were heavier and more cumbersome than my already donated plastic containers. After breaking one glass container on the pavement, and another on a concrete floor at work, it was clear that I needed to find another solution. I had seen a stainless steel lunchbox at Whole Foods, but it was shrink wrapped in two layers of plastic.

My friend told me about a company called Life Without Plastic. Their website has become an important resource for me. Whenever possible I try to find what I need locally to avoid using shipping materials and fuel, but sometimes I strike out. I have turned to this company for products unavailable nearby or without unnecessary packaging, which have become an important part of my routine. Life Without Plastic makes an effort to pack their shipments in reused, recycled, and recyclable materials.

The stainless steel containers above are a few of my favorite things. They are lightweight, even more durable than plastic, and they have a tighter seal (a silicone ring for watertight storage) than either the plastic or the glass containers. I give one to The Local Catch to hold my weekly fish order. The steel never stinks the way the plastic used to. I bring my dinner to work in one almost everyday. I’m never worried that the contents will spill into my bag as I bike or walk from home.

This past weekend I drove down to New York City with some friends. We packed some quinoa, farmers market brussels sprouts, squash, apples, granola, and almond butter in the stainless steel containers. We filled our large swing top glass bottles with water and packed some bowls, forks, knives, and cloth napkins. It was a delicious trash-free picnic that sustained us through a night at the ballet. The leftovers went into the refrigerator at our generous host’s house. The food was still delicious for breakfast the next morning!

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