Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Arsenic in Chicken Feed

A horrifying article about the control the FDA has on information in the States.
Not sure if it's the same in Canada but man, it's better to be safe than sorry. I try to eat organic meats as much as I can and boy, has this given me another reason to do so! Read up!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Another Edible Urban "Weed"

Puslane is growing abundant at my community garden plot. I'm weeding around it and plan to pick some when there is enough to pickle/ferment.  I'm pickle mad at the moment!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mulberry Leaf Tea

A friend of mine, Alex, has started a new weekly event, called the Red Tent Tea Party, wherein she asks friends of different performing capacities to perform in Trinity Bellwoods Park under the tent she's building, and she serves foraged tea to go with it.  Someone told her that mulberry tea was a thing and she wanted to take some cutting from my tree.  In looking it up, it's been used in traditional chinese medicine for years for a variety of things, and is even now being sold for huge amounts of money in David's Tea! Who knew!  Time to dry the cuttings off my tree!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Drying Chamomile

There was a massive chamomile plant that somehow migrated into my community garden plot.  It was getting all tangled in my beans so I pulled it and brought it home with me to dry.  I plucked each individual flower off the stems and threw the stems into my compost.  I planted the one big root system into my garden at home–I'm thinking I may build up the small bed beside my walkway into a big perennial herb garden, for lots of tea! 
 I lay out the flowers on a baking sheet to dry. I don't have screens so I'll have to shake the tray every few days to ensure even drying. Voila! Tea to be!

Friday, July 26, 2013


I took a moment to take in this beautiful sunset today.  I was watching a movie to relax and noticed the light in my living room was quite a distinct orange tinge. I looked out the window and needed to go stand on the lawn and take it in for a few minutes. I've been cultivating a presence that allows me to notice this beauty that's just happening around me. True joy is found in that noticing. That settling. That beauty...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Handful of Salad To-Go

I was really hungry on my way out the door and so I collected a salad to to! I picked some kale, chard, lambs quarters, romaine lettuce, arugula, kept them in a bunch like a bouquet, and biked where I needed to go, snacking as I went–delicious and so fresh!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cherry Preserving

I finally got around to preserving my pitted cherries (I needed to pick up the brandy first! I soaked the jars in hot water while I set everything up and filled the jars with cherries. I filled in the cracks approximately 1/3 of the way with raw organic sugar and topped it off with brandy.  I shook it a few times to As long as the berries are covered in alcohol, they won't spoil. I put them in my bedroom to marinate for a few months, some to keep for myself, some to give as presents.  Delicious boozy cherries and delicious cherry liqueur?  What's not to love?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Friend Visits and Seed-Saving

 My friend Catherine came over today to visit and we pitted cherries and seed-saved while chatting.  I feel so connected to human history–working away while chatting and singing...  Ah folk life...  While we didn't sing, I'm sure that if some of my singing friends were around, we would!  Haha
 Arugula seeds in their pod–so cool!!
The seeds I have saved so far (from left to right) arugula, radish, mystery... (kale?), mystery 2 (arugula?). I know I was drying arugula and kale but am unsure which is which!  Labelling while drying is helpful! Your brain won't always remember...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Winter Planting–Phase 1

It seems strange to be thinking about winter in the height of a heat-wave of summer but I suppose I was thinking of spring with snow on the ground...  A fascinating awareness of life and death and the cycles of life, I have to say.  In any case, I spent some time this past weekend filling in the bed that I cleared out of radishes a little while ago. I sprinkled a bunch of wood ash (for potassium), blood meal (for nitrogen), some soil with wood chips in it that my parents gave me (from when the maple tree stump in their backyard was ground up), and topped it with an organic topsoil and some crushed eggshells (for calcium).
I planted 2 rows of napa cabbage, 2 rows of broccoli, and 2 rows of cauliflower.  So excited to see how they turn out!  I also planted 2 rows of leeks in where 2 of my tomato plants got eaten (I think maybe a racoon?  Just had the top bitten off...) I sprinkled in some wood ash and blood meal into a shallow trench, covered the seeds with topsoil and am crossing my fingers. Leek seeds are surprisingly tiny!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Purple Beans in Sandy Soil

Poor poor Burgundy Beans...This sandy soil isn't kind to them!  I'm surprised anything grew at all, though!  I'll let a few of the pods dry out to save the seeds.  When I clear out the bed to plant winter veg, I'll also leave the roots in the soil to keep in the nitrogen that they fixed. Bean roots are cool...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fermenting Ontario Garlic Scapes and Red Cabbage

 My friend Bozena had been on a short internship at a farm and came home with a whack of garlic scapes.  There being a massive heat-wave in Toronto and no air conditioning in my house, I had no desire to turn on the stove and pickle.... So we decided to ferment!
We separated out the woody stems (to compost) from the beautiful curls (to line the jar) and diced up the small pieces to put in the middle of the jar. Then, the fun part!
We also cut up a beautiful red cabbage that I had bought and didn't have time to cook.
Recipe: veg, 1/4 cup sea salt (in a large mason jar), water (I forgot to leave out water to dechlorinate it, so we just used regular tap water). In the cabbage, we also added some peppercorns and some carraway seeds.
Cover the jars with parchment paper so they can breathe and leave them on the counter for a few days. Depending on the heat and your personal tastes, it can be ready within a week or in much much longer! Fermented veg will keep for months–the more salt and the cooler the temperature, the slower the fermenting process.  I love fermenting!  So easy!  
On a side-note, we also made a beautiful salad with fresh lettuce from my garden and fresh radishes from hers :)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Radish Seed-Saving

First seed-saving! Beautiful looking seed pods, really annoying breaking open....  Small nail scissors help but boy this is fiddly, concentrated work. Just give yourself lots of time... It won't look like you've accomplished much either, hah.  But many future radishes off of one bolted present-day radish! Nature's pretty awesome!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bartering for Acupuncture

I set up an awesome barter a few weeks ago with a friend I met who is studying traditional chinese medicine where I clean her workspace for her for 2 hours, and I receive an hour of treatment in exchange.  We've had a few sessions now and it's a fascinating experience.  We each do our part, the thing that the other needs, and we each thank each other for it.  It's so much more personal than just exchanging money, and even feels more valuable than that.  I'm starting a second barter soon for life coaching services–keep an eye out for details on that!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Vegetable Leafminers

I just found out what a vegetable leafminer is...  They sadly seem to be quite prevalent in my garden so I just spent a chunk of time pulling out all the leaves that had been bored and tossing them in my green bin, not my composter. What a leafminer does in this case is eat away the inside of a leaf and lay it's eggs inside (hence why you don't want it in your compost...) I had trace of them in my radish, kale, chard, beets, arugula, and even some of my lambsquarters... I'm just going to keep an eye out for traces of them in the future and dispose immediately as it sounds like the only solution is pesticides or floating row covers.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Supporting Raspberry Bushes

I tied up my raspberries today. They were starting to fall over a little (and so was that poor borage flower...) but as they grow I'll add more string to tie them up higher.  Raspberries can get crazy if you just let them grow so I'm trying to start out right! I made a high tech solution of a hefty string tied to my banister, with enough slack for it to sag a bit. The next string I'll tie to the same spot with no sag.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Wild Herb Foraging–Plantain

Another mindblowing wild herb readily available and abundant for the eating and drinking...  Next time I have a mosquito bite I'm going to try the salve thing....  Won't be too long I'm sure, mosquitos love me...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fantastic New Store on Dundas West in Toronto

I happened upon an article in The Grid magazine about Atlantic restaurant in Toronto.  There was a note that the chef had recently opened a store across the street, which I had also seen biking by a few times. I walked in and I was so excited!  I spoke to Nathan Isberg, the chef, who had to run across the street from his restaurant to come talk as his shopkeeper was home sick!  Turns out he's stocking the store with beautiful produce, grain, and flowers from his farm and friends farms in accompanying neighbourhoods in Southern Ontario, and is totally into chatting about bulk grain purchasing, which friends of mine were looking into.  I bought this beautiful red cabbage for a whole dollar and this fresh milled corn meal for $1 as well. In speaking about preserving, he offered me some celeriac kimchi of his to try–delicious!! I'll be in touch with him soon for more! So great to have farm fresh, seasonal, and affordable produce available so near my house.  The organic farmers markets can get expensive and obviously aren't there every day.  I love it!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Early Summer Bounty and Bounty to Come

I visited my community plot today and was rewarded with a bounty of beans! My tendergreen bush beans had exploded and were heavy with fruit.  I happily picked them with my friend Shoshana who was equally delighted to get her hands into the garden. It amazes me how excited people are to find out about what is growing, how it's growing, and getting their hands dirty! 

My pattypan squash plants had also exploded in size, with lots of blossoms forming.  I'm going to have quite the bounty!  Making me think I should look into different ways of preserving squash…

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Foraged Sour Cherries

On my way home from an appointment today, I passed a tree packed full of sour cherries at their ripest.  I filled a small tupperware container I happened to have on me and snacked on them later that day. It amazes me the bounty of fruit in my neighbourhood and throughout the city!  Just got to keep your eyes open…

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bed Clear-Out and Epic Pesto-Making Session!

I pulled out all my radishes today to clear out the bed and make room for winter veg. I separated out the leaves and flowers to put into a pesto and discarded the stems.  I didn't have much luck with the actual bulbs though...  Soil was too depleted.  Going to add some good stuff to the soil before I start next–make my winter veg a bit happier!

Radish Top and Garlic Scape Pesto:
Blend radish tops, garlic scapes, raw sunflower seeds, fresh ground pepper and enough olive oil to allow the blender to run.  Voila!  
I kept some in a jar in the fridge and froze the rest.  Delish!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Currant, Raspberry, and Mint Cocktail

I had a bunch of raspberries from my mums garden and some fresh currants from the market in my fridge when I came home from a rough day at work.  I wanted a refreshing cocktail and made a very successful one!  I muddled the fruit with some fresh mint from my garden, added some Tanqueray gin (the only gin I can stomach…) and some sparkling water. Yum! Farm fresh cocktail!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Garlic Jelly with Hot Red Peppers

I went to Niagara-On-The-Lake with my friend Kate the other weekend and came across this epic preserve–garlic jelly with hot red peppers! I was highly sceptical but then tried it and WOW. It's a savourily blast of deliciousness!  I've been eating it on toast with cream cheese.  Lovely.  I need to figure out the recipe and make lots for myself….

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summer Solstice Celebrations

Yesterday, I spent the day on Toronto Island celebrating Ukrainian Summer Solstice– Ivana Kupala. Friends and colleagues Kosa Kolektiv put on this event on the Julian calendar date of July 6 (2 weeks after what we now consider the solstice). It was an evening full of magic. Beautiful men and women arrived, dressed in white. Wildflowers picked earlier in the day were spread out under the newly pitched red tent and were woven into wreaths. Songs of water nymphs were sung. A beautiful potluck spread was laid out and thoroughly enjoyed. A group sent away built an effigy of Kupalo (the god of summer and fertility) to burn later in the evening. More song were sung, in a circle, holding hands and holding candles–songs of Kupalo, of love, of water, of fire, of earth.  A roaring bonfire was built and Kupalo was burned–a symbol of the summer at it's peak, slowly now going towards winter. A crowd walked into the water and set their wreathes afloat, feet sinking into the sand, connecting to death, cold and winter. A second group waded into the water to fetch the wreathes, whosever they chose, their partners for the evening.  The partners jumped over the fire–whoever jumped the highest had the most happiness, whoever let go of hands, less luck came to them... Slowly led back to the tent and the forest behind it, whispers of a story were told "A red fern flower blooms on this night, to be searched for in the dark; whoever finds it hols the keys to the universe, but he mustn't tell anyone or the power disappears... "

Never have I felt so connected to the earth and to myself as on this beautiful day full of magic. Never before have I seen people glow as much with love and contentment as on this night. I feel so blessed to have come across these new, important friends of mine. Celebrate the earth. Connect to the elements. Share food with friends. Sing songs. Go barefoot. Skinny dip. There may not be any reason that we are here on this earth but we can celebrate every moment of it and fill ourselves with all of the love in the universe.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"Natural" Face Washes

I bet a good chunk of society pays a bunch of money each month or two for face wash. Once I looked at the ingredient list on some of them, I was shocked. Some of them, even those claiming themselves "natural", have plastic bits in them.  Yes plastic. That is essentially made just to wash straight down the drain for little fish to eat.  Next time you buy something with an exfoliant in it, look for something without polyethelyne in it–yup plastic. You can get actually natural exfoliation from scrubs that have salt, sugar, baking soda, seed husks, oatmeal and more–anything with a natural coarseness to it. Even, make your own!  I just use baking soda but if you want something a bit more luxurious, have a peek around the internet for recipes–there's so many, almost for any taste! But essentially, something coarse (like the list I had before), a binder like honey or olive/almond oil, and sometimes some lemon juice or tea. Cheap luxury with ingredients you already have!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Storing Dried Herbs

I finally got around to stripping down and storing my variety of dried herbs today.  I put them in old, washed glass jars to store in the shade.

Top row: lovage and sage
Bottom row: oregano, cilantro, and nettle

Lovage and cilantro aren't the greatest to dry, but it's better than throwing it out, i figure! Just add more than you would fresh.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Seed Library Resource

I found this amazing link today of a huge variety of the seed libraries around the world. So inspiring, but where's all the ones in Canada??  I hope that's not a complete list....

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I've learned, it's the time for linden foraging!
Linden is in season and I'm planning on heading out to forage on Sunday morning with some friends to have linden around for tea during the year. There is something so empowering that happens every time I forage in the city–I encourage anyone to do so! Even just once (to start!) It will change your perspective on our food system, your eating habits, and the space around you. Dramatic, I know, but really quite an incredible, empowering, grounding experience once you process what is happening when you pick your own food in a city that has starving and homeless people in it. The capacity that a city has to feed itself–in part, through urban fruit and nut trees. Stunning!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Nettle Tea

I put my dried nettle into a jar yesterday and decided to make a pot of tea for my somewhat unhappy tummy...  Instead of just steeping it for 10 minutes like regular herbal tea, it's best to boil the leaves, covered, for 10 minutes (I'm not sure why, it's what I was told by friends who do the same...  I realize I'm more folky than I used to be, listening to a lot of information passed on from experience in addition to info learned in that book-learnin' place...)
 I took the boiled nettle and added, chopped up, it to a soup I made.
The soup was delicious!  I started by frying up a bunch of onion, celery, carrot, potato, and garlic that I had hanging around, which needed to be used.  I added some cayenne, lovage, tahini, cilantro seed, salt, fresh ground pepper, and the nettle, in addition to some mushroom and broccoli broth that I had in my fridge from prior soup-making and some regular organic chicken broth and voila!  Delicious soup!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Seed-saving Containers

I came across these glass jars at the Dollarama while I was looking for plastic baggies to save seed in.  They are way awesomer, may more environmentally friendly, and great to do what I was planning to do in–save seed to give away to friends as gifts!