Thursday, 28 February 2013

Early Nettles!

 There are a few ways to get fresh greens at this time of year.
  • You could harvest last season's brassicas that are holding out through the winter (kale, collards, bok choi and others). 
  • You could have a nifty cold frame set-up that has been protecting your spinach, mustard greens & lettuces. 
  • You can grow indoors with lamps and sh-tuff.
  • OR you can sneak into the forest and get yourself some nettles (amongst other edibles, but this posting will just discuss nettles.)
New growth in mid-February
There are pros and cons to each option but I'd like to highlight some of the benefits of nettles.
  • Free
  • Minimal labour
  • Gets you in a wild space (not always, they will grow anywhere that has disturbed soil, saw some in a neglected front yard in Mt Pleasant last week, true story)
  • Provides opportunity to be unnecessarily secretive about your hidden patch
  • Stings eventually become invigorating and addictive (like pleasant pins & needles that stick around for 24hrs)
  • Nutritious beyond belief (the link compares nettles to kale - pretty sweet website for nutritional info)
  • Incredibly adaptable to many common meals and easy to dry for future use in teas & soups, some folks make beer out of it
  • It has incredible medicinal properties as well
We've got a secret patch that we've been hitting up for years, accessible by bike and big enough to support a few families. The early growth is best. If the plant is beyond 6'', I've been told that it begins to accumulate calcium carbonate which can lead to minor back pain and possibly kidney stones(!) if you indulge copious amounts daily. If they are tall plants that haven't flowered, it is still safe to harvest and consume, but just don't consume too much. I've also heard that sorry is a less desirable condition than safe, so exercising common sense seems appropriate here.

5 minutes of 'work' for three meals
We use it like kale, collards or spinach and have made omelettes, stir-fry, spanikopita, soups, pesto or just sauteed with salt, pepper and a little sesame oil - pairs nicely with salmon, rice and an IPA or ESB.

Shrinks down when it cooks (make sure you cook it well if not blanching first, heat removes the sting!)
Happy harvesting and be mindful to take only what you need.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Kathmandu Urban Ag Project


Check out the efforts of some like-minded (global) citizens. Their project is called Hariyo Chowk, which means "Green Square" or "Green Commons" in Nepali. The group started transforming a small plot of land in Kathmandu into a community space last spring and have already built a bamboo structure for vertical gardening, a mudbrick oven for cooking, a sunken pit for fires, and a stage for gatherings and film screenings (bicycle powered too!). They've also started planting native and edible plants, and hosting work days and workshops. Impressive!

A quick glimpse of the group in action

Here's their indigogo page if you are interested in helping them reach their goal of raising $5000 to help keep them growing.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Mark Bomford's TEDxYale presentation

This is an exceptional presentation by Mark Bomford, former (on-leave) director of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm (aka UBC Farm). He provides a nice framework for understanding the role of urban agriculture in our global food system. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Some ICF media videos

This past Sunday was incredible - sunshine, mild temperatures and favourable soil moisture. It doesn't seem fair that we in Vancouver can begin working in the garden while the East coast is under so much snow. But as so many PE teachers and coaches have reminded me in the past, life isn't fair, so I won't spend too much time lamenting Canadian climatic injustices.

As a way to shake off (mild) winter lethargy and welcome the new growing season, I will take this opportunity to compile some videos featuring our efforts at Inner City Farms over the past few seasons. Taking a page from Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth's playbook, 'reminisce, reminisce'!

CBC Vancouver  (Sept 22, 2011) - Profiling our connection with a local restaurant, food waste and vermicomposting in a closed-loop system.

CBC Suzuki Diaries (Feb 14, 2012) - Our interview with Sarika Suzuki as part of the Nature of Things' focus on sustainable city initiatives.

Montecristo Magazine (Autumn 2012 issue) - We were fortunate to be included in Montecristo's article on the blossoming local food movement in Vancouver - great shots!

Meet Your Urban Farmer (Winter 2012) - This video is part of a series produced by the fine folk at Fire & Light Media
Season 4 begins...