Sunday, November 29, 2009

We waste 40% of our food: An indicator of how we value food?

A new study was just published in the journal PLoS ONE announcing that Americans throw away 40% of their food. A heartbreaking juxtaposition to the recent alarm that US food security is rapidly declining.

Not enough food is getting to the people who need it, and those who have enough are wasting too much.

Admittedly, I used to be the queen of wasting food--I've always been a finicky eater and my parents never enforced the clean plate rule. Two things changed that: the green compost bin next to my trash can and becoming a gardener.

Compost is the law in San Francisco--places like Britain and Quebec are also taking the steps to ban food waste from landfills. Food waste and other biodegradables can't decompose in the anaerobic environments that are our landfills so instead, they begin to emit methane, a potent contributor to climate change. I don't have to do much in my city to help combat this--merely separate my food and paper scraps from my trash just as I do with recycling. Then the city takes it to a massive composting facility where they breakdown the scraps into amazing soil amendments for local farms. If only it were this easy everywhere.

But becoming a gardener was the way I began to start putting less food into that compost bin in the first place. There's something about nurturing a plant from seed to harvest that invests you in it in a completely different way. After harvesting a bowl full of green and purple beans I had once known as flowers I wanted to use them all. After waiting months for my one surviving beet in my community garden plot, there's no way I would let even the greens wilt, I used them along with the ruby root for my next meal.

To begin to waste less as a country, we need to begin to value more--value the food on our plates and tucked away in our fridges. And, we'll need that compost revolution to take root in every city!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Food Stamps now feed 1 in 8 americans

Food stamps are on the rise -- check out this interactive map to see what food stamp usage looks like throughout the US.

As under secretary of Agriculture tells it straight:“It’s time for us to face up to the fact that in this country of plenty, there are hungry people.”

But what can you actually buy with money from the supplemental nutrition assistance program? (or SNAP as food stamps are now called) I was happy to see it's a lot of whole foods and your typical veggies and meats--I was ecstatic to see that you can purchase plants and seeds to feed your family too!

I'll have to do some research to see how the complementary farmers market nutrition program is working out these days...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Not to be missed articles on urban greening and beer!

This week was a powerhouse of articles -- first the new issue of Edible San Francisco was released, featuring our own guest blogger Rich Higgins and his perspective on brewing beer and the art of pairing it with food.

Then there was the incredibly inspiring front page spread in the Bay Guardian about the urban greening collective Rebar. Think Parking Day, Victory Gardens, and Pavement to Parks--taking our unused roadway spaces to make way for human spaces. Many of Rebar's projects are temporary, ephemeral--yet they are making a lasting impression on how San Franciscans think and move and inhabit our city. Read more here to get inspirations about how you can reclaim your streets and make your own hood more livable.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Why did it take me so long to open up Barbara Kingsolver's gem of a book: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? There's something in it for everyone, local food warriors and people who have never heard of an heirloom vegetable alike.

On this cold and rainy night Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and its stories of cooking has sparked my interest in the kitchen again after a long, dry spell. Out with the miso that was hiding in the back of the fridge! In goes chopped bok choy (stems and leaves and all), ginger, carrot, baby broccoli, tofu, red chili flakes, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and some green onions. I don't know where this is going, but hopefully its somewhere good! Oops, almost forgot the soba noodles...

I've botched miso soup before and swooned over a killer walnut-miso dressing for soba noodles Check out a solid miso soup foundation here. I look forward to finding the bottom of this miso container BEFORE it goes bad this time (note, it takes months for miso to go, I've got no excuses).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Inspired by: Jim Denevan

I love it when my passions for all things art and food come together. This amazing sand artist Jim Denevan keeps popping up in my life lately--I was inspired to see that he's also the mastermind behind the Outstanding in the Field farm events. Gorgeous outdoor meals with seasonal local foods. Check out photos of these beautiful events here.

These events are ridiculously popular and equally as expensive...I'd love to find a way of doing these sorts of meals in an affordable way. Everyone should have the gift of a eating a beautiful meal outside with friends sitting on the soil that nourished it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My pride & joy: a huge compost workshop

Go here to see photos of last weekend's compost workshop! A huge piece of organizing composting at my community garden is going to be education--composting isn't one of those traditions that get handed down any more. So we brought together the amazing educators at Garden for the Environment, just across a pumpkin patch from White Crane Community Garden, and held a workshop all about the basics of composting from worm bins to big piles. The workshop included both members from the garden and interested citizens of SF. And it was huge.

And it is a beginning. It all starts with the soil.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Compost revolution continues...

The compost revolution continues at my community garden, White Crane -- look at this beautiful new 3-bin system! Dreamed and planned and built and suffered over by a special group of gardeners, I can't wait to see the soil that we get out of this beauty. With over 60 plots in the garden I think we'll be able to transform our garden waste and sandy pacific soils into something amazing!

Special props (and soon heaping bowls of soup) go out to my comrade Susan Kuehn for her valiant compost efforts--she incurred a broken arm during the building of this bin, but she still can't stop laughing about it. Her spirit is truely inspirational.

Also, the photo credits here go to my favorite apiarist Robert MacKimmie.

More posts to follow that show how we actually use this thing--rot on!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A guest post on great beer & good food...

By Rich Higgins
Americans are finally waking up to the experience of great beer paired with great food. In this country, we have a wealth of amazing agriculture and artistic freedom, and they have combined into a unique artisanry of craft beer and slow food. Other cultures of beer and food may enjoy more celebrated terroir or deeper rootstock, but it is in America where creativity, quality, and openness have crafted a fresh-faced newcomer to the Slow Food and Slow Beer arena. The late British beer writer, Michael Jackson, continually praised America as the best beer country in the world, shocking old world brewers while enlightening them about the passion of American craft brewers’ ability to brew faithful interpretations of classic beer styles and to pioneer new flavors.

Americans’ ability to harness unique terroir and attitude is proving to be infectious, and in a very flattering nod, breweries all over the world are forging new beer traditions as well. A great beer cultures is emerging, and the proof is in the pudding of great chefs and restaurants all over the country. Just in the last week in San Francisco, celebrity chef Chris Cosentino of Incanto has cooked a four-course meal at the Haight’s Magnolia Pub and Brewery, chef Eric Tucker of Millenium Restaurant has served a five-course Chile Dinner with beer pairings (including two of SOMA’s ThirstyBear Brewing Co.’s organic beers). In New York City this month, Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant served a seven-course dinner paired with Brooklyn Brewing Co. beers (price tag: $350 before tax and tip).

It has never been a better time to drink and eat local in America. This is a pretty incredible about-face from the bleak beer scene just a quarter-century ago. A great craft brewing revolution has rushed in on the heels of pioneers like Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco, New Albion Brewing Co. in Sonoma, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, CA. These brewers, and their thirsty supporters, made a statement against the status quo of bland American beer.

For much of the twentieth century, American beer was on a depressing decline into characterless oblivion. Breweries emerged from Prohibition in poor financial health, and in the turmoil the the weak began to devour the weaker. Industry consolidation caused breweries to get larger in size and fewer in number, and success became defined by the ability to eke out efficiency. The millennia-old processes of making great beer do not lend themselves to efficiency. Fermentation times shortened. New enzymes were employed to alter protein and sugar types. Beer flavor and body thinned out when government-subsidized corn and rice made their way into the grist. Breweries shifted more and more money from the brewhouse to the marketing department, and by the 1980s, Americans had inherited a beer arms race of tasteless commercials promoting tasteless beer.

Beer is an agricultural product, a celebration of malt and mash, hops and heritage. Allowing brewer’s yeast and natural enzymes free reign in a beer creates the deeply satisfying flavors of real beer. These flavors and processes cannot be forced or substituted, they can only be nurtured. And, fortunately, there are now hundreds of bold, passionate American breweries who care to nurture beer the slow way. Each of these brewers will tell you, too, that they work for the yeast, and not the other way around. With the yeast in charge, and throngs of thirstyLink fans in support, real beer has gained a permanent foothold in America, both at the bar and on the dinner table.

Rich Higgins is a foodie, brewer, and Cicerone in San Francisco, and he pairs great beer and great food wherever he goes. Contact him at

Monday, November 2, 2009

A garden homecoming & compost revolution

After three weeks away from gardening, this Saturday was a welcoming homecoming. It was so fabulous to see my fellow urban farmers both at Garden for the Environment & White Crane Community Garden. As one friend put it, at GFE we're all working in the garden collaboratively--fertilizing, watering, mulching, harvesting, doing what the plants need without words--it's like we're all doing this beautiful dance together.

And the veggies are responding -- there was a big harvest including beautiful chard, herbs, raspberries, lettuce, carrots and more.

The tree dahlia and it's annual Halloween coming out...

And finally, the White Crane compost crew put together the beginnings of a new three-bin compost system at the garden. I hope to do a future post that breaks down how you build one of these beauties step by step--it's a big learning process for crew and I can't wait to see where it goes!