Today I saw something that always irritates me, but which I never do anything about. A person threw a cigarette butt out their car window. Since I was in a drive-through, both of our cars were stopped and I considered getting out of the car and picking up their cigarette butt and throwing it back in their car. Or maybe I would be courteous and say, “Excuse me, I think you dropped this.” Of course, I did neither of those things and the cigarette butt remained on the ground. I had the opportunity to take action and I chose not to.
We might debate over whose responsibility it is to deal with someone who litters, but I think we would all agree that it is ultimately the individual’s responsibility to not litter in the first place. We could probably agree that there are great benefits to not trashing up the environment, and very little, if any, hardships or negative consequences associated with disposing of ones’ trash in a trashcan. Most of us may not litter, but there are probably other actions we take that directly or indirectly have negative effects on others. Effects that are often not easily visible to us and so continue in obscurity. What if we were all more socially responsible? This is not a new idea, but one worth seriously reconsidering in the New Year.
2020 was a year that separated people literally and figuratively. People were told to stay away from their families. People were divided by politics and race. Social responsibility unifies people. It acknowledges that we’re all connected and our actions affect the people around us. And it says we care enough to hold ourselves accountable for our actions in society (as consumers and producers). Social responsibility helps build strong communities, instead of tearing them apart.
To practice social responsibility a person must be open to understanding the consequences (good and bad) of their actions. They must have integrity, empathy, and feel empowered by their ability to do things better than they used to do. The individual cannot nurture a victim mentality and be socially responsible at the same time. If one claims to be a victim, they have also absolved themselves from all responsibility for their actions, because as a victim they choose to believe their choices are entirely under the control of outside forces. Practicing social responsibility requires one to take part in their local and global community to do less harm and more good.
So, here’s to a New Year lived better than the one before. To a feeling of empowerment when we vote with our dollars in ways that are just as important, if not more so, than the vote we cast every four years. To being true to our principles even when others seem to have sold theirs. To turning off the TV when we feel our blood pressure rising. To preserving sanity, decency, and integrity in the face of forces that intend to create instability. To questioning the motives of those who try to drive humanity apart. To rebuilding community stronger than it was before. And remembering life is about more than just avoiding potential danger, but experiencing all the good that is possible, as well.
About a year and a half ago, my husband and I inoculated some oak logs with shiitake mushroom spawn. And finally, with all the recent rain, we found mushrooms growing on one of the logs! The inspiration for this recipe came from this one, which looks really good. I just made mine with a few ingredients that we had on hand.
Avocado oil and/or ghee
Salt and pepper
Add oil and seasonings to mushrooms on baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Stir on pan and bake another 10 minutes or until done. The texture was chewy in a meaty way and satisfying, unlike sauteed mushrooms. Kind of like a mushroom jerky. We just grabbed the mushrooms by the stalk and ate the caps.
Roselle, or Hibiscus sabdariffa, is a tropical plant in the same family as okra and cacao. The leaves and flowers of roselle are edible with a tart flavor. They are great used in savory cooking to add tanginess, but this recipe is sweet. The recipe below was inspired by this one, but my recipe uses the leaves of the plant instead of the flower buds, since the plant doesn’t produce flowers outside tropical zones (the growing season is too short in Maryland). I also used whole orange chunks and different sweeteners in the drink.
1 cup fresh roselle leaves
5 cups water
1 cinnamon stick (add extra 1/2 stick if you really like cinnamon)
2 star anise
Half a small orange, cut in half
3 Tbsp turbinado sugar (or jaggery or sweetener of choice to taste)
Rinse roselle leaves. Add all ingredients, except sweetener, to pot of water. Simmer on stove 10 minutes. Take off the stove, add jaggery or turbinado sugar, and let sit until cooled off. Jaggery and tubinado are both less refined sugars. Jaggery is orange in color and often used in Indian cooking, while turbinado is light brown in color. Squeeze out the orange and strain out the solids and refrigerate. You can also squeeze the other half of uncooked orange into the drink if you like the added orange flavor.
If you would like to grow this easy plant for yourself, rareseeds.com sometimes has seeds available.
Here is a simple, less expensive recipe for pesto:
2 cups packed basil leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
¼ cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend sunflower seeds and garlic in food processor enough to break up garlic well. Add basil and olive oil and blend to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Eat fresh or freeze as pesto ice cubes or pesto logs. Frozen pesto is great for soups and pasta in the winter!
They are all members of the Brassicaceae or mustard family of plants. They are also known as cruciferous vegetables because their flowers have four petals that resemble a crucifix or cross (from the Latin, cruciferae). These plants contain sulfur compounds, called glucosinolates, which when broken down (by your gut bacteria or plant enzymes) can have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects. Mustard greens contain about twice as many glucosinolates as kale.
Fun fact: Did you know that the spicy chemicals in mustard that make your nose burn aren’t actually created in the plant until you take a bite out of it? When you bite into or chop up the leaves of cruciferous plants the glucosinolates get converted to other spicy or bitter chemicals! You’ve released enzymes in the plant cell that allowed this reaction to happen.
In early spring, it can be difficult to find much to eat in the garden. However, often plants have more edible parts than we realize. Some plants, like kale, collards, bok choy, turnips, and Brussels sprouts are biennials, meaning they don’t produce flowers and seeds until their second year of life. This can be advantageous for the gardener who leaves these plants in the garden to overwinter, as they will be rewarded with new leaves in the spring, accompanied by tender flower stalks with a fresh, sweet flavor.
A simple dish can be made with an assortment of leaves and flower stalks from these plants, which when harvested early in the season, will remain tasty. However, with time and increasing temperatures, leaves will turn more bitter and flower stalks may get tougher.
Fresh, tender leaves and flower stalks can be steamed and prepared in any way you like. For an Asian influence, the addition of toasted sesame oil with some salt and garlic makes a simple, tasty side dish. Below, I also added some frozen vegetable dumplings. Store-bought, yes, but still yummy!
It’s amazing how limited our diets can be, given the wide variety of edible plants and plant parts. For instance, even the leaves of Brussels sprouts are edible and like a more tender version of collards. Who knew?
In today’s share there will be an option to try snake gourd, which tastes kind of like green bean and squash. Here’s an idea for a recipe to cook it, which we like! This recipe is based off this Vahchef recipe.
1-2 snake gourds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
chili powder to taste
1 T ghee (or oil of choice)
salt to taste
yogurt (we used a non-dairy coconut-based yogurt)
Cut snake gourd into roughly 1/2” or smaller round slices. Heat pan with ghee and add mustard and cumin seeds once pan is hot. Saute seeds for about a minute and then add turmeric, chili powder, and salt. Stir to mix and then add snake gourd. Cook about 15-20 minutes on medium heat or until tender. Turn off heat then add yogurt and mix. Ready to eat!
This week was the first week for slicing tomatoes and there are many more ripening on the vine. Eggplant and bottle gourd started coming in last week and ground cherries are producing more heavily now. We’ve also been growing some other unique “Indian veggies” that are commonly found in Indian cooking.
Thai Bottle Gourd
Snake Bean or Snake Gourd. This plant smells like peanut butter!
Cucumbers are a great hydrating fruit (almost 95% water) that contains Vitamin K, antioxidants, and minerals. Some research suggests they may also have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. They can also be used topically to improve skin condition.
This is the first week for potatoes and there are five different varieties we grew this year. Purple Sun, Satina, Adirondack Red, Strawberry Paw, and German Butterball. Potatoes aren’t just a delicious source of carbs; they contain Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B6, and some fiber and magnesium if eaten with the skins! They also contain different antioxidants depending on the color of their skin. Although not a common cooking method for potatoes, steaming may be one of the healthier ways to cook a potato because it helps retain more nutrients, while boiling and baking can cause more nutrient losses.