Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mints & Clovers: Inner City Foraging

Did some quick inner-city foraging on my lunch break yesterday.

Pictured above: Crimson Clover

I've seen a lot of white clover in fields, but this is the first time I've seen some really lovely crimson clover. Beautiful! Clover helps hold nitrogen in the soil and is a favorite of pollinating insects.

UPDATE: Thank you to valuable reader bukra! who has pointed out to me that this is actually crimson clover. It is mainly a valuable cover crop and fodder for animals.

I was going to delete the information about red clover since I guess crimson clover isn't used as much as a tea herb, but I guess it's still interesting so I'll leave it.

University of Maryland has an amazing article on the medicinal and nutritional properties of red clover. Here's a sample:

Red clover is a source of many nutrients including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. Red clover is a rich sources of isoflavones (chemicals that act like estrogens and are found in many plants).

The article touches on my general opinion of herb teas, which is that they probably aren't strong enough to cure an ailment, but they do make a nice general health tonic. I probably won't drink too much of this tea because there is a history of breast cancer in my family, and the article recommends not taking red clover in that case. It is a pretty plant to look at though, and I'm happy the bees and other pollinating insects love it.

Instead, I think I'll stick with the mint teas.

Found at least three different types of mint. No idea what kind they are. I'll have to gather a bunch of each and do a taste test.

Pale green with soft leaves (Catnip?):

Medium green and shinier leaves (Lemon Balm?):

Now the leaves are getting pointier (Spearmint?):

The best part is having people stop me and ask what I'm doing as I forage. There's nothing like watching someone's eyes light up when they unexpectedly smell a handful of fresh mint.

Plus, tea is the best thing in the entire world. I love having a french press at work. Even inhaling the steam of the tea is nice. It's a great pick-me-up when you're trying not to drink caffeine, and very soothing for the stomach.

I think I might have found nettles too? I wasn't sure because they didn't have spines, but not all nettles do. I need to get a guidebook!

The huge abandoned lots in Baltimore are a sad thing, but sometimes they do create a good place to forage and garden. It's a mixed blessing, I guess.

The area I was searching in is connected to a city garden that has had their soil tested, supposedly. Probably won't forage too much more there until I find out for sure, but I figure a few handfuls of herbs can't have too much lead.

Drank more nettle tea this morning as well. Left the leaves in the teapot in the fridge overnight, and the tea turned a really deep emerald color. A prettier shade of green than I have seen in any food! If that's not good for you, I don't know what is.

The best part about nettles is that I'm using them as a substitute for spinach right now. Local greens!

Much of the spinach in stores is coming from Mexico or other faraway places. You wouldn't drive to Mexico to eat a salad, would you? Well, your salad is driving from Mexico to come to you.

Foraging is a great way to get back in touch with the plants right under our feet, and remember that we are a part of an ecosystem. All of these herbal teas are a great way to stay hydrated and take in a variety of healthy antioxidents, vitamins, and other nutrients.

Fellow Baltimore Foodmaker and esteemed journalist Michelle Gienow wrote an article for the City Paper on foraging if you're interested in learning more.

First Spring Salad

First spring salad from my very own garden plot!

This is the first time I've ever grown anything on my own from seed to finish. It was nice!. I did have to be brave and shake off a LOT of tiny millipedes from the baby veggies. I think all the recent rain and moisture brought them out. I checked out the Maryland Extension for pest advice and it doesn't look like millipedes are too bad, so I'll wait and see what happens.

Baby bok choy and radishes are some of the earliest annual crops, since they do better in cooler temperatures. The beets, kale, and peas are past the seedling stage but aren't quite full grown plants yet. Fennel and carrots are still little babies right now too.

I got about two handfuls of veggies once they were chopped.

There is a frost warning in Maryland tonight, although it should be up to the 80s by this weekend. I'm so happy the luffa squash seedlings can be carried back inside for the night, and I hope all of the farmer's crops in the fields do o.k. in the frost.

I've already posted this thought to Facebook, so apologies for those of you who are reading this twice, but in the interest of these temperature swings, how about we all think about walking, biking, or taking public transit just a little bit more.

And of course, growing food instead of trucking it from Mexico is always a plus!

Thanks for letting me rant for a bit.

Here's a great recipe for a bok choy & radish salad dressing:

Soy Sauce
Rice Vinegar
Sesame Oil

Feel free to add sesame seeds or chopped ginger if you like.

I add pretty much equal parts of everything in small amounts, and keep tasting until the dressing tastes good to me. That's one of the great things about making your own food: you can make it just the way you like!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekend Update: Flour Sack + Atomic Books + Nettle Kombucha + Luffa Seedlings

Update from this weekend!

I took time off from the internet, relaxed, slept late, saw friends, and ate a lot of hummus + sourdough + sprouts. I did get a few little fun projects in.

When I'm spending time with friends, I still like to have something to keep my hands busy. On Saturday night I worked on this sack to hold my bulk flour from the bulk food buying club.

I've been using paper bags to store the flour temporarily, but I wanted something more permanent. So I hit up the curtains section at Village Thrift and found this lovely fabric.

Here's a photo of the striped fabric I also got, and the blue and white plaid is a plastic fabric that I think might be waterproof, so I will probably make a waterproof bag for my bike with it.

The Beet Bulk Food Club also has burlap sacks if you are interested!

Somewhat blurry close-up to show the stitching (by hand- it usually takes me longer to sew with a machine since I don't really know what I'm doing on one.) Double seam to make the bag extra sturdy.

Sunday I took the opportunity to browse Atomic and pick up a few choice items. Korean cookbook, Wild Fermentation, and zines! About to read some of Jesse Reklaw's "Ten Thousand Things To Do" before bed.

Details from Nikki McClure's postcard series "Take Care"

Decided the nettle kombucha was ready to decant this weekend. Have to say, wasn't my favorite. Nettle has an aspargus-y flavor, which tasted somewhat strange mixed with the sour kombucha. A fun experiment, but I think I'll stick with my regular hibiscus tea to flavor.

Also spent some time across the street at Avenue Antiques to get more bulk food storage. Also got a great set of wooden salad bowls. The flour tin to store whole wheat flour:

And quick seedling update on the luffa squash. It's really time to start getting them ready to go outside.

They've been hanging out comfortably on top of the fridge, so next I think I'll set them out on the porch to get used to being outside, but where they still aren't at the full mercy of the elements.

(By the way, that's artwork from my aunt below the plants)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Baltimore Greenworks & Bread and Puppet

Last night I attended one of the Baltimore Greenworks sponsored events. Not only was I excited to see a collaboration of work between MICA and Morgan students about a more sustainable Baltimore, Jasmine Sarp used the event to unveil her brand new logo & identity especially created for The Beet, Baltimore's newest bulk buying club!

I liked seeing the variety of styles and projects people came up with to deal with sustainability.

Tomato Alley:

Replacing plastic bags with reusable ones made out of recycled clothing:

Morgan State architectural plans for a library on North Avenue:

Videos with Baltimore residents about trash in their neighborhood:

Mini-flyers about local thrift stores to store in your purse:

A cart used to carry potatoes from the Jessup Food Bank back to Baltimore:

And a series of board games:

On the way home I stopped by 2640 to give a hand setting up for Bread and Puppet, the legendary Vermont based art and theater group:

And that was enough for one night! Phew. I went home and did laundry at my brother's house. Yay for someone else cooking me dinner and giving me beer!

What Plant Did I Find on Old Falls Road?

The last time I saw an interesting plant while biking to work down Old Falls Road, all of you out there gave me a hand and helped me learn that the mysterious flowering plant I was looking at was Mullein.

Let's see if we can do this a second time! I was biking to work again this morning and noticed these lovely silver green plants on the edge of the stream. They reminded me of Artemisia because of the color but I'm not quite sure if the leaves are right for Artemisia.

Any idea what I've got here? Now I wish I had thought to smell one of the leaves and see if had a licorice-y scent, since that would have given me another clue. Maybe I'll do that on the way back home.

Advice appreciated!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 2010 Baltimore Foodmakers Foraging Potluck

April 2010 Baltimore Foodmakers potluck at Jerusalem Mill in Gunpowder Falls.

The topic for this month's potluck was Edible Foraging. Michelle Gienow was our guide, and she brought along a few people from the Mid-Atlantic Primitive Skills group to share their expertise as well.

We had the potluck before embarking on our two hour walk. And it was a lovely potluck as always! I brought homemade sourdough and nettle tea (thanks to Michelle for showing me where to find the nettles last year!)

Pictured here: Elaine's Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie, Michelle's roasted asparagus and hard cider, Brian's savory Steel-Cut Oats with Onion

The kids always have fun (and adults can play too!)

Jerusalem Mills re-enactor

We started finding edible plants even before we got into the woods. There were way too many plants to list here. We found tree buds you can eat, vine shoots, root bulbs, early leaves, seeds, and more. In the interest of keeping this short, I'll just list a few highlights.

Did you know you can eat the green seeds inside these maple seed pods?

Boiled in salted water like edamame, these would be quite nice. And they are abundant as well.

The roots of these plants seriously smelled and tasted exactly like ginger.

And the #1 highlight of all:

This lion's mane mushroom that Hue, one of the primitive skills experts, found in this tree hollow. The holes are from hungry Baltimore Foodmakers taking bits of the mushroom to eat. I was worried about taking it, but Michelle told me that once a mushroom appears, it will just rot away unless we picked it.

The mushroom was very sweet and mild tasting. I don't eat a lot of seafood, but the other foodmakers confirmed that the mushroom had a wonderful similarity to lobster meat. Michelle's post has a better description of cooking the mushroom (Brian made his like crabcakes and scallops!).

Once we made our way through the woods, we reached Flying Plow Farm.

The Flying Plow folks are new to Maryland and Baltimore Foodmakers. They are still looking for CSA members! If you're interested in visiting the beautiful and historic Gunpowder Falls/Jerusalem Mill and also support local agriculture, please check them out. http://www.flyingplowfarm.com/join-our-csa.html

A sneak peak of some of the farm:

We had a nice quiet walk back through the woods.

And then just as we were about to reach the parking lot, we reached a large part of the ground that was shot through with wild peppermint. Yessss.

Wow, I didn't think we would ever be able to beat last year's morel hunting and wild weed walk at Cromwell Valley, but Baltimore Foodmakers just keeps on knocking them out of the park.

Last year's find:

Feel free to join up: www.foodmake.org

As always, please remember that good foraging etiquette requires considering the ecosystem. Feel free to take all of an invasive species like kudzu or japanese knotwood, but please do not take native plants from inside a state park. Make sure to leave enough of a non-invasive species for the animals to eat and for the plant to grow back next year. Please do not eat anything you have foraged unless you are CERTAIN you know the plant species. I hereby do not claim responsibility for your foraging experiments.

"Fabritory" Event TODAY on North Ave 5 p.m.


Baltimore Greenworks is really kicking off a huge week in support of Earth Day.

From small changes around the house to meetings about larger policy issues, there is a huge variety of ways to get involved.

Want to do something small? Go to the Herring Run Plant sale and put a few native plant species where your lawn used to be.

Want to do something big? Check out the Climate Change rally in DC on Saturday April 25th.

I definitely recommend checking out the details on their website: http://baltimoregreenworks.com/


I'll probably be going to the event on North Avenue tonight that's in collaboration with Greenworks.

One of the collective member of The Beet Bulk Food Co-op is taking a class with Hugh Pocock, a professor at MICA who has instrumental in a variety of urban agriculture projects.

I know this class was a collaboration between various Baltimore institutions, which is wonderful in and of itself. We have so many great universities and colleges in the area, and all too often everyone gets trapped in their own bubble rather than engaging in dialogue. Plus, working towards sustainability is always a plus.

Also, I'm pretty sure we're going to have some extra dry goods on sale from The Beet, so you might want to check it out. I hear there is going to be beet ice cream on hand!

Here's more information if you're interested:


A Fabrication Laboratory on North Avenue

A collaborative exhibition between Baltimore Green Works and the students of MICA and Morgan State. Featuring the work from Climate Change and Sustainability, Art, Artists and the City and works from Morgan State Department of Architecture. These projects all result from investigations of the conditions and potentials of North Avenue.


The North Avenue Market
20 West North Avenues
(North Ave and Charles St.)


Tuesday, April 20th
3-8 pm
Reception 5pm

Monday, April 19, 2010

Urban Ag Gala Update

Friday night's Urban Ag Gala was a lot of fun!

Lots of seedlings everywhere planted in shoes, hats, newspaper, beer containers.. you name it, there was something green growing out of it!

I'd like to give a very special shoutout to the AmeriCorps crews who came, helped set up, chopped hundreds of veggies, served the food, and cleaned 2640 St. John's back into ship-shape. You all are a true example of good and honest service, and you all were REALLY appreciated. Glad you got to take home a lot of the extra food!

Speaking of which, YUM! Little sandwiches with mini greens, vegan tacos, Gunpowder Bison kofta meatballs, roasted parsnips, fresh squeezed beet, carrot, and parsley juice...

Folks enjoying the food in the smaller "Sunday Room"

Speakers in the larger "Clark Room," including Christopher Washington for the Sowing Seeds Conference coming up June 18th in Washington D.C. Will Allen is going to be the special guest! Tickets are on sale now, I'm really excited for this event: http://sowingseedshereandnow.com/

Making seed balls with the kids (or as Wikipedia also calls them, "Tsuchi Dango Earth Dumplings")

Feel free to click on the photo below to enlarge the image and see the names of the wonderful organizations involved with putting on the Gala. See you all next year!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Urban Ag Gala Tonight!!

Celebrate the beginning of another explosively fruitful growing season in Baltimore City with The Baltimore Urban Agricultural Task Force's second annual Urb Ag Gala! Come out and enjoy delicious, live, and local food, music, art and storytelling as well as a wealth of gardening information and resources.

The Gala will enable those intrigued by the "growing" movement to become more involved, get growers and eaters and those in between fired up for the 2010 season, and make a statement about the inspiring and practical effects that producing food locally can have on individuals, families, communities, and the state of our planet at large.

The Baltimore Urban Agricultural Task Force is a growing coalition of farmers, students, professionals, artists, parents, and concerned citizens. The passion of its members is a common one: locally produced food. The Task Force is finding ways to strengthen communities in Baltimore through agricultural projects and environmental education.

$10 donation requested.
Urb Ag Gala will be a waste neutral event.

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