Living on a tight budget, I’ve been doing a lot of veggin’ out… on my porch, that is. This is the third year I’ve grown my own food in containers at my apartment. It started out as one tomato and a couple basil plants in each of my four pots by the driveway. Now, this April, it’s an official container garden: at least 20 different pots/herb boxes/recycled storage bins that are already boasting spinach, kale, red onions, and brussels sprouts. As I write, I’m waiting for the first young sprouts of the leek, beet, and swiss chard seeds I planted last week to peek out through the soil.
If you’re prone to impulsivity (like I can be), you might be tempted to buy $40 worth of seed packets at your local supermarket while you’re there to get toilet paper. (Like I did… last year. However, I returned the seeds after realizing my error. I had no idea what I was doing, not enough space, and no real plans!) After returning the seed packets, my garden again grew transplanted tomatoes and herbs. I tried my hand at red onions and sweet peppers for the first time, too!
This year, I’ve added all kinds of new stuff, and from seed! And I didn’t have to drop $40 for all the seeds I wanted. I didn’t have to pay a single penny, actually, for the bulk of my seeds. I’ve found a resource to help me turn my eagerness to grow my own plants from scratch into a productive, planned garden— including an informed gardener—without breaking the bank: my local Seed Savers Library!
In my opinion, The Washington County Seed Savers Library (SSL), of Abingdon, VA, is just the absolute coolest thing in town. Now one year old, the program is a collaboration between the Washington County Public Library System, Appalachian Sustainable Development, and Appalachian WildSide. The seed packets are located in the cute little converted card catalog, pictured above. Most of the seeds available for checkout come from Seed Savers Exchange and Southern Seed Exposure. Will Stein, Reference Librarian and staff contact for the program, told me that locals are beginning to bring in seeds they’ve been saving in the area for generations.
If you’re interested in saving seeds, here’s how it works: come to one of the fun SSL events to learn about growing from seed and how to save seeds, get tips for beginners and experts alike, and meet others interested in seed saving. This Saturday, April 26th, the Washington County SSL will be at the Earth Day Celebration next to the Abingdon Farmer’s Market (at the Fields-Penn House). They’ll be giving away sunflower seeds and there will be other seeds available for checkout! If you can’t make it to this event or another event in the future, just call up the library and let them know you’re interested in coming in to check out some seeds.
Will Stein or an SSL volunteer will meet you to discuss the program, answer any questions, and help you fill out the daunting half-sheet of paperwork so you can begin checking out seeds! (It’s that easy!) During harvest, you collect the seeds, dry them, and return to the WCPL. Because there is such a wealth of information available at each presentation and because some plants’ seeds are harder to save than others, going to the presentations are definitely encouraged! (Plus they’re a lot of fun!)
The perks of the Washington County Seed Savers Library include:
1. FREE SEEDS: You can check out up to 6 different seed packets each year completely FREE! The seeds are organic and/or heirloom seeds (GMO free)!
2. FREE GARDENING TIPS: When I went to check out seeds, I got free literature about seed saving, the best planting dates, the difference between GMOs and the more naturally-derived hybrid seed; I even got a paper just for me, all about container gardening!
3. YOUR BODY, YOUR CHOICE: By growing your own, you control what you put into your body. If you want GMO free corn, soybeans, or squash, the Seed Savers Library gives you access to non-contaminated strains.*
4. YOU BECOME PART OF THE MOVEMENT: When you plant and save organic seeds, you are passing down not only individual plant strains, but also the tradition of self-sufficiency and independence from the food industry. As Cindy Conner put it in her April 10 presentation, “Whoever owns the seeds also controls the food supply. So think about that!”
5. FREE FOOD: When you plant free seeds, you harvest free plant-based food! (Though you do “pay” in elbow grease, time, and energy. But that’s part of the fun.)
6. FREE EVENTS: There are all kinds of informative, relevant, free programs hosted by the Seed Savers Library.
I had the pleasure of attending “Grow a Sustainable Diet” by Cindy Conner. The presentation was named after Conner’s new book. Her presentation was so ripe and dense with information that it deserves a post all its own. Here’s a link to a video recording of another fun presentation: Bill Best on his experience seed saving here in Appalachia! If you are in town this Saturday, April 26th, or live nearby, I definitely encourage you to visit the Seed Savers Library next to the Farmer’s Market, in the lawn of the Fields-Penn House.
If you don’t live nearby, there’s good news! Official seed saving groups are popping up in communities all across America. Google “seed saving” + your community name to see if there’s a seed saving organization in your area! If you’d like to get one started, there are several resources available! Like Lisa Jett, Reference Assistant and Washington County SSL-organizer put it, “the best effort can always be successful.” For resources on how to start the effort in your community, visit the WCPL Seed Savers website for links, resources, contacts, and ideas. Cindy Conner is also currently writing a book on seed saving libraries. Once published, you will find a wealth of information there as well. According to Lisa, Conner has already been helpful to the WCPL Seed Savers, giving them ideas for obtaining free seeds.
If you’re interested in helping with Washington County’s SSL, stay tuned. First, simply checking out seeds and returning your harvested seeds at the end of the season is a way to literally “give back”. If you have time, energy, expertise, or a helping hand to lend, Charlotte Parsons, Library Director, has cited many other ways to help with the program. Volunteers are needed for data entry, presentation set-up, and helping the Seed Savers Library itself to travel. “We’d like to go out on the road”, says Charlotte. “Our cabinet has wheels, but we need carriers.” Further, partnerships with master gardeners and farmers in the area are crucial to the continued success of this program. Ben Casteel and Jarrod Wilson of Appalachian WildSide are just such young experts in the field; the program needs more master growers like these community members eager to share their expertise with beginners.
To stay informed or to explore what the Washington County Public Library Seed Savers has to offer: follow the Seed Savers Library on Pinterest, like them on Facebook, visit them at Seed Savers Library, or call the WCPL at 276-676-6298. Of course, stay tuned to Veggin’ Out and About! as we cover all kinds of plant-based news, including updates on the Washington County Public Library Seed Savers program!
Hope to see you all on Saturday getting your free sunflower seeds and learning about seed saving!
Last weekend may have been a first for New York City. Brooklyn Brawl Champion Boxer, Omowale Adewale created a vegan rooftop party that will be hard to beat. Vegans and non-vegans arrived from cities far and wide to welcome in the spring with healthy plant-based fare. The gods were clearly with us as the predicted rain abstained from intruding upon the affair. Overlooking the cityscape of New York, the sun gently caressed the throngs of diners, as colorful and varied as the food itself. Everyone was invited. One woman I spoke to was from California. She learned about the party on LinkedIn that very day and decided to join in. She was in town visiting relatives and decided to take a break to enjoy good food with like minded people.
The party was generously hosted by Kirsy Inception Salazar and Al Mazzini. Many guest brought food and drink, and food was also donated by Tofurky and Beyond Meat, both vegan meat substitutes, and a variety of vegan chips were provided by Beanfields. Other contributors were EarthBalance, a vegan butter substitute, and Edward and Sons Trading Company which creates a variety of vegan and vegetarian products.
The Vegan Rooftop Party was a part of Omowale’s Going Vegan 2014 challenge, in which he offers free physical training advice and support to up to 100 people who are making a dedicated effort to become healthy and fit by becoming vegan during 2014. It’s not too late to sign up and everyone, everywhere is welcome.
Throughout the evening there were discussions of veganism, from how long one has been vegan to how to make buying organic food affordable. There were a few who just weren’t buying into it. Some arrived just for the experience, never intending to change their diets. Others were inspired to make a greater commitment to eat healthier and in a more compassionate way. Regardless of where one stood in the myriad of eating choices, what was clear is that the conversation had begun.
And wasn’t that Omowale’s point all along? To get the conversation going. Once that door is open, there is no going back.
A year ago, Rich and I passed through Carlisle en-route to Central New York for an annual Easter visit with relatives. Carlisle has a dearth of restaurants offering healthy, plant-based options. There is a Tappas bar which claims to offer vegan options but when questioned closely you’ll find the fingerling potatoes are fried in beef tallow, the croutons contain eggs and the olives are just taken from a jar and dunked in a pool of flavored olive oil. The pita bread is obviously store bought. They will remove the cheese and other offending products but offer nothing to compensate the diner for the loss. No thanks, we’ll pass.
There is an excellent Japanese/Vietnamese noodle shop (we reviewed last year) called Essei Noodles and there is a wonderful market (also reviewed last year), Appalachian Whole Foods. So, last year, following our lunch at Essei, we stopped to check out a lovely little vegetarian café on West Pomfret Street called Gaia Fresh Food Café. We spoke with Gaia’s owner, George Catselis. We didn’t try the food at the time since we had already eaten. However, we did get a look at the place and an earful from George on his plans to make this a community meeting place where people who care what goes into their bodies and care about what is happening to our planet can congregate. A year later, and George’s plans are coming to fruition.
We arrived just in time for lunch. There was a line from the main dining room down the hall to the front door. A group of women, just out of zumba class with their tousled hair and flushed cheeks, crowded around the counter, chins pointed skyward as their eyes combed the menu board for something healthy to sink their teeth into. “What do you like here?” I ask a lean, athletic woman in line next to me. “Oh, the chile!” she responds, almost reverently. “It’s soooo delicious!” I asked her if she is vegetarian. No, she just likes the food here.
What better recommendation can you have than that? Gaia isn’t one of those vegetarian restaurants that tries to replace meat with faux meat products. They just make good, wholesome food that happens to be animal free, for the most part. Some of their dishes have cheese or yogurt, which can easily be omitted. Rich had the Falafel Sandwich which comes with a yogurt Tziki sauce. He had them substitute with Hummus and was a happy camper.
I ordered the hummus/tapenade/bean plate which came with fresh vegetables and whole grain crackers on a bed of lettuce. The hummus was firm and flavorful, not the runny variety I often encounter in many restaurants. The same goes for the bean dip. The black olive tapenade was rich and salty and a perfect chunky, yet creamy consistency. It was a gorgeous, colorful plate.
And, yes, the chile was delicious! Rich and satisfying, it was a thick, hearty mixture of beans, tomatoes and chile seasonings with the unexpected addition of cashews, which gave it a nice texture. Rich ordered the Carrot Curry Soup which was delightfully flavorful and creamy, yet light.
Gaia’s also offers healthy drinks, green juices and smoothies out the wazoo. I particularly liked the ingredients in one of the juice blends but also wanted the fiber of the smoothies. So, George had them whip up a green smoothie from the juice ingredients that was just to my liking. I’m a pretty hard core smoothie drinker and prefer just greens and fruit, no almond or coconut milk. Rich had a regular smoothie and loved it. I tasted it and have to admit, it was really good.
There were a host of other options to choose from. A mother and daughter at a table next to us had a hummus plate and a tabbouleh wrap with green smoothies. Another had a quinoa wrap. Everyone we spoke to was absolutely delighted with their meals.
In a city which hasn’t yet grasped the importance of eating whole foods, much less plant-based whole foods, Gaia’s is a light at the end of a very long tunnel. The word it out! While it may seem tiny when you first walk in, there is plenty of seating on two floors. The next time you are tooling down I-81, stop in Carlisle and check out the good food and conversation at Gaia Fresh Food Café. And while you’re there, give our best to George!
INDULGING THE SALT TOOTH!
Omowale Adewale’s vegan challenge, GoVeg 2014, is well into it’s fourth month and the results have been nothing short of remarkable. Since January, there has been a steady influx of people signing on to his blog wanting to rid their bodies of animal products and reclaim their health. Wale gets participants to talk about their experiences, their concerns and questions and he offers recipes and exercise tips to help people meet their goals. Wale offers guidance and support and encourages participants to interact. And they do! (more…)
Posted by Danielle Bussone on Apr 11, 2014 in Asian, Vegan, Vegan Food Quest: Veggin' Out and About Southeast Asia! | 0 comments
This last leg of the Vegan food Quest has been busy, busy, busy as we left Thailand, travelled through Malaysia and made it to Bali. Our first stop in Malaysia was Georgetown, Penang, the foodie capital of Malaysia and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We filled up on Southern Indian vegan delights at Woodlands Pure Vegetarian Restaurant and hit the streets of Little India trying freshly cooked lentil vadai from the street vendors.
Open only three years, Luna’s Living Kitchen is already an icon in Charlotte, NC. Whenever we ask where we can find a good place to eat while visiting Charlotte, Luna’s is the first word out of everyone’s mouth. Everyone.
Luna’s Living Kitchen is a stand-out with its all organic, largely locally sourced ingredients without a hint of genetically modified fare to be found!!! To this I can’t say strongly enough to owner, Juliana Luna; You go, girl!
by Sue Spirit
Here’s a drum roll for kale, the world’s go-to vegetable! Credit kale’s meteoric rise to the big time, from the nobody she was, to—ta dah—California! When kale appeared in the raw, risqué as it might have seemed, a star was born. The “kale kraze” is here. It’s the buzz word of the far West, and is fast creeping Eastward, for who knows how long. Credit the granola gang, aging hippies, health nuts, organic eaters, and vegan enthusiasts for this amazing development.
Picture a wine glass filled with a bright green liquid, the perfect shade of chartreuse, a kale-fruit health drink, only one of the myriad kale recipes for well-being. Raise a glass: a toast to kale!
Traveling away from home can be daunting for a plant-based eater. Therefore, the excitement I felt when I discovered the first Ethiopian restaurant in South Carolina was urgent enough for me to declare to my children that our first dinner out would be to Redi-et Ethiopian Cuisine in Myrtle Beach. My sales pitch to them was that we would have fun eating our meal without utensils, utilizing the traditional Ethiopian bread, Injera, instead, and everyone from the family vegans to my omnivore son would be able to dine deliciously.
Located on the south side of downtown Myrtle Beach just where Route 501 meets Route 17, Redi-et Ethiopian Cuisine may catch your eye with colorful curtains displaying the red, green and yellow stripes of the Ethiopian flag. Inside was a somewhat simple but quaint atmosphere, empty except for one other table of diners. This had us a little leery at first but being a Tuesday night in mid-March, we were confident it would work out. We soon found that this is a gem amongst the plethora of mostly large chain and tourist styled restaurants in Myrtle Beach. Our assessment was confirmed after learning that the other diners were very happy regulars.
Nitsuh Woldemariam from Ethiopian Taste Food & Coffee in North Charleston, SC teaches us how to make traditional Ethiopian Coffee. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and is an integral part of Ethiopian culture. It has evolved into a ceremony of roasting beans on a fire, with incense burning in the background. The smell of incense alerts visitors that coffee is being prepared. Once the beans are roasted, the hostess takes the pot of beans around and each visitor inhales of the savory bean aroma before the coffee is made and the rich, sweet beverage is served.