100 foot diet

Rhubarb

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Homemade raspberry rhubarb juice.

The days of harvest have arrived in Edmonton. We’ve been enjoying one of our region’s most resilient and trouble-free foods.

I was especially impressed by the fighting spirit of the strawberry rhubarb plant that was growing on the property on which we built the Mill Creek NetZero Home. We dug a hole on the property in 2008, forming a mountain of clay over the rhubarb that stayed there for months. The clay was then unceremoniously scraped off by a bobcat, and the rhubarb’s growing area was used as a driveway to transport materials on and off the property for a year and a half.

So imagine my delight when I spotted this little guy a few weeks back.

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This rhubarb plant refused to die no matter how it was mistreated

My wife Rechel made a few juices using rhubarb (straight rhubarb juice, as well as apple rhubarb and raspberry rhubarb). It’s ridiculously easy:

  1. Dice up the rhubarb and other fruit
  2. Fill half of a pot with fruit, and top it up with water
  3. Simmer for 30-60 minutes
  4. Strain
  5. Add sweetener to taste
  6. Chill

The juice can be frozen for future use or kept chilled in the fridge. Trust me, you can’t buy juice this good in the store.

To grow rhubarb in your own yard, just transplant a small part of the root of a friend’s plant.  Make sure to give it some room though – rhubarb tends to get big!

Although rhubarb leaves are somewhat toxic (I’ve been talking about the edible stems this whole time), they can be composted once they are stripped off of the stems.

Rhubarb can be added to many things. Jam, crisp, pie. Whatever. It will taste like Alberta no matter how you cook it.

Guest Post: Avenue Homesteader

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Editor’s Note:I recently discovered a wonderful blog called Avenue Homesteader. Carissa Halton writes about her experiences with green local living in Edmonton’s Alberta Avenue area. I love her focus on food production and community efforts in the area. Carissa has generously offered up a guest post for Green Edmonton readers:

Cross-posted from http://avenuehomesteader.blogspot.com/:

For members of my household who love pumpkin pie and butternut stew, 2009 was a disappointing year. Total number of winter squash: 2. I gleaned one Buttercup and another Spaghetti squash from six large plants. It was a lot of green square footage producing a whole lot of nothing.

After some sleuthing and input from my squash-crazy sister-in-law, we’ve deducted a pollination problem. In 2009, I had plenty of flowers and the fruit would look like it was growing then instead yellow and die.

This year, I have taken matters into my own hands and started playing ‘Birds and Bees’. The first thing to surprise me was the sheer number of available male flowers and the woeful number of willing female compatriots. The ladies are more inclined to draw their virginal petals up demurely around their centre and remain like this most of the day. In my patch, fruit-making action happens exclusively in the mornings.

So if you share my problem, or skipped the Bio class where they taught this stuff, here’s how you can increase the conception rates in your squash patch:

1. First, figure out who’s female and male. The female flowers blooms from what appears to be a miniature squash. They look like they’re growing from a new fruit while the male flower buds burst from a long, narrow stem.  read more... »

Yard Food Day 2010

As you know, Yard Food Day is a traditional post in honour of the first day that I eat something that is growing in my back yard, and in 2010, it is April 18th.

I've noticed that my chive plant has been growing for a few days now, and so technically, Yard Food Day could've been an omelet with some chives a few days ago, but that didn't happen.

Weedgeekery is shifting. Circa 1995, when Toxics Watch ran its "Lion's Tooth Festival" to celebrate the much maligned dandelion, there were few resources describing the uses of this valuable plant.

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But today, there seem to be weedgeeks in the mainstream. My lunch recipe today was published in the April 7th, 2010 edition of the Globe & Mail's Food & Wine section: Salad of dandelion greens, pancetta and boiled eggs, a dish served at Montreal's Toque restaurant.


A quick ellipse.

At the 2009 Annual General Assembly of the Canadian Environmental Network, one of the presenters was local permaculture expert, Ron Berezan, who presented on the idea of no-till gardening. To help build up poor backyard soils, the no-till gardener applies layers of newspapers, leaves, and fall garden detritus to the yard to rapidly build up organic matter. I understand the initial layer of newspaper is supposed to suppress weed growth.

Of course, weedgeeks don't suppress their weed growth, so I left the newspaper part out.
The consequence of this omission is that what appeared to be ordinary, young dandelion plants growing atop a layer of leaves actually had 2 or 3 inches of sweet, tender, light-starved mid-ribs growing beneath them. Once picked, these plants resembled a true vegetable, kind of like a thin bok choy.

Notice the length of white underleaf in these plants: 
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Compared to these which were growing directly out of the soil: 
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My version of the Toque hot dandelion, pancetta and egg salad turned out like this:  read more... »

River City Chickens Collective

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(image source)

Editor’s Note: I’ve elevated this comment by our own Urban Farmer, Ron Berezan, into its own post. Thanks for the great work Ron!

Hello Chicken Lovers,

Most of the sites have been chosen, however it is possible we may need more. This all depends of course on whether the city accepts the proposal. You can become part of our group by going to ca.groups.yahoo.com and searching for “river city chickens” , then follow the prompts from there. We are having a meeting on Saturday, April 24 to firm up more details. You would be invited to attend.

Meanwhile, you can help this by writing a short letter to the editor of the Journal and to the city planning department expressing your support. See below.

To All Urban Chicken Supporters – Let’s Get Crackin’!

You may have seen the articles in the Edmonton Journal recently regarding urban chicken keeping in Canada, including the proposal we (The River City Chickens Collective) have submitted. The articles accurately indicated that the Planning Department of the City of Edmonton is on the verge of making a decision whether they will allow our proposed pilot project for a small number of Edmonton families to keep chickens in their yards for one year. The proposal outlines a very carefully thought out set of guidelines that reflect the best practises of municipalities throughout North America that allow chickens.

Given that this initiative has now become public, it is critical that people who support the goal of local food security voice their support for this proposal. In virtually all cities where chickens have been legalized, there has been a small, but very vocal, anti-chicken lobby (often including the poultry industry). We need to make sure that the Planning Department hears that the majority of Edmontonians support this proposal.

You can help by doing the following 2 things:

1. Send a brief email, attention John Wilson, City Planning Department to 311@edmonton.ca . Indicate that you saw the article in the Edmonton Journal and you think that allowing chickens in Edmonton would be a great thing to do. Feel free to elaborate on the reasons why. If you have not seen the article, you can see it at the address below. You may also choose to cc city councilors at Councillors@edmonton.ca .

2. Go to the Edmonton Journal at: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Edmonton+mulls+urban+chicken+coops/2... and post a brief comment following the article. This is also an important place to continue to show public support.

3. Write a letter to the Editor of the Edmonton Journal expressing your support for the idea of the pilot project and the basic principle of being able to grow your own food and keep chickens in your yard. Emphasize that this is a safe, healthy and very common practise in most other parts of the world. Of course add any other points you would like

Thank You!

If you are interested in getting more involved in this important work, you can sign up on the River City Chickens Yahoo group by going to www.ca.groups.yahoo.com and entering “river city chickens” into the “find a group” search. Follow the prompts from there. Information about group meetings is communicated through the group list serve.

Onward and Upward!

Ron Berezan
for the Rivercity Chickens Collective