Archive for Sustainability

The Green Goddess Nursery is the place for outdoor living spaces

egg supplies

The Green Goddess Nursery sells plenty of supplies for the Big Green Egg in North Phoenix, AZ (Photo By: Christina Thompson 2012).

One of the great places to shop for desert and greenhouse plants is The Green Goddess Nursery located in North Phoenix, Arizona.  Its location is on Bell Road between 40th Street and Tatum Boulevard.  They are open seven days a week, Monday-Friday 7am-5pm and 8am-5pm, Saturdays and Sundays.  This is a strictly local business, which provides great customer service and helps customers design the best outdoor living space for their homes.  They also provide customers with the option to follow them on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.  They also have a company blog and they offer coupons to their patrons and new comers on their website.  One product they offer to outdoor cooking and kitchen enthusiasts is the Big Green Egg, an oven, a smoker, and a grill all in one.  “Grilling Prickly Pear cactus is one preparation for it,” says Green Goddess Nursery Manager, Aaron Grimm.

mini egg

This Mini Green Egg is available for purchase at The Green Goddess Nursery and great for small spaces in Phoenix (Photo By: Christina Thompson 2012).

This place has something for everyone in the North Phoenix and Scottsdale location.  Shop and buy local, as always.

 

cacti

These Prickly Pear cactus are available, along with many other cacti at The Green Goddess Nursery in North Phoenix, AZ (Photo By: Christina Thompson 2012).

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Local Arizona honey sold at Farmers Markets

Mesquite Honey

Absolutely Delightful Mesquite Honey available at the Roadrunner Park Farmers Market on Saturdays (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Desert Wild Flower Honey

Absolutely Delightful Desert Wild Flower Honey available at the Roadrunner Park Farmers Market on Saturdays (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

The desert southwest is certainly the last place some people would think of as a place that produces honey.  The National Honey Board says, “The color and flavor of honey differ depending on the bees’ nectar source (the blossoms).  In fact, there are more than 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States, originating from such diverse floral sources as Clover, Eucalyptus and Orange Blossoms.  In general, lighter colored honeys are mild in flavor, while darker honeys are usually more robust in flavor.”  There are some distinct pollen sources in Arizona.  One company called Absolutely Delightful Honey offers, “Uniquely delicious, natural flavors to include orange blossom, alfalfa, mesquite, desert wild flower, Flagstaff wild flower, catsclaw and camelthorn. From time to time we get small batches of rare honeys like prickly pear or staghorn (cholla) cactus honey.”  They are found at four Phoenix-area farmers markets throughout the week.  The Benefits of Honey website says, “Honey is a great natural source of carbohydrates which provide strength and energy to our bodies. Honey is known for its effectiveness in instantly boosting the performance, endurance and reduce muscle fatigue of athletes.” One way to incorporate this energy booster into a diet is to use it as a substitute for sugar.  It could be added to teas to make them sweeter and to pastries for a great unique flavor.

Clover Honey

Clover Honey available at any health food store like Sprouts or Whole Foods Market (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Alfalfa Blossom Honey

Alfalfa Blossom Honey available at any health food store like Sprouts or Whole Foods Market (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Honey is a great product for everyone to eat.  Just make sure if someone is allergic to bees, not to include the honeycomb in their honey.  The desert southwest has honey distinctive to the area, but so does honey that is produced in other parts of the country and around the world.  It is like people can go on adventures just by tasting honey.

Absolutely Delightful Logo

Absolutely Delightful Local Arizona Honey available at four Phoenix-area farmers markets over the week (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

 

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Pets need natural, organic food as much as humans

Primal Dog Treats

“These are Primal Dog Treats available at Pet Planets in Arizona and Canada” (Photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

People are starting to have better diets consisting of holistic, natural, organic foods and it is improving their health.  Why shouldn’t pets have the same opportunity?  Plenty of pet food companies have risen to this new movement in pet food.  Horizon Pet Nutrition out of Canada has four sub-companies and believes, “…in having locally sourced ingredients, being environmentally sustainable, and being a globally trusted company.”  Another company out of Canada, Champion Pet Foods, also has two sub-companies (Acana and Orijen), and they believe, “Quality is never outsourced and to nourish as nature intended.”  A US company called Petropics makes wet food diets for cats and dogs called, “Tiki Cat and Tiki Dog.”  There is a page on the company’s website that describes the illnesses that the food helps to alleviate including, “…diabetes, obesity, cancer, urinary tract infections…”

Neve cat

“This is Peggy Thompson’s cat, Neve (Italian for snow) at her home in Cincinnati, Ohio” (Photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

The illnesses listed above seem to be the top four biggest maladies that have accompanied the poor diets being brought on by poor quality pet food.  “My daughter and I have three cats,” said cat owner, Peggy Thompson.  “We used to have four, but our poor little Neve died suddenly last month due to cancer and poor nutrition from commercial pet food for many years.  Our veterinarian recommended we put the other three on a natural, organic diet so we can keep them healthy.”

Tiki Dog Food

“This is all-natural Tiki Dog wet food available at Pet Planets in Arizona and Canada” (Photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

Where do you find healthy pet food?

small mammal food

“This is some natural rabbit and guinea pig food that is available at Pet Planet stores in Arizona and Canada” (Photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

In the Phoenix area and in Canada, there is a store called Pet Planet that is delivering a variety of natural, organic pet food products to people daily.   Kristin Jensen of Pet Planet said, “Although we mainly offer only natural, organic cat and dog food, we have natural food for pet birds, small mammals, and reptiles.”  Another place to find healthy pet food is Whole Foods Marketlocated across the US, Canada, and even the UK.

People seem to be caring about what their pets eat as much as what they eat.  The trend will hopefully continue for companion pets and extend to small mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish.  People want their pets to be happy and healthy and now the right pet foods are being manufactured to accomplish that.

Arcana dog food

“These are just two of the flavors of Arcana dog food available at Pet Planet stores” (Photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

 

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Hydroponic gardens are great for foodies and chefs alike

basil

Hydroponically grown basil at AZ Growing store in Scottsdale, Arizona (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

MicroGarden

This small hydroponic system is a great beginner kit for people wanting to try hydroponic gardening available through AZ Growing (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Many people in this world are turning to hydroponic gardens to grow their fruits, vegetables, and herbs.  In a recent article published in Maximum Yield Magazine, author Dr. Lynette Morgan says, “Fortunately, flavor in fruits and vegetables is something that can be manipulated to various degrees by the grower—and in hydroponics we have far greater control over growth factors than we do with outdoor crops—so there’s no reason for our homegrown flavors not to be fantastic…” Restaurant owner, Homaro Cantu, recently made an aeroponics(a type of hydroponic gardening) garden in the basement of one of his restaurants because he realized the value of taste that comes from growing hydroponically.

tomatoes

High yielding cherry tomato plants being grown indoors with lights and hydroponics at AZ Growing in Scottsdale, Arizona (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Chefs are not the only ones talking about hydroponics.  A cast of hydroponic garden hobbyists created a podcast called “Heavy T’s Grow Show”, where listeners can call and ask questions, listen to interviews, and receive prizes just for calling in.  With the influx of people turning to hydroponics, especially in more arid desert regions like Phoenix, Arizona, it must be an easy way to grow plants, right?  Aaron Heimes of AZ Growing located in Scottsdale, Arizona says, “You need to pick up a book.  The book that I read and helped me get started is How-to Hydroponicsby Keith Roberto.”  Reading about hydroponics and the do-it-yourself techniques will teach anyone how to make their food taste better.

LECA

Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate (LECA) being used for a hydroponic growing medium at the AZ Growing store (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

hydroponic system

Hydroponic systems can also be very intricate like this one at the AZ Growing store (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

 

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Farmers’ Markets

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The Sustainable Garden Chef

Many chefs are turning into farmers as well.  They are growing crops sustainably on rooftops, gardens, and in rooms themselves.  One restaurateur and chef, Homaro Cantu, is pioneering a new farming technique for chefs, aeroponic farming.   Another chef transplanted here from Kenya, Chef Kabui, is also taking his knowledge of farming and environment to his house land and catering business.  The Chef’s Garden is a company that is producing great organic vegetables for chef’s to grow in their gardens for their restaurants.  All these people are helping to evolve the revolution of the “Sustainable Chef/Restaurant.”

Planting

Chef Margaret plants lettuce on her balcony in Cincinnati, Ohio, to prepare for a busy summer of private chef parties on Mar. 29, 2012 (photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

Lettuce

Red Leaf Lettuce in the hands of Chef Margaret being properly planted on Mar. 26, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio (photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

Cutting

The tasty lettuce being clipped out of the Cincinnat, Ohio apartment garden by Chef Margaret and being put right into a healthy salad for a party on Mar. 29, 2012 (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Prep

Chef Margaret adding Parmesan cheese to a salad created from her garden on Mar. 29, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio (photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

Salad

Italian salad being put on a table for a party by Chef Margaret on Mar. 29, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio (photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

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Food labeling is important for everyone’s health and well-being

Everyone knows about the labels on food and why it is the most important information that consumers can get about what they are eating.  Consumers are not the only ones reading product labels, so are the chefs preparing the food in restaurants.  Everyone is looking out for each other when it comes to food.

Why is it important for chefs to read the labels?

Food labeling has come under a lot of scrutiny.  It was even brought up in a court case against McDonalds.  A statement in the case read, “Thus Congress provided that essentially all packaged foods sold at retail shall be appropriately labeled and their contents described.”  A chef needs to know what is in their food because although it may not seem like, restaurants are food retailers and nutritional information is important.  Chef Margaret Thompson said, “I always ask about food allergies before I make my menus for private parties.  I want my customers to be happy with their food and know every piece of nutritional information that I can give them.  It is important for their safety and my reputation that proper food labeling is taken.”

There is a company called Monsanto that is producing Genetically Modified food crops and has therefore been put under condemnation because they do not want to label their products as such.  They were recently issued a court-ordered mandate to remove a genetically engineered sugar beet crop.  Not only is Monsanto being put under examination for their GM foods, but so is all food labeling.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report addressing the problem with food labels.  “Problems with food labels can be broken down into three basic categories:  the Nutrition Facts Panel needs to be improved, ingredient labels need to be modernized, and Health-related claims need more stringent regulation.”  Chef Margaret said, “I know the labels on the food are not the best.  I research as much as I can to make an informed decision on the products I buy for customers.  I also petition the FDA and other government organizations to reform product labels to give all consumers the best possible information.”

So what do chefs serve, if labels are not correct?

“My restaurant (Lime Covington) serves only local organic products,” said Gina Puopolo, Executive Chef/Owner of the Covington, Kentucky restaurant.  “I don’t buy pre-packaged ingredients; I make them from scratch, so I know everything that goes into my food.” There are plenty of nutritional facts that chefs have to look at especially when it comes to food allergies.  One of the biggest allergies that chefs are dealing with now is wheat allergies, which has brought about the whole gluten-free movement. Chef Gina said, “I used to serve corn tortillas, but I changed to flour and our burritos can be made with lettuce for people with gluten allergies.”

Learning how to reading and understand food labels is important because after all, knowledge is power.  Everyone must do their part to change by being educated consumers and take the time to contact the proper agencies to bring about food label reform.  Chefs are only a small part of a bigger consumer picture.

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Fruit and veggie farming battle

Every produce consumer is a part of the debate about organic food because it is in every grocery store, mega mart, and produce stand.  It is up to consumer preference to what they purchase: organic fruits and vegetables or conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

Organic vs. Conventionally Farmed

Dragonfruit

Conventionally farmed dragonfruit taken at a local grocery store (photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

Is it true that organically grown fruits and vegetables are better nutritionally?  A CNN Article gave people some insight on this issue.  It said, “A few small studies have shown that some organic foods contain higher nutrient levels than conventional ones. For example, a recent study showed that organic ketchup had 57 percent more of the antioxidant lycopene than regular ketchup.”

Lenons

Meyer Organic Lemons taken at The Fresh Market (a strictly whole-food) grocery store (photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

In an article posted by Grist about this debate they studied strawberry crops.  “The study design was both careful and comprehensive in scope. The strawberries were grown on 13 conventional and 13 organic fields, with organic/conventional field pairs located adjacently in order to control for soil type and weather patterns. The data was drawn from repeated harvests over a two-year period, and the strawberries were picked, transported, and stored under identical conditions to replicate retail practices. And just as farming is a complex business, scientists contributing to the study range from soil and food scientists to genetics experts and statistics specialists, who analyzed 31 soil properties, soil DNA, and the relative taste and nutritional quality of three strawberry varieties in California.  The results are pretty convincing: organic strawberries are healthier, tastier, and better for the soil than conventional strawberries.”

The bottom line

Peas

These organic peas were bought at a local farmers' market (photo by Christina Thompson 2010).

The Grist article also offers this, “Its findings only apply to strawberries — but they do point the way to the kind of research that can, and should, be done with other crops as well.”  The studied only offered that strawberry crops are better organically for us.  The CNN article has Charles Benbrook, a Ph.D. scientist with The Organic Center saying, “Read labels and look at each product in its own right. An organic potato chip may contain as many calories and saturated fat grams as a conventional chip. The price premiums associated with processed organic food are not as great as the premiums charged for organic whole foods.”  In the article too, they have Professor Alan McHughen, Ph.D. of botany and plant sciences at the University of California, Riverside with this understanding, “Focus on foods’ benefit to your immediate environment — i.e. your body — first.  A good diet means variety, balance, and moderation, regardless of the farming method that produced the food.”

Sea beans

These delicious sea beans were found at a local grocer, but not in the organic section (photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

There really is some difference to organic and conventional farming, but other things maybe added to the organic food to make it worse for you then conventionally farmed produce.  Like Benbrook says, “Read labels!!”

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Eating sustainable fish

 

There is a hunger for fish in society and this is causing strain on species population. It has been shown in recent and past media coverage that modern fishing practices have not been concerned with overfishing or the possibility of eradicating fishing grounds locally and across the globe. With profit being the major motivator in business practices, overfishing has been deemed a major threat to fresh and salt water species according to UNEP.  The cod market of Newfoundland Grand Banks, Canada is a blemish to the fishing market, and an example of how a prosperous industry can drive a species to the brink of extinction.

Greenpeace International describes the collapse of the fishing grounds in Newfoundland Grand Banks.  Industrialization and the use of factory trawlers resulted in significant increases in fish processing and led to the near depletion of cod catches in the fishery. Not only did this spell disaster for the stocks, but the nearly 40,000 jobs dependent on the catch. It still uncertain that the fish stock will ever recover.

Looking at the trawl-net cod as an example, conservationists have recently made great efforts to release papers showing people what fish are sustainably caught.  The chart below is just a simple example of what they have released.

Fish Chart
Seafood Watch 2012 helped create this chart.
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Food brings Cincinnatians together

Ceramic Bread Oven

This is a pizza baking in the ceramic bread oven (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

The Cincinnati Tri-State area is filled with diversity.  There is a large community of people with special needs and the area is divided by race and socio-economic strife.  The Cincinnati Riots of 2001 did not help certain tensions in the area, but on Saturday all those things were put aside.  There was a “Community Bake Day” put on by Gorman Heritage Farm that brought people from all over the area.

Mom & son Pizza

A mother and her son are talking and enjoying the pizza they just made (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

 

Gorman Farm employee Jamie Stoneham built the fire the community used starting at 7 AM.  She continued to keep it stoked until 11 AM when people started to arrive with pizzas, pretzels, and six different kinds of breads.  “The best type of wood to use is Osage Orange trees because they burn the hottest,” Jamie Stoneham told the crowd gathered around the hand-built ceramic bread oven.  The oven was then opened for the crowd to look in and see where they would be baking.  Jamie said, “We are going to start out with pizzas because they cook the fastest, then move onto pretzels, and finally breads.”  The crowd hustled inside and began to feverously build their pizza creations.  “I am putting olives, mushrooms, and cheese on my pizza,” said Kentucky native participant Sheryl Eichelberger.

Elderly Couple

An elderly couple enjoying their tasty pizza (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Overall, people with special needs, children, the elderly, and people who were just generally hungry made twenty plus pizzas. “I am trying out a new pretzel recipe today in this oven.  Baking together is fun and interesting,” Sheryl said.  Jamie said gleefully, “This is the biggest turn out we have ever had to this event!  Last time we only had three people!” Everyone seemed to enjoy the “Community Bake Day.”  Food always brings people together and it did on Saturday.

Special Needs People

Even special needs people are having fun creating their own pizzas (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

 

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