Grow. Eat. Live. Love.

Gardening, Cooking, Nutrition, and Culture
Purslane: I’m teaching your kids to eat weeds!
     Since I was introduced to this new vegetable, purslane has literally been popping up everywhere in my life!  I tried this edible weed for the first time in a salad-making class hosted by The Greening of Detroit’s Garden Resource Program.  I’m not one to just try whatever green thing someone finds growing out of the ground, but my classmates were still standing so I figured I’d try it too.  I plucked a smooth, oval-shaped leaf off its reddish-brown stem and popped it in my mouth.  Purslane has a mild, lemony flavor and a slimy texture reminiscent of okra, another recent vegetable obsession of mine.  I turned my attention back to the teacher- an older black woman with neat, grey dreads.  She surveyed the room over her pink-rimmed glasses and encouraged us to keep an eye out for it, as it’s a common weed that we will surely find growing in our gardens.
     She was right.  The next day, the resident who accompanied me to the class brought me over to our garden at Freedom House.  He pointed to a plant growing close to the soil and vining outward.  It was purslane!  The weed had popped up in a few places in our raised beds.  Purslane, though delicious, is slightly aggressive and should be removed from your garden.  It competes with other plants from root space and nutrients.  So we pulled it, washed it, and mixed it up with some other greens to make a salad.
     Later that week, I went to a friend’s apartment after work to meet him before going to a Detroit Food Policy Council meeting and a Re-imagine Detroit 2012 conversation (http://detroit2012.org).  He made us a salad of mixed greens he picked up through his CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture).  Sure enough, purslane again!  And these were huge!  I noticed that the stems, though edible, have a more earthy flavor that can be downplayed if needed by adding a dressing.  I was in disbelief with how often I was seeing this plant, now that I was able to identify it.  
     My disbelief continued on my drive home.  I was listening to my book on tape: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver (OMG HAVE YOU READ THIS?!)  We all know where this is going now- she mentioned purslane too!  
     That was it.  I was convinced that whatever hypothetical supreme power in existence put me on this earth to spread the purslane love.  I bring samples to friends who trust me enough to agree to “Here!  Eat this thing I found on the ground!”  A few days ago, I even had the three little girls I babysit for follow me around their yard, hunch-backed and searching the ground for the stuff.  Though only one of the girls liked the taste-I had to wrestle the bag out of her strong, 6-year-old grip- all three enjoyed the scavenger hunt!
     Now it’s your turn, five people that read this blog!  Go find it, be sure of what it is before you eat it, and enjoy its yummy flavor and nutritional benefits!  Purslane, like flaxseed, is a good source of omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory and good for heart-health.  It also provides minerals like zinc, phosphorus, and manganese; as well as vitamins E, C, riboflavin, and beta carotene, (healthguidance.org).  Try it raw in salads, or cooked like spinach in omelets, soups, etc.

Happy hunting!

Purslane: I’m teaching your kids to eat weeds!

     Since I was introduced to this new vegetable, purslane has literally been popping up everywhere in my life!  I tried this edible weed for the first time in a salad-making class hosted by The Greening of Detroit’s Garden Resource Program.  I’m not one to just try whatever green thing someone finds growing out of the ground, but my classmates were still standing so I figured I’d try it too.  I plucked a smooth, oval-shaped leaf off its reddish-brown stem and popped it in my mouth.  Purslane has a mild, lemony flavor and a slimy texture reminiscent of okra, another recent vegetable obsession of mine.  I turned my attention back to the teacher- an older black woman with neat, grey dreads.  She surveyed the room over her pink-rimmed glasses and encouraged us to keep an eye out for it, as it’s a common weed that we will surely find growing in our gardens.

     She was right.  The next day, the resident who accompanied me to the class brought me over to our garden at Freedom House.  He pointed to a plant growing close to the soil and vining outward.  It was purslane!  The weed had popped up in a few places in our raised beds.  Purslane, though delicious, is slightly aggressive and should be removed from your garden.  It competes with other plants from root space and nutrients.  So we pulled it, washed it, and mixed it up with some other greens to make a salad.

     Later that week, I went to a friend’s apartment after work to meet him before going to a Detroit Food Policy Council meeting and a Re-imagine Detroit 2012 conversation (http://detroit2012.org).  He made us a salad of mixed greens he picked up through his CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture).  Sure enough, purslane again!  And these were huge!  I noticed that the stems, though edible, have a more earthy flavor that can be downplayed if needed by adding a dressing.  I was in disbelief with how often I was seeing this plant, now that I was able to identify it.  

     My disbelief continued on my drive home.  I was listening to my book on tape: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver (OMG HAVE YOU READ THIS?!)  We all know where this is going now- she mentioned purslane too!  

     That was it.  I was convinced that whatever hypothetical supreme power in existence put me on this earth to spread the purslane love.  I bring samples to friends who trust me enough to agree to “Here!  Eat this thing I found on the ground!”  A few days ago, I even had the three little girls I babysit for follow me around their yard, hunch-backed and searching the ground for the stuff.  Though only one of the girls liked the taste-I had to wrestle the bag out of her strong, 6-year-old grip- all three enjoyed the scavenger hunt!

     Now it’s your turn, five people that read this blog!  Go find it, be sure of what it is before you eat it, and enjoy its yummy flavor and nutritional benefits!  Purslane, like flaxseed, is a good source of omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory and good for heart-health.  It also provides minerals like zinc, phosphorus, and manganese; as well as vitamins E, C, riboflavin, and beta carotene, (healthguidance.org).  Try it raw in salads, or cooked like spinach in omelets, soups, etc.

Happy hunting!

Ode to Arugula!
     Okay, I’m not actually going to write an ode to arugula.  I entertained the idea and discovered it both taxing and reminiscent of high-school English class.  Pass.  But, let’s not digress…
     If you haven’t tried arugula before, you’re welcome!  This entry will open your eyes to  its nutritional and flavorful majesty, expanding your tiny salad world forever!  
     Arugula is a dark-leafy green and is therefore a rich source of iron, calcium, and vitamins A, E, and K.  If your go-to salad base has been iceberg lettuce, changing to darker greens like arugula will give you way more nutritional bang for your buck.
     Aside from its health benefits, arugula’s flavor packs a serious punch.  It has a strong, peppery taste with a hint of lemon.  Because of this powerful flavor, it’s paired best with a simple dressing.  
     Many store-bought dressings have surprising ingredients, like high-fructose corn syrup and partially-hydrogenated oils (that’s code for trans fats.)  Making your own dressing with fresh ingredients is always a better option.  On the arugula and tomato salad pictured above, I simply added olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese.  It’s our family’s favorite!
    Arugula’s flavor is even better when it’s fresh-picked from your own garden!  I encourage you to grow it yourself.  It’s quick and fool-proof, so it’s a good crop for beginner and master gardeners alike!  Arugula was the first vegetable that I harvested from my garden!  I bought my seedlings from Detroit’s Eastern Market for only a dollar, and I’ll be eating this salad all summer long.
Have fun and enjoy. :)

Ode to Arugula!

     Okay, I’m not actually going to write an ode to arugula.  I entertained the idea and discovered it both taxing and reminiscent of high-school English class.  Pass.  But, let’s not digress…

     If you haven’t tried arugula before, you’re welcome!  This entry will open your eyes to  its nutritional and flavorful majesty, expanding your tiny salad world forever!  

     Arugula is a dark-leafy green and is therefore a rich source of iron, calcium, and vitamins A, E, and K.  If your go-to salad base has been iceberg lettuce, changing to darker greens like arugula will give you way more nutritional bang for your buck.

     Aside from its health benefits, arugula’s flavor packs a serious punch.  It has a strong, peppery taste with a hint of lemon.  Because of this powerful flavor, it’s paired best with a simple dressing.  

     Many store-bought dressings have surprising ingredients, like high-fructose corn syrup and partially-hydrogenated oils (that’s code for trans fats.)  Making your own dressing with fresh ingredients is always a better option.  On the arugula and tomato salad pictured above, I simply added olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese.  It’s our family’s favorite!

    Arugula’s flavor is even better when it’s fresh-picked from your own garden!  I encourage you to grow it yourself.  It’s quick and fool-proof, so it’s a good crop for beginner and master gardeners alike!  Arugula was the first vegetable that I harvested from my garden!  I bought my seedlings from Detroit’s Eastern Market for only a dollar, and I’ll be eating this salad all summer long.

Have fun and enjoy. :)

Kombucha!
     What is it?  Why should I drink something that smells like that?  Why do I get carded when I buy it at the grocery store?  How can I make my own?  Finally- all your questions will be answered!  Kombucha contains probiotics- “good” bacteria beneficial to the digestive system and your overall health.   And, since the hippies and health freaks are drinking it, it’s relevant here!  So let’s get into it…
     Kombucha tea is sweet tea that is fermented by a S.C.O.B.Y.- a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.  The yeast in the S.C.O.B.Y. consumes the sugar in the tea and produces alcohol.  The bacteria in the S.C.O.B.Y. ferment the alcohol into acetic acid.  This process is what changes the sweet tea into a vinegary-smelling, acidic drink with low alcoholic content- usually about .5%.  
     The finished batch of tea contains several kinds of bacteria.  These “good bacteria”, or probiotics, have many health benefits.  Probiotics can strengthen your immune system, fight bad bacteria, and support a healthy digestive system.  It is especially beneficial to increase your intake of probiotics after taking antibiotics (which wipe out both bad and good bacteria in your body.)  Other sources of probiotics include yogurt, keifer (a drink that is at some scary place between milk and yogurt), buttermilk, cultured vegetables, wheatgrass, and spirulina.
     Though Kombucha tea is widely recognized as of Chinese descent, no one has pinpointed exactly from where and whence it came.  However, over the past 20 years or so it has gained popularity in the U.S.  It’s widely sold in both health-food and grocery stores.  The store-bought brands of kombucha come in a variety of flavors and their “new recipe” has a sweeter and more mild flavor.  This may mean that more sugar has been added, or the fermentation time has been shortened.  Making your own kombucha can allow you to control these things yourself- ingredients, sweetness, acidity, etc. 
     Making your own Kombucha tea is a pretty straight-forward process.  Here’s what you’ll need:
8 cups water
4 tea bags (My favorite tea to use is black, but you can use anything!  We have also tried ceylon tea and are currently making a batch with green tea.)
1/2 cup of sugar (Simple table sugar is said to work best, but we’ve had great outcomes using raw sugar and raw honey)
A S.C.O.B.Y. (Come pick up one of our extras or make your own like we did!  Message me on Facebook and I’ll happily share more information.
A large jar, paper towel/kitchen towel/coffee filter and rubber-band
Boil 8 cups of water in a sanitized pot.
Turn off heat and add sugar and tea.  Stir to completely dissolve sugar and brew tea from 2-5 minutes, depending on the kind of tea.
Allow tea to come to room temperature.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!  Adding the S.C.O.B.Y. to hot water will kill it.  Be patient and let the tea cool completely.
Pour the cool tea into a large jar that contains the S.C.O.B.Y. and at least a half cup of kombucha from the last batch.
Cover the top of the jar with towel to keep out contaminants, secure with rubber-band.
Store in cool, dark place (like my basement) for about a week.
After a week you can start tasting it.  Most of the sugar will be gone, you can add more if you’d like it to be sweeter.  For a stronger taste, add more sugar to feed the S.C.O.B.Y. and allow it to ferment longer.
Move the S.C.O.B.Y. and at least 1/2 cup of the kombucha to a different jar for storage.  Keep it covered.  
If you want to flavor it, you can add fruit juice, ginger, etc.  You can bottle your kombucha and leave it out for a few more days to carbonate more, or move it right to the refrigerator!
Drink and enjoy!  It’s very beneficial to have some in the morning, and some with each meal.  
Warning:  I am not responsible if you screw this up and hurt yourself.  If you see mold EVER throw away both the tea and the S.C.O.B.Y.  Little wispy clouds and strings on the S.C.O.B.Y. and in the tea are totally normal.  Keep all vessels and your hands clean when making kombucha, and take care not to damage the S.C.O.B.Y. via hot water or antibacterial soaps.
Have fun, thanks for reading!

Kombucha!

     What is it?  Why should I drink something that smells like that?  Why do I get carded when I buy it at the grocery store?  How can I make my own?  Finally- all your questions will be answered!  Kombucha contains probiotics- “good” bacteria beneficial to the digestive system and your overall health.   And, since the hippies and health freaks are drinking it, it’s relevant here!  So let’s get into it…

     Kombucha tea is sweet tea that is fermented by a S.C.O.B.Y.- a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.  The yeast in the S.C.O.B.Y. consumes the sugar in the tea and produces alcohol.  The bacteria in the S.C.O.B.Y. ferment the alcohol into acetic acid.  This process is what changes the sweet tea into a vinegary-smelling, acidic drink with low alcoholic content- usually about .5%.  

     The finished batch of tea contains several kinds of bacteria.  These “good bacteria”, or probiotics, have many health benefits.  Probiotics can strengthen your immune system, fight bad bacteria, and support a healthy digestive system.  It is especially beneficial to increase your intake of probiotics after taking antibiotics (which wipe out both bad and good bacteria in your body.)  Other sources of probiotics include yogurt, keifer (a drink that is at some scary place between milk and yogurt), buttermilk, cultured vegetables, wheatgrass, and spirulina.

     Though Kombucha tea is widely recognized as of Chinese descent, no one has pinpointed exactly from where and whence it came.  However, over the past 20 years or so it has gained popularity in the U.S.  It’s widely sold in both health-food and grocery stores.  The store-bought brands of kombucha come in a variety of flavors and their “new recipe” has a sweeter and more mild flavor.  This may mean that more sugar has been added, or the fermentation time has been shortened.  Making your own kombucha can allow you to control these things yourself- ingredients, sweetness, acidity, etc. 

     Making your own Kombucha tea is a pretty straight-forward process.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 8 cups water
  • 4 tea bags (My favorite tea to use is black, but you can use anything!  We have also tried ceylon tea and are currently making a batch with green tea.)
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (Simple table sugar is said to work best, but we’ve had great outcomes using raw sugar and raw honey)
  • A S.C.O.B.Y. (Come pick up one of our extras or make your own like we did!  Message me on Facebook and I’ll happily share more information.
  • A large jar, paper towel/kitchen towel/coffee filter and rubber-band
  1. Boil 8 cups of water in a sanitized pot.
  2. Turn off heat and add sugar and tea.  Stir to completely dissolve sugar and brew tea from 2-5 minutes, depending on the kind of tea.
  3. Allow tea to come to room temperature.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!  Adding the S.C.O.B.Y. to hot water will kill it.  Be patient and let the tea cool completely.
  4. Pour the cool tea into a large jar that contains the S.C.O.B.Y. and at least a half cup of kombucha from the last batch.
  5. Cover the top of the jar with towel to keep out contaminants, secure with rubber-band.
  6. Store in cool, dark place (like my basement) for about a week.
  7. After a week you can start tasting it.  Most of the sugar will be gone, you can add more if you’d like it to be sweeter.  For a stronger taste, add more sugar to feed the S.C.O.B.Y. and allow it to ferment longer.
  8. Move the S.C.O.B.Y. and at least 1/2 cup of the kombucha to a different jar for storage.  Keep it covered.  
  9. If you want to flavor it, you can add fruit juice, ginger, etc.  You can bottle your kombucha and leave it out for a few more days to carbonate more, or move it right to the refrigerator!
  10. Drink and enjoy!  It’s very beneficial to have some in the morning, and some with each meal.  

Warning:  I am not responsible if you screw this up and hurt yourself.  If you see mold EVER throw away both the tea and the S.C.O.B.Y.  Little wispy clouds and strings on the S.C.O.B.Y. and in the tea are totally normal.  Keep all vessels and your hands clean when making kombucha, and take care not to damage the S.C.O.B.Y. via hot water or antibacterial soaps.

Have fun, thanks for reading!

Welcome!  
       This blog will serve as my medium for sharing, recording and reflecting on all my foodie endeavors.  It will include postings about gardening, cooking, nutrition, and social aspects of food.  I will also be sharing stories about my job as Kitchen Coordinator at Freedom House Detroit.
       Freedom House is a non-profit shelter that houses political refugees, most of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa.  My role there is to create menus, teach nutrition, manage food donations, coordinate our small community garden, and encourage a healthy transition into American life for our residents.  Note that all names of Freedom House residents will be changed in order to protect their safety and privacy. For more information, you can visit www.freedomhousedetroit.org.
       I hope this blog will also serve as a means of connecting with friends.  I encourage discussions and the sharing of recipes, advice, links, etc!  With that in mind, please feel free to comment with suggestions, questions, answers, off-color jokes, etc.

Welcome!

This blog will serve as my medium for sharing, recording and reflecting on all my foodie endeavors. It will include postings about gardening, cooking, nutrition, and social aspects of food. I will also be sharing stories about my job as Kitchen Coordinator at Freedom House Detroit.

Freedom House is a non-profit shelter that houses political refugees, most of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa. My role there is to create menus, teach nutrition, manage food donations, coordinate our small community garden, and encourage a healthy transition into American life for our residents. Note that all names of Freedom House residents will be changed in order to protect their safety and privacy. For more information, you can visit www.freedomhousedetroit.org.

I hope this blog will also serve as a means of connecting with friends. I encourage discussions and the sharing of recipes, advice, links, etc! With that in mind, please feel free to comment with suggestions, questions, answers, off-color jokes, etc.