Category Archives: Sustainable Food

Share the Love

Tip of the Month – February 2017

By Cynthia Ruzzi

Can’t say I’m much for Valentine’s Day; at least not since the days of making hand-made cards in school for mom and dad – and the boy across the aisle. However, in a winter that has been ‘this-trying’, stressing us in so many ways; it’s time to share a little love. Now, I’m not talking about the kind that comes from a heart-shaped cardboard box – I’m talking serious, thoughtful effort for those you love and for those that need your love. I encourage you to embrace ideals from movements like “Pass it Forward”, “Random Act of Kindness”, “One Warm Coat” and the “Free Hugs Project”.

Locally, I am inspired by individuals like Amelia and Heidi Abramson and their small band of volunteers that run The Bounty Garden https://thebountygarden.wordpress.com/ teaching others in Hap Magee Park to grow organic vegetables that are donated to local food banks or Anna Chan aka “The Lemon Lady” who walking her toddler saw lemons going to waste on a neighbor’s tree and started a foundation to collect such fruit for those in need and of course, Siamack Sioshansi, Founder of The Urban Farmers who has helped neighbors, schools and spiritual groups coordinate fruit harvests from here to Solano welcoming everyone through their online calendar.

Got too many things going on to commit to a coordinated effort? Try something spontaneous and delicious. How ‘bout random deliveries of packaged goodies delivered to a few in your neighborhood? Here’s a simple recipe for homemade granola bars that may find their way to your doorstep on February 14th.

Dark Chocolate – Coconut Granola Bars

Ingredients – Makes about 20 2 inch squares (Choose Organic if you can)

  • 2 Cups Rolled Oats
  •  ½ Cup Raisins
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ Cup Coconut Oil
  • ¾ Cup Smashed Pecans or Almonds
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 Cup Coconut Flakes
  • 1/3 Cup Agave
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ½ cup melted dark chocolate

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread oats on a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 20 mins. Remove the oats and turn the oven down to 300 degrees. Carefully transfer to a bowl and toss with the coconut oil. Add the coconut flakes, raisins, nuts, cinnamon, salt vanilla and agave and give it a good mixing.

Return the mixture to the parchment paper on the baking sheet. Spread to about ¼ inch thick using the back of a tablespoon to press down a little as you go. Don’t worry about it being exact. Bake at 300 degrees until golden brown – about 18 minutes in my convection oven. Remove pan and let cool completely. Melt chocolate in microwave or over double boiler (set one pot over another that has a cup of simmering boiled water) and use a tablespoon to slowly drizzle chocolate over the top of the bars.

Once completely cooled and hardened, cut the bars into 2 inch pieces and store in containers or bags for your delivery. Keep the crumbles for your own yogurt topping.  Decorate the bags with hearts and lace for a nostalgic trip back to elementary school or make it a project for your little ones. To protect those with allergies please include a copy of the ingredients or recipe so they will know what has been included. Along with this consider including a handwritten note telling the recipient what you love or admire about them. Make it fun and sign it with your version of ‘secret admirer’ …perhaps ‘love and peace, your neighbor’.  Now you’re ready to share the love with your yummy doorstep bundles.

 

The Secrets of Growing Great Tomatoes

By Carol Rossi, The Bounty Garden’s Seedling Instructor

The best thing about home-grown tomatoes (besides their delicious flavor of sweet sunshine) is that they can be grown pretty much anywhere you have a patch of reliable sunlight. You just need to know the attributes and requirements for your particular growing situation.

If all you have is a couple large pots on a balcony you are still set to produce some beautiful tomatoes. Just ensure the pots are located so they receive a minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight – this is one growth requirement where tomatoes will not compromise. Next, replace the soil in the pots every growing season with a fresh batch of potting soil that is rich in nutrients and organic matter. Tomatoes are nutrient gluttons so you can use a mix that is high in nitrogen and phosphorus and without worrying about over-feeding them. Now select the proper variety for your pots. Look for dwarf (or patio) size, or small-fruited “determinates” such as cherry, grape, and pear tomatoes. Determinates grow to a certain size and then stop so they are perfect for small spaces and also don’t require much support. The small, cone-shaped tomato cages should suffice but instead, I recommend the heavy-duty kind instead of the spindly wire type. Train determinates to support their stems on the cage but don’t prune them. They will reward you by covering themselves with wonderful, tasty tomatoes.

If you are a lucky gardener with lots of room you definitely have more options!  Tomatoes come in early, mid-season, and long (or main) season varieties, so for an extended harvest period all you have to do is mix up the varieties. Choose early cultivars for half your plants, one intermediate, and the remainder long season. Because the early varieties put a lot of energy into quick production, the fruit tends to be smaller and less flavorful than the long season types that luxuriate long summer days on the vine. But put in some Early Girls and you can be eating tomatoes in late June or early July while looking forward to the August arrival of Big Boys, Mortgage Lifters, and Brandywines. You can also choose “paste” varieties, such as Black Plum and San Marzano, which make great sauces, but are less juicy and tangy than the “table” or “slicing” types. Just be aware that while small and intermediate size tomatoes can be grown in 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight per day the standard and big sizes require a minimum of 12 to 14 hours daily.

With all that room you may select indeterminate cultivars which, theoretically, can grow as large as conditions allow. They will require a strong trellis where vines can be tied, or a heavy-duty cage 5 to 6 feet high and 2 feet around. Google “tomato cages” and get some inspiration, but don’t skimp on support because broken vines result in far fewer tomatoes. Pruning an indeterminate will also reduce the amount of the crop, although some gardeners still trim them back to increase the size of individual tomatoes and keep the vines manageable. The choice is dependent on your philosophy!

Tomatoes like their space. You can plant dwarfs and cherry tomatoes 18” apart but all the others need at least 24” between plants. Don’t crowd them because they are heavy feeders and compete for soil nutrients. They are also sun lovers and sun blockers so you must ensure each plant gets the sunlight it needs.   They will produce well if grown in a single row (never in a block) where they each get an equal share of sunlight and nourishment.

Care and cultivation are the same for potted or in-ground tomato plants.  Tomatoes don’t need (and don’t like) a lot of water. Water them well at planting and you should not have to water them more than once weekly. One weekly deep watering is MUCH better than regular shallow watering. Uneven watering will also promote a condition known as blossom-end rot—consistency is key. Don’t get water on their leaves because this promotes disease.

Tomatoes are also the nutrient gluttons of the vegetable world, so you will need to supplement their feeding throughout the long growing season. Spray plants with compost tea, seaweed extract, or a similar fertilizer two weeks after transplant. Spray them again at flowering, after first fruit is set, and then weekly when plants start producing. You can use a foliar feed or a soil-soak to keep them happy. The mid to late season varieties should produce until the first rains of fall start in October. Then you can clip any remaining vines with green tomatoes and hang them in your garage to ripen.

Tomatoes define the summer!  There are no excuses not to get growing! Learn more about The Bounty Garden at https://thebountygarden.wordpress.com/  and Sustainable Danville Area at http://www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea

 

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News/Alamo Today:

http://yourmonthlypaper.com/current.html

 

 

 

 

Nora Pouillon’s Visit to THE BOUNTY GARDEN

Good evening Friends of the Bounty Garden,
Today, Michael Barnard of Rakestraw Books in Danville announced that Chef Nora Pouillon, a true visionary in the certified organic foods arena, will be visiting Danville to introduce her book, My Organic Life.  
Many may know of Ms. Pouillon and her infamous Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C.  It was the first certified organic restaurant in the United States and one can only imagine the lengths to which Ms. Pouillon had to go to find farmers and ranchers who insisted on the same qualities of production that she desired long before certification became the norm.  She is a true inspiration and her visit is sure to be educational, charming and inspiring!
The Rakestraw Books event will be an evening gathering in The Bounty Garden where a refreshing drink and light hor d’oeuvres will be served before we sit down under the soft lights to enjoy Ms. Pouillon recount her colorful life from her childhood home in Austria to the bustle of Washington, D.C.  It is sure to be an adventure.
We are honored to host Nora Pouillon at the Bounty Garden.  And, we are extremely touched by Rakestraw Books creating this fundraising event to benefit the Bounty Garden and our efforts to grow organic, nutritious and fresh vegetables for the Food Banks of Contra Costa and Solano Counties.
If you would like to learn more about this special event, please visit Rakestraw Books’ link at  http://www.rakestraw-pouillon.eventbrite.com and remember that the price of a ticket includes Ms. Pouillon’s book, My Organic Life.
With best wishes from the Garden,
The Hive 
Vegetable Beds at The Bounty Garden

Make this a Bounty Year without having to open your pocket

Happy New Year –

As you probably know, Sustainble Danville Area are major fans of The Bounty Garden in Danville. The Bounty Garden is a service garden in Hap Magee Ranch Park that teaches volunteers of all ages to grow organic vegetables – with all the produce donated to our local food pantries.

Just last year, the garden (a lovely place to visit and an even better place to volunteer), donated over 3,500 pounds of fresh, organic produce to those in need in Contra Costa County.

The Bounty Garden runs on a mimimal budget with only private donations. You can help by joining AMAZON’S SMILE program. It is simple to sign up and costs you nothing.

In a nutshell, AmazonSmile gives you the right to donate .5% of your eligible purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. It is the same Amazon you know, the same products, the same prices and the same service. Amazon simply lets you direct the donations earned by your purchases.

To learn more go to http://www.smile.amazon.com or go directly to The Bounty Garden link to sign up and help this wonderful program.

Here’s to an amazing sustainable year.

Sustainable Danville Area

The Four Most Important Resolutions You Can Make for 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

As I write this, we are in the midst of the wettest December in the Bay Area in history and the California drought has been downgraded from ‘exceptional’ to ‘severe’. Admiring the green hills that surround our homes, it’s hard to believe that all this water hasn’t replenished our resources for the year and beyond. The choice of descriptor says it all – we are still in a severe drought meaning we’re in grave, harsh, dreadful, terrible, seriously bad shape.  But the New Year is all about making resolutions, so I encourage you to make 2015 the year you value water for what it is – with only 1% drinkable water world-wide, its liquid gold.  So the number one most important resolution for 2015 – use water wisely.  Last month, we provided a list of ways to be less water wasteful inside and outside the home, but here’s one more way.

Central San is offering free recycled water for residential customers. While it’s not safe for drinking and shouldn’t run off into our storm drains, it can be used to water lawn, landscaping and gardens to save our precious drinking water. Recycled water has been used for years in our area to water parks, school ball fields and golf courses and now, like the Dublin San Ramon Services District, we can use free, recycled water to keep our gardens green.  For more information about the residential recycled water filling station, please call 800-646-1431.

It wouldn’t be a resolution list, if I didn’t include an item about health.  The second most important resolution for 2015 – eat organic, local whole food. US residents spent on average $2,273, or about 6.4 percent of their annual consumer expenditures according to the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA).  That is less than any of the 83 other countries for which the USDA tracks data.  Considering this statistic, isn’t it time to invest just a little more to protect your family’s health from harmful pesticides and questionable chemicals in the food you serve them – not to mention avoiding genetically modified food (GMOs) which have been banned in over 60 countries worldwide.  And choosing organic, local whole food, not only saves transportation dollars, protects you from pesticides, but allows you to capture maximum nutrition – since fruits and vegetables lose nutritional value as they age or are processed.

With respect to the continuing hunger problem in the US – and Contra Costa County – visit www.thebountygarden.org and learn how you can help get organic, local, whole food to those in need. The Bounty Garden is a 100% non-profit program committed to providing a source of fresh vegetables to the local Food Banks of Contra Costa and Solano Counties.  The program brings together community volunteers in a fun and friendly environment to grow for this purpose and is a great activity for the entire family.

The third most important resolution for 2015 – lose the plastic. Here’s a New Year’s challenge. Pick an average day for you and your family and see if you can get through it without touching anything made of plastic. Can you do it?  Most of us have heard about the importance of being ‘BPA-free’ (referring to the chemical identified as a disruptor to growth development in infants, children and even adults), but do we really know what other chemicals used in plastics are doing to us? Relying more on organic, local, whole food will reduce packing materials – especially if you bring your own re-usable bags, but I bet you can do more.  Look for alternatives like glass and steel for food storage and please, lose the drinking straw. Take the challenge and you’ll see there is a myriad of opportunity to replace the plastics in your life.

As we enter the fifth year of Sustainable Danville Area, our 100% non-profit invites you to participate in our activities.  In fact, please hold the date for the Town of Danville Earth Day Festival 2015 on Sunday, April 19th from 11am – 2pm.   Join us as a volunteer, you don’t have to be an environmental expert – most of us aren’t. You simply have to care about people and the planet- and maintaining an Earth that will not only sustain us today, but many generations beyond.  Learn more at www.sustainabledanville.com or visit us at www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea

Oh and the fourth most import resolution for 2015 – make every choice count.

 

 

 

Buy Organic – Why Should I?

Tip of the Month, March 2014

By Angela Stanford, MBA, RD Vital Nutrition & Wellness, Danville Area Sustainable Business

Image

Photo by Angela Stanford – Seasonal, organic, veggies grown locally and home delivered.

So what is the buzz about buying organic foods?  What does that “USDA Organic” label mean?  Why does organic food cost more?

In my practice, I’m constantly educating patients about how to nourish their bodies with food that is “clean and nutrient dense.”  Eating organic is big step towards eating to improve health not only for your body, but also for our planet and the bodies of future generations.

Definition of Organic

Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed.  Organic food production is a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers.  Organic foods do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation to maintain integrity of the food.  When it comes to animals, certified organic meat and poultry are free from antibiotics, and growth hormones.  However, organic standards have yet to be uniformly agreed upon in the U.S. for fish and seafood.

A food item is “certified organic” if it has been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by a third party like the Organic Trade Association (OTA) or the USDA National Organic Program.  This ‘farm to table’ certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting standards.

Buy Organic for Your Body

In study after study, research consistently shows organically grown food is higher in nutrients than conventionally grown. Research shows that organic produce is higher in vitamin C (12-20%), antioxidants (up to 40%), and the minerals calcium, iron, chromium, and magnesium.

Organic milk is also more nutrient dense.  According to a study at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, organic milk contains more heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids than milk from conventionally raised cows simply because they eat more grass than corn, like Mother Nature intended.  This helps restore a healthier balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in our diet which helps reduce inflammation.

Along with boosting nutrition, eating organic reduces exposure to antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and drugs that find their way into the animals and ultimately into you.  These can cause a whole host of issues like hormone imbalances, skin rashes, and inability to lose weight.

Eating organic may also reduce your cancer risk.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60% of herbicides, 90% of fungicides, and 30 % of insecticides potentially cancer-causing. It is therefore reasonable to think that the rapidly increasing rates of cancer are at least partly linked to the use of these carcinogenic pesticides.

Buy Organic for the Earth

Evidence supports eating organic lowers environmental impact. Organic farming methods support greater biodiversity. Diversity is fundamental to life on this planet. Wildlife is allowed to thrive in their natural habitats with fewer obstacles that put them at risk for poor health and extinction.  And let’s not forget that genetically modified and non-organic food is focused on high yield monoculture that destroys biodiversity.  Organic food is tried and tested. Genetic modification of food is still experimental. Purchasing organic foods helps you avoid being part of this wide scale and uncontrolled experiment.

The bottom line is better soil quality, and cleaner air and water for wildlife to thrive and  plants to grow healthy and nutritiously will nourish generations to come.

Does Eating Organic Really Cost More?

The answer to this question is an article in itself.  Basically organic growers don’t use the large amounts of harmful pesticides and herbicides on their crops and have to look for other, often manual methods of controlling pests and diseases. These methods keep pesticides out of people and the environment, but they cost more. There is also ongoing education for organic growers, the certification process, paperwork, inspections, planning and more factored into growing, processing and handling foods organically.

That said, many health experts believe that when you pay extra for organics at the grocery store and famers market is much less than what you will pay in healthcare costs from eating conventionally grown foods laden with toxins and reduced nutritional value.

So the next time you are shopping at the grocery store or farmer’s market, choose organic foods for better health for you and your family, a cleaner earth, and a planet nourished well to feed generations to come.

Sustainable Danville Area and the Danville Library present “ORGANICS” on Tuesday, March 25th at 7:00pm at the Danville Library, Mt. Diablo Room, 400 Front Street.  Angela Stanford, Registered Dietitian and Holistic Nutritionist alongside Cynthia Ruzzi, President and Co-Founder, Sustainable Danville Area will walk you through the basics on how to buy, eat and grow more organics.  For more information, visit www.sustainabledanvillearea.com. Follow us at www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea.

Reprinted with permission http://yourmonthlypaper.com/current.html 

 

It’s Time for a Picnic

Sustainable Danville Area Tip of the Month – April 2013

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Just two days past Spring Equinox and Mother Nature has spring fever.  The poppies are flourishing along with so many other colorful blooms and even after what has proven to be our driest winter, our hills are green.  The sun is warm and my concentration is so poor; I had to ask for a deadline extension for submitting this month’s tip of the month.  This month’s column has more than just one Sustainable Tip of the Month, but it’s a picnic – a smorgasbord of ‘Where to Find Sustainable Tips’.

For almost three years, we have shared tips on everything from the benefits of biking, local food, sustainable landscaping to home energy diets, eco-travel, raising chickens and eco-friendly art supplies.  These articles are still available to you online from Danville Today News/Alamo Today News and on the Sustainable Danville Area website

Often, I’m asked to describe what sustainable living is and simply it’s ‘making choices that allow our resources to continue to be available for our children and their children’, ‘living as though there’s no Planet B’ and remembering that ‘Planet Earth is the only one with chocolate’.  With this in mind and in honor of Earth Day, celebrated worldwide on April 22nd by hundreds of millions of people in over 184 countries, here are some of our favorite places for information and tips to care for our corner of this wonderful planet.

Gardening:  Hands down the Contra Costa Master Gardeners have it ‘going on’. These trained volunteers are residents of local communities that provide University of California research-based horticultural information to the citizens of California. Besides engaging local lectures, their website is filled with tips for school gardens, edible gardens and drought and native landscaping.

Composting & Recycling:  Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority offers terrific information on where to recycle just about anything.  You’ll also find a calendar for composting workshops, including worm composting too.

PG&E:   Saving energy in your home is not just good for the planet, it’s good for your pocketbook. PG&E has great tools to track your electric and gas usage online and they make it easy to do a self-audit of your home energy to find and prevent energy loss.

Environmental Working Group  This powerhouse site is our ‘go-to’ place for everything from their cosmetic database, the Dirty Dozen list (which recommends the best fruits and vegetables to buy organic to avoid pesticides) and guides on sunscreens, home cleaners and other daily products.

Earth Day EventWant more?  Well then, Picnic on the Green! The Town of Danville, The Danville Library and Sustainable Danville Area present the 3rd Annual Town of Danville Earth Day Event on Saturday, April 20th 12pm – 4pm on the Town Green, in  the Danville Library, at the community center and the Village Theatre Art Gallery.

The Town of Danville Earth Day event is a free, fun and informative way for residents and visitors of all ages to learn about green building, sustainable landscape design, solar power, home energy efficient products, waste reduction, recycling, water conservation, hybrid and electrical vehicles and much more!

Pack your picnic or purchase lunch and snacks al fresco from La Boulange Bakery while enjoying music from local band, Other People’s Money.  Play with our Giant Earth Ball, visit with hybrid/electric car and electric bicycle owners and participate in popular hands-on activities at interactive booths, including:

  •  Get ready to experience nature with Peanuts…Naturally! Fun, creative environmental crafts and activity stations presented by the Charles M. Schulz Museum.
  • Plant a seed to start your summer vegetable garden with The Bounty Garden and Urban Farmers.
  • Explore the Wonderful World of Worms and Composting for Busy People.
  • Make an Earth Day pledge to reduce, re-use or recycle. See how Every Choice Counts and help the Earth Day Tree grow!  Everyone who adds a ‘leaf pledge’ will be entered into an hourly raffle to win a “Get Your Green On” reusable book bag.
  • Afternoon speaker series will help you Green Your Home, Replace your Lawn with Drought Tolerant Plants and Enjoying Local, Organic Foods for a Healthy Planet.
  • Be inspired at Story Time with special tales and eco-friendly ideas to celebrate the Earth all year.
  • Measure your carbon footprint.Discover if solar energy is right for your home?
  • Be dazzled by art from local students at the Earth Day Student Art Show in the Village Theatre Art Gallery. (Students: click here for  details to enter contest before 4/5/13)
  • Try new veggies from Community Supported Agriculture Farms – Full Belly Farms & Doorstep Farmers.

Students from San Ramon Valley High School Environmental Club are hosting free bicycle parking for the event, so please consider two wheels or your feet as parking is limited for the event.  Hope to see you there!

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News