Update: Where have you been all this past year?

It’s been over a year since I’ve posted to this blog, and the reasons for that are as boring as they are legion (i.e., I had a lot of stuff going on, but I’m not going to bore you all with the details). However, I do hope to pick this blog back up and keep writing about food and sustainability.

What can you expect from the blog revamp?

Not much, if I’m honest. I won’t be committing to a regular post schedule, though I will try to commit to at least one new post per month. That feels doable, right?

As far as the content goes, I’m going to try and write longer blogs that synthesize the things I’ve learned this past year. Though I haven’t been actively maintaining this blog, I have still tried to continue my food education. Writing more will hopefully enhance the food journey I’ve started.

I’ll also try to revive the Twitter and Tumblr that accompany the site. Sometimes microblogging is the way to go.

Anyway, that’s all I have for now. Look forward to more on this blog soon.

-Caroliena

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How-to: Save Seeds (The Wet Method)

Here is part two of the seed saving infographics I’ve created, this one focusing on the wet method of seed saving. The previous post on the dry method can be found here [x].

As we officially start off the summer, it’s never too early to start thinking about the harvest, and what practices we can implement throughout the year to create a more sustainable, even regenerative, garden. For more information on the importance of seed saving in particular, I’ve included links to additional resources below.

So, click on the image for the full-sized version, and feel free to download and share as you wish! Detailed steps are included below the graphic.

Saving Seeds - Wet Method

The Wet Method

Step 1: Know your plants

When you begin harvesting from your plants, make a note of which plants you want to take seeds from. Maybe you like the taste of a particular plant, or a plant did well in extreme weather conditions and you want to preserve those traits. From there, do some research to understand the life cycle of your plants to know when you should harvest seeds. The wet method of seed saving is ideal for melons, squash, cucumber, tomatoes, tomatillos, citrus, cactii, chiles, and similar plants.

Step 2: Fermentation

When you’re ready to save the seeds, take the seeds and some of the pulp of the fruit and mix it together with warm water. Let the mixture sit and ferment for a few days. The viable seeds will sink to the bottom while the hollow and less viable seeds will float to the top. This fermentation step also inoculates the seeds against pathogens, which will help the plant remain healthy as it grows.

Step 3: Clean and dry

At the end of the fermentation process, decant the water and rinse the seeds until they are clean. Then, dry the seeds in a warm, dry spot of your home, or in your oven on the lowest setting with the door open. If you dry them using the oven, be sure to keep an eye on them so that they don’t roast. The seeds are properly dried when they break, but do not bend.

Step 4: Proper storage

When your seeds are ready for storage, be sure to keep them sorted properly and label the containers with the type of plant, the date the seeds were saved, and other pertinent information on growing. You can get special seed envelopes, or just use regular paper envelopes. Then, store the packets in a cool, dry place. It is essential that the seeds are not exposed to moisture after they have been dried! You can add a small bit of cornflour or powdered milk to the packets to absorb any excess moisture. The freezer can also work in most cases!

Step 5: Use them!

Seed viability decreases over time, and so be sure to use them when they’re at their peak! The best way to know for sure if your seeds are still good is to look up the typical longevity of seeds online. If you don’t think you’ll be able to use them before time is up, find a local seed swap or give them to a friend!

Additional Links

This infographic and the information presented here are just the first steps to saving seeds. My previous post on the dry method of saving seeds can be found here [x], but also, use the below links to continue your seed saving education!

On the importance of seed saving

Links to more information

Links Round-Up #10: We Are What We Eat

In this round-up: How what we eat (especially what we don’t realize we eat) affects our bodies and the environment.

Emulsify your life

“How Emulsifiers Are Messing with Our Guts (and Making Us Fat)”, Elizabeth Grossman, Civil Eats

A common added ingredient in processed food is some form of an emulsifier, an additive that prevents ingredients from separating, which affects the texture and shelf life of the food. Emulsifiers are classified by the FDA as Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS), and thus the effects of these ingredients on the body are somewhat unknown. In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers fed emulsifiers to mice through water or food in levels below those approved for use in food, as well as in levels that would mirror a person’s intake if they ate a lot of processed food. Inflammatory responses in mice indicated that emulsifiers may interfere with satiety (the feeling of being full), which led to overeating and the subsequent increased weight gain and associated health problems. This study is just the beginning of our understanding; more research is needed to understand how processed foods interact with our bodies, especially with ingredients that have the GRAS classification.

Pesticides and pediatrics

“Kids on the Frontline: How pesticides are undermining the health of rural children (Executive Summary)” [PDF], PANNA

In a previous report from 2012, the Pesticide Action Network – North America (PANNA) highlighted the detrimental effects pesticides had on children’s health. Overall, childhood health problems, from attention deficit disorders to childhood cancers, are increasing, and there are strong links between childhood health problems and increased pesticide use. In this new report, PANNA focuses on rural children who are exposed to pesticide residue on food and public areas (like children in urban and suburban communities), as well as pesticide contamination in the air and water from surrounding farms. PANNA also provides solutions to decrease both children’s exposure to and the overall use of pesticides.

Disaster diet

“Even the world’s largest food company knows the American diet is an environmental catastrophe”, Nathan Halverson, Grist

The American diet is so resource intensive that if the rest of the world ate the way Americans do, we would have run out of fresh water 15 years ago. According to a recently leaked report from 2009, Nestle officials told US officials that the American diet is a disaster for the environment, mostly from increased meat consumption. This article summarizes the highlights of that report. If the world’s biggest food company is this concerned about the effect the American diet is having on the environment, it’s a sign that some serious re-thinking needs to be done. (On a side note, if we’re talking water use in food production, it might be a good place to start with Nestle.)

How-to: Save Seeds (The Dry Method)

If you’re growing your own food and you’re looking to become more self-sufficient and sustainable, learning how to save seeds for the following growing season is a critical step. To help you get started in learning how to save seeds, I’ve created two infographics that outline the basic steps of two different methods: the dry method and the wet method. In this post, I’m focusing on the dry method, and a post on the wet method will be coming soon.

Seed saving is an incredibly important action that can help us retain some resilience for the future, especially in the face of climate change, loss of biodiversity, and increasingly industrialized methods of food production. To read more about the importance of seed saving, I’ve included a few links to some additional resources below.

So, click on the image below for the full-sized version, and feel free to download and share as you wish! Detailed steps are included below the graphic.

Saving Seeds - Dry Method

The Dry Method

Step 1: Know your plants

When you begin harvesting from your plants, make a note of which plants you want to take seeds from. Maybe you like the taste of a particular plant, or a plant did well in extreme weather conditions and you want to preserve those traits. From there, do some research to understand the life cycle of your plants to know when you should harvest seeds. The dry method of seed saving is ideal for flowers, herbs, carrots, berries, corn, grain, beans, and similar plants.

Step 2: Collect and dry

Once your plants are ready, you can start collecting seeds from the plants you’ve selected. Some seeds can be dried and collected right from the plant outside, but others you can collect the parts of the plant with the seeds attached and bring them inside to dry.

Step 3: Clean them up

When your seeds are dry, separate the chaff from the seed. Here, you can use a sieve to separate out the seeds you want from the rest of the plant. The heavier, denser seeds are the most viable seeds, while anything that is light/will blow away will likely not grow when you plant. Be sure you know what parts of the plant you’re looking for! The seeds may be in pods or be hidden in other ways.

Step 4: Proper storage

When your seeds are ready for storage, be sure to keep them separate and label the containers with the type of plant, the date the seeds were saved, and other pertinent information on growing. You can get special seed envelopes, or just use regular paper envelopes. Then, store the packets in a cool, dry place. It is essential that the seeds are not exposed to moisture after they have been dried! You can add a small bit of cornflour or powdered milk to the packets to absorb any excess moisture. The freezer can also work in most cases!

Step 5: Use them!

Seed viability decreases over time, and so be sure to use them when they’re at their peak! The best way to know for sure is to look up the typical longevity of seeds online. If you can’t use them before time is up, find a local seed swap or give them to a friend!

Additional Links

This infographic and the information presented here are just the first steps to saving seeds. Another post on the wet method of seed saving will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, use the below links to continue your seed saving education!

On the importance of seed saving

Links to more information

Links Round-Up #9: Climate Solutions

In this round-up: Changes to our agricultural practices and increasing our preservation efforts can help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Farming for Solutions

“Carbon Farming: Hope For A Hot Planet”, Brian Barth, Modern Farmer

Carbon farming is a set of techniques that facilitates the process of taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to store it in the soil. Carbon farming can provide carbon-based compounds to augment plant growth, but carbon farming has other advantages of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping farmers create more resilient systems that can withstand the effects of climate change. This article outlines the five tenets of carbon sequestration, and provides valuable information on why this technique is important.

“Changing the Way We Farm Could Help Stop Climate Change”, Wally Blackmore, Take Part

A recent paper published in Nature projected that, if the proper techniques are utilized, the world’s farmland could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50–80%. Currently, the slow release of carbon from the soil accounts for about 37% of greenhouse gas emissions, but carbon farming techniques can help not only offset these emissions, but sequester even more carbon in the soil. Though a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions using carbon farming techniques is more realistic in our current agricultural system, even this goal will require a lot of social, political, and economic change. Still, it can’t hurt to change the way we farm; even a small shift can go a long way in combating climate change.

The Wisdom of Trees

“Rainforest regrowth boots carbon capture, study shows”, Mark Kinver, BBC News

Rainforests are the largest terrestrial carbon sinks (areas that sequester carbon) on the planet, and recent studies have shown that new-growth forests absorb up to 11 times as much carbon from the atmosphere as old-growth forests. However, old-growth forests are still important to preserve, as they have sequestered enormous amounts carbon over their lifetimes, and the fact that new-growth forests sequester more carbon is not an excuse to cut down the old trees. This article explains more on why both new and old forests are important, and what role they play in controlling greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change.

Upcoming Food Conferences

Throughout the year there are some interesting and exciting events happening in the food movement, including a number of conferences that allow people to meet and exchange ideas. I’ve been compiling a list of conferences I want to try to attend, and I thought I would share the list! Below are some of the upcoming conferences happening this year, and I’ll hopefully be making my way to a few of them. Please feel free to let me know if you do attend one and what you thought of the event!

The True Cost of American Food [x]

April 14-17, 2016 | San Francisco, California

This conference is coming up very soon and focuses on the topic of the true cost of producing food in the United States. The speaker lineup is incredible, bringing together leaders from different sectors of the food system for this important conversation [x]. The price to attend both days as well as the starting reception on April 14 is $500,  but there are other ticketing choices available for the various field trips, special pricing if you are a student, and other options.

5th Annual UVM Food Systems Summit [x]

June 14-15, 2016 | The University of Vermont | Burlington, Vermont

The theme around this year’s Food Systems Summit at the University of Vermont deals is the question, “What makes food good?” Proposals for the summit were recently voted on, and the final schedule will be announced some time this month. The price for attending both days is $150 ($100 for students), but there is an option to attend just one day if you wish.

Food For Tomorrow Conference [x]

September 27-28, 2016 | The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, New York

The annual Food For Tomorrow Conference is hosted by the New York Times at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. (For more information on the Stone Barns Center, read my post [x].) Though the information for the 2016 conference is not yet available, you can sign up to stay updated on the details as they become available [x].

6th International Conference on Food Studies [x]

October 12-13, 2016 | University of California—Berkeley | Berkeley, California

The International Conference on Food Studies is now accepting proposals for this year’s conference to be held in October [x]. The deadline for proposals is July 12 (though late proposals are being accepted until September 12), and early registration closes on April 12. Regular registration goes all the way up to the first day of the conference, October 12. The full program will be available two months before the conference, but you can view the list of accepted proposals as they come in [x].

James Beard Foundation Food Conference [x]

October 17-18, 2016 | New York, New York

The theme of this year’s James Beard Foundation Food Conference deals with the making of the food movement. Namely, how do we make the food movement stick in a time when so many issues are competing for our attention? The conference will draw from a wide variety of disciplines, ensuring an interesting and lively conversation on the making of this movement. Registration is not yet available, but you can check the website periodically for more information.


If you know of any more food conferences coming up soon, please feel free to leave a comment or send an email to foodforestsforever[at]gmail[dot]com!

Links Round-Up #8: Food Politics

In this round-up: The slippery ways in which American politicians avoid the critical questions surrounding the U.S. food system.

Politics As Usual

“Editorial: Why Don’t Candidates Talk About Food?”, The Register’s Editorial, The DesMoines Register

With the 2016 U.S. presidential primaries well underway, many issues of national importance have been vehemently discussed in debates, town halls, and candidate rallies. However, the issue of the U.S. food system is hardly ever touched upon, despite focus groups and polls showing that 45% of people have reforming the food system as a top priority. As this editorial points out, the candidates could be wary to take a strong stance on the issue for fear of seeming overly critical of farmers. However, taking a smart stance on fixing the U.S. food system could benefit both the farmers and the general population in the long run, and the candidates should take the time to lay out their thoughts.

“Americans Want Fewer Politicians, More Sustainability In Our Dietary Guidelines”, Andrew Amelinckx, Modern Farmer

In the lead-up to the release of the 2015 dietary guidelines for Americans, a survey taken of 800 people across age, education, income, and gender categories showed some pretty interesting results: 92% believe that producing food sustainably is a high priority, 79% want scientists, not politicians, to set the dietary guidelines, and 52% would be less likely to re-elect a politician who ignored sustainability in the dietary guidelines. And yet, in 2014, the U.S. congress told President Obama to ignore any recommendations by the Dietary Guidelines committee that had to do with sustainability. This kind of political maneuvering goes against the wants and needs of the people. With the health and wellness of the people and planet at stake, it is past time that we get rid of corrupt politicians and implement a new set of standards that align with the attitudes of the country. The dietary guidelines are just the beginning.

Just Label It!

“Bill Blocking GMO Labels Stalls In Senate, But Battle Is Far From Over”, Maria Godoy, NPR

A recent bill put forward by Senator Pat Roberts would have blocked states from setting their own GMO labeling standards, like Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law. However, the bill failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass through, and so negotiations are underway to make further changes to this bill. The issue of labeling genetically-modified food has been vehemently debated in recent years, with most of the conversation revolving around the safety of these foods. However, the safety issue is just one of many problems that surround GMO’s. Issues of seed copyrighting, corporations abusing their power, and the environmental impact of these foods are never brought to light. A label is just the first step to help consumers make informed decisions about the food they buy, and it shouldn’t be this hard to just label it.