Green – Mean – Cuisine
Category Archives: The Urban Outdoors
The blog is back in effect & with an added feature – Instagram! You can follow us @greenmeancuisine.
Comalicious will have plenty of updates. So stay tuned for upcycling tips, street art, farmers markets and local Georgia food news and seasonal dishes. Now check out our first day’s pics on Instagram.
Cheers, to your health!
You can’t have a Farmers Market without the land & crops getting an adequate amount of rainfall. However, conducting a market while it rains can prove to be a real challenge. During yesterday’s East Atlanta Village Market a storm hit the east side of town…hard. Heavy rainfall started only seconds after I had received my SNAP & Wholesome Wave tokens. Baby in tow, I rushed underneath Little Tart Bakeshop’s tent, alongside one of the market’s musicians, a violin player wearing her tip jar cleverly strapped as a backpack. What happened next can only be described as an accelerated storm front whipping across us, with continuous heavy rainfall accompanied by strong winds, ripping on all of the vendors tents. Every now and then sunshine peeked in the distance, toying with the hope of all market participants that this could end any second now.
Peek the pictures of the treacherous down-pour:
Istill managed to buy a few items; thankfully & due to the help of various folks, who scrambled to get me a feasible umbrella, kept my baby & I entertained, dry & save for a couple of hours at the market, plus of course the farmers who nourish our lives!
Furthermore, did you know that you can use the same tokens from East Atlanta’s market at Grant Park Farmers Market on Sundays? If you ever forget a few items & have left over tokens to spare, you don’t have to wait a whole week to make use of them.
I thought my experience at the market was yet again a real testament to community and how well people can work together and stand their ground. It is certainly something we need more of in today’s times.
When a chef tells me, he or she prefers ingredients via a particular farm, I don’t just ask why but also quickly be-line to that farm stand. Chef Angus just purchased a few vegetables from Crack in the Sidewalk Farmlet, when I encountered him at the East Atlanta Farmers Market. Angus, who’s previously incorporated local farm goods from Many Fold Farms at Miller Union, has come up with a deliciously distinct late night menu for Octopus Bar in East Atlanta Village. Who says your taste buds don’t need indulgence at 3am!
While browsing the vegetable selection at Crack in the Sidewalk’s stand, bags of small leaved, dark green salad mixes, topped with wood sorrel flowers catch my eye. My senses tell me this is what I want! The wild edible salad mix includes next to Wood Sorrel, Henbit, Dead-nettle alongside other Georgia native greens. The flavors are so potent and nutrient dense it can be used as a garnish, mixed in with cultivated lettuces or as an added spice to soups, terrains, simply let your creativity run wild – pun intended.
Coincidentally, Chris & Isiah who run the 2 acre Farmlet are offering a Wild Edibles workshop the same weekend. The farm is nestled next to a golf course and an array of sporadically populated and foreclosed homes. The couple moved to the location roughly four years ago. Since then next to cultivating plants via traditional agricultural methods, the lands native plants have become part of their harvest. A quite genius approach to farming utilizes the adaptable strength of wild plants to create an ecologically balanced & diversified approach to winning food from the land.
‘With Foraging’ , as Chris explains, ’there is a significant amount of opportunity, to connect with the areas around you.’ Once you become aware of edible wild greens, berries, pecans etc. you can find them everywhere, even in downtown major cities, parks or the middle of neighborhoods. Miseducation throughout generations, however, has perpetuated the stigma of wild foods being poisonous and/or polluted. In reality the amount of poisonous wild edibles is rather small and wild foods that might even kill you are proportionally speaking even smaller. The advantages of wild foods next to promoting health and self-sufficiency, also include:
- Easier to cultivate due to plants strong sense of adaptability and resistance to bugs (seed saving)
- Incredibly nutrient dense
- Healing properties
- Young leaves are most tender and delicious
- Take little to no work
While nature creates abundance and can in fact include poisonous species, it is important to study plants in order to know how to identify them correctly. Nevertheless, the healing compounds of plantains for instance can aid bee stings or snake bites or consider the super food characteristics of Mulberries, which can literally be found anywhere in Atlanta, making wild foods a worthwhile study for the adventurous urban or suburban dweller.
How do you run a fully functioning farm in a suburban neighborhood setting? Duane Marcus would certainly know. He’s been implementing a completely unique farming model over the past five years. Duane is well known in the Atlanta gardening community & has over 30 years of organic farming experience. Currently, he manages the Decatur Farmers Market, while selling his own harvested vegetables & herbs. A personal favorite of mine: the Funny Farm’s braising mix that includes edible flowers, blossoms & a simple variety of dark greens, excellent if flash-sauteed with a hint of braggs or even as salad mix.
When I show up on the coattails of a warmer than usual Georgia Winter everything in his garden is starting to or already is flowering. I find him in the back of his house, prepping seedlings for soil transplanting.
Astoundingly, the 3 acres surrounding his home in Stone Mountain, Georgia are producing a large variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, woody flowers – you name it. Hard to believe it was only five years ago Duane plowed & dumped a truck load of compost on the ground of what looked like a typical suburb front yard, mostly commuter grass & a few perennials here and there. He really knows how to utilize the setting of his land! On the edges near the road where it tends to be more shady, mostly fruit trees have been planted. He explains that location and environment resemble the trees natural habitat. The harvest success of last years manking cherry tree of over 5000 cherries, echos his statement. In addition, the economy of planting manking makes even more sense for suburbanites, not requiring a second variation of cherry tree to pollinate. Maximizing space usage is what this type of gardening is all about.
One gardening bed was in fact over planted with a secondary crop. Duane explains that once he puts carrot seedlings in the ground it takes a couple of weeks for them to germinate; meanwhile he plants arugula on top, utilizing the rich organic properties of his soil, enabling him to harvest 100 lbs of arugula before the carrots get pulled out.
Farmer Marcus’ bag of farming tricks seems limitless. I listen closely to him describing adequate water usage. Most people, he notes, tend to over water, killing their plants faster in fact than not watering enough. He typically waters very little and during drought seasons he hand waters so he can put the water right when & where he needs it. Luckily, this particular suburb was designed with a .5 acre pond as well, situated conveniently next to Duane’s backyard. Every fully functioning farm will contain a body of water or be able to access one nearby, a crucial element necessary for livestock and crops to flourish.
If you need more advice, inspiration or just want to see what happens at the Funny Farm check out their blog or sign up for a gardening class. Hurry they sell out quickly! As a big coffee & tea drinker, for example, I am learning how to use these compounds for growing mushrooms. (read more – here) Neat – right?!
My favorite aspect about visiting the Funny Farm has to be the application of permaculture principals to a suburban setting. The amount of adaptability and creativity we can employ when it comes to growing food is solely dependent on our drive. With resources present in our communities of people, land and nature we have what it takes. One of the most reiterated common sense principals every farmer will tell you: Use what you got & make it work!
~Live well & Be merry~
Its 1 pm and already 76º outside. The South is getting their summer early apparently. If you believe in climate change or not it doesn’t change the fact that its unseasonably warm at this time of the year & since the Mayans ended their calendar in 2012, why not take a look at a couple survival tactics, starting right here in your spring/early summer garden – 2012 style. If you are a ‘profesh’ hobby gardener or venturing from the occasional house plant into a more daring territory – the outside, here are a couple ideas.
If you didn’t make it to the ALFI Fruit Tree sales earlier this year (Atlantans), its not too late to pick up a berry, vine or any other fruit tree you might enjoy. I chose a black berry bush since it doesn’t require another bush for cross pollination, ‘just’ bees. So far the plant seems happy.
Pick out a few different soils and see which one work best for your garden environment. I usually go with Farmer D organic compost but in this case I was far from a Whole Foods & thought why not opt for Whitney Gardens instead of Miracle Grow. It reminded me of Whitney Houston but mainly I like to diversify when it comes to buying different brands rather than going for the dominant brand on the market.
Get a bird feeder – with birds currently migrating you might attract a few interesting species. I am a Finch fan & got Finch specific food, the rain has been keeping them away, well & perhaps the shady, hidden location of my garden.
Pick out your favorite plants. What a no-brainer right?! Don’t just select for cooking, this baby lavender can be used in a soothing eye mask or bath water as well.
Don’t be shy or slow – if you see something on the side of the road, pick it up. It’s free or as the saying goes: One man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure. How do you think I got this giant orange plastic beaut’?!
Get your grill ready for making your summer even more awesome with your friends and neighbors. In the mean time find a cover to keep the rust away during the rainy season. Be inventive – use what you got & save your hard earned bucks. I used the packaging from a pillow top mattress cover for instance.
Finally, invest in a solar powered outdoor light – it won’t increase your power bill plus gives your garden the 21st century update to go with the ancient knowledge of using coffee grinds & kitchen scraps to fertilize your plants.
~ Live well & Be merry ~