Can a simple herb help fight global warming? The aromatic herb oregano, a staple in most modern kitchens, commonly meets our taste buds mixed with tomato sauce as a topping on pizza. This versatile plant’s virtues, however, extend beyond the kitchen into human and animal medicine. In 400 B.C., the Greek physician Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic and an aid to digestion.
Flash forward to today where oregano has emerged as a promising digestive aid for cattle. If you think this is not a major issue, consider the numbers. According to a UN report, livestock worldwide release 80 million metric tonnes of methane into the atmosphere. In the United States each year, 100 million cattle release 5.5 million metric tonnes of methane into the atmosphere — a significant 20 percent of U.S. methane emissions. read more…
Cornflower, also called Bachelor’s Button, blooms in late spring and continues until November or longer if weather is mild. This self-seeding annual is a good source of nectar, and attracts bees and other pollinators with its intense blue flowers.
Calendula (Pot Marigold) reliably blooms into November in coastal areas. Cut back spent flowers for continued blooms. In mild years with no hard frost, calendula blooms all winter and provides cheerful early spring flowers for bees.
Borage is a hardy annual herb that flowers in June or July and continues into November. Borage does not survive a hard frost. Bees and other pollinators are attracted by the bright blue star-shaped flowers.
Yarrow's tiny close-packed flower clusters provide nectar for pollinators. Yarrow blooms from spring to November. Cut back the flowers after their first bloom for continued flowering. In mild years with no hard frost, yarrow will bloom in winter.
Rosemary has small blue flowers that attract bees. Rosemary blooms at different times of the year, often in March, April or November. Prune this shrub after flowering, but not back to the bare wood. Flowers appear only on new wood.
Primrose, a hardy perennial likes a cool, well-drained growing area. Long regarded as a herald of spring. In south coast BC, primrose blooms from midwinter to spring, with a reprise in October or November.
Heather brings colour in winter with tiny flowers that attract honey bees and bumblebees. This hardy perennial typically buds in November, however an established heather plant can bloom from September to May.
Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium), a tall evergreen native shrub with prickly, holly-like leaves, is a good early attractor for bees and other pollinators. Sprays of small yellow flowers bloom anytime from November through March.
Crocus, Snowdrop and Hyacinth bulbs provide early nectar and pollen for honey bees. The flowers often open in late January and February, providing some of the earliest blooms of the season.
Early blooming fruit trees such as cherry and apple trees flower in February. With each tree bearing hundreds of flowers, they provide a large concentrated food source for pollinators.
Topping my list of favourite fall foods are sweet, saucer-shaped cipollini onions. Cipollinis, whose name means “little onions,” come in white and red varieties. Cipollinis’ sweet, mellow flavour and diminutive flattened shape make them an excellent choice for roasting.
At Origin Bakery, the only dedicated gluten-free bakery in Victoria BC, Marion Scott and Tara Black are transforming the way we taste alternative grains. They’re also doing what comes naturally to pastry chefs, but is so rare in the world of gluten-free: baking up delicious from-scratch breads, cakes and pastries that recreate the taste and texture of traditional baked goods.
Origin Bakery is not like the majority of gluten-free bread and cake bakers. “Almost all of them are using a very set style of ingredients,” said Tara Black, Origin co-founder and pastry chef. “What we do is very different. Every single product here is made with its own specific recipe.” (Article continues below video.)
Video: Gluten-Free from Scratch at the Origin Bakery
Whether you use traditional or gluten-free flour, you’ve probably noticed that all flours are not the same. Made from grains, nuts, legumes, roots and seeds, they vary in texture, flavour, density and nutritional make-up. Knowing the qualities of different flours will help you choose the best for the bread, cake, muffin, cookie, pastry, pasta, or sauce you want to make.
This vegan mayonnaise is fresh, easy to make and much cheaper than the eggless mayo you buy at the grocery store. Knowing how to make mayonnaise is a satisfying skill, with advantages. The mayo you make at home has no preservatives or hidden ingredients, and tastes delicious!
You can mix up this mayo in minutes with a hand blender or a regular blender, and adjust the salt level and other seasonings to your taste.
Microclimates in the garden can protect plants from fluctuating weather.
Pea and bean trellises create a microclimate that protects these vegetable plants from the wind.
Climate change is bringing a new challenge of weather extremes to gardeners and farmers across North America. The predictable weather patterns we knew and counted on are becoming more unpredictable. One week the weather is hot and sunny—perfect for tomato transplants. The next week a cold wind pushes over young plants and chills their roots. It’s confusing to the plants, and to the growers too.
Adapting your growing area to protect young plants from heat, drought, wind, rain, and cold is a key to growing successfully. You can do this by creating microclimates that offer protection to vulnerable plants.
Microclimates are small areas that have different growing conditions from the surrounding region. Sun traps, wind buffers, and radiant heat producers create microclimates that shelter plants from cold. In drought conditions, a cool microclimate affords shade and water retention to minimize heat stress.
How to Use Microclimates to Protect Plants from Changing Weather
Setting an example in renewable energy, Portugal ran its lights solely on alternative power for four days. A view of Portugal (foreground) and the Iberian Peninsula as seen from the space station.
Last month the small European state of Portugal set an example for the rest of the world by running its electrical grid entirely on alternative power for four days (May 7–May 10). This country of ten million people, which occupies about a fifth of the Iberian Peninsula, kept the lights on with renewable energy, and produced zero carbon emissions.
This landmark accomplishment came after a series of renewable energy milestones, which included providing 70 percent of nation’s electricity consumption from wind, solar and hydroelectric power during the entire first quarter of 2013. read more…
The 100-mile diet on Vancouver Island has just become more accessible. The online Vancouver Island Farms & Food Map offers a way to find over 300 farms and hundreds of fresh local foods in Victoria, Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island.
Video: The Vancouver Island Farms & Food Map
Local Food on Vancouver Island
A lot has changed in the decade since Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, authors of The 100 Mile Diet, first tried their one-year experiment in eating foods produced within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver home. Their eat-local challenge galvanized the Canadian local food movement. In the past ten years, “sustainability” and “local foods” have become household words.
Nowhere has the 100-mile diet been taken more to heart than on Vancouver Island, where farmers have used the mild maritime climate to push the boundaries of what will grow locally. New crops like citrus fruits, olives, regionally-adapted wheat, gluten-free grains, lentils and green tea now thrive on the Island. Products such as hand-harvested sea salt, edible oils, and fresh milled flour are extending the range of locally-sourced foods.
Residents and visitors can find these regional foods on the online Vancouver Island Farms & Food Map, along with more typical local farm fare like u-pick berries, vegetables, nuts, meats, dairy, mushrooms and herbs. The map also includes an extensive list of local farm-produced specialty items such as honey, pickles, syrups, fermented foods, baked goods, juice, wine, distilled spirits and cider.
The Victoria region of the Vancouver Island Farms & Food Map. Users can search for hundreds of local farm products.
With it users can find farm stands, u-picks, and CSA farm box programs. The map also guides visitors to farms that offer tours, workshops, wine tasting, earth-to-table restaurants, events and overnight farm stays.
The Vancouver Island Farms & Food Map is a resource for residents and tourists who want to locate Island farms and enjoy fresh local food. By pointing the way to explore the dynamic local food movement on the Islands, the Vancouver Island Farms & Food Map demonstrates that sustainable farming is not only a dream, but an achievable reality. read more…
It’s the International Year of Pulses, and a new book, The Power of Pulses: Saving the World with Peas, Beans, Chickpeas, Favas & Lentils, is here to guide the way. If saving the world sounds like hyperbole, it’s because pulses may be one of nature’s most perfect foods. Nutrient-dense and packed with protein and fiber, these superfoods are seeds and edible foods at the same time. They are also important for sustainable agriculture. Peas, beans and lentils are easy to grow, require little water, and improve the fertility of the soil wherever they take root.
The Power of Pulses brings together organic seed grower Dan Jason, and culinary sisters, Hilary Malone and Alison Malone Eathorne, to provide everything you need to know about planting, harvesting and cooking peas, beans, chickpeas, favas and lentils. Accompanying this practical advice is Jason’s wisdom on why pulses are important for sustainable agriculture, and how they can help renew the health of the planet. read more…