Monday, April 29, 2013

Green Cleaning Recipes

After a long winter, it's time for spring-cleaning. Unfortunately, the ever-expanding arsenal of home cleaning products now includes several dangerous weapons, loaded with strong, artificial colors and fragrances and harsh cleansing agents like bleach, ammonia and acids. These chemicals can produce indoor air pollution by off-gassing toxic fumes that can irritate eyes and lungs. (Children and pets are most at risk.) Many cleaners also contain unnecessary antibacterial agents (pesticides, technically), that can actually make bacteria stronger, and more resistant to antibacterial drugs.

And commercial cleansers cost a lot. So make your own! Even the biggest messes and toughest stains can be attacked effectively with baking soda, borax, lemon juice and other simple ingredients.


Keep your bathrooms and kitchen tile spotless and hygienic with these natural cleansers:

Baking Soda and Water: Dust surfaces with baking soda, then scrub with a moist sponge or cloth. If you have tougher grime, sprinkle on some kosher salt, and work up some elbow grease.
Lemon Juice or Vinegar: Got stains, mildew or grease streaks? Spray or douse with lemon juice or vinegar. Let sit a few minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush.
Disinfectant: Instead of bleach, make your own disinfectant by mixing 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of liquid soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil. It's easy!


The room where food is prepared, stored and often enjoyed requires constant vigilance. Splatters, spills and errant crumbs can build up and collect out of sight, encouraging harmful bacteria.

Baking Soda and Water: Reclaim counters by sprinkling with baking soda, then scrubbing with a damp cloth or sponge. If you have stains, knead the baking soda and water into a paste and let set for a while before you remove. This method also works great for stainless steel sinks, cutting boards, containers, refrigerators, oven tops and more.
Kosher Salt and Water: If you need a tougher abrasive sprinkle on kosher salt, and scrub with a wet cloth or sponge.
Natural Disinfectant: To knock out germs without strong products, mix 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of liquid soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil. Spray or rub on countertops and other kitchen surfaces.


Instead of those harsh-smelling sprays, try this highly effective, simple solution for windows and mirrors:

White Vinegar, Water and Newspaper: Mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with a gallon of water, and dispense into a used spray bottle. Squirt on, then scrub with newspaper, not paper towels, which cause streaking.
If you're out of vinegar or don't like its smell, you can substitute undiluted lemon juice or club soda.


Keeping carpets clean is less daunting than you might think, even after a season of tracked-in dirt and salt.

Beat Those Rugs: Take any removable rugs outside and beat the dust and hair out with a broom.
Club Soda: You've probably heard the old adage that club soda works well on carpet stains. But you have to attack the mess right away. Lift off any solids, then liberally pour on club soda. Blot with an old rag. The soda's carbonation brings the spill to the surface, and the salts in the soda thwart staining.
Cornmeal: For big spills, dump cornmeal on the mess, wait 5 to 15 minutes, and vacuum up the gunk.
Spot Cleaner: Make your own by mixing: 1/4 cup liquid soap or detergent in a blender, with 1/3 cup water. Mix until foamy. Spray on, then rinse with vinegar.
To Deodorize: Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the carpet or rug, using about 1 cup per medium-sized room. Vacuum after 30 minutes.


Hardwood floors are beautiful, hygienic, long lasting and add value to your home. They are easy to vacuum, but don't do well with wet mopping. So how do you restore their natural glow without roughing them up?

Vinegar: Whip up a solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar and 30 ounces of warm water. Put in a recycled spray bottle, then spray on a cotton rag or towel until lightly damp. Then mop your floors, scrubbing away any grime.


Conventional oven cleaning chemicals are loaded with toxic ingredients, including ethers, ethylene glycol, lye (sodium and potassium hydroxide), methylene chloride and petroleum distillates. The products are harmful to skin and eyes, and the fumes are unhealthy. Instead, go natural!

Baking Soda and Water: Coat the inside of your dirty appliance with a paste made from water and baking soda. Let stand overnight. Then, don gloves and scour off that grime. Make spotless with a moist cloth.


A stopped up sink or tub is a real hassle, but pouring toxic chemicals like Drano on them isn't so wise. Not only will that pollute our waterways, but the products can cause chemical burns and are highly dangerous if ingested. Do you really want that in your home?

Baking Soda and Boiling Water: Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the problem drain, followed by 2 cups of boiling water. If that isn't doing it for you, chase the baking soda with a 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover tightly, allowing the vigorous fizzing of the chemical reaction to break up the gunk. Then flush that with one gallon of boiling water.


Whether you have fine family heirloom pieces or something with character you picked up at an estate sale for a song, you're eventually going to have to wash your antique linens. Even with advanced settings on today's washing machines, you still may want to address fragile fabrics by hand.

Sunlight: What could be easier than sanitizing and removing stains... with sunlight! (Just don't do it too often with fragile pieces, because they can start to break down). Simply lay your old lace, curtains and other fine linens on the grass in the sun for a few hours. Dirtier pieces can be dampened first.
Boiling: If that doesn't do the trick, fill a pot with water and bring to a boil on your stovetop. Drop in linens and let steep until stains lift.
Detergent and Borax: Mix dishwasher detergent and borax together until you get a thick rubbing paste. Rub into soiled linens, then rinse clean.
Peroxide: If you have stubborn stains, try spraying them with peroxide, then rinsing with water.


Commercial silver polish contains toxins, and manufacturers recommend you don't leave on skin too long. Do you really want something like that spread over your flatware?

Aluminum Foil, Boiling Water, Baking Soda and Salt: Keep your sterling shined with this seemingly magic method. Line your sink or a bucket with aluminum foil, and drop in tarnished silver. Pour in boiling water, a cup of baking soda and a dash of salt. Let sit for a few minutes. The tarnish will transfer from the silver to the foil.
Toothpaste: If you can't immerse your items or are otherwise inclined to polish by hand, rub tarnished silver with toothpaste and a soft cloth. Rinse with warm water and dry. Instead of toothpaste you can substitute a concoction made of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water.
Ketchup: To keep your copper pots, pans and accents looking bright and shiny, try rubbing with ketchup.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

10 foods that fight spring allergies

Work vitamin C-rich foods (like citrus and broccoli) into your diet and turn to stinging nettle as a potent natural form of allergy relief.

Thanks to climate change, every allergy season is the worst allergy season ever. Warmer temperatures have led to earlier springs and longer allergy seasons, while higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have led to more potent and allergenic pollen.

This year is no different. A mild winter — the fourth-warmest on record — means that trees have started budding and releasing pollen earlier. While that certainly bodes well for birds and cherry-blossom festivals, it could leave you feeling miserable if you suffer from spring allergies. The good news is that natural allergy relief is within an arm's reach of your refrigerator: Foods rich in vitamin C and folic acid help reduce the inflammation associated with allergic reactions, and studies are finding that some herbs are just as effective as expensive drugs.

Grab your grocery cart and stock your produce bin with these 10 natural allergy remedies:

1. Broccoli


This precious piece of produce serves two purposes in annihilating your allergy symptoms. It's high in allergy-relieving vitamin C and it's a member of the crucifer family, plants that have been shown to clear out blocked-up sinuses. Researchers have found about 500 milligrams (mg) of Vitamin C a day can ease allergy symptoms, and just one cup of raw broccoli packs about 80 mg.

2. Citrus fruits

To hit that 500-milligram vitamin C level from whole food sources, you can also turn to oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes. A large orange contains nearly 100 mg of C, while half of a large grapefruit contains about 60 mg.

3. Kale

Don't just admire kale as a garnish. Eat it! This superfood packs a one-two punch against allergies; like broccoli, it's a member of the crucifer family, but it's also rich in the carotenoid department, pigments believed to aid in fighting allergy symptoms.

4. Collard greens

Highjacked by hay fever? Put collard greens on the menu for the same reason as kale. Their phytochemical content, mainly, carotenoids, eases allergy issues. To increase the amount of carotenoids your body absorbs, eat the veggie with some sort of fat source. One idea? Lightly cook it in olive oil.

5. Stinging nettle

You can't discuss natural allergy remedies without hailing stinging nettle. It helps stifle inflammation that occurs when you're experiencing allergy symptoms. Stinging nettle contains histamine, the chemical your body produces during an allergic reaction, so it helps you acquire tolerance. Look for 500-mg freeze-dried nettle capsules in your natural health store, and take three times a day. That's the best form for allergy relief; it won't sting because it's freeze-dried. Long-term use of the herb is not recommended, since it can deplete your potassium stores.

6. Butterbur

Leaves and roots of the butterbur shrub contain compounds called petasines, which can block some reactions that spark allergies. Does this plant really work? Science says yes, though its use is not generally recommended for young children, people older than 65, or those with ragweed allergies. A large British meta-analysis of six studies looking at butterbur as an allergy reliever found five studies supported the claim. The roots of the perennial shrub generally contain high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can damage the liver, so herbalists recommend looking for butterbur products that specify no pyrrolizidines, or ones that use a CO2 extracting process, which limits the amount of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Swiss and German researchers found that butterbur was just as effective as the prescription antihistamine cetirizine (Zyrtec) after two weeks of treatment. It's also been shown to relieve sneezing, itching, runny nose, stuffiness, and watery eyes in just five days.

7. Elderberries

Immune-strengthening elderberries are often hailed as a natural flu treatment, but the berries serve a purpose in natural allergy relief, too. Try elderberry wine, juice, or jam to tap the fruit's beneficial flavonoids that reduce inflammation.

8. Onions and garlic

Quercetin is another secret weapon that helps fight allergies by acting like an antihistamine. Onions and garlic are packed with quercetin, as are apples. (If you go with eating apples, just make sure they don't stimulate oral allergy syndrome.)

9. Parsley

According to Michael Castleman, author of "The New Healing Herbs" (Rodale, 2009), parsley inhibits the secretion of allergy-inducing histamine. (Parsley is a diuretic, so talk to your doctor before taking supplements or eating large amounts of it.)

10. Anti-allergy soup!

There's nothing like a warm bowl of soup when you're feeling sick, and while this usually pertains to chicken soup for the flu, an expert on herbs developed this soup to naturally battle allergies. In "The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods: Proven Natural Remedies to Treat and Prevent More Than 80 Common Health Concerns" (Rodale, 2008), herb expert James Duke, PhD, recommends this allergy-fighting soup recipe:

Boil an onion (with skin) and a clove of garlic. Add half a cup chopped leaves and diced taproots of evening primrose. After boiling for about 5 minutes, add a cup of nettle leaves and a cup of diced celery stalks, and boil gently for another 3 to 10 minutes. Before eating, remove the onion skins and eat the soup it's while still warm. Season with wine vinegar, black pepper, hot pepper, turmeric, curry powder or celery seed. Enjoy!

Building a Covered Greenhouse Garden

If your garden is subject to a lot of wind activity, try building an above-ground covered garden.


Building a little green house to protect your vegetabeles from the wind and to elevate the temperature during the colder days. This should also help with the "year round" gardening.

Start out with 2x12s at 8 feet and 4 feet. (I do not recommend 2x12s as they are very expensive, and you can get the same results with stacked 2x6s.) Level out the dirt a bit before assembling them.

I used the pocket hole system once again to join the pieces of wood. If you have some resident pests (moles, etc) in the yard, staple some chicken wire to the base and flip the whole thing over.


Build a frame to go on top out of 2x2s and 2x4s for corner braces. This will be the base for the covered part.



Then attach 1/2" 10-foot PVC pipe to create the arches.

Put one screw into the inside bottom of each pipe (to keep it from slipping), then secure it with a pipe clamp.


Use electrical tape or 1x2 screws (into the PVC) to secure the wire mesh to the pipes.


Staple some 3.5 mil plastic to the 2x2 frame - do attempt while it is breezy outside. Plastic everywhere, suffocation, etc.


Attach two hinges on one of the short 4' sides.


And some chain on the long 8' side. (plastic chain is not recommended, as it bends and stretches far too easily).


If you're planning on rigging up an automatic watering system for my soaker hose, install this adapter in the side. The garden hose will go on the blue side and the soaker hose will come out the other side.


Mix some compost and existing soil from your yard and a healthy amount of pine needles.

Now it's time for planting! Your tomatoes, basil, squash, onions, garlic, herbs, etc. are planted and safe from the cold and wind!

Basil: The World's Most Versatile Herb

Whoever said that print is dead clearly hasn't picked up Wilder Quarterly, the Brooklyn-based journal filled with pages that star "half-green thumbs, rooftop gardeners, foodies and chefs, laymen hikers, landscape architects, hobby farmers, horticulturalists, nature’s innovators, amateurs, and experts." It's definitely on our shortlist for top magazines on the newsstand.

The WQ blog delivers regular digital content in the same vein, including tips on growing edible plants like basil, the world's most versatile herb. Basil gets extra marks for being easy to grow and for filling the kitchen with a wonderfully bright and spicy aroma. All you really need is a bright windowsill (preferably south-facing) or any spot that gets about 4–6 hours of full sunlight a day. From the post:

Although there aren’t as many varieties of basil as there are provinces in Italy, you have a few to chose from. I would suggest Genovese (for the flavor) or Mammoth (for the size). Sow the seeds thinly, about 1 – 2 inches apart and cover with a quarter inch of soil. Use either a pot (at least 18 inches in diameter) or a window box (with seeds scattered lengthwise). Basil is happiest in warm, course-textured soil that drains well (good drainage is vital when growing basil), however keep soil moist with frequent misting. Clip leaves often, right at the node taking about 1/3 of the stem. This will promote growth and further enhance the flavor.

For additional info, talk to the folks at your local nursery about the best suggestions for you in terms of climate, fertilization, and variety.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Seattle to Build Nation’s First Food Forest

Forget meadows. Seattle's food forest will be filled with edible plants, and everything from pears to herbs will be free for the taking.

Seattle’s vision of an urban food oasis is going forward. A seven-acre plot of land in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood will be planted with hundreds of different kinds of edibles: walnut and chestnut trees; blueberry and raspberry bushes; fruit trees, including apples and pears; exotics like pineapple, yuzu citrus, guava, persimmons, honeyberries, and lingonberries; herbs; and more. All will be available for public plucking to anyone who wanders into the city’s first food forest.

“This is totally innovative, and has never been done before in a public park,” Margarett Harrison, lead landscape architect for the Beacon Food Forest project, tells TakePart. Harrison is working on construction and permit drawings now and expects to break ground this summer.

The concept of a food forest certainly pushes the envelope on urban agriculture and is grounded in the concept of permaculture, which means it will be perennial and self-sustaining, like a forest is in the wild. Not only is this forest Seattle’s first large-scale permaculture project, but it’s also believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

“The concept means we consider the soils, companion plants, insects, bugs—everything will be mutually beneficial to each other,” says Harrison.

That the plan came together at all is remarkable on its own. What started as a group project for a permaculture design course ended up as a textbook example of community outreach gone right.

Friends of the Food Forest undertook heroic outreach efforts to secure neighborhood support. The team mailed over 6,000 postcards in five different languages, tabled at events and fairs, and posted fliers,” writes Robert Mellinger for Crosscut.

Neighborhood input was so valued by the organizers, they even used translators to help Chinese residents have a voice in the planning.

 So just who gets to harvest all that low-hanging fruit when the time comes?

“Anyone and everyone,” says Harrison. “There was major discussion about it. People worried, ‘What if someone comes and takes all the blueberries?’ That could very well happen, but maybe someone needed those blueberries. We look at it this way—if we have none at the end of blueberry season, then it means we’re successful.”
[via Take Part]

Benefits of Beets

Beets, these ruby red root vegetables provide so much nutritional benefits! Who doesn't love the deep red color that beets provide.


Betacyanin is a type of pigment that ranges from dark red to purple. Betacyanin is being studied for it's anticancer and tumor fighting effects. It's also a powerful antioxidant that increases the bodies immunity against different aliments. Beet juice is a great way to build immunity.


Betaine is being studied from its ability to lower homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is linked to heart disease.


Beet juice and beets have soluble fiber. This is my favorite type of fiber because soluble fiber delays the emptying of your stomach which could help control weight gain. Soluble fiber also is capable of lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.


Beets are packed with folate (provides 34% of the Daily Value) (Barone et. al, 2002). Folate is important for pregnant women, since it may prevent birth defects and promote brain development of unborn babies. Folate may also protects us against heart disease and cancer.


Beets may also prevent anemia since it can foster red blood cells due to it's components iron and folic acid. It's also a natural blood purifier since it works to push toxins out of the blood.

Alkaline Elements

Due to it's alkaline elements beets are a natural antacid.

Natural Laxative

Beets are a natural laxative and prevent constipation.

Lower Blood Pressure and Increase Athletic Performance

Beets are packed with nitrates. Many clinical studies have found that supplementing your diet with 2 cups of beet juice per day actually lowers your blood pressure. Besides lowering your blood pressure the nitrates found in beets enhance athletic performance by reducing your body's need for oxygen during a workout.

Drinking 2 cups of beet juice before a workout is safer and healthier than taking caffeine and workout supplements. Workout supplements often have nitrite which is toxic at high levels.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The key to preventing moldy berries? Vinegar!

Raspberries in particular seem like they can mold before you even get them home from the market. There's nothing more tragic than paying $4 for a pint of local raspberries, only to look in the fridge the next day and find that fuzzy mold growing on their insides.

When you get your fresh berries home from your local market, be sure to wash them with vinegar. 

It really works. When you get your berries home, prepare a mixture of one part vinegar (white or apple cider probably work best) and ten parts water. Dump the berries into the mixture and swirl around. Drain, rinse if you want (though the mixture is so diluted you can't even taste the vinegar) and pop in the fridge.

The vinegar kills any mold spores and other bacteria that might be on the surface of the fruit! Raspberries will last a week or more, and even strawberries go almost two weeks without getting moldy and soft. So, go ahead and stock up on those pricey little gems, knowing they'll stay fresh as long as it takes you to eat them.

[via Food Lush]

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why GMO Labeling Won't Cost Consumers a Dime

By Zack Kaldveer and Ronnie Cummins
Organic Consumers Association, April 9, 2013

The biotech industry, led by Monsanto, will soon descend on the state of Washington to try their best to defeat I-522, a citizens’ ballot initiative to require mandatory labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. Voters should prepare themselves for an onslaught of discredited talking points, nonsensical red herrings, and outright lies designed to convince voters that they shouldn’t have the right to know what’s in the food they eat.

Topping the biotech industry’s propaganda playlist will no doubt be this old familiar tune: that requiring retailers to verify non-GMO ingredients in order to label them will be burdensome and costly, and the additional cost will be passed on to consumers who are already struggling to feed their families.

Playing to consumers’ fears of higher food costs makes good strategic sense, especially in tough economic times. But the argument doesn’t hold water, say food manufacturers and retailers who already have systems in place for verifying non-GMO, as well as rBGH-free, trans fat-free, country of origin and fair trade. The system involves using chain-of-custody, legally binding affidavits, not expensive testing.

“We have used the affidavit system repeatedly, without undue burden or cost,” said Trudy Bialic, Director of Public Affairs for Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets. PCC, the largest consumer-owned natural food retail co-operative in the United States, uses the affidavit system to ensure their chocolate isn't made using child slave labor, their dairy products don't come from animals subjected to rBGH hormones, and that all seafood was harvested using sustainable sources and practices.

Trader Joe’s, a privately held chain of nearly 400 U.S. stores, confirmed that the company’s private label products, under the names Trader Joe’s, Jose’s and Ming’s, are GMO-free, though the company doesn’t label them as such. In an email, a company spokesperson said:

" When developing products containing ingredients likely to come from genetically modified sources, we have the supplier of the product in question perform the necessary research to provide documentation that the suspect ingredients are from non-GMO sources.

This documentation is in the form of affidavits, identity-preserved certification of seed stock, and third-party lab results from testing of the ingredients in question."

Trader Joe’s performs random audits of items with suspect ingredients, using an outside, third-party lab to perform the testing, the company said. Trader Joe’s system is not unlike that of the USDA, which requires sworn statements from food producers to certify organic foods. The agency requires test samples from approximately 5 percent of products, all of which must be GMO-free in order to be certified organic. For the other 95 percent, the agency relies solely on sworn statements.

Clif Bar & Co. also requires affidavits from ingredient suppliers demonstrating they can meet the company's stringent non-GMO requirements.

Monsanto would have you believe that verifying and labeling for non-GMO ingredients is a costly and burdensome affair, but the fact that Trader Joe’s, known for its discount prices, can provide GMO-free private label products, which reportedly account for over two-thirds of the company’s estimated annual $9 billion in sales, takes the wind out of the “burdensome” argument. That leaves the cost of adding another line of ink to a label. Trader Joe’s doesn’t yet label its private label products as GMO- free, but the company cites a lack of clear labeling guidelines from U.S. governmental agencies as the reason it doesn’t label, not cost.

Megan Westgate, Executive Director of the Non-GMO Project confirmed what retailers who use the affidavit system said: "An affidavit system like what's proposed in I-522 is a powerful way to have a significant impact on the food supply with minimal cost."

How does the affidavit system work?

Companies selling non-GMO foods provide a sworn statement (i.e. an affidavit) to the retailer that the ingredients used are sourced from crops that aren’t intentionally genetically engineered. The affidavit, unless deliberately dishonest, protects the manufacturer and the retailer from liability in the case of unintentional GMO contamination.

Retailers are responsible only for labeling a few raw commodities that may contain GE ingredients, such as sweet corn, papaya, or squash. In these cases, the retailer can either stick a simple label on the bin or ask their supplier for an affidavit stating that the crop is GMO free.

Under this system, no costly testing for GE ingredients is required. No burdensome government oversight is necessary. The system is inherently designed to protect small grocers and retailers, at no additional cost to the customer or taxpayer.

The beauty of the affidavit system is that it offers retailers and manufacturers a simple, easy way to comply with a regulatory model that provides consumers with the right to know what’s in their food without increasing grocery costs. Even for manufacturers who might otherwise seek to pass on the trivial expense of relabeling to consumers, empirical studies show that the fear of losing customers in the competitive food industry will be a deterrent to raising prices. Did food costs change when we labeled calorie content?

Is the system reliable? Retailers say yes. Why would manufacturers intentionally deceive retailers only to open themselves up to a lawsuit and public relations nightmare? And the system has a proven track record. PCC Natural Markets, Trader Joe’s and Clif Bar all use affidavits, as do other manufacturers who use them for country-of-origin and no-trans fat labeling. And nearly two-thirds of the nation’s largest dairy processors use sworn affidavits from producers in order to label rBGH-free. (rBGH, or recombinant bovine growth hormone, is a synthetic, genetically engineered hormone injected into dairy cows to increase milk production).

Contrary to claims made by companies like Monsanto, states do have a constitutional right to label food. In fact, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act explicitly allows states to add language to labels so long as the federal government doesn’t require language on the same subject – a right that has consistently held up in federal court.

A chain-of-custody, legally binding affidavit labeling system empowers consumers to make more informed choices about what we eat, without increasing the costs of groceries or burdening retailers and manufacturers. One simple label to identify foods that have been genetically engineered, often using the genes of foreign bacteria and viruses, would lead more consumers to seek out sustainable, organic, non-GMO alternatives. And that – not some phony line about increased food costs – is why Monsanto is fighting labeling.

Zack Kaldveer is assistant media director at the Organic Consumers Association.

Ronnie Cummins is founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association. Cummins is author of numerous articles and books, including "Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers" (Second Revised Edition Marlowe & Company 2004). 

Monday, April 8, 2013

8 in 10 parents buy organic


U.S. families are increasingly embracing organic products in a wide range of categories, with 81 percent now reporting they purchase organic at least sometimes. This finding is one of many contained in the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA’s) newly released 2013 U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Study, conducted Jan. 18 to 24, 2013.

 “More and more parents choose organic foods primarily because of their desire to provide healthful options for their children,” said Christine Bushway, OTA’s CEO and executive director.

Not only are more consumers choosing organic products at least sometimes, but the majority of those buying organic foods are purchasing more items than a year earlier. New entrants to buying organic now represent 41 percent of all families—demonstrating interest in the benefits of organic food and farming is on the rise.

Produce continues to be the leading category of organic purchases, with 97 percent of organic buyers saying they had purchased organic fruits or vegetables in the past six months. Breads and grains, dairy and packaged foods were also frequently cited (all scoring above 85 percent) among those who purchase organic. Families choosing organic foods are increasingly important to retailers of all types, with organic buyers reporting spending more per shopping trip, and shopping more frequently than those who never purchase organic food.

Consistent with findings from previous studies, nearly half (48 percent) of those who purchase organic foods said they do so because they are “healthier for me and my children.” Additionally, parents’ desire to avoid toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers (30 percent), antibiotics and growth hormones (29 percent), and genetically modified organisms (22 percent) ranked high among the reasons cited for buying organic products.

Awareness of the USDA Organic seal has also grown, with more consumers more likely to look for the seal when shopping for organic products. Moreover, over 4 in 10 parents (42 percent) say their trust in organic products has increased, versus 32 percent who indicated this point of view a year ago. In fact, younger, new-to-organic parents are significantly more likely to report improved levels of trust in organic products.

“Consumer trust is on the upswing for organic as the gold standard when seeking to avoid toxic and persistent pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetically engineered ingredients, and additives,” Bushway added.

Study findings, gathered in partnership with KIWI Magazine, are based on responses from 1,239 U.S. households about their attitudes and behaviors related to organic foods. The report provides in-depth information about organic consumers’ demographics, purchase motivation, labeling comprehension, shopping patterns, and more.

The 2013 U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Study is available for purchase.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Growing Celery Indoors: Never Buy Celery Again

[via: 17 Apart]

Remember when we tested and shared how to grow onions indefinitely last week? Well, at the same time, we've been testing out another little indoor gardening project first gleaned from Pinterest that we're excited to share the success of today — regrowing celery from its base.

We've figured out how to literally re-grow organic celery from the base of the bunch we bought from the store a couple weeks ago. I swear, we must have been living under a rock all these years or just not be that resourceful when it comes to food, but we're having more fun learning all these new little tips and tricks as we dive deeper into trying to grow more of our own food.

This project is almost as simple as the onion growing project — simply chop the celery stalks from the base of the celery you bought from the store and use as you normally would. In our case, we had a particular homemade bean dip that needed sampling!

Instead of tossing the base, rinse it off and place it in a small saucer or bowl of warm water on or near a sunny windowsill — base side down and cut stalks facing upright.

We let our celery base hang out in the saucer of water for right around one week, give or take. Over the course of the week, the surrounding stalks began to dry out significantly, but the tiny little yellow leaves from the center of the base began thickening, growing up and out from the center, and turned a dark green. The growth was slow, but steady and evident.

After the 5-7 days were complete, we transferred our celery base to a planter and covered it completely save for the leaf tips with a mixture of dirt and potting soil.

We watered it generously and after planting in the soil, the overall growth really took off. Not only do we have celery leaves regenerating themselves from the base, but you can see clear stalks making their way up and out. It's truly fascinating what we have not even a week after planting in the soil:

A few notes:
  • Change out the water every couple of days while in the "saucer" phase of the project. We also used a spray bottle to spray water directly onto the base of the celery where the leaves were growing out. 
  • The tutorials we saw showed planting the celery directly into the dirt outside — you may want to go this route if you live in a temperate area or want to be able to harvest outdoors. We went with an indoor planter since it's still pretty cold here in VA, we have limited outdoor space in the city, and the space we do have is currently unprotected from our curious puppy.
  • Continue to generously water the celery after planting to keep it thriving. 
Be sure to follow 17 Apart for more updates!