Plant An Extra Row

Extra Romaine Lettuce is Easy to Grow For the Hungry. Photo © Liesl Clark

“Do You Have Any Leftovers?” was written on the sign next to the man sitting humbly on a street where popular cafes and restaurants have sidewalk seating on a Boulder, Colorado street. We were struck to the core by these words.

He wasn’t asking for money or even for “food.” This street beggar simply wanted what we were going to throw away, reminding passers-by that if they had a few morsels they weren’t going to eat at that streetside cafe, he’d be happy to gulp it down. My son had half a bagel wrapped in a napkin that he was going to eat for lunch. He promptly put it in the man’s hands and they smiled at each other as the man gratefully ate the food.

Potatoes Harvested For the Hungry. Photo © Liesl Clark

This direct experience with someone whom we knew was hungry got us thinking creatively about our food and where we have leftovers that might help others. If you have a garden, you’ve likely experienced the good fortune of excess produce to share with friends and neighbors. Why not share it with neighbors who are in need of food? Plant a row for the hungry, and at harvest time take your produce to your nearest food bank to augment the traditional canned goods people donate. A box full of lettuces, tomatoes, squash, or carrots will bring joy to those who might not have had a fresh locally-grown vegetable for months.

Digging for Treasure. Photo © Liesl Clark

My friend, Rebecca Rockefeller, and I planted a garden together with our children that donated over half the produce to our local food bank, Helpline House. Potato harvest was particularly fun for the kids. It’s like digging for treasure. I always make room for a few extra rows of greens, too, to share on our local Buy Nothing group. Anything we can’t eat is shared with our neighbors. It helps us to meet new people who have moved to the neighborhood.

Children Love Harvesting For Others in Need. Photo © Liesl Clark

The children enjoy bringing the boxes of produce we harvest into our local food bank. Last year we donated 148 lbs of food and hope to double our contribution this year. Of course, potatoes and zucchini do add up! Planting an extra row or 2 has helped us rethink our bounty in general. When we have the time, homemade yogurt is donated, along with extra eggs from the henhouse and a loaf of fresh-baked bread shouldn’t be too hard to contribute once a month or so. We’re shifting our food-production model to include more hungry bodies. And we’ll think of the man on the Boulder sidewalk happy to eat our half-eaten bagel because he simply was that hungry. Imagine if we could’ve given him a handfull of fresh strawberries, apples, and carrots picked minutes before.

These Greens From My Garden Went to Helpline House. Photo © Liesl Clark

If you can’t plant a row for the hungry, you can find edible bounty around you to donate. We’re looking forward to doing some foraging for our less fortunate neighbors for watercress and blackberries when the season is right. There’s plenty out there, so why not take a little time out of your day to provide for a few more mouths than your own? It brings joy and a feeling of connection to those around us through the food we grow and harvest with our own hands.

Nasturtiums and Peas. Photo © Liesl Clark

The Thing About Breadmakers

I was once a breadmaking fanatic, because my breadmaker meant 4 minutes of prep and 3.3 hours later I’d have delicious wholesome organic bread that the whole family would devour. Unlike most breadmaker owners, we actually used our machine regularly. We’d been making bread from it non-stop for years, until this week.

An artisan-style bread from a bread-maker that will please all. Photo © Liesl Clark

An artisan-style bread from a bread-maker that will please all. Photo © Liesl Clark

Here were the obvious benefits of this delicious bread:

1) No plastic packaging.

The little plastic bread clip

Bread bag with a little plastic bread clip.

2) Saves money. Our locally-baked bread costs about $5.00 per loaf. We buy our ingredients in bulk and each loaf costs us less than $1.00.

3) Nothing better than the smell (and taste) of home baked bread coming out of the oven.

But, truth be told, this bread has fluoropolymers leaching into it.

Let me back up a bit. A few years ago, I purged all things plastic from my kitchen. Especially plastic containers and Teflon-coated pans. I took our breadmaker to Best Buy for recycling because it had pans made of Teflon. I noticed, too, that the pans would peel this weird-looking plastic coating from them every year or so. That was the fluoropolymer coating that Dupont makes for all Teflon coated pans. This alarming article in The New York Times can fill you in on just how toxic fluoropolymers are.

So, I thought I would be clever and find a Teflon-free breadmaker, one safe for my family. Enter Zojirushi. Zojirushi makes what they call a Teflon-free breadmaker that we switched to after reading all the negative press about the potential health hazards of cooking with Teflon. We converted our entire kitchen into a Teflon-free zone, with the one exception of the breadmaker because we were ignorant. This machine is NOT teflon-free. In the product description it states “non-stick coated pan.” They coat it with a generic polymer that is….Teflon, but it’s just given a different name, fluoropolymer, the new fancy substitute that is an endocrine disruptor known to cause all kinds of cancers. It’s a sad state of affairs. I don’t believe there’s a bread machine out there that doesn’t have fluoropolymer coating.

Alas, if we want Teflon-free bread, we’ll have to make it sans breadmaker, in our clay or enamel-coated cast iron pans, with a little more care and attention to the process which might just make the bread taste even better. I grew up on homemade Teflon-free bread, and I’d like my children to have that privilege, too. I wonder if our local bakeries are using Teflon-free pans? It might not hurt to ask.

If you’re interested, here’s the recipe my family has eaten for years. Now they’ll have to enjoy it when I have more time to bake. It’s a whole wheat raisin and walnut bread that toasts perfectly, is moist, and has just the right amount of crunch in the crust.

Teflon-Free Zogirushi Pans. Photo © Liesl Clark

Teflon-Clad Zogirushi Pans. Photo © Liesl Clark

Whole Wheat Walnut Raisin Bread

1 Cup warm water

3/4 Cup combination of liquid ingredients (we use 1 egg + milk and a little yogurt)

2 Tablespoons flax seed oil (you can substitute another nut oil, but flax seed oil is excellent)

1 Heaping teaspoon salt (we use a celtic sea salt)

3 Cups flour (we prefer one cup whole wheat and 2 cups white, all organic)

4 Handfuls walnuts (this is also excellent with flax seeds)

3-4 Handfuls raisins

1 Tablespoon honey

3/8 Teaspoon yeast (we add more as our yeast ages since we buy it in bulk)

If you like a little body to your bread, add about 1/4 cup shredded zucchini or carrot which we do when those veggies are in our garden.

I think I’ll try to simulate a breadmaker next time and just add all of these ingredients in this order, making sure the yeast is added near the honey so it can react to the sugars in it and place the whole thing near our fireplace to activate the yeast with honey so it can rise in a breadmaker-like simulation, but using a big bowl. Then, mix the dough and let it rise, punch it back down, knead it, and let it rise again in a plastic-free bread pan, then bake. This recipe makes a 2-3 lb loaf of bread. Might make sense to double it so you get 2 loaves for your effort.

This bread has changed our lives. Easy. Cheap. Healthy. Homemade. Plastic-Free. Photo © Liesl Clark

Cheap. Healthy. Homemade. Plastic-Free. Photo © Liesl Clark