How to grow your own microgreen indoors?

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Microgreens are the baby sprouts of common vegetables such as cabbage, radishes, amaranth, and kale. These miniature greens are typically harvested within 14 days of sprouting, which results in tasty greens that are not only small, but nice and tender, too.

Not to be confused with sprouts you find bagged on the grocery store shelves, microgreens are grown in soil and most have actual green leaves when they are harvested. When it comes to nutrients, microgreens offer a powerhouse of protein, vitamins, and valuable minerals. In fact, microgreens pack up to 40-percent more nutrition than their adult counterparts!

These mini greens come in a variety of textures and flavors which makes them easy to incorporate into a variety of different dishes. In fact they’re even fun to eat on their own. The problem with being able to enjoy them regularly is that they can get pretty expensive to purchase. Luckily it’s easy to grow microgreens in the comfort of your own home. Here’s how!

Choosing Your Microgreens
When first starting out, it’s a good idea to choose just one or two types of greens to work with until you get a hang of the process. Some of the easiest types of greens to grow include:

Broccoli
Cauliflower
Romaine
Green Leaf
Sunflower
Basil
Oregano
Thyme
While these are some of the easiest plants to grow as microgreens, it really isn’t difficult to grow just about any kind of edible flower or plant as a microgreen.

The Initial Planting
You’ll need a separate container for each type of microgreens you want to grow. Your containers should be small and shallow. You can even use aluminum pie tins or take-out dishes if you have any available. Make sure to poke small holes in the bottom of these containers for drainage.

Fill your containers with your favorite garden soil, and use an all-purpose vegetable fertilizer, packing the soil very lightly. Place your containers in window sills that get direct sunlight throughout the day if possible. Then:

Sprinkle your chosen seeds right on top of the soil.
Using your hand, gently press the seeds into the soil.
Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
Lightly spray the soil with a mister and let the containers warm up in the window so they can germinate.
The Growth Period
You can expect to harvest your microgreens anywhere between ten and fourteen days, depending on how much greenery you want your sprouts to grow. It’s important to spray the soil with a mister once or twice per day. Once your greens sprout, you’ll need to make sure that they get direct sunlight at least four hours each day and mist them once in awhile to control moisture.

This may require that you move them around the house to follow the sun! If the weather is warm, it’s alright to put them outdoors for some sunlight if necessary, but make sure to check them often to ensure they don’t burn.

Harvesting Time!
Once your microgreens have as much greenery as appeals to you, use a pair of scissors to cut the greens just above the soil line. Rinse them before serving and keep them in the fridge if you don’t use them all up right away. Your microgreens can be added to salads, wraps, soups, and even green smoothies!

One for all, All for one

This is a really lovely animated video based an ancient story, delivering a lovely messages about love and food, which effectively help us have better understanding of our land, food and share. It is part of Caritas’ “One Human Family, Food for All” campaign. The “allegory of the long spoons” teaches us that when we struggle to feed only ourselves, everyone goes hungry. But when we focus on our neighbor’s hunger, we discover there’re ways to feed everyone.

Sharing and caring, I wish every one could see this video.

I like a comment made under the Facebook post of this video, it says that “Day the earth will become heaven, if this attitude comes to all human beings by breaking the borders of countries, religions, caste, colors, community etc.”

Reblog: The forgotten food

I found this really inspiring, so I reblog it to my place, wish you guys will like it.

http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/the-forgotten-foods.html

Food festival, feb 25

“Over the past 50 years, we are seeing  that diets around the world are changing and they are becoming more similar — what we call the ‘globalised diet,'” Colin Khoury, a scientist from the Colombia-based Centre for Tropical Agriculture told the BBC. “This diet is composed of big, major crops like wheat, rice, potato and sugar. It also includes crops that were not important 50 years ago but have become very important now, particularly oil crops like soybean.”

Well, this report is among the several others which have highlighted the threat food security as well as nutrition security faces from the ‘globalised diet’. We are all responsible directly or indirectly for this decline. If I were to ask you to count the foods that you eat I bet you will not be able to name more than a few. Wheat, rice, tomato, cucumber, apple, banana … and you begin to reel out the names you know. Not many can name even twenty. Try a little harder, and you will end up probably with another ten. If you are a little more aware, you might struggle with a few more names. That’s it.

That’s how narrow and limited our food sense has come down to. The more we are urbanized, the chances are the less we know about our foods, and the rich food culture that prevailed in our country. The disconnect with the huge diversity of food over the ages has actually alienated the modern civilization from the virtues of the vast repository of biological wealth that existed. Modern living has snapped the symbiotic relationship that existed with nature. Not many know that India is a mega-diversity region with over 51,000 plant species existing, but with hardly a handful being cultivated.

When Laxmi Pidikaka, a tribal woman from southern Odisha explained to me the importance and relevance of each of the 1,582 food species that were displayed at the recently concluded Adivasi Food Festival held at Munda village in Rayagada district, I was left not only amazed with the richness of food around us, but came back with a feeling that how uneducated I was when it came to mankind’s basic requirement of food. Of the 1,582 food species (and that included different kinds of fish, crabs and birds that are part of the daily diet of some tribals), as many as 972 were uncultivated. Yes, you heard it right. Uncultivated foods.

A dozen tribes living in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra had gathered at the Adivasi Food Festival to celebrate their foods, which is basically an appreciation of the traditional food cultures linked to their age-old farming practices providing them nutritional security while protecting and conserving the nature’s bounty. Members from the Kondh, Koya, Didai, Santhal, Juanga, Baiga, Bhil, Pahari Korva, Paudi Bhuiyan and Birhor from more than 300 villages spread across the tribal heartland came to showcase their foods, and also spent the next day discussing how to protect the traditional farming system from the onslaught of the National Food Security Act that aimed at providing them with 5 kg of wheat, rice or millets.

“We don’t need your food security system,” Minati Tuika of Katlipadar village told me. “The more you open ration shops in our villages, the more you force us to abandon our own food security system built by our forefathers so painstakingly over the centuries. Please leave us alone.” But why was she so angry with what most policy makers and planners see as development? Don’t most educated elite think that tribals are uneducated and uncivilized, and therefore all out efforts must be made to bring them into the mainline?

“Don’t teach us what development is. We conserved and preserved our plants, our soil, our forests, and our rivers over the centuries. Now you want to take these away, and destroy them. And then you call it development.” Saying this, she hid her face. When I coaxed her to explain to me how the adivasis were living in tandem with the nature, and how the modern system was distancing them from their traditional cultures and the community control over resources, she agreed to first show me some plants that had multiple uses demonstrating the traditional skills of the community which preserved and used them without pushing them into the extinct category.

She showed me the Siali beans. Quite a big sized dry bean whose seeds are eaten after boiling or roasting, the branches are used to make ropes, and the leaves are used to make leaf plates. Kusum Koli leaves are used for fodder, fruits are eaten raw, wood is used as firewood, and oil is extracted from the seeds. The seed oil serves as a mosquito repellent and also treats certain skin diseases. Even the better know Mahua trees have multiple uses. Leaves are used for fodder, flowers are used to make jaggery, liquor and porridge. Flowers are also consumed and often sold in the market, a kind of a curry is made from the fruits besides being used as fodder, and the seed provides cooking oil after extraction. All these are unfortunately classified as uncultivated plants in agricultural parlance, and therefore do not receive any attention.

Debjeet Sarangi of Living Farms, which organized the Adivasi Food festival, says it is aimed at deepening the communitarian ethos of the adivasi society and the shared knowledge systems. The event will highlight their sustainable way of growing food and its relationship with their ecology – land, plants, animals and forests. When I asked him whether this exercise didn’t aim at romanticizing the foregone, his response was curt: “That’s where we fault. These people are in complete harmony with their nature. Instead of brushing them as uncivilized, we have to learn from them. Whether we like it or not, the future of the humanity is hidden in these tribal cultures.”

I decided to take a walk to see the range of cooked foods displayed. At the entrance to the event itself participants were served a nutritious welcome drink. Made from ragi millet with a sprinkling of rice grains, the drink was certainly very tasty. Called Mandia jau in the local language, it is actually a ragi gruel. Says Salome Yesudas: “I don’t know why people need to drink colas and other kinds of sodas when you have such healthy drinks available.” Considering that the sale of colas has been on a decline, it will be vertainly helpful if someone was to promote Mandia jau. The next time you visit my house, be prepared to taste this exotic drink.

I was at first a little apprehensive at tasting the cooked food displayed. More so, considering that I am a diabetic. But when Salome Yesudas, a nutritionist from Chennai, explained to me how most of these food dishes were based on different kinds of millets which are the preferred food for people suffering from lifestyle diseases, I couldn’t control dipping my fingers. Pancakes made from finger millet, foxtail millet, with a little jaggery; cakes from ragi and sesame, and then there were cooked dishes using sorghum, pearl millet, kodo millet, barnyard millet, red rice and with sprinklings of uncultivated fruits and seeds. Living Farms is now documenting the food recipes and has prepared a nutrition chart detailing the nutrition composition of uncultivated plants. They have also printed posters in English and Oriya on the vast varieties of foods available for a balanced diet, as well as for the summer and winter seasons.

Although the Adivasi Food Festival at Munda was not the first traditional festivals of food that I had visited but what makes me feel encouraged is the efforts being made by some civil society groups to bring back the lost traditions, including the culinary habits. It also clearly demonstrates that what India needs is not a centralized food security system but a multi-layered decentralized food security system based on the traditional practices in that particular region. Instead of providing the tribal populations with a monthly entitlement of 5 kg of wheat/rice/millets, the focus should be on strengthening the existing food system.

This is only possible if we are able to inculcate a feeling of pride in our traditional systems. The richness of our food culture, which is so intricately linked to the preservation of natural resources, is where it can all begin. I don’t know why our agricultural universities don’t talk about it; I don’t know why our food magazines and food shows never focus on the traditional foods; and I am certainly not surprised why our Planning Commission has no idea as to what the tribal cultures imbibe. #

LI MENG

Climate smart rice with high tolerance and traditional farming

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Rice farmer Ho Thai Benam stands outside a noisy hall, looking over at the on-going workshop keenly. Asked why the interest, she says: “I have children studying in the city and with low rice productivity, I don’t have enough money for their tuition.” She is here to find rice that is high yielding and that sells at a high price, she explains.

She is in the right place. The workshop going on behind her is about new and improved rice seeds resilient to harsher climate conditions, being conducted under the Climate Change Affecting Land Use in the Mekong Delta: Adaptation of Rice-based Cropping Systems (CLUES) project, led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). With flooding in the Delta – where 60 percent of Vietnam’s rice is produced – becoming more intense, frequent and complex to control, climate-smart rice varieties are what Benam and the estimated 17 million farmers living in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta need most.

As the government’s Southern Institute for Water Resources Planning contemplates spending US$2.1 billion to protect crops and people from flooding, researchers have mapped hot spots of flooding and salinity intrusion, and assessed the impact of infrastructure development on the hydrology of the lower Mekong River since 2011.

CLUES to map climate impact

“Flooding and sea water intrusion are two of the biggest threats to rice producers in the lower Mekong Delta,” said Dr Ngo Dang Phong, IRRI’s project coordinator for the CLUES project, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. “ Over the last 30 years, Vietnamese farmers have adapted their farms and water management systems to suit the environment. But recent and forecast agro-hydrological changes, especially salt water intrusion caused by rising sea levels, threaten farming and social systems now more than ever,” Phong added.

Increasing salt water intrusion affects the operation of sluice gates, and infrastructure projects like sluice gates and dykes intended to protect rice crops from rising water levels. It also increases river pressure. By 2030, it is projected that salt water could contaminate 41 percent of the entire Delta. Switching crops is not an option for many farmers who have grown rice for generations. Rice is also a central food security crop and export earner in Vietnam – with 6.7 million tons exported in 2013, fetching around US$2.9 billion in earnings. Using a scientific process known as marker assisted back-crossing, researchers have identified favorable traits, such as high-yielding, well-adapted rice varieties, and combined them with other favorable traits to create more robust, elite rice varieties. Based on project reports, in total, 36 single and multiple crosses have been made to combine submergence, salinity tolerance, stagnant flood tolerance, and high grain quality into high-yielding genetic backgrounds.

Dr Nguyen Thi Lang, professor at the Delta’s Cuu Long Rice Research Institute, another research partner, explains, “We release the improved rice varieties to local breeding and agricultural extension centers which multiply and provide them to farmers in their areas.” Around 2,768 kilograms of best-bet seeds have been provided to farmers and breeding centers – mostly submergence and salt-tolerant varieties, distributed at provincial level for extension service and breeding provision, to village clubs and workshops, and the private sector for seed multiplication.

Helping small-scale farmers is the solution to global food crisis?

To tackle with global food crisis is not about producing more food and increasing yields. The fact is we already produce enough food to feed our population today and in the future.

The problem is not lack of food, rather its uneven distribution. Access to food is dictated by wealth and profit rather than need, when “free trade” is promoted over the Right to Food.

As a result, half the world’s grain now feeds factory-farmed animals and a huge proportion of food crops are turned into agrofuels to fuel cars, taking food from the hungry and diverting it to wealthy consumers.

Our real hunger challenge today is to raise incomes and sustain the livelihoods of small-scale food producers, enabling them to feed themselves and local people sustainably. Facing this challenge, the ‘food sovereignty’ movement has emerged as an incredibly effective alternative to the industrial food system.

The movement for food sovereignty is backed by more than 300 million small- scale food producers as well as consumers, environmentalists and human rights Food sovereignty is fundamentally different from food security. A country focused on achieving food security does not distinguish where food comes from, or the conditions under which it is produced and distributed. National food security targets are often met by sourcing food produced under environmentally destructive and socially exploitative conditions that destroy local food producers but benefit agribusiness corporations.

On the other hand, food sovereignty promotes community control of resources and access to land for small-scale producers. It prioritizes peoples’ ownership of their food policies. Importantly, it demands the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through agroecology – the application of ecological principles to farming.

In the past few years, new evidence from several United Nations agencies has recognized agroecology as the most effective way to tackle the multiple crises of hunger, environmental damage and poverty. A 2011 analysis of agro-ecology (pdf) found that it has the potential to double small farmers’ food production in 10 years.

Even a fraction of such a gain would go a very long way to substantially decrease world hunger.

The evidence is clear but changing the food system is difficult.

The power of seed and pesticide companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta, of gigantic supermarkets such as Wal-Mart, and of grain traders such as Cargill has grown so strong that they exert a massive influence over national food policies. This ensures that agribusinesses still receive billions of dollars in subsidies and policy support.

The solution to global hunger is within our grasp, but it requires a fundamental reform of the global food system: a wholesale shift from industrial farming to agroecology and food sovereignty.

Factors driving diets getting similar

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From this chart, it could be easily found that over the last 5 decades, diets have become more similar. Taking United Arab Emirates, Belize, Thailand, Nepal, and Rwanda as examples, they are getting closer to the centre of circle. Many locally critical grain and vegetable crops have lost ground to these crops. For example, the nurtitious tuber known as oca, which was previously widely grown in the Andean highlands, has declined significantly in both cultivation and consumption in the region.

Actually, researchers studied that there are several factors motivating these dietary changes. Increasing incomes, especially in developing nations has allowed more consumers to afford animal products, sugars and oils. Urbanisation in many countries has encouraged greater consumption of processed and fast foods.

This is further driven by factors such as trade liberalisation, improved commodity transport, multinational food industries and food safety standardisation.

However, positive trends are also shown in Northen Europe. People there are inclining to buy more cereals and vegetables, while less meat, oil and sugar.

There are several suggestions given by scientists to improve our diveristy in food production and consumption to ensure global food security

1. Actively promote the adoption of a wider range of varieties of the major crops worldwide

2. Support and conservation and use of diverse plant genetic resources

3. Enhance the nutritional quality of the major crops on which people depend

4. Promote alternative crops that can boost farming resilience and make human diets healthier

5. Foster public awareness of the need for healthier diets, based on better decisions about what and how much we eat as well as the forms in which we consumer food.

Also, expanding our diet diversity from the underlying nutrition is the best way not only to combat hunger, malnutrition and over nutrition, but also to protect global food supplies against the impacts of global climate change.

Eat less meat and tackle food waste

Eat Less Meat

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It is well known that producing meat has a big carbon footprint. A kilogram of beef or lamb can result in thirty kilograms of carbon emissions. So even if meat only makes up a small share of your diet it can have a large impact on your food’s carbon footprint, what we’ll call your foodprint.

In a recent analysis comparing the foodprints of five different diets the average American was found to have a foodprint of 2.5 tonnes. Although beef accounted for just 6% of food energy it was responsible for a third of all food emissions. If you add other meats and dairy to the equation just a quarter of food energy consumed results in two thirds of emissions. Such is the carbon heavy nature of animal products.

Of the other diets analysed the meat lover was found to have a whopping 3.3 tonne foodprint, a vegetarian’s was 1.7 tonne and a vegan just 1.5 tonne. Perhaps most surprisingly by swapping red meat for chicken and fish cut the foodprint significantly to 1.9 tonnes.

Having a meatless Monday, meatless weekdays or better yet meatless life is perhaps the fastest and healthiest way to reduce your food’s carbon footprint.

Tackle Food Waste

About a tenth of all food produced in the world is wasted by consumers and a further quarter is lost at various points in the supply chain. Although food losses occur at a large scale around the world, the phenomenon of people throwing out edible food is mostly confined to wealthy countries.

In Northern America and Europe the average person wastes around 100 kg of edible food each year. In sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia the figure is just a tenth of this. Not only does wasted food have a large foodprint of its own, but for every two kilograms that is wasted a further kilogram is lost in the supply chain.

The most common reasons people waste food are letting it go out of date, throwing it out during cooking or serving themselves too much. Reducing foodwaste is a matter of common sense, ideas like better planning, good portions sizes and storing leftovers for later consumption.

If you’re looking for inspiration the UN has just launched a new campaign called Think Eat Save dedicated to reducing foodprints.