Monday, December 21, 2009

Nature: It's What's For Dinner

Back in May of this year, I went on an educational hike to learn which types of plants are edible around this area. (and I blogged about it, of course) This is good information to know whether you are trying to just eat local food or want to prepare for survival in the woods or you want to prepare for some sort of catastrophe. Let's face it: there are a few countries out there who don't exactly consider us friends. We saw how fast things can come to a screeching halt during Hurricane Ike.

If the oil production or shipments are shut down, cities will not be able to receive shipments of food and it is estimated that Houston only has 3 days of food on her grocery shelves. That's it. Then what? Eat Fido? These edible plant classes help to prepare for situations such as that whether it is natural disaster or human based disaster. The City of Houston is planning ahead and trying to create urban areas of food growth (aka gardens) to sustain its own citizens. One such location is The Last Organic Outpost. They have a plot of unused land and build gardens. It is in a lower income area so the neighborhood folks are allowed to come whenever they want and take food from the garden for free. So far it is a great success.

The idea is to get permission to use other pieces of unused land and plant more sustainable crops for disaster situations and also just to feed people in general. I think it's a great way to put the land to work instead of just resting fallow. You can read more about the project and plan a visit here.

I bring all of this up because my favorite adventurer and chemist, Merriwether, gave a class this weekend on edible plants and I was fortunate enough to attend. I was also happy that it was closer to my area! Merriwether is involved with the Last Organic Outpost and with emergency preparedness. He teaches how to be prepared for any situation and how to use "weeds" as food. Now that the doom and gloom is out of the way, let me tell you a little bit about the fun day.

Here is his morning class meeting outside of Armand Bayou Nature Center on Bay Area Blvd in Clear Lake. Right there at the entrance were several plants that would be considered weeds but are edible! (that's me with the full sized booty)

Merriwether taught us that plants that yield the most minerals are found in the sun while those that yield the most vitamins are found in the shade. Good thing to know. He also taught us which plants contain protein (usually in the form of seeds or bugs clinging to them) and which plants contained the most calories. Calories are very important when you are in survival mode. Not so much if you are just going through the neighborhood park noshing.
Here is an example of nut sedge. It's seeds are edible. Just shake them into your hand, grind them and make pancakes. Or dig up the roots and eat the little pea shaped tubers clinging to the roots. According to Merriwether, these were grown in Egypt and the seed flour was used. Be careful: the stems are razor sharp on the plant.
There were so many plants we learned about. I've been to this area so many times and never realized that a salad bowl of greens was right there under my feet. If you want to know more about edible plants, visit Merriwether's other blog devoted to plants. It was just a great day to be outdoors.
After getting home and taking a nap, it was time to fight the crowd at the grocery store to get everything I'd need for Christmas dinner. My idea is to cook as much as possible in advance and just heat it up on Christmas day. I really don't want to be a slave to the kitchen this year.
After about 2.5 hours in the grocery store I was finished. I don't even want to discuss how much I spent. It was just stupid. But it's done.
Chuck helped me wrap gifts and get them stuck under the tree. I love watching the kids' face light up. :) Here is a pic of our sparsely decorated tree.
It was a busy weekend as usual. It doesn't look like things will be slowing down this week either. The house is going to be filled with baked treats soon. We'll be heading to Moody Gardens one night this week for the Festival of Lights and to see the baby penguins that have hatched. I'm a freak for penguins.
Don't forget to enter the No Pudge Brownie Giveaway! I'll be announcing the winner on Tuesday morning!


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