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Why Set Up A Classroom Aquaponics System?
Lots of classrooms have plants and fish, but not many consider combining the two in a symbiotic aquaponics system. Together, fish-waste provides water and nutrients to the plants while the plants clean the water for the fish. Though aquaponics systems contain a complete nitrogen cycle, symbiotic relationships, cellular respiration, and photosynthesis they are in no way limited to the science curriculum. Addressing issues of food security (social studies), design (design/construction/fabrication/art/math), and food preparation (foods/culinary), aquaponics is an exceptionally effective cross-curricular platform for exploring various programs of studies. Regarding curricular connections, aquaponics is curricular gold mine. [Read more…]
Food’s Missing Tail
The long tail of food has the power to transform our entire food system. It’s diverse, local, unique, and sometimes illegal.
Imagine that you could line up every conceivable food production activity and arrange them from most to least productive. On one end we’d see highly productive industrial farms, followed by large family farms, large and medium scale market gardens, hobby farms, CSAs, nurseries, urban agriculture projects, community and backyard gardens – all the way down to growing herbs on windowsills. Each produces food – all of it counts. [Read more…]
Dandelion Problem Or Local Drink Waiting To Happen?
In June of 2016, the City of Edmonton enacted an Herbicide Ban with the aim to “eliminate non-essential uses of herbicides on city-owned land”. It’s been a year since and despite the fact that some people are losing their shit, I’m proud of my City for sticking with their decision – going so far as piloting a herd of goats in one city park.
I will admit that I’ve noticed and increased in dandelions in City parks, though, as an urban beekeeper I’m not in the least bit bothered. I like dandelions – they are beautiful to look at, good at breaking up poor and hardpan soils, and edible.
There’s an idea in permaculture design that the problem is the solution. Permaculture pioneer Geoff Lawton is famous for saying “you don’t have a grasshopper problem – you have a turkey deficiency”. The problem is the solution.
Young dandelion leaves make a lovely salad green while petals an exceptionally pleasing when steeped to make teas and wine. But for this post, I’d like to turn our attention to the root-cause. What if we don’t have a weed problem? What if we have a root beer deficiency?
Burdock (Arctium lappa, Arctium minus)
Dandelion roots can be used alongside another noxious weed that’s taken up residence in Edmonton – burdock.
If you’re not familiar with burdock it’s a large biennial plant with heart-shaped leaves and purple/pink flower clusters that turn into hooked bracts (burs) when mature (the inspiration for velcro). Like dandelion, burdock has an extensive list of culinary uses. Sidenote: If you go to an Asian grocery store (such as T&T or Lucky 97 here in Edmonton) burdock is referred to as “gobo root”.
Locally, burdock is abundant in the River Valley and some of the older neighborhoods including, Old Strathcona, Riverdale, Rossdale, Boyle, and McCauley.
From the City of Edmonton’s website:
Great burdock originates from the temperate regions in Europe. In the Middle Ages, it was favoured as a vegetable and the roots are still commonly used in Asian cooking. It can also be found in a variety of herbal supplements.
Dandelion and Burdock (D&B) Beer
D&B Beer is thought to have originated in Britain in the middle ages and is made by fermenting a tea made by boiling the roots of dandelions and burdock. The flavour is “mildly bitter and aromatic). You can buy a non-alcoholic version at some local grocery stores, but we’re going to make the real deal.
The clip and recipe below are from RiverCottage.net, though, I would anyone making D&B Beer to experiment. A quick Google search yields various approached to dandelion and burdock beer – here’s one that also uses nettle (another local noxious weed). I’ve made dandelion wine using petals and have an abundance of honey laying around the house so I’d probably incorporate both.
Contact me, if you make a batch! I’d love to hear how it went. There’s a lot of exploration to be had. How might dandelion and burdock integrate into a traditional brew? I’d love to see a local brew-pub make a batch – Situation Brewing’s daily cask comes to mind. How about a distilled version? Strathcona Spirits make a mean gin that already features “rogue-picked Seaberry (Seabuckthorn) from the streets of Edmonton” – is rogue picked dandelion and burdock out of the questions? D&B could be an Edmonton thing – an authentic Edmonton flavour.
Basic D&B Beer Recipe
Dandelion and Burdock Beer (D&B) Recipe from RiverCottage.net
Scrub and finely slice the burdock and dandelion roots.
Put them in a large pan, pour on 2.5 litres boiling water and add the carragheen.
Boil for half an hour; experience the aroma of an unpromising vegetable stew.
Take off the heat, add 2 litres cold water, the sugar, treacle and lemon juice and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Strain the liquid into a clean fermenting bucket, cover and leave to cool.
When your brew reaches room temperature, pitch the yeast.
Cover and leave to ferment for up to a week, until the specific gravity is down to 1010.
If you want to be safe, carefully siphon into strong swing-top bottles at this point.
The flavour of dandelion and burdock seems to follow a bell curve of: too sweet, horrible, really rather nice, horrible, poisonous – with the ‘quite nice’ occurring at the 3–4 week point and extendable by keeping it in the fridge.
The flavour is mildly bitter and pleasantly aromatic.
9 Urban Agriculture Projects Schools Can Do Right Now To Support The Future of Local Food
One of the best ways to kickstart a local movement is to provide early access to training. I saw this firsthand while watching Jasper Place High School’s Culinary and Pastry Arts students. Under the guidance of teacher and Pastry Chef, Kelly Hobbs, JP culinary arts students won more over 28 awards between 2009 and 2017. But what happens when these students leave school? A sizable number of them head to programs like NAIT or SAIT, pick up jobs in local restaurants, and gradually transform the local food scene. There are local food benefits to graduating even one new local chef each year.
The Challenges of School Gardens And Sustainable Food Edmonton’s Plan To Fix Them
Recent years have also seen an increase in schools interested in urban agriculture initiatives – especially school gardens. Traditionally run as extra-curricular activities or horticulture classes, school gardens are gaining traction in and around Edmonton. Not just nice to have, school gardens are tools for differentiated instruction, improving problem-solving, and cross-curricular learning. However, it’s not smooth sailing. As much as many of us would like to see a garden in every school, there are a lot of challenges. [Read more…]
A Leafy Wall of Fruit. Save Space, Increase Your Yield and Extend the Growing Season with Espalier Fruit Trees
Espalier is the ancient practice of training plants – typically trees, shrubs, or vines – against a two-dimensional surface such as a wall or trellis. The result is a compact, flat tree or shrub that conserves space and produces consistent and easily managed fruit.
One of the biggest advantages of espalier fruit trees is that [Read more…]
A Step-By-Step Guide To Beekeeping In Edmonton
If you’re thinking about keeping honeybees in Edmonton you’ve probably come across the City of Edmonton’s Urban Beekeeping Page. If so, you’ve read about four steps, city guidelines, swarm plans, PID numbers, and provincial agriculturalists. And if you’re like me, you’re probably a little confused, overwhelmed, and still unclear about what to do. Do not worry. For clarity, I’ve deconstructed and reassembled the Edmonton Beekeeping application process into a dozen baby-steps. By completing the following checklist, you’ll have everything you need to start beekeeping in Edmonton. [Read more…]
What is an Aquaponics System?
Aquaponics is what you get when you combine a hydroponic system with raising fish. But why combine the two and how does it work? To answer that questions let’s take a step back to examine the input and outputs of each component technique. [Read more…]
Off The Shelf Home Aquaponics System
From 2012-2016 students and I designed, built, and ran an aquaponics system at Jasper Place High School. The aquaponics system was great for a school but way too big and expensive for the average home. The whole project was an amazing experience, but I’ve been thinking about how to scale its size and design for home use. The goal – to create an elegant, home aquaponics system from a standard fish tank and off the shelf parts for as little money as possible. Here’s are my five design criteria: