Friday, January 6, 2017

Asian Greens For Everyone!


I've grown and eaten six of these varieties. 
How many have you tried?

Mizuna Mustard Greens
This standard salad mix variety is wonderful in stir-fries, fried rice, and soups at full-leaf size. It has a very mild flavor and is quite tender, so it has a very short cooking time.

Stir-Fried Mizuna
This simple recipe showcases the mild flavor of the mizuna, and makes an excellent side dish.

1 bunch Mizuna (approximately 12oz / ¾ lb), cut into 2–4" pieces
1 Tablespoon oil (canola, peanut, soybean, grapeseed, or coconut)
Salt or soy sauce, to taste

Heat wok or skillet over high heat for 1 minute, then add oil.
Add Mizuna and cook for 1–2 minutes, until just tender but not overcooked.
Season to taste with soy sauce or salt and serve.
Note: The Mizuna also may be steamed for a few minutes rather than stir-frying.

'Gunsho' Choi Sum
Choi Sum is one of the most popular vegetables in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China, but is not typically seen outside of Asian grocers in the US. This is unfortunate, as choi sum is tender and mildly sweet, and excellent in stir-fries and soups. Harvest just before or once a few buds have opened. Multiple harvests are possible.

'Gunsho' Choi Sum
Stir-Fried Choi Sum with Garlic
1 lb choi sum, cut into 2–3" pieces
1 Tablespoon oil (canola, peanut, soybean, grapeseed, or coconut)
2 large cloves garlic, sliced or minced
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon water

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the choi sum and cook until just tender, about 45 seconds.
Drain and set aside.
Heat wok or skillet over high heat for 1 minute, then add oil.
Add garlic and stir-fry until it starts to brown.
Add soy sauce and water and cook for 1 minute.
Add choi sum, stir, and serve.

'Koji' Tatsoi
 'Koji' Tatsoi is more attractive and uniform than open-pollinated tatsoi. It is wonderful in stir-fries and salads. It has an excellent, rich flavor, and its shiny dark-green leaves are very attractive.

'Carlton' Komatsuna
Also known as Japanese spinach greens, Komatsuna has dark-green, highly flavored leaves. Use in soups and stir-fries, or substitute it for Chinese cabbage for a more highly flavored version of kimchee.

'Li Ren Choi'  Pac Choi
This diminutive variety is a Johnny's staff favorite. Plant 2–4" apart to produce small, 3–4" pac choi. They can be used whole or in halves on the grill, sautéed, braised, or stir-fried.

'Amara' Mustard
This nutritious, dark-green mustard of African origin is technically a mustard, but is also known as Ethiopian kale, highland kale, Abyssinian mustard, and Texsel greens. In Ethiopia it is cooked with onions and spices to create a delicious side dish. Most recipes on the internet call for kale or collards, as they are more readily available, but feel free to use 'Amara' instead. Also great in Asian soups.

'Green Wave' Mustard
This variety is quite spicy when raw, but retains just a little heat upon cooking. Prepare as an Indian side dish, or in Asian stir-fries or soups. It also is a traditional staple food in the American South. All you need to do is boil or steam it in a pot until tender with a little salt and pepper. For a more flavorful option, steam it until half-cooked, then sauté until finished.

Indian-Style Fried Mustard Greens
1 lb shredded mustard greens (green cabbage can be substituted)
2 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped or sliced
1 Tablespoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground fenugreek
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon (or to taste or omitted) hot pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 Tablespoons oil (canola, peanut, soybean, grapeseed, or coconut)
Water, as needed

Heat wok or skillet over high heat for 1 minute, then add oil.
Add garlic and cook until it just starts to brown.
Add all of the spices and stir for about 30 seconds.
Add ¼ cup water to the spices and mix.
Add cabbage and cook until it reaches desired tenderness, adding water by the tablespoon if it becomes too dry.

Note: This is a very flexible recipe. Some cook the mustard just a few minutes for a crisper version, while others cook it longer until it becomes tender. You can vary the quantities of spices or omit any that do not suit your taste.

'Shungiku' Edible Chrysanthemum
Also known as Garland Chrysanthemum, Shungiku has a unique aroma and intriguing flavor like no other green. Begin harvesting leaves when the plants are 4–8" tall. The plants will produce for several weeks. Cut and bunch entire plants for retail sales. Shungiku is excellent in salads and pickles as well as many cooked dishes.

Korean Shungiku Banchan (side dish)
At a typical Korean restaurant, meals come with several — sometimes over a dozen — of these side dishes, known in Korean as banchan. Kimchee is always one of them.

1 bunch shungiku (approximately 12oz / ¾ lb)
1 Tablespoon black (best) or white sesame seeds, toasted
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Steam or boil shungiku until tender.
Drain, chop into 1–2" pieces, then transfer to a bowl.
Heat a small pan (cast iron works best), add the sesame seeds, and cook over high heat until they begin to pop.
Immediately add sesame seeds to shungiku. The seeds will quickly burn if left in the pan.
Add sesame oil and salt, and mix well.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Malabar Spinach
There are both red and green varieties of this heat-loving, vining plant that needs to be trellised. It grows slowly in cool spring weather, but quite fast once the weather becomes warm. Malabar spinach has a mild flavor and is used in Indian soups and curries, but can also be included in stir-fries, or, more sparingly, in salads. (Some do not care for the leaves' somewhat mucilaginous texture when raw; this is much less pronounced when cooked.

'Spring Tower' Celtuce
Botanically speaking, celtuce, which originated in China, is lettuce that has been bred to have an enlarged stalk. It has a pleasant, mildly bitter flavor in spring and fall. In the summer it becomes more bitter but not unpleasantly so unless the weather has been quite hot. Use in Chinese stir-fries or eat raw.

Stir-Fried Celtuce 
2 cups celtuce, julienned
1" piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
¼ teaspoon (or to taste) hot pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
1 Tablespoon oil (canola, peanut, soybean, grapeseed, or coconut)

Peel the thick skin of the celtuce and julienne it.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the celtuce and cook until just tender, about 1 minute.
Drain and set aside.
Heat wok or skillet over high heat for 1 minute, then add oil.
Add garlic, ginger, and pepper to the wok and stir-fry until ginger and garlic just start to brown.
Add celtuce and salt, cook for another minute, and serve.

If you've never grown Asian greens, don't wait another season to try a few of these specialty varieties in your garden and kitchen. And if you're already an aficionado, consider dedicating additional space to trialing a new variety or two. You may also be inspired to grow our Asian broccoli, radishes, squash, cabbages, cucumbers, beans, turnip, and eggplant, as well as basil, shiso, lemon grass, and other Asian herbs. You will find their inimitable beauty and flavor easily merit a place at the table.
(Pictures and Recipes found at Johnny's Asian Greens Website)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Must Watch Documentaries - Free Online

Documentaries You Need To Watch

In geological terms, we're currently living in the Holocene stage of the Earth's existence; a period of time when all the elements have proven most beneficial to our species. But our unfettered growth has left a massive footprint upon our planet, and its ramifications may soon usher in a new geological epoch. Anthropocene, a short documentary produced by the ABC-TV Catalyst series, examines the characteristics and the consequences of this oncoming age.
From singular events such as the first nuclear weapons test of 1945 to the unprecedented industrialization that's occurred in nearly every region of the world, our Earth has undergone more rampant change in recent times than any other period in its history. As revealed in the film, the CO2 levels in our atmosphere have risen 100 times faster than they did at the conclusion of the last Ice Age. The end result could bring about a transformation of the very structure of our planet, and one that may present overwhelming obstacles in our quest to survive and flourish.
Geologists call it The Anthropocene, and they can recognize the signs of its imminent arrival all around them. In a far reaching study coordinated between dozens of nations around the world, scientists tracked various aspects of human activity in comparison to the functions of Earth's systems. The research project collected data as far back as 1750 and continued right up to our present day. What they discovered was shocking. The Earth's ability to maintain balance was surprisingly unfazed until the birth of the post-war industrial revolution, at which point its instability began to skyrocket.
"We are in the beginnings of a transition to something else," one scientist ominously proclaims during the course of the film. Earth scientists didn't come to this conclusion lightly; in fact, such a proclamation requires overwhelming and irrefutable evidence of a change to the surface of our planet. Just in the past 60 years, unprecedented human consumption, along with increased atmospheric levels of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, lead and other elements, have conspired to alter the physical and functional characteristics of the Earth.
In the midst of the climate change debate, Anthropocene examines the crisis facing our planet from a fresh perspective not often considered by the mainstream. It's a valuable reminder that the human footprint could ultimately prove more devastating to our planet than Mother Nature herself.

Marked by bustling metropolitan cities and modern technologies, Western culture feels as though it exists on a separate plane from nature. As a result, pollution levels are perilous, animal and sea life is waning, and climate change is a very real threat that could prove ruinous to our planet. We've been brainwashed by the dictates of a capitalism to believe that hard work is all we require to find success and happiness.
This philosophy creates discord in our relationships, unrelenting stress on our minds and bodies and a blindness towards the finer pleasures of life. The world needs a new narrative - one that promotes solidarity with the environment and a revitalized hope for a positive future. That narrative is explored in A New Story for Humanity, a feature-length documentary about the evolution of a global movement.
The film finds its roots in the New Story Summit. Presented by the Findhorn Foundation, a spiritual community of leaders, activists and teachers throughout the globe, the event included a series of presentations aimed at spreading an inspiring message: the world we seek lies within each of us. Each presentation throughout the summit constituted a different thread in the discussion, including economic concerns, social issues, education, the environment, the importance of embracing our diversity and establishing a sense of community, and the virtues of friendly competition.
The film contains a wealth of excerpts from these sessions, and in-depth conversations with the panel of multi-cultural teachers, including activist and author Satish Kumar, General Secretary of the Global Ecovillage Network Lua Bashana-Kekana, spiritual educator Dororthy Maclean, and Andean medicine man Puma Quispe Singona.
Empowering and enlightening, A New Story for Humanity calls upon the skills and dedication of every generation to write a new chapter in the future of humankind. Calling upon the wisdom of both ancient and modern cultural thinking, the lessons are clear, aspirational and relevant to every member of the global community. The calls to action are easily adaptable and achievable for all of us. Viewers will leave the film feeling as though they possess the potential and the tools they need to change the world.
Directed byLorenz GramannMattie Porte

Many environmental documentaries recount the aftermath of a grave disaster. Great Lakes, Bad Lines is refreshingly different in this regard. The film concerns the inevitable erosion and malfunction of Enbridge Line 5, a Canadian-owned pipeline that stretches across over 500 miles and transports 23 million gallons of oil through much of Michigan's Great Lakes on a daily basis. The line was built over 60 years ago, and is in urgent need of repair. Experts agree that something needs to be done, or the region will inevitably suffer one of the worst environmental catastrophes in recorded history. The film is a convincing and proactive effort to raise awareness and provoke change.
You don't have to be a resident of Michigan to recognize the importance of the Great Lakes. Beyond the aesthetic appeal of its beautiful and pristine waters, the lakes constitute a significant percentage of the world's fresh water, and many tens of millions of United States citizens live along its shores and depend upon its natural resources. An oil spill would spell doom for the sensitive ecological balance of the lakes, and their strong and unpredictable currents would make such a spill nearly impossible to contain.
The film follows two environmental activists as they travel along the route of the pipeline, and speak with a series of experts and ordinary residents along the way, many of whom will directly suffer when the impending disaster occurs. There is precedent for such a disaster in the region, as Enbridge's Line 6B ruptured in Michigan's Kalamazoo Lake in 2010 and caused the worst inland oil spill in history.
For its part, Enbridge, Inc. has taken only meager steps to reinforce the existing lines with vastly inefficient support structures. The sluggish response to a potential disaster falls squarely on the shoulders of state officials, who have thus far prioritized corporate interests over the safety of their own citizens. Clearly, further action will not be taken unless these officials are motivated by the vocal insistence of the people. With great urgency and visual flair, Great Lakes, Bad Lines represents an inspiring attempt to organize that movement.
Directed byColin McCarthy

The oil industry giant Chevron began operating in Ecuador's Amazon rain forest in 1964. Over the course of thirty years, this majestic environmental wonder became the victim of unregulated corporate abuse and greed. By the time the corporation vacated the area in 1992, their toxic footprint had brought about 1700 times more damage to the environment than the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in the United States. Empire Files host Abby Martin visits the scene of the crime in Chevron vs. the Amazon, and uncovers the extent to which the criminal acts of industry have spoiled the riches of a tropical paradise.
The Amazon plays host to hundreds of thousands of unique species of plant life, insects, animals, as well as an equally diverse human population. All of this came under threat when Chevron established operations in the region over 50 years ago.
At the film's outset, we are given a series of sobering statistics. During their years of operation, the corporation dumped 17 billion gallons of crude oil and 19 billions gallons of contaminated waste water into the region. Prior to vacating, they attempted to hide their environmental atrocities by covering these spills with dirt or setting them ablaze. The totality of their offenses simply could not be denied, however, as the land and its people have suffered from its devastating impact over the ensuing decades.
Ecological experts give us a glimpse of the damage. The plant life that manages to thrive is internally saturated with crude oil, and the rivers are marbled with poisonous contaminants. Meanwhile, the Ecuadorian citizens have suffered their own plights in the wake of Chevron's invasion. The harmony they share and cherish with their homeland has been sabotaged, and they're experiencing increased incidents of disease and early death.
As is the specialty of the Empire Files series, the filmmakers place this in the context of an industrialized machine that runs without regulation or oversight. Without a doubt, Chevron was given free reign in the region for many years, and the implication is that they greased the pockets of decision makers in order to procure the freedom to operate as they wished. A series of lawsuits are currently working their way through the courts system, and the film places harsh criticism on many of the tactics Chevron is employing to navigate their way out of them.
Chevron vs. the Amazon is an impassioned plea for greater accountability and oversight when it comes to protecting the health and survival of our planet.
Directed byAbby Martin

Across a two acre stretch in New Mexico, a provocative experiment is taking place. These isn't the kind of test involving nuclear devices that we've come to expect in the desert, but one that attempts to imagine a sustainable society in the aftermath of such weaponry. After all, a post-apocalyptic landscape would require highly sustainable housing, and that's just what designer and ex-athlete Tom Duke has constructed. His unorthodox efforts are the subject of the documentary titled Earthships.
The houses look like futuristic throwbacks; part conventional and part science fiction. They're constructed with items most people disregard as useless trash. Glass bottles are used like bricks, sand filled tires lay the foundation for each structure, aluminum cans decorate the walls and spark a feeling of the majestic when met by the orange rays of the sun.
Inside, the walls are specially designed to absorb sunlight during the day, and expel heat at night. Thriving greenhouses, innovative ventilation systems and rows of windows further ensure constant and comfortable in-door temperatures. Gardens grow bounties of bananas, grapes and figs. Rainwater is collected and stored in wells, and later drained for use in the shower before being transferred to plants, toilets and outdoor vegetation. Yes, in an Earthship, even the toilet water is reusable.
The concept may sound wacky to some, but it's catching on larger pockets of the population, particularly as the modern world seems to veer deeper into chaos. Encouragingly for them, the cost of these houses has decreased substantially. The top-of-the-line model containing all the amenities - a structure known as the BMW of Earthships - sells for roughly the same cost as a traditional family home, but the energy savings incurred over years makes the investment even more appealing.
Duke guides through multiple housing models throughout the course of the film, explaining the special features in each, as well as the philosophies behind their construction. A seemingly average family man with a unique and valuable vision, he flies in the face of conventional wisdom regarding those who live off the grid. As told in Earthships, his story is not one of apocalyptic gloom and doom, but of hope, possibility and life-enhancing innovation.

An epic document of living conditions within one of the world's poorest regions, The Slum is human drama of the highest order. Produced in six parts by Al Jazeera, the film allows us to experience the totality of what it means to live in an environment riddled with great struggle, abject poverty, rising crime, and faltering opportunity.
The first episode places us in northern Manilla, where we're introduced to many residents who wage a daily battle to provide for their families and community. A fisherman suffers through days without a catch, and worries what will become of his family if his net remains empty. A nurse attempts to deliver a baby in a medical clinic devoid of proper tools or acceptable sanitary standards. A community worker provides birth control counseling in an attempt to curb exploding population growth.
In the early moments of Episode 2, a weathered father of six scavenges for valuables in a sea of landfill waste. Tens of thousands of residents just like him toil at various menial jobs to support their families. But even when they manage to garner a "decent" day's wage, they remain at the mercy of an insufficient educational system, poorly financed medical care, and scarcely staffed emergency services.
Episode 3 sees the effects of an oncoming tropical storm. Nearly six thousand families find themselves without food and water, and their homes and businesses are badly damaged. Charity organizations come in to supplement the meek relief efforts of a sluggish government.
As storm season passes, a disturbance of a different sort comes to town. Episode 4 covers the region's election cycle. Politicians can't afford to ignore the slums during this time simply due to the sheer number of potential voters who reside there. Some of them even pay for votes.
Episode 5 follows the tribulations of homeless families who occupy a long abandoned toxic dump. We witness one family's faith restored as they manage to break out of their environment into more secure government housing.
The conclusion of the series continues on this note of hope as we track the efforts of those who work to achieve their dreams. A ballerina in training longs to study and perform in other parts of the world. A local athlete saves money to buy and operate his own gym. They are - like every man, woman and child profiled in The Slum - a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
A feature-length documentary directed by Jordan Osmond and Samuel Alexander, A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity takes us to Gippsland, Australia, where residents have fully embraced the notion of a simpler existence far from the maddening crowds and stress-inducing cityscapes. Part of a 12-month experiment known as The Simpler Way Project, the inhabitants of this community all share a common commitment to social change and environmental preservation.
What does it mean to live simply? For this diverse group of conscientious citizens, it means that you reconnect to the natural world, conserve your resources, and peel back the extravagances, economic shackles and unsustainable definitions of success in the modern industrialized world. In their tiny homes hand-crafted from largely recycled materials, they seek the purity that comes from a return to the basics.
Many people believe that you don't know what you've got until it's gone, but this community has discovered that the exact opposite is true. Gone are the conveniences and accessories of present-day civilization - electricity, cell phones, and internet access - and in its place is the truest form of a social network. Some have left drudging 40-hour work weeks spent in the service of large and faceless corporations. In their new reality, they find everything they need in the natural world that surrounds them in every direction and through the support they find in their fellow co-inhabitants.
Their cause is grounded in more than just a desire for personal growth and experience. They see the ills of a dying planet and an overly stressed population. From their perspective, the next evolution of the human species will only be made possible by going back to the fundamentals. Green energy, farming and artisan craft making each play a major role in realizing this potential.
A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity follows each step of this fascinating year-long journey, and it’s clear that every challenge faced by this close-knit community has opened a door to revelation. Upon the completion of this project, each of them will take these lessons of simple living back home with them and create a lasting change that reverberates to others.

Clean energy is becoming less exotic and more practical than ever before thanks to the efforts of a few key countries. Collectively, they're greasing the wheels for a worldwide revolution. The Breakthrough in Renewable Energy, a new documentary produced by the acclaimed VPRO Backlight series, takes us inside the corporate offices and production lines where this groundbreaking work is being done, and examines what it could mean for the future of energy consumption on Earth.
What main factor will ultimately determine the widespread acceptance and use of solar and wind energy? In a word: cost. Once upon a time, investments in these alternative energy sources were considered an extremely risky proposition. After all, the cost to the consumers was many times that of energy powered by natural gas and other traditional fossil fuels. However, as argued by the film's impressive panel of expert industrialists and other energy entrepreneurs, new and untested technologies are always priced high on the outset. Once the research, innovation and production of these technologies begin to progress and mature, the costs go down. This is where the industry stands today.
The filmmakers travel the globe to discover where these seismic advancements are taking place. In China, where air pollution has reached catastrophic levels, the government has made unprecedented investments in the development of solar and wind powered technologies. Their efforts are beginning to pay off in a big way, and reverberate throughout the rest of the world. Thanks to increased production savvy and volume, the cost of solar energy has now dipped by more than 80%, and wind energy has decreased by 50%. As the cost of these resources begin to fall well below that of natural gas, how long will it take for other regions of the world to opt in?
The industry's fight to acquire the hearts and minds of consumers can only be won through simple economics; consumers will begin to embrace green technologies when the dollars make sense. With great insight and access, The Breakthrough in Renewable Energy shows us how this battle is being waged and won everywhere from Abu Dhabi to the Netherlands to California.

Our reliance on oil is only growing, and our unabated demand continues to bulk the pockets of the energy companies in the process. There are few regions of the globe that remain untouched by this powerful industry, and fewer lives that aren't affected by its dealings. Produced by the always provocative Corbett Report, How Big Oil Conquered the World skillfully traces the nefarious origins and evolution of this energy behemoth.
The film sheds light on aspects of the oil industry that have remained largely obscured by official historical records. For many of us, John D. Rockefeller comes to mind when we reflect on the moment when Big Oil first became big business. But the beginnings our global captivation with this precious source of energy really began with his father William, a man who gained notoriety for his illicit romantic affairs and tenacious gifts as a snake oil salesman. The industry as it exists today - and the general demeanor of the world it has cultivated - is a direct reflection of his slithery personality.
The documentary does not allow the son John escape from intense scrutiny, however. The filmmakers reveal the oft-told tale of how his company Standard Oil used merciless bribery and strong arm tactics to become a worldwide superpower. But in doing so, they deliver a series of surprising and altogether horrific anecdotes. According to the facts presented in the film, even the world's most revered philanthropic interests haven't been immune to the Rockefellers' devious touch. These pursuits have long allowed the richest elites powerful sway over the masses, and the ability to craft a world and a workforce that bends to their needs.
What's past is prologue. How Big Oil Conquered the World recounts the deeply checkered history of the oil industry to form a context for the even more troubling future that awaits an unsuspecting public. In these modern times, they have their fingers in nearly every conceivable pie of influence - from pharmaceuticals to green technologies to education. The scourge of rampant greed, and the continuing emergence of global monopolies, empower these companies with enough leverage to control every facet of our lives, and to make sheep of us all.

Urban Farming - Today A Choice, Tomorrow A Necessity!

Urban Farming - Today A Choice, Tomorrow A Necessity!
after the rain...

Steve's Urban Garden Visits