Posts tagged ‘sprouting seeds’

waste not, want not: dates on food, food on plates 1

Food waste is a huge problem nowadays, all the way through the chain, from animals eating prime proteins to make weaker proteins and ruining rainforest/ prairie/ pampas etcΒ  while they do it, to the overflowing bins emptied into smelly bin lorries going off to landfills that belch as much methane as the animals at the other end…(stern reminder: POSITIVE, OPTIMISTIC outlook please! adjusts headset and continues πŸ˜‰ )

If you eat meat, you probably like it and don’t want to change that aspect of your diet, but do be aware there are plenty of reasons and recipes to be meatfree at least once a week! And you’re not a CARNIVORE, you’re an OMNIVORE (eat everything!) unless you’re a vampire (eek! run away!) so the rest of this post might still give you useful tips πŸ˜‰


General waste: there is so much an average person can do to streamline their buying/ eating/ waste management, from loose to detailed planning of meals for the week, pantry inventory (sharpen a pencil or fire up your psion spread sheets, all welcome here!) home production of herbs, the wonderfoods known as sprouts, fruit and veg grown in containers or mixed in your borders, cottage style, and your own compost (which if you follow my instructions will NOT smell πŸ˜‰

I grew up in a family where pantry inventory was taken for granted, it was a 20 minute round trip to the corner shop and an hour to the town centre and back, so keeping an eye on levels was automatic for my mother. The women on both sides of my family were good cooks and on my father’s side were in catering, so I took in a lot of information I now realise I am very lucky to have – which I am really pleased to share with you too πŸ˜‰


MEAT, FISH, AND ALL PRODUCTS CONTAINING THEM unless it has been smoked or salted or dehydrated. Basically if it has been preserved using a method an in-tune indigenous/First Nationer would use, it’ll be fine. Freezing is fine, if you are sure the meat has never gone above -7, you can go past the date, the flavour will just be a bit less, but make sure you are cooking it in a stew and boil it thoroughly. Last dead flesh advice! Apart from, avoid it, it’s the biggest risk for bringing food poisoning into your home, there’s a reason for kosher rules/halal etc, they’re about staying alive in a hot climate when eating high risk items…meat attracts flies and flies spread germs, I put my cat’s dish in the fridge between feeds in the summer and still get flies, a problem I’ve never had before, grrr, something about the evergreen forest out the kitchen window…


EGGS If you’re not sure, salt and water test: mix 2 tablespoons of salt in a pint of COLD water and gently place the egg in, the further it sinks, the better, if it FLOATS, discard it, it’s old and potentially growing salmonella, yuck…

CHEESE/YOGHURT/MILK smell test first: if milk smells sickly, it will make you sick, pour it down the outside drain/toilet and you’ll likely see curds (gag). If cheese or yoghurt have pink or green on them, eek! PINK will make you ill, chuck it now, preferably in a sealed nappy bag! BLUE/GREEN this should be a flow chart! is it stilton or gorgonzola? enjoy! (but far away from me, heave…) is it cheap cheddar? cut the white and blue off and use the rest in something TODAY where it is baked or boiled – eg macaroni cheese. Is it dark green/blue? Out now…


When food dates came in, people were expected to still know how to use their own senses to check for signs of danger. With compensation culture, the dates are being made shorter and shorter until some common sense is beginning to rebel at the mountain of waste made by people who don’t know any better and sling the lot.

Try not to use perfume or smoke before you cook or gather ingredients, smell is your best friend for fresh or chilled food – of it smells wrong, it probably is, eg if it smells of fish (but isn’t!) it has a particular bacteria whose name I forget, but you don’t want inside you, take my word for it, please!

Wash fresh fruit and veg slowly (it’s enjoyable, honest!) and you will spot bruised or infested areas – eg butterfly eggs on cabbage leaves, those grubs that like berries will float out upside down and you can put them all in the compost bin where they are your friends!


these are the ones where the dates are normally a nonsense….

Anything preserved in a pint of vinegar is going to keep 5 years, maybe 10. It may lose some texture or be less tasty, but it isn’t going to hurt you. Make stew/ broth/ casserole and enjoy the tang! It will make your stew keep on top of the stove without refrigeration for five days unless you live in a sauna.

Anything stored in vegetable oil is going to keep a long time, eg garlic, olives, ginger etc. Again, it may lose a little flavour or texture, so check it and adjust amounts, but it is unlikely to hurt you, but if it smells the least bit fishy, out, otherwise, in that stewpot πŸ˜‰

Anything stored in brine (salty water) is going to be ok for ages past the date most companies give it, though it may go a bit soft. Sluice the beans/sweetcorn /whatever and then stand in cold water over night, drain and use in a boiled soup/stew.

Anything preserved in enough sugar is going to keep for 3 to 20 years.What is enough? Anything marked low sugar is NOT enough, unless it has vinegar or salt in it too, eg fruit compote might have raspberry vinegar in. Jam can keep for several years, if it has no mould, it’s fine. If homemade jam has mould on the top wafer, the waxed circle was put in upside down, the jars were not sterilised, or air got in. Mostly, you can scrape it out, pour the good jam into a bowl and test it by taste. You can now make wine from it πŸ˜‰ or make an old fashioned steam pudding or make a fruit cake by the boiling method, or add the jam instead of sugar to a cake and bake it, make jammy tarts, porridge, dodgers…or a glaze for nut roast…lots of things as long as it involves heating the jam till it bubbles.



Um, this may seem obvious, but I’ll say it, as a young friend genuinely didn’t know: sugar and salt cannot ‘go off’. Honey maybe just might after several years if there was a lot of comb left in, but dried sugar, kept dry, will last to feed the post apocalypse roaches. Salt can get wet and dry again and be ok, er particularly if is is sea salt πŸ˜‰ Sugar and salt are the mainstays of food preservation without big equipment, eg de-hydrators, freezers, and the move to low sugar and low salt foods instead of portion control has made for some odd dilemmas and waste problems.

First Nations people around the world (including europeans!) found out very fast that coating things in honey kept them really well, and that sweet enough fruit pounded into bison or deer/elk etc with lard, made pemmican, a dried meat that kept forΒ  a few months, saving the chore of daily hunting in hardscrabble springs.


Fruit/ herbal teas – if it looks and smells ok, it is!

Dried fruit will keep years beyond the bb4date, if it looks ok, it is ok. If it looks a bit dry (currants do this a lot)Β  soak the fruit in an appropriate fruit tea for 10minutes before cooking, eg apple rings, soak in raspberry tea and bake in a victoria sponge, oh, nom, currants/sultanasΒ  in darjeeling/any brown/black tea or bilberry/elderberry, ever since I learnt to make Irish brack cake I do this anyway, fruit cakes and breads should be juicy not chewy…

Dried vegetables and de-hydrated vegetables (different processes) will keep a long way past the bb4 dates. Again, if it looks ok, it is ok. Beans and pulses are great proteins and therefore attract critturs, even more if they are organic, so keep them in plastic-ware or better yet jars or old biscuit tins. Plastic can be a problem in humid spaces or Edinburgh tenement flats (hiya Em! waves!!) If in any doubt, pour the rice/ wheat/ beans/ broth mix into a mixing bowl and stir. If anything looks nibbled, examine it and if necessary, sling it – mice droppings will give you nasty illnesses, so anything chewed needs to go out, and scrub your pantry and create better storage, set traps, get a cat etc πŸ˜‰Β  Cats were revered in Egypt because they kept the granaries – the wealth of the Pharaohs – safe πŸ™‚


Anything with enough ascorbic acid will keep a way past the date. Basically it’s vitamin C, but I just found out the name translates from Latin as no-scurvy…cool! Scurvy is vitamin deficiency that long distance sailors used to get if they didn’t take barrels of pickled limes with them – preserving saves lives, not just jams! πŸ˜‰ Sorry, I used to be a professional jam maker and still get very annoyed when people dismiss jam as a luxury confection, not a lifesaving food that gave people the strength to farm in the hungry gap of maximum tilling and sowing, and minimum fresh and stored food available.Β But I digress πŸ˜‰

Ascorbic acid is used loads in flours and food mixes, vacuum packed tortillas etc and it keeps them fresh and tends to see off the flour weevils – people still throw flour out a day over the date because it USED to get weevils…it can still, if it is organic/ super rustic, but it’s always worth checking. OpenΒ  the packet, and pour it through a sieve into a mixing bowl. It may have clumped with age, but if nothing’s wriggling, it’s ok! It may have lost its mojo, so add a bit of baking powder, half what the recipe calls for, and all will be well πŸ˜‰

However if anything with flour in MAY have got wet or worse, been kept in a damp place, chuck it. It will have the wrong moulds in and you can get nasty fatigue conditions etc from it, so if the paper looks stained, out with it. Another digression – use anti-bax on your showerhead every couple of months for the same reasonΒ

In the next installment I’ll explain good storage, good cleaning/ hygiene and give some handy use it up recipes πŸ˜‰


Meanwhile a link back to the perfect anti-waste foods: sprouted alfalfa seeds are amazing, I place my excellent vitamin and mineral levels (the doctor was politely surprised πŸ˜‰ ) on their shoulders, and anyone with fatigue issues who got this far, they are so EASY!!! better than salad and no chopping/messing, oh joy!


Zero Waste Week 2013: Alfalfa and Cropping Compost

STA45181This is a repost from June about double cropping your summer compost heap by growing potatoes in it, and the ultimate zero waste food, sprouted seeds.

I recently had some tests at the doctors to do with mineral levels, and the doctor asked what my secret is, because my levels are so good πŸ˜‰

I think eating alfalfa (the mother of all foods) and drinking smoothies that are 1/3 blended fresh fruit and 2/3 chilled herb teas (organic ginger and mandarin is a favourite πŸ˜‰ ) keep my levels really high…having fibromyalgia, I can’t take any exercise as such, but I have a lot of experience from having worked in vegetarian catering, so I do make good food and then freeze it for the days I can barely stand.


I also swear by sitting out in the sun and getting my hands in soil every week – the probiotics in soil are really, really good for mental and physical wellbeing, there was a report in the Lancet a couple of years ago on a study showing health improvements for a range of illnesses by simple gardening therapy.

I really like my new doctor, he is very supportive, and we laughed at the results, because apparently no one has results this good – so WHY am I ill? The mysteries of fibro, eh?

Vegans, be aware I mention using egg shells to grow cress in to engage the littl’uns – of course there are alternatives, draw a face on a soya-yoghurt pot instead πŸ˜‰

waste not, want not 1: sprouting seeds, growing potatoes

I have been thinking about waste again, partly because I am reading Richard Girling’s ‘Rubbish! Dirt on our Hands and Crisis Ahead’!+dirt

which is very interesting, and more general than the textile upcycling/waste horrors I read about in Kate Fletcher’s ‘Sustainable Fashion and Textiles’ for the Eco Garments course with Linda Lloyd Willis, some scary statistics on how much unused fabric, still on the roll is sent to landfill….noooooooooo!!!!

So, what is waste?

Something you don’t know how to find another use for, and nobody else does either.

Anything else is awaiting its next use or to be stripped down for parts – that includes nutrients eg worm farms eating food waste, compost heaps making potting compost while growing potatoes:

STA45047Β This is the compost heap in the front garden, it’s in 3 parts, this is the last stage, growing potatoes as it matures. When the potatoes are ready to harvest, I will riddle (big sieve) the potatoes and compost into separate containers (well, realistically I will be directing someone else, but you get the picture.) I will save the died down potato foliage for the newest compost, send the tatties upstairs to cook and the bucket of fine compost goes to the potting bench to use when I sow sweet peas and french beans or garlic. The coarser compost goes on top of the raised beds to feed them. What raised beds? That’s another post πŸ˜‰

There are things like tyres that annoy me: surely they should be compulsorily re used for shoe soles until the mountain has dropped a bit, it would make shoes last 5 times as long too, and even the girliest of girls could have a pair of ugg boots with real soles, I walk behind them, wincing at the soft soles worn down and wonky, giving them twisted posture and spine problems in years to come..

I could rant for ages….but…takes deep breath

Instead I will be constructive!

And make a pledge: 1 in 5 of my blog posts will be


and you are welcome to share the link for these, on your own blog or via Facebook. Best of all would be if you try them and write your own post about what works for you πŸ™‚


This is even more fun with kids of course, draw a face on a washed out egg shell and put cress seeds on damp cotton wool in the bottom, add a spray of water for 3 days or until it has green hair πŸ˜‰

They can sprinkle the cress on their salad or egg sandwich and once they realize they like little green things, grow alfalfa, the ‘superfood’ that has been used since mesolithic times (found in burial chambers, and amazingly, it still sprouted!) and that only takes 3-4 days. Or cress, or radish, or sunflower seeds…it’s so nice to grow something on your own windowsill with no waste! I put the seed packet in the papermaking pile, but you could make a notebook from all your packets and envelopes turned inside out, a couple of punched holes and a bit of string…voila! notebook πŸ˜‰