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We all like to be needed in some way, don’t we? Being an especially attentive spouse, say, or an exemplary parent, a trusted friend or a pillar of the community, not only nudges a person toward the guarantee of good karma, but also helps give a certain meaning to life. A reason to get up every morning, at the very least.
(Adapted from The Herb Garden Cookbook, University of Texas Press)
For best flavor, pick herbs in early morning before the heat has wilted them. Gently rinse herbs; shake out excess moisture and allow herbs to dry naturally for about an hour, or carefully pat them dry. Remove any damaged or discolored leaves and woody stems.
Fill a clean glass gallon jar 2/3 full of the herbs, gently twisting or "wringing" them to release their volatile oils. Add other flavorings as desired such as peeled garlic, dried red chiles, citrus peel cut in a continuous spiral, flower petals, ginger, and whole spices). Ginger and garlic should be peeled and gently mashed with the back of a wooden spoon. To prevent bitterness, take care not to include any white pith of citrus peel.
Use only high-quality vinegars such as white, red, or champagne wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar. Distilled white vinegar is way too harsh!
By Ruth Gardner-Loew
Photography by Candice Oneida
Austinites are becoming enchanted with tea—not only for the health benefits, but for the beauty, celebration and mystery of a drink that obliges us to slow down, reflect and connect. For centuries, tea has been the drink of preference in the Far East, notably China (where it originated) and Japan, as well as in parts of Europe. Yet aside from the ubiquitous iced variety enjoyed closer to home, tea—in her multitude of exotic varieties—has been a relative shadow-dweller.
By Jeremy Walther
Illustration by Hillary Weber-Gale
Sustainability in the home landscape is more than just a set calendar of seasonal tasks, especially in variable-draped Central Texas, where some years see total rainfall measure below 20 inches followed by years with almost 60. This unpredictability might be nature’s hint to us that large monocultures of nonnative turfgrass lawns just aren’t the way to go. The hottest, sunniest areas of a lawn are better used for plants that do more than just drink water and look green, which explains the trend of larger vegetable gardens, wildlife-loving native plant beds and shrinking lawns.
By Rebecca Saltsman
Photography by Jenna Noel
I love cooking, eating and talking about food, and I’m constantly thinking about my next meal even while enjoying the current one. Finding and preparing new foods and serving other people dishes they’ve never tried before are my passions. I also enjoy disproving preconceived notions about certain foods and what it means to eat well, healthfully…and with dietary restrictions. It’s true—I’m one of more than 20 million people in America living with gluten sensitivity, but it doesn’t define me or how I eat. Sometimes it’s challenging, but most of the time it’s very easy.
By Helen Cordes
Photography courtesy of Lori Ferris
Round Rock has been bustin’ out all over in recent years, with folks flocking to the booming burg north of Austin at record rates. But while Austin’s growth has included the formation of many community gardens, bustling Round Rock had enjoyed not a single one—much to the chagrin of Lori and Jeff Ferris. When they found their backyard too shady to grow veggies, they looked for a community garden and found none. So they took matters—and garden tools—into their own hands.
By Kristi Willis
Photography by Carole Topalian
Many home chefs were taught to cook by first finding a recipe and then hunting down the ingredients at the store, without much thought as to whether the produce was at its peak. The ease of shipping foods across the world to the local grocery aisle has made popular produce available year-round, regardless of its freshness, and has resulted in ubiquitous grainy tomatoes and flavorless peaches.
By Veronica Meewes
Photography by Whitney Arostegui
Urban Patchwork (UP), Austin’s first nonprofit neighborhood farm network, launched three years ago, very appropriately, on Independence Day. “We wanted to claim independence on our food systems,” says Paige Hill, founder and director, with a smile. The program works to connect neighbors by turning yard space into sustainable farmland through collaborative efforts. “Our intention is to make well-grown, healthy, organically grown food accessible and affordable for folks,” Hill says.
When Amrit and Chandan Topiwala opened Whip In as a quaint corner store on the access road of I-35 in 1986, neither of them could have forecast it would evolve into the culinary hot spot and beer nerd’s paradise it is today. Early on, when the Topiwalas realized they weren’t selling much gas, they had their tanks and pumps removed. They knew they were, however, making most of their sales in beer. Following suit, they began to carry the craft beers, like Grolsch and Spaten, that had become so desirable to their customers.
By Betsy Levy
Photography by Carole Topalian
It’s 8:00 a.m. on a summer Saturday and most Austinites are still in bed. But at Johnson’s Backyard Garden CSA, sleepy volunteers slam their car doors, grab tools, and fan out into the crop rows to start the day’s harvest. The screen door creaks and farmer Brenton Johnson rounds the corner, smiling, coffee mug in hand.
Celebration of Día de los Muertos in Xalitla, Guerrero (detail)
Acrylic painting on bark paper
By MM Pack
Photography by Carole Topalian
Paula Angerstein makes a mean cocktail, and she’s not afraid to share it. Considering she’s the creator/owner of Austin-based micro-distillery Paula’s Texas Spirits, that’s not much of a surprise. If you’ve enjoyed a mixed drink in an Austin bar, shopped in a Texas liquor store or attended a culinary event in the past few years, the odds are pretty good that you’ve encountered Paula’s spirits. Central Texans are accustomed to local produce, cheeses, artisan foods, beers and wines, but a newer idea is handcrafted, locally distilled spirits.
By Laura McKissack
Photography by Susan Kalergis
It’s a mild, sunny day as a farmer in Onga, a town in the Fukuoka prefecture of Japan, stands in front of a healthy-looking lemon tree and proudly holds out a large yellow fruit for the camera. There’s nothing particularly unusual about this scene, except that this farmer’s single lemon tree happens to bear 10 other kinds of fruit in addition to lemons. Manabu Fukushima has relied on his own skill—as well as the kindness of neighbors who’ve provided him with citrus saplings from their own trees—to create what some might call his very own Frankenfruit tree.
By Kristi Willis
Illustrations by Bambi Edlund
Shopping for seafood can be a dizzying experience as sustainability ratings change based on the location or manner in which a fish is caught. Pacific halibut is a good choice, but Atlantic halibut is bad because of overfishing, for example. And it’s okay to buy wild-caught salmon, but skip the farmed salmon because of water cross-pollution concerns. Keeping it all straight is difficult at best, but the outcome is critical.
By Valeria Morrow
It’s a beautiful spring afternoon and Mirela García is playing in the front yard with sons Javier and Eduardo before heading in to prepare a nutritious meal. It wasn’t so long ago, though, that Mirela faced a much different reality. As she struggled to make ends meet on a fixed income, the last thing on her mind was the family’s diet. Their routine included nutritionally-deficient, yet-calorie-dense fast and packaged foods and lethargic afternoons in front of the television.
Though Mirela worried about her husband’s diabetes and high blood pressure, Javier’s increasing weight and her own persistent lack of energy, she didn’t seek out Sustainable Food Center’s The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre™ (THK). Instead, it found her.
Signing up for an English language program at her sons’ school, Mirela had no idea that something extra came with the registration. She was thrilled and intrigued to learn that THK cooking and nutrition classes were included at no charge.
By Andrea Bearce
Photography by Aimee Wenske
During the past decade, Austin has proudly played host to a bevy of craft brewers, charcuterie mavens and artisanal goods producers of every stripe. But until recently, coffee connoisseurs made only the rare appearance. That’s all changing rapidly, though, as specialty coffee shops have begun to percolate up throughout the city—awakening the masses to the joys of crafted joe.
By Amanda Moon
There is a growing trend in this country to get back to the basics when it comes to both eating and landscaping. One way to combine both of these ideas is to incorporate edible plants into your existing landscape. Many of our food crops are not only satisfying to the palate, but to the eye as well; therefore, they are natural choices for the overall aesthetic of our yards.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate edible plants into the landscape is through the use of fruiting trees for color and shade.
In the eight years that Brad Stufflebeam has operated Home Sweet Farm in Brenham, he’s tried many different methods of irrigating and nourishing the 22 acres as organically and sustainably as possible. Some methods worked better than others, but he may have come across the perfect solution with a new powerhouse triumvirate in the form of an 1,800-gallon brew tank, an irrigation pump and a recipe for an all-natural fertilizer.