Why Are Today’s Vegetables Less Nutritious?

VegetablesHow building soil, growing heirlooms can stop nutrient decline in vegetables and fruits.

It’s an old question among those interested in the quality of the food we eat. Do we get enough nutrition from the fruits, vegetables, and other foods we consume? Or do we need to supplement our meals with vitamins and minerals?

The answers to this two-part question is both no and yes. No, we don’t get enough nutrition from our foods and yes, we do need to supplement to make up the difference. This thinking has been backed by one simple fact. There’s been a decline in the nutritional value of vegetables and fruits over time. (more…)

Stop Wasting Food!

Dinner PlateReducing food waste at home not only helps the environment, it saves us money. Here’s how.

The Environmental Protection Agency determined in 2013 that 35 million tons of food was wasted that year in the U.S. Some 95% of it ended up in landfills. The Washington Post has reported that in 1980 wasted food accounted for 10% of what went into landfills. Today, food waste makes up well over 20%, a larger percentage than metal, plastic or glass. When that waste decomposes it puts out levels of methane that contribute to climate change.

In a hungry world, food waste is a global problem (PDF). National Geographic reported in 2014 that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimated that one-third of food produced for human consumption worldwide is annually lost or wasted. (more…)

GMO Fight Gets Personal

MonsantoIs Monsanto buying biotech scientists to support its genetically modified industry?

Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by U.S. Right To Know, a food industry watchdog that emphasizes consumers’ right to information about the food they and their families eat has revealed the close — and may we say it? — shameless ties between Monsanto and the academics that serve as spokespeople for the pro-GMO industry.

A blockbuster story in The New York Times that looked into the emails Right To Know dug up between industry employees and researchers finds incidents of these scientists being given generous grants for travel and other “biotechnology outreach” as well as continuous research grant money. (more…)


Grass RecyclingMulching grass clippings back into your lawn means less labor and healthier turf.

It’s not hard to deduce what grasscycling means. It’s something about grass and recycling. What’s unspoken — the where and how that grass is recycled — is what makes the practice so beneficial.

Generally, grass-cycling is the practice of not bagging or raking up your lawn clippings as you mow. The benefits are obvious. You’re not stopping to empty the mower bag every time it fills. And you’re not filling up the local landfill with green waste from your yard. (more…)

Can You Compost Tomatoes?

Composting TomatoesKeep tomato plants out of the landfill? Or keep tomato diseases out of your garden? It’s not always simple.

Your friendly Planet Natural blogger never thought much about composting tomatoes until a reader sent in a question about it. We’ve always done it if, at the end of the season, the plants had been healthy and showed no signs of blight, wilt or insect infestations. Thing is, by the end of the season, especially in damper climates, tomatoes often show signs of all these things.

Add to that the fact that the dry, stringy vines don’t break down quickly and tend to get tangled up with everything else in the pile, and the result is this: I don’t end up composting tomato plants very often. (more…)

Green House Buyer’s Guide

Backyard GreenhouseWhat frame and coverings to consider when buying a greenhouse kit.

Gardeners view green houses as a dream or a necessity, the latter by those who already have them, the former by those who wish they did. A greenhouse serves many functions and grants many advantages. It’s a place to give seedlings a jump start ahead of the growing season, a place to raise plants, including everything from tomatoes to lemons, that won’t find the growing season they require outdoors. It’s a place to overwinter potted plants and extend the vegetable harvest well past the first (and second, and third) frost. A green house can add immensely to your enjoyment of gardening and its rewards. (more…)

Reflective White Roofs

White RoofsReduce inside building temperatures and save money on air conditioning with white roofs.

Cities are heat sinks. Their black asphalt parking lots and tar-black rooftops absorb the sun’s energy and give off the heat. The result, says the White Roof Project, is as much as an 80-degree difference on sunny-day roof tops, as black roofs absorb the light and white roofs reflect it back into the atmosphere.

White roofs can help keep building temperatures as much as 35 degrees cooler, saving huge amounts of energy and money spent on air conditioning. (more…)

Neem Benefits

Neem SeedsHow to use neem oil and its extracts to stop most insect pests organically.

Neem oil, one of nature’s best ways to deal with problem insects, is pressed from the fruits, seeds and bark of an evergreen tree (Azadiracta indica) that grows in South Asia, especially India, and parts of Africa. The tree’s oil, known in Sanskrit as Sarva Roga Nirvani or “cure of all ailments,” has a long history of skin-care and medicinal uses. Because of its nourishing, acne-fighting qualities, it’s often found in specialty soaps and other modern skin products. (more…)

Fava Bean Recipes

Fresh Fava BeansFava beans are great in casseroles and salads. Here’s how to cook them, fresh or dried.

Fava beans, a rewarding cool-weather garden crop also called broad beans, have two lives. They’re delicious picked fresh and stripped from their bumpy green, inedible pods, then gently steamed, and served with butter. As the season progresses and the pods have dried, remove the beans and let them dry completely in a warm, airy space. These are the beans we pull out on crisp fall days, soak, then boil up with bacon, onion, and maybe jalapeños, cooking the mixture down with additions of tomato paste and a little mustard just to the moment before the beans split and turn to mush. (more…)

Labeling News: Antibiotics and GMOs

Chicken FarmBig chicken takes on “non-human” antibiotics, Congress takes on food labels.

Chicken producers, answering demands from buyers, have been reducing their use of antibiotics in their flocks, often with much accompanying fanfare. But there’s usually a caveat. These declarations are usually limited to antibiotics “important to human medicine.” In other words, chickens are still getting other classes of antibiotics not used by humans.

Perdue Farms, one of the top three chicken raisers in the United States, has begun running ads claiming that two brands of their poultry use “no antibiotics ever.” In an announcement earlier this month, Perdue stated that the percentage of their chickens receiving “animal-only” antibiotics had dropped from 60% to 42% in the last year. This means that over half their chickens meet the no antibiotics pledge. (more…)

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