Deborah Madison, queen of vegetables, wants you to garden on your fire escape  »

imageDeborah Madison, queen of produce, author of the loveliest vegetable cookbook around, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, has a new book out called Vegetable Literacy for Everyone. Eggplant Kohlrabi of Weird Vegetables blog got to interview her in March, and you guys, she is a treasure.

in the produce aisle you see pieces of things, you have no idea how much it takes to produce a broccoli head or a cabbage. We’re just so ignorant, we have no idea. There are all these leaves, stalks, stems, and flowers that make up a plant—many of which are edible—but we only know one little bit.


ou don’t need to have a garden in order to relate to Vegetable Literacy. There are other ways to open your own eyes. Hopefully the book will help you see the plant world differently, whether it’s in your own garden, a community garden, or a botanical garden. Go on a farm tour, or look at a photograph of a cardoon or some bolting chard. Or you might try growing a plant or two on your fire escape—that counts, too. Having a garden is great, but it’s not for everyone. This is not a book about gardening, it’s really a book about seeing and going beyond the pretty vegetable on the market shelf.

Don’t you just love her? Read the whole interview at Weird Vegetables (a delightful blog updated far too infrequently) and check out her books and let’s all grow some … something on our windowsills this year, okay? Let’s nurture some life that will nurture us.


Guest post: Maintaining your vegan values through the winter  »

Being a vegan can be especially difficult in the winter. Follow these tips in food-growing and gathering to help get you through the cold moths with your vegan values intact.

Winter Prep
A home garden can be a vegan’s best friend. Use winter as a time to prep your plots for the spring. Once warm weather hits all your tending time will be spent on plants. So work on projects like elevated planters, compost piles or growing structures now. Don’t be intimidated by the mathematics of building. A few good bamboo poles and twine can get you really far in a garden. I just used a table saw to cut my shoots into random lengths and then started tying knots wherever they made sense. I’m a hippie, not an engineer. But my result was a trellis any bean plants would be proud to climb.

Food Delivery
Being vegan is a choice you make every day. Sometimes it is effortless; sometimes it requires a ton of effort. As creative as vegan cooking can get, sometimes you just run out of ideas. This is the point when more liberal eaters would just order a pizza, but vegans don’t all have that luxury. Instead, several new businesses are answering the tired vegan call. Vegin-in of Asheville, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn., delivers fresh vegan cuisine to your doorstep. Fresh n’ lean does the same for L.A. These services deliver in bulk and a la carte, helping vegans fill their bellies for a night or their fridges for a week. Check to see if you are lucky enough to have a similar store in your city.

Farmer’s Markets

I don’t know where I would be without my local growers, and I’m sure many other vegans feel the same. Just because it is winter doesn’t mean the farmers quit growing. Cabbage, beets, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are just a few of the many plants still available fresh in the wintertime. Because farmers are even more eager to sell in the slow season, they are more willing to cut a deal. When going to winter farm markets I’ve found that the lower the temperature is, the lower the prices are. Farmers just want to sell their veggies and get back home. Winter is the best time to buy in bulk and really sprout some deals.

Danielle uses a delicate mix of hummus and garlic to keep vegan life running smoothly. She blogs on behalf of Sears and other prestigious brands she loves, but spends her offline time ankle-deep in soil. Danielle thinks the best moments in life come when you are drinking straight out of a garden hose.

[photos by Susy Morris and James Lavin via Flickr]


Going off-grid with the USDA: Grow your own soybeans!  »

From this amazing book called Gardening for Food and Fun, published by the Department of Agriculture in 1947 and reprinted by Library4Farming in 2009 comes instructions for the at-home gardener on growing your own vegetable soybeans!

Did you know, for example, that, “The cultivated soybean, Glyine max (L.) Merrill, is the only member of the genus having an erect bushy plant with an annual growth habit”? DYING. The Dept. of Ag is full of interesting information. Also some outdated stuff, as this was written in the mid-/late ’40s; it recommends growing soybeans because they’re difficult to find “in canned or frozen form.”

However, it does seem quite useful. Your Vegansaurus asked an experienced horticulturalist about the instructions, and she said they seem very reasonable. So if you’re worried about issues like buying from companies whose soybeans also feed livestock or use GMOs, or you’d like to live more independently in general, growing soybeans may be for you. I especially love Gardening for Food and Fun because it tells you exciting! and new! ways to eat the food you’ve grown, like how to sprout and dry the soybeans; it’s adorable. Soybean sprouts are not on my imaginary 1950s dinnertables, but there are your helpful tips anyway.

Library4Farming seems like a pretty useful resource: they are working to put online every single USDA Yearbook of Agriculture series “which has been published almost every year from 1894 to 1992” and which are full of relevant (and irrelevant) information. So far they have scanned the aforementioned GFF, Insects, and Science in Farming. Maybe there are more thrilling revelations from the USDA waiting for someone (us? you?) to discover! Maybe it is excrutiatingly boring blah blah about how to most effectively slaughter insects! We’ve only read the bit about soybeans so far, but that was neat enough to share, it seemed like there might be more USDA fun!

[image of soy bean plant by kamome; image of soybeans by trapon]


What’s new at Rainbow Grocery: a vegan odyssey!  »

Man, we have it so lucky in the bay area. In other parts of the country, they have to literally climb mountains, cross rivers, and pass tests of endurance, skill, and wit to get to a quality vegan cupcake. For a decent vegan pizza, they must whittle a squirrel while riding an elliptical. For vegans in Middle Earth America, grocery shopping is basically like living in Saw, but worse*. WHICH LEADS ME TO MY NEXT POINT: God Bless San Francisco and God Bless Rainbow Grocery. Now, let’s get down to business!

First, we have VEGAN COOKIE DOUGH. That’s right, we can eat cookie dough straight out of the tub with the fattest of ‘em! And guess what, we ain’t getting Salmonella! HELL YEAH. Check out the ridiculously amazing Eat Pastry in the frozen section!

AAAAAAND… let’s give it up for Tofurky Pizzas! It’s a melty, delicious, Daiya-topped, vegan pizza and it’s ALL YOURS. It’s like $8 so my cheap ass will be saving it for special occasions like weddings and graduations and days ending in y. The actual pizza doesn’t look exactly like the box but SEX SELLS.

Also, vegan fertilizer for vegans who want to get DIR-TAY. Sorry, listening to too much Christina Aguillera.

Don’t know much about this but thought it might be of note for all you outdoorsy types. Cheers!

*I kid! It’s pretty easy to be vegan just about anywhere in America and so all you whiners better shut the hell up and GO VEG! Also, MOVE TO A COAST. I kid again, GO MIDWEST!


SF Green Festival, meatball awards, the miracle of birth, delicious local tofu, Czech dumplings, urban gardening and more in this week’s link-o-rama!GE  »

Green Fest is in San Francisco this weekend; let Vegansaurus guide you through it.

Win a copy of 500 Vegan Recipes! Hurry up and do it by Tuesday, Nov. 17!

The clever fuckers at the California Milk Advisory Board will be filming their latest “Happy Cows come from California” commercials in New Zealand. Torture the local cows, but don’t let the state benefit from production fees: such lovely people they are.

Local chefs discover that tofu is not an abomination against haute cuisine. Color us shocked. And hungry for samples!

Another poor review of Eating Animals, from another Gawker associate. Shut up, Joshua David Stein, you are much too pleased with yourself and your criticism.

For the strong-stomached, the birth of an elephant. Miracles: kinda gross! This goes for every human who records the births of their own young as well.

And in New Zealand, a shark gave birth to four live sharklets, thanks to the intervention of another shark? Freaky, gross, amazing.

Oh delicious: a recipe for Czech fruit dumplings! Yes PLEASE.

Filling closets with clothes for yourself is acceptable human behavior; filling a closet with matching clothes for your cat is NOT. I recognize we’re all guilty of anthropomorphism to some degree, but this not OK.

Watch out, sickies: you can pass on the swine flu to your companion animals.

Remember Nicolette Hahn Niman’s ridiculous op-ed renouncing her ranch’s responsibility for carbon emissions? Peter Singer gives her brief, precise what-for.

King of Jerkoffs A. Bourdain says humans are allowed to eat animals because they are “smaller and stupider” than us. Ari Solomon says, intelligence is as intelligence does, bright boy. (Although we should note, Mr. Solomon, that “stupider” is an inflected comparative and most certainly a word.) (Grammarsaurus!)

More meat and more dairy makes Jack an angrier, more hostile and depressed boy; more carbs and less meat and dairy makes him happier and peaceful.

Friend-of-Vegansaurus Graciela has a new blog in which she explores urban gardening in L.A. We are so envious of all her lovely greens!

Check it out, another E. coli outbreak in ground beef!

Kind of pretty, kind of disgusting: your internal organs rendered in produce.

Genetically engineered apples that stay crispy without refrigeration!

Congratulations Ike’s, winner of Peta’s best vegetarian meatballs! Enjoy them in a (vegan) Meatless Mike or a Not-So-Sloppy Ike.

An interview with our hero Deborah Madison, vegetarian chef and cookbook author extraordinaire!

Last year’s fascinating story "Morality bites," by the Chicago Tribune's Monica Eng, is included in Best Food Writing 2009.

Publisher’s Weekly selects this year’s best food books; titles include the bizarro Almost Meatless (“almost”? come the hell on), the revolting Lobel’s Meat Bible, and two books Vegansaurus wouldn’t mind unwrapping this holiday season: Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, and Salt to Taste: The Key to Confident, Delicious Cooking. Neither is vegan, but both seem extremely useful.

Revolting, slightly terrifying tale of a food writer’s giving in to a murderous impulse and shooting a baboon, and the global fallout.

Ours friends at Veg-Table are looking for writers for their city guides. GET ON IT, YOU WRITERLY PERSON.


Masturgardening: cheap, easy, and fun things to do with your hands and your seeds!  »

OK, Vegan gardeners. I know it has been a long time since I’ve written any articles for you, and no doubt you are crying into your broccoli right now wondering how you can bear to go on without my wisdom. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can do it! Yes, my articles are the best, I know, but there are other places to learn the secret skills of the garden and I am here today to reveal a pretty neat looking one to you.

The Master Gardeners are a secretive, elite organization associated with elite higher education (in this case, the University of California system) and dedicated to witchcraft, sorcery, ninja skills, and gardening. Just like the Freemasons and the Skull and Bones, except with plants! These powerful individuals devote their lives to disseminating gardening know-how to those in their communities. They offer seminars and classes on a variety of gardening subjects, and they also publish useful information on their websites. If you think you have what it takes, you can also apply to become one of these mystical agrarian do-gooders — if you’re accepted, you’ll receive some pretty awesome training.

Due to their secretive nature, they are divided into sleeper cells along California county lines. San Francisco and San Mateo County readers go here. Alameda County readers go here.  You can find other California county chapters here.  Those living out of state, well, good luck with that whole thing.

Gardening columnist Ben Pearson is back with a little more sexual innuendo to enrich your existence. He has a lot of degrees so he can be as lewd as he wants and still be an “intellectual.”


Summer Gardening Edition: Very Revealing Hot and Sexy Pictures XXX!  »

Vegansaurus is mostly a San Francisco joint, but everywhere else in the Northern hemisphere, it’s hot. The dudes are stripping off their t-shirts and the ladies are adjusting their bikini straps, many of them baking to the golden color of sweet potato fries. At least in Jersey and Europe, where white people still haven’t discovered sunscreen.

To help you make it through the heat and California’s eternal drought, we’re giving you some vegan eye candy to suck on: hot photos of some of the sexiest reproductive organs to be found on common garden edibles! Big, small, purple, or yellow, these flowers show that growing food isn’t just healthy and practical—it’s like totally superficial, too!

Fragile, pale and tiny, strawberry flowers are all the more attractive because you just know they’re gonna grow up to be sweet and juicy. And if you thought that description was sexually suggestive, you are probably not allowed near public parks or schools.

The blossoms of pumpkins and most winter squash are yellow and big, like a nice beach umbrella or a dude who stuffs his Speedo. Most plants produce more blossoms than squash, so you can pick loads of these to toss raw into salads, sauté, or stuff (GET IT?) and bake.

Fava bean make blooms as numerous as sunburnt German tourists on a Mediterranean beach [ed: zing!], but they’re much smaller and more exotic-looking.

I’ve already raved about borage on this blog: it’s an all-around winner, able to repel insects, provide humans with tasty nutrients, and produce attractive flowers and unique hairy foliage. Basically, if your garden is Baywatch, this is its David Hasselhoff.

Radishes grow to tower over most other crops when they’re blooming, spraying the sky with flowers like a bunch of pretty, colorful kites. Or hot air balloons. Or unicorns.

Yarrow is attractive in a quaint kind of way, like quilts and Vermont. Going with that theme, it’s one of the best flowers for dried arrangements (I totally just lost all of my remaining masculinity by typing that) and is delightful when added to salads and sauces.

Sunflowers need no introduction. They are so good-looking you won’t even know what to do with them, and their seeds are incredibly healthy and by far the easiest edible seed to grow and harvest.

And finally, the ultimate summer crush: look at those paper-thin creamy petals holding that cute fuzzy pistil. This thing is like a freakin’ orchid, except a little more common-looking, so you feel like you can identify with it more, right? But while you there wondering what the heck I’m talking about, this awesome flower already up and left. Yup, these cuties only last one day. What happens then? They turn into this slimy thing nobody really eats called okra that just gets thrown away or gummed by old folks at Hometown Buffet. I totally just summed up life, didn’t I?

OK, that’s it! Remember: You are what you eat, and if you’re eating plants like this, you’re one sexy bitch.

Please welcome back guest writer Ben Pearson. He loves to get (and give!) blow jobs.


The White House hasn’t had a garden since Eleanor “superwoman” Roosevelt’s Victory Garden in the 1940s. This video is about as soothing as a Martha Stewart Living rerun at 3 a.m. (I was a sleepless teenager, OK), all soft jangly guitars and closeups of the seeds they got from Monticello. Thomas Jefferson: a man who loved the soil.

It’s just there’s one small, fundamental problem—because there’s always a problem, isn’t there? This one is literally fundamental, though: they use “meal” from Chesapeake Bay crabs to add calcium and nitrogen to the soil. Meaning, of course, that not one vegetable grown in that garden is really vegetarian, is it. Adorable. Ha ha life is full of amusing contradictions!

[thanks to Ethicurean for the link]


More vegan gardening, by Ben: Critter Control!  »

Please welcome back guest writer Ben Pearson. Between acquiring master’s degrees, Ben tends to his parents’ garden. Ben’s first post on gardening is here.

Vegans aren’t the only animals that love to eat plants; if you garden, lots of critters will be competing with you for your tasty crops. These visitors usually won’t eat too much, and losing a leaf of lettuce is usually a small price to pay for getting to see some urban wildlife in your own back yard. In fact, some studies suggest that plants might even be more nutrient-filled when they have to use their own natural defenses to fend off critters.

But occasionally, these little critters can make themselves a little too comfortable in your veggie patch. When they invite their friends and extended families over for a big garden-devouring party, most gardeners resort to spraying the sky with toxins or setting up deadly traps. Even those cute little cups of beer your grandma set out in her tomato patch are basically death-by-waterboarding for slugs and snails. What’s a vegan gardener to do?

While there’s no one magic solution for critter prevention, with a little knowledge and planning, you can keep harmful critters away from your plants in the first place, thus making sprays and deadly traps unnecessary.

The best solution to critters in your garden, like most things in life, is: effective contraception. Yes, folks, making sure squiggly little creatures don’t creep their way into places they’re not supposed to be is the solution to almost everything in life. Don’t want everyone in Africa to die of AIDS? Provide safe sex education and condoms! Want to reduce the number of abortions and teen pregnancies in the US? Provide safe sex education and condoms! Don’t want to get pregnant? Have anal sex! But seriously, just go with the metaphor. Don’t want critters eating your broccoli? “Wrap” that nice “head” of broccoli up so that the critters can’t get to it and make it “sick”!

Yup, the easiest way to make sure your plants don’t get eaten is to use physical barriers to keep bugs and other hungry critters away.

Once mature, most plants are quite resistant to bugs, but fragile young seedlings can be wiped out by a hungry snail or a few whiteflies. If you’re only worried about snails and slugs, protecting seedlings is a cinch. Just slice a plastic bottle up to make rings a few inches high to encircle each seedling — it’s uncomfortable for slugs and snails to climb over the jagged top with their soft bellies. Alternately, you can line planter boxes with strips of copper wire, which gives snails and slugs a little jolt, telling them to stay away.

If you’re worried about more than ground insects, you can cover entire rows of young crops with transparent plastic or fine mesh supported by a frame. These hanging row covers are available at most garden stores, but be sure to remove them once the crops start to bloom to let in beneficial pollinators like bees, flies, and wasps — if you keep that shit wrapped up when it’s (plant) baby-making time, your plants aren’t going to produce anything!

It’s no secret that plants are social creatures. Remember that site that neither you nor anybody else you know is on anymore? Know how it stays in business now? Nearly every tomato plant and like half of all marigolds have profiles — they are on there all the time! Plants like other plants for a lot of reason — for friendship, for love, for sex, and also to better fend off tough gangs of hungry critters!

A lot of conventional produce is grown in vast commercial tracts of a single variety of plant, kind of like the state of Iowa. Without their diverse plant friends (plants aren’t racist like we are), the crops in this monocultural environment get depressed, and are too busy crying to fight off bugs. Growing a variety of plants in your garden, however, not only keeps your plants happy and strong, but also makes it unlikely that any one kind of critter will find an overabundance of its preferred food.

Plants are pretty friendly, but they all have standards. It’s helpful to do a little research into “companion planting” to see what plants go well together – it’s the agricultural equivalent of assigning dinner seats at a wedding, and the social dynamics are just as fun and complex. Some plant combinations may simply encourage one another to grow. For instance, beans add nitrogen to the soil, which is great for spinach, lettuces, strawberries, and other nitrogen-loving crops. And pumpkins and petunias are totally BFFs.

Other plants can act as “decoys” or “traps” that attract harmful insects so that they don’t bug (haha, get it?!) your more precious plants, or attract and shelter beneficial insects. Some plants, like nasturtiums, do both — providing hiding places for beneficial spiders while luring harmful caterpillars away from your other plants — while looking cute and providing edible flowers for your salads, too.

Finally, certain plants just straight up drive bugs away. These dudes are tough-as-nails. Borage and yarrow repel various insects while also looking purdy and giving you something to eat. And marigolds scare away virtually every plant-hurting bug — they may look bouquet-worthy, but those little dudes are the Crips of the plant world, complete with red flair. Just don’t plant blue borage and reddish marigolds side-by-side, or you’ll have a 1990s-style LA gang war on your hands!

[all photographs provided by Ben]


Vegan gardening, by Ben  »

Please welcome guest writer Ben Pearson. Between acquiring master’s degrees, Ben tends to his parents’ garden. It’s a pretty all right gig.

Veganism is about lots of things. It’s about helping the planet. It’s about getting laid by that one girl who rides the bicycle with the wicker basket. It’s about not eating things taken from sad and dead animals. But, it’s also about what you do eat!

There’s nothing wrong with stuffing your face with potato chips dipped in Tofutti, but not eating animals can be a great gateway drug into all kinds of crazy, environmentally responsible, healthy and fun food habits. Such as: growing your own food in a garden!

There are tons of reasons to garden. Some people say it’s good exercise, but that’s really only if you are growing very large trees in pots that have to be periodically rearranged or operating a plow yourself, sans oxen. But it is healthy in other ways. Most commercially grown produce has been steadily declining in nutritional value, but food you grow yourself and eat fresh from the ground will be full of all kinds of good stuff. Gardening also saves you money, cheapskate. And, unlike commercially grown produce (even organic farms usually use animal bones or waste in their soil, oftentimes from factory farms), you can ensure that your plants are grown using vegan-friendly methods.

More on all that stuff later. But today, the gardening benefit I want to talk about is: you get to eat some hella weird plants! Lots of people are talking about omnivores lately. It’s kind of the dietary equivalent of those 19-year-old girls who say they are bisexual but really just make out with girls at bars sometimes to impress dudes— they’re still annoying and straight, and omnivores are still carnivores.

But you don’t have to let them have all the fun. While they’re out eating bald eagles with a side of baby sea turtles, you can one-up them by eating as much as you can of the truly massive variety of edible plants that are not available in your supermarket. I mean, I’ve never seen either of nature’s most nutritious greens for sale, lambsquarter and the omega-3-powerhouse called purslane, even though both are easy to grow. The kinds plants we eat have been decided by commercial viability as much as our palates, oftentimes at the expense of biodiversity and our health. So stick it to the man, Vegansaurus readers! Grow and eat weird plants like orach, purslane, “corn salad,” and borage! Grow weird (and natural) varieties of already-familiar plants: purple carrots, yellow globe-shaped cucumbers, and striped beans! And finally, eat edible parts of plants that nobody eats anymore: the leaves and very young bean pods of fava bean plants, the tendrils of pea plants, and the young seed pods of the mature radish plant!

By now you are asking, “What the fuck are all these things? I’m gonna go eat a banana.” Instead, let’s look at one of these plants in detail!

Radish pods
Radishes are cool if you’re a gardener because they are easy to grow. You just put the seeds in any kind of semi-decent soil, water them sometimes, and then in 20 to 40 days, you’ll have some yummy little radish bulbs to eat. That’s it!

But the bulbs aren’t the only edible part of radishes. The young leaves, picked before they start to feel spiky like a cat’s tongue, are delicious raw in salads. And old radishes produce a ton of delicious seed pods that are like slightly spicy snap peas.

Here’s how to grow them: plant radishes as described above. Basically, ignore them but keep watering. In about two months, they will turn into massive, four-to-six-foot tall plants with pretty flowers that will turn into crunchy seed pods. Pick the pods when they’re still fairly young—they get tough after a while. That’s it! You don’t need many—each plant gets enormous and produces a lot of pods.

In some parts of the world, like India, there are varieties of radishes grown exclusively for their enormous pods. But almost any kind of radish will produce pods that you can pick to add some crunch and spice to salads or stir fry (don’t be alarmed if they pop!—that’s how you know they’re ready to eat!) And if you’re feeling fancy, you can always try this delicious, vegan Indian recipe. Enjoy!

[all photographs provided by Ben]

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