vegansaurus!

05/02/2013

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.

and

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.

03/07/2013

What, we’ve wrecked wild bees now, too?  »

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Two fun studies show that bees are having more troubles thriving in the age of modern agriculture than we thought.

First, honeybees aren’t the best crop pollinators; per a study published in Science, they get a lot of help from bumblebees and carpenter bees.

Second, wild bees hate monocultures, and don’t like to pollinate in single-crop areas.

Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who’s a co-author of the first study in Science, says one of the biggest problems for wild bees is the agricultural specialization that has produced huge fields of just one crop.

The almond groves of California, for example, are a sea of blossoms in February. It’s a feast, as far as the eye can see, for honeybees that come here from all over the country.

"But for the rest of the year, there’s nothing blooming," she says.

That means there are no bees. “In fact, in places where we have very large monocultures of almond, we don’t find any native bees anymore,” Kremen says.

 So what does that mean for us? Will the fact that large-scale monoculture is bad for bees force us to change the way we farm? Is smaller-scale, more diverse farming financially feasible for modern farmers?

Home gardeners, at least, could learn to plant a variety of flowers and food plants together. As for commercial agriculture, we’ll see.

[Photo by Jimmy Smith via Flickr]

05/02/2012

Open discussion: If plants communicate, is it ethical to eat them?  »


Adam poses an interesting question at Say what, Michael Pollan?: Should communication between pea plants raise tough issues for vegetarians?

This comes from a New York Times blog post about a Ben-Gurion University study in which a pea plant subjected to drought conditions would then “[relay] to its neighbors the biochemical message about the onset of drought, prompting them to react as though they, too, were in a similar predicament.”

The Times then asks, If plants can talk, are they sentient, and can people who don’t eat meat for ethical reasons continue to eat plants, if they’re essentially the same as animals, WELL YOU HYPOCRITES?

This is one of those “trick the vegan” questions that particularly irritates me, even more than “What about the animals killed in the production of soybeans?” As though there weren’t a million other terrible things happening to most animals on factory farms. As though the only reason I’m vegan is because I anthropomorphize animals. Yes, do no harm, but in a world where humans do all the harm, you have to prioritize your harm-reduction, and for me, animals that definitely suffer are more important than plants that communicate.

Adam, of course, takes a nuanced approach to the subject—“an argument based on a need to be logically consistent doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously if it isn’t itself logically consistent.” We, on the other here mostly to yell. When people use interesting scientific discoveries as another way to make us look hypocritical (maybe because you see your own hypocrisy when you look at us?), it makes me angry.

So let’s discuss! How do you feel about the idea of communicative plants? Do you think plants are sentient? What about the whole "eating things without a central nervous system is still totally vegan" debate?

[Thanks to Adam for the excellent post! Photo by Andy via Flickr]

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