Vegan Questions

It has been another educating year in my garden and kitchen. Now I’m back at the keyboard with the questions I’ve been mulling all summer.

If you’ve read HOW NOT TO DIE by Michael Greger, you are familiar with his Daily Dozen. If you are not familiar with his work, here is a link to an invaluable tool to help vegans make sure they get their daily nutrients.

After a year of eating a vegan diet, and eleven months of being cancer free, I’m pretty sure I’m vegan for life. The Daily Dozen has helped me stay on track, but I still have questions. And a new insight: No matter what eating lifestyle you subscribe to, you have to be flexible. The pandemic has made that perfectly clear.

No, I’m not eating animal products, except for an occasional spoonful of honey. But I’m able to get a B-12 shot twice a month. At my clinic, the nurse comes to the parking lot, checks my temperature and other vitals, and brings the shot to me. What if I didn’t have an accommodating healthcare provider? What if?

This morning, I made a decision. If I am ever in a place where I can’t get my bimonthly shot, I will choose to eat a boiled egg two or three times a week. B12 is a necessary nutrient, and meat eaters’ best defense. I won’t shame anyone’s choices. I just want to make good choices for myself.

If getting a shot is harder during a pandemic, so is stocking fresh produce. Lucky for me, I have a garden and so do my friends. We trade and share, so we’ve all had enough squash, okra, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Green beans were hard to come by, though, and no one had fresh lettuce. No cabbage, either! Cruciferous vegetables are hard to grow here. We’ve eaten well, but even if my day includes 15 servings of fruits and vegetables, I haven’t always hit every item on the Daily Dozen.

What if I sprout seeds to replace greens?  Do broccoli sprouts count as greens or are they cruciferous? Are bean sprouts beans or greens?

Berries are another issue. I have Goji berries and blackberries in the back yard, but not enough to keep me through the summer, much less the year. And because the food chain has been broken in places, there were times this year when there were no frozen berries in the grocery store freezer case.

Do tomatoes count as berries? How about raisins?

How do you classify potatoes? Sure, they’re a root vegetable, but they are starchy. Is sweet corn a vegetable or a grain?

Maybe all I need to do is eat as many colors as I can and as many fruits and vegetables as I can grow or find close to home. Maybe I need to learn how to forage for wild greens. I know they’re out there because I pull them for my chickens.

Yeah, I know! A vegan with chickens and a whole lot of questions!

Winter Salads

I love summer salads, especially if I have freshly picked tomatoes and other garden goodies.  But what’s an old girl to do in winter when tomatoes have all the flavor of just-washed socks?

Well, create winter salads, of course.

Start with fall veggies, especially those that store well.  Chopped red cabbage is my favorite salad base.

Sprouts are a good fresh addition in winter.  Broccoli and radish sprouts add a flavor kick.  Bean or alfalfa sprouts have a milder flavor.

Beets are always on the menu here.  I canned several dozen pints of honey and spice pickled beets over the summer. I also like just plain canned or frozen beets, especially dressed with spice and a flavorful olive oil.

It might seem redundant, but homemade sauerkraut makes a good addition, too.

Starting with the chopped greens (or red) base, there are a lot of options.  This is one of my favorites: chopped red cabbage, homemade sauerkraut, chopped canned beets, and sharp cheddar.  I add seasonings and some small sardines on the side.

Before you judge, consider that this salad has everything—fresh veggies, an acid (it can be vinegar, tomato, or kraut), a sweet (beets, apples, grapes, cranberries), protein (cheese, sardines, ham, leftover roasted chicken), and a savory.

My favorite seasonings are Loaded Bagel from Spices Etc. and Fox Point from Penzey’s.  Chopped onion and flaked salt work well, too.  Onions, like beets and cabbage and potatoes, are a winter staple.

It may be cold outside, but with a little thought and spice, you don’t have to do without flavor or salad.

PS: A new planting of onions are growing in the garage.  I’ll keep you posted.

Winter Greens

I had great plans to grow cabbage and lettuce in my garage this winter, but here it is the first day of winter and I haven’t planted a thing.  Fortunately for me, the food system is still intact.  From the local grocer, I have a ready supply of red and green cabbage and, for the finicky man, iceberg lettuce.

And I’ve sprouted broccoli seeds on the counter top.

I’ve been sprouting seeds for decades.  Even in a studio apartment, one can have fresh sprouts.

I’ve tried half a dozen different sprouting methods, including stackable trays, cloth bags, and screened jar lids.  This year I added a new type of lid, Masontops Bean Screens.  Don’t let the name fool you.  The holes on the wide-mouthed jar tops are small enough for any type seed.  The hard BPA-free plastic design allows for easy rinsing, draining, and aeration.  I like the Bean Screens so much, I gave away my perfectly serviceable plastic screen lids.  The Masontops are all I need, although I may need another set of them.

I love the spicy flavor of broccoli sprouts.

“Too spicy,” says the finicky man.

He has finally agreed to try other types of sprouts, so I’m picking up alfalfa seeds and red clover. I’m mixing up my own salad mix, too.

We eat a lot out of the canning pantry in winter.  I’m glad to have the jars of fruits and vegetables.  But with sprouts, I still get raw, fresh veggies and the feeling that spring will come again.

Now, how big a field would I need to grow my own sprouting seeds?  And is it too late (or too early) to plant onions in the garage?