Capital District Community Gardens Expansion

From the desk of Albany John:

The Capital District Community Gardens has long provided agricultural and

nutritional resources to our area, delivering more than 333 tons of fresh produce

in the past year alone. This past week the CDCG celebrated the opening of a 2.5

million dollar project (in the first phase alone) at 594 River Street in Troy designed

to quadruple their capacity to provide access to local farmers and consumers.

The community presence and overwhelming support of the local government and

business leaders for the project shows the importance of this project to Albany,

Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Saratoga counties as well as farmers from 10 local counties.

I was introduced to the CDCG by their mobile produce project, which strives to

deliver produce to under-served communities. The cities of our region are full of

neighborhoods with little to no access to fresh produce, and the CDCG helps to

reduce the impact of poor nutrition by delivering produce along routes with the

“Veggie Mobile” a truck selling fruits and vegetables. They also have a smaller

“sprout” vehicle, and have introduced sales space in local convenience stores.

Where most convenience stores stock highly processed, high calorie food with long

shelf lives – local produce is now available through the healthy convenience store

initiative. I planted a community garden in Troy (one of nearly 50 in the region) and

the support of the staff was amazing – with seeds, education, and seedlings available

at very low cost.

 

The Urban Grow Center has transformed a 100 year old former light industrial

building into a warehousing and office space. The staff and volunteers transformed

the first floor (once crowded by safety equipment and pipes) into a space where

they will be able to not only stock and distribute much more produce to the area

but also act as an incubator for local businesses. The grow center will feature a

commercial kitchen for nutrition education and food based micro-enterprises. The

project will also include an acre of greenhouses for year round urban agriculture

programming. Green technology will be a major factor, with a “green roof”, solar

power, water reuse and porous pavement reducing over 300,000 estimated gallons

of runoff.

Political support from the communities that the CDCG serves was incredible, with

mayors from Albany, Troy, and Schenectady speaking about their experience with

the CDCG and praising the project and pledging their support in the years to come.

Assemblyman John McDonald III, and Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy The

business community stood behind the project as well, not only with their words, but

with their wallets. E. Stewart Jones, (co-chair of the grow center campaign with his

wife Kimberly Sanger Jones) SEFCU, First Niagara, and MVP Health Care pledged

their support with SEFCU promising a contribution of $500,000 towards the first

phase of the project. They still need our support, and charitable contributors are

needed at all levels. The grand opening presentation ended with the CDCG interns

demonstrating with produce the level of funding the project has already received

(more than 50%), and how much more contributions they have to raise for the first

phase of the project.

Food ties our communities together. That’s one thing I know for sure, and farmers

and consumers in urban areas are often separated by more than distance. The CDCG

has demonstrated its commitment to fighting poor nutrition from farm to table. The

growth of the CDCG also means opportunity for farmers to open up to under-served

markets, and for at-risk youth and adults to receive job training and education

about how food matters, how it reaches the table, and the importance of small scale,

local healthy farming. The program is a model I hope is replicated in urban centers

worldwide, mindful of the needs of consumers and farmers, implementing green

technology.

For more information on this exciting venture, contact Amy Klein, executive

director of the CDCG amy@cdgc.org or (518) 274-8685

Jarritos Cola

This post brought to you by Jarritos & Albany John. Partially ’cause it was taking me forever and a day to actually get around to opening the promo bottle of Jarritos’ new Mexican Cola, but also because the man loves his sodas.

There is nothing quite like a nice cold soda on a hot day in august.

That being said, the allure of a soda is lost on one albany jane.

Albany Jane is not one who has “guest posters” on her blog. That being

said she knows I embrace beverages with a vigor most men reserve for

sports teams, poker, dogs, or old cars.

Jarritos. This is what a sody pop is supposed to be. There was one

Jarritos mexican cola sitting in the back of the fridge. Beverages are

meant to be drank but apparently this soda belonged to the internets,

and could not be consumed without an accompanying blow by blow

account of its faults and glories.

Some soda is too carbonated for me. I have been accused in the past of

leaving bottles of carbonated beverages uncapped slightly in the

fridge. This particular soda still has enough fizz in it to make the

satisfying “pssshhht” when the cap is opened, but not enough to induce

belches.

The flavor is somewhat less like a coke or pepsi cola, more like what

you’d imagine an old time soda from a soda jerk would be. Think like

a sarsaparilla or a cream soda without the sarsaparilla or cream soda

flavor. The bottle advertises 100% natural sugar. I like sugar.

Nothing wrong with that. I’m not going to get into the whole “whether

hfcs is bad for you” issue, I’m on the side that you should eat what

you like if you can deal with the politics. I like sugar. I wish maple

sugar tasted good in soda, but unfortunately I’ve never seen a

beverage containing it to test the theory. I also think that sodas

feel different when you drink them if they have sugar rather than

hfcs, less syrupy/less viscous.

If you grew up on coke or pepsi, and that’s what you think a cola

should taste like then you might not be a big fan of Jarritos. I mean

expectations of nostalgia rank up there pretty high when it comes to

food or drinks. I was raised in a household of hydrox cookies and rc

cola, so I’m not really bound to a nostalgia for a particular kind of

soda. We made our own root beer and sarsaparilla as a kid. My

brother’s favorite flavor was birch beer.

Sincerely,

Albany John



Albany Jane here: I thought it was okay, but a little heavy on the warmer flavors. Then again, I’m a Coke Zero kind of gal. Also, how can anything top Jarrito’s guava soda??

Don’t Call Me A Sprout Lover

Albany John is a sprout master. Master of Sprouts. He finally spills some sprout trade secrets here:

I like the idea of growing sprouts. I think I was assigned to read a book on asian immigrants to the United States at some point in school. I remember her family ran a restaurant and grew vats of sprouts in pots in the basement. That’s the point of sprouts, from a home-made operation the harvest on sprouts from a small amount of seed is surprisingly great considering your only input is time, air, and water.

There’s a lot of literature on sprouts, but a lot of authors tend towards the romantic view of natural eating. I love the taste, but please don’t call me a “sprout lover”. The first guidebook I read was called “The all-about-sprouts book” subtitle; A manual for the (sigh) sprout lover. It came with a “Kitchen Crop” sprouter I bought, a flimsy plastic tub with spindly cd sized trays. This manual warns “Remember, however that the seeds will expand tremendously when wetted and will occupy approximately four times their initial volume.” So I had a non-fiction source for the magic of sprouts.

The problem with this setup was it was a pain to clean. The trays all had siphons that you needed to clean, and you had to empty the basin at the bottom twice a day. I switched to a jar with a screen on the top. Low-tech, but it definitely works.

  1. You sort out the split or damaged seeds, and rinse once in cold water.
  2. You soak the seeds in a one quart sprouting jar. (just double the amount of seeds if ½ gallon) at a ratio of two tablespoons seeds with three times as much water as seeds. Soak overnight.
  3. Drain water, rinse seeds in lukewarm water and drain again. try to keep seeds well drained.
  4. Rinse and drain twice a day.

Really don’t mess with sprouting seeds more than that unless it’s really hot outside. Then maybe rinse a third time. It’s kind of like cooking an egg, you don’t want to work on it until it’s ready to flip. At the Schenectady Green Market I saw a farmstand selling sprouted almonds and other unusual sprouts. I found out I can do more sprouting without a trip to a health food store. Beans will sprout using exactly the same method, just make sure to give them the longer soaking time, seeds only really need 5 hours. Mix ½ cup for a quart jar.

My other suggestions. Don’t try recipes from manuals to sprouting kits. There is no way that eating alfalfa sprouts on a hot dog is more appetizing than it sounds.

– Albany John