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Ten Tips for Starting Your Permaculture Kitchen

Last week, I talked about how it is that we live on planet earth and that there are things that we can do to help ourselves protect our planet earth. Most people don’t want to be eco-activists. I don’t want to be an eco-activist. I don’t necessarily agree with everything many suggest. I am not a vegan. I believe that a little meat in the human diet is a good thing and good for the environment. (More on this in a later post). However, there are things that we can do to help sustain our planet that I think do make sense.

One concept in permaculture, is to view our space on this earth in six zones, zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 0. Today we’re going to be talking about zone 0, and zone 0 can be a lot of things. Zone 0 is where a person lives. Zone 0 can be that person’s house, but it can also be that person’s mind. In this case, we’re going to refer to zone 0 as the house, and in this article, our focus in zone 0 is the kitchen.

Start Here

The kitchen is a good place to start permaculture. The reason is that, though not everyone has land, just about everyone has a kitchen or can create the components of one in their living environment. One of the ways that we can start permaculture in our kitchen is by learning to utilize what we bring into the kitchen to feed our families. It also is the place where social permaculture occurs most regarding human beings.

One of the first steps we can help sustain our planet and keep it healthy is to carefully determine what we bring into our homes. Do we really need to bring those over-processed, overly packaged, plastic covered foods into our homes? Nutritionists tell us that we’d be healthier if we ate a simpler diet like the Mediterranean diet which includes whole foods and if we ate more fruits and vegetables and fresh herbs and consider meat more as flavor enhancer. As much as possible, we can buy foods that come in their natural packaging like vegetables not in plastic. We can buy grains, nuts, beans, and dried foods in bulk and store in reusable containers. It is not only good for the environment but saves money too.

The Kitchen’s Waste Stream

Another way we can help sustain our planet and keep it healthy is to learn how we can deal with the so-called waste stream from our kitchen. A lot of what comes out of our kitchen can be used as a supplement to our animal feed or fed into our compost piles. The paper products can be fed into our wood heating stoves for heat in the winter or added to our compost piles as a wonderful carbon source. This process is an example of a permaculture strategy called stacking functions. By taking the waste of one process and using it for another function within our own property, we slow down or even eliminate waste disposal at least for a high percentage of our kitchen wastes. Instead of taking out a bag or more of garbage every week, we can take out a smaller bag of garbage once a month!

A good place to start is to reduce the amount of food that you throw away. Did you know that forty percent of the food the average American brings into their homes ends up in a landfill? A good thing to do to avoid buying food you won’t eat is to do meal planning before bringing food into the house. Don’t bring anything into your house that you know you won’t be able to eat before it goes bad.

Tips to Get You Started

A few ways that I have dealt with kitchen wastes this past winter.

  1. Bread-whenever I have bread that is going stale (but not moldy), it doesn’t go into the trash, instead I throw it into a freezer bag and into the freezer. Whenever I want to make bread pudding or stuffing, I take what I need out and cube it and make the dish. If there’s too much in the freezer and I don’t plan to make either, I dry the bread crumbs in the oven and then when the moisture is completely out of it, I put it in my food processer and make panko that I can keep in my cupboard. Whenever I want a breading to make meatloaf or meatballs I add Italian seasoning, garlic salt and pepper to the panko. Whenever I want a breading topping for a casserole (like macaroni and cheese), I mix the panko with a little garlic powder, salt, pepper and butter and put over the top. Whenever I want a breading for fried or oven fried meat, I mix the appropriate seasoning for that too. It may not seem like much, but over a year, the cost savings can add up.
  2. Vegetable Scraps-I have learned to scrub my vegetables before peeling them so that when I finish peeling them, I put the vegetable scraps—celery, carrots, onions, potatoes– in a freezer bag in the freezer and save them up until I am ready to make broth.
  3. Animal bones-I do the same with animal bones that come into the house. For instance, this past winter I cooked two turkeys (at different times). When I was ready to make broth, I took the turkey bones out of the freezer and threw them into my canner along with my freezer stored vegetable scraps and cooked for a couple of hours. I took that broth and canned it in pint containers (the stuffing recipe I use requires 2 cups of broth so they are perfect) I also had enough to can turkey soup base with pieces of turkey and lentils. The bones weren’t yet falling apart, but I had canned all that I could that day, so I allowed the bones to cool and put them back into the freezer for another couple of weeks until I had time to cook down the bone broth. The bone broth I stored in the freezer until I was ready to use it.
  4. Leftovers-I know a lot of people who eat leftovers for lunch the next day. In addition, I know others who divide out their leftovers into individual serving containers so that these leftover meals can be used later. Leftover meat and vegetables can also be converted into soups, stews and casseroles. For instance, this weekend I made chili and am using it to make a Mexican style rice casserole with some of it. Some of the rest of it will just go in the freezer for later meals. There are so many ways that leftovers can be used.
  5. Onions, peppers, and celery left over from meal prep that you don’t plan to use fresh can be cut up, put in reusable containers and put in the freezer to add to future cooked foods like soups and casseroles. If you have a lot, these can also be dried in a food dryer for a longer shelf life.
  6.  I throw whole unpeeled, overripe bananas into the freezer and use them in my morning smoothies, but they can also be used in making banana bread or cakes. To get the peels off, I zap them in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
  7. In addition to freezing, onions peppers, celery, carrots and the like can be dried in a food dryer and added to long term storage. Bananas can be dried in a food dryer as banana chips.
  8. Rather than letting greens like spinach or kale go bad in the refrigerator, dry them on a food dryer or cook them and put them in a reusable container in the freezer to later for nutritious dishes.
  9. Foods like cabbage and carrots can be fermented to incorporate as a side dish in a later meal.
  10. Coffee grounds-no, not for eating, but you can use them in the refrigerator instead of baking soda for getting rid of odors. What I do is I put a quart container in my refrigerator and then when it’s full I add the contents to my garden pots.

Now its your turn. What do you do, or can you do to reduce the garbage that goes out of your kitchen?

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