August 2016

Great Weekend at Sustainable Ballard

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I raised my eyebrows in surprise when I was told that we were going to be serving Banana Bread at Sustainable Ballard.

I’ve learned to avoid bananas at the grocery store, like other cheaply available and mass produced items. I’m always suspect of how a company can afford to pay it’s workers a living wage and still give me such a good price.

After asking around the kitchen, I learned that we source our bananas from Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers (GROW). GROW gives restaurants and retailers an alternative to the questionable practices of other banana farms. The following short video tells us about the positive effects GROW has managed to bring to banana farming communities:


Saturday’s break in intense heat was ideal. Courtney and I arrived at Ballard Commons under the more familiar cloudy skies. We set up our tent for what became a lively and fun event that included live music, demonstrations, and free Chinook books! Our table was situated right across from the Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.).

I love this organization’s mission, “to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices”.

F.E.P. recently sponsored a school supply drive for the children of farm workers, which is so cool!

While at the event, a KBFG DJ told me that Chaco Canyon Cafe is now on the Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate List. This list recognizes companies who source chocolate that is not produced by means of child labor or slavery. I encourage you to read this article if you’d like to know more about where your chocolate is coming from!

Although I’m terribly camera shy, it only took about 10 minutes until I was asked to speak about Chaco on local radio station KBFG 107.3.

I was very excited to learn that KBFG is a local North Seattle broadcast, serving Ballard, Fremont, Greenwood, and Phinney Ridge.

Currently, KBFG is only streaming online, but they will be broadcasting as a low-power FM station in early 2017. Don’t you just love local community powered radio?! I do. Check out KBFG’s schedule. They offer musica  mexico, heritage hour African language programming, and local business reports. So much content is offered, and there are plenty of ways to get involved!

KBFG explores Sustainable Ballard!

 

All together, it was wonderful to see everyone who could make it! I love serving banana bread to someone and telling them there’s no eggs or butter in it. The shock! The awe. Good food simply needs good ingredients. As a buyer for the café, I know how much love and care goes into sourcing those ingredients. Honestly, it’s great to be at an event and see that folks come to our table because they know it’s food they can get behind.

All in all, thank you to everyone who came out to Sustainable Ballard. See you next year!

Cheers,
Bettina
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe
Commissary Kitchen

Chaco CanyonGreat Weekend at Sustainable Ballard
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Weeds You Could be Eating: Part Deux

Backyard Liver Tonic

It’s mid summer and here I am, back again for “weeds you could be eating part deux.” Don’t mind the Hot Shots reference.

So it’s early August, you’ve already harvested lambs quarters, nettle, berries, and all those other plants, you know, the vegetables you intentionally planted. The summer days are getting shorter but hotter. Your apples, pears and plums are getting ready to be picked. Your neighbors apples, pears and plums are getting ready to be picked, by you, because they never do anything with them anyway, but you really should ask permission instead of sneaking over in the middle of the night. No judgement here.

 

Oh my dandelion,

it has taken over your front yard, your side yard, and just about everything in between. You haven’t mowed it down because it’s bringing in so many local bees that are doing their pollinating thing and making your harvest possible. Well good news the whole dang plant is edible. Lemme tell you a little bout dandelion. Dandelion, taraxacum officinale, is packed full of vitamin A, C, calcium and is quite the liver tonic. You can make tea, you can make wine, you can make soup, you can make salads, you can make medicine and just about everything under the sun. Dandelion flowers make a great wine, you may need a lot of flowers, or can be added to any mead or wine to add complexity. The root of dandelion can be boiled in place of any vegetable or roasted and ground in place of coffee. The leaves of dandelion can be quite bitter when raw so I would suggest cooking them before ingesting, maybe try them in soup. Not only is dandelion good for you it’s good for the soil too. Dandelion roots break up the compact soil (ahem grass lawns)  and aerate the earth. Their deep roots pull up nutrients and make them available to other plants.  Only since the idea of grass lawns have dandelions been looked upon so poorly. I think it’s about time we change our perception on Dandelion.

 

A good alternative to fish oil supplements.

Purslane do your dang thing.

We may have just missed the cut off for Purslane as its starting to get bitter in my garden, but just in case you still have a little left. Purslane, portulaca oleracea, often used as a ground cover, is an edible plant that grows low to the ground. Purslanes succulent leaves are delectable and high in omega-3 fatty oils so no need to take that fish oil, yuck. You can chop the stems and leaves as an addition to any salad or cook them and add them to any soup or vegetable dish. Next spring throw down some purslane seeds on your broccoli bed and have a living edible mulch.

 

Sorrel Sorrel,

what ever will be will be.  Mountain Sorrel, oxyria dingyna, and Sheep Sorrel, rumex acetosella,  are both edible and both grow around these parts. Sorrel leaves are edible and can be added to salad or sandwiches. The leaves can be sour so I would not suggest ingesting too many leaves or making an entire salad out of them.

Just like any foraging adventure make sure you know %100 before you ingest. Common names can be misleading or misused and many plants have not so edible or even poisonous look a likes. If you are not sure, use a reference manual to help identify or don’t eat it.  That’s it from me this week. What wild edible plants are you eating, how are you preparing them and what do you suggest?

 

Nichole Criss
Chaco Canyon Cafe West Seattle
Assistant General Manager

 

Sources:
Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Pojar and Mackinnon
The Foragers Harvest, Samuel Thayer
Gardenguides.com
Ediblewildfood.com
Chaco CanyonWeeds You Could be Eating: Part Deux
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Moving Beyond Green

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In the days before I first opened Chaco Canyon in 2003, I found myself shopping for the last items we needed to be ready.

I came to the section with disposable utensils and paused for some time. This was in the dark ages before compostable was an option so we’re talking rigid plastic, single-use utensils.  I just couldn’t do it, and made a hurried trip to Goodwill to stock up on silverware to hand out to people until I could come up with a better idea.

A funny thing happened as we pondered a better plan: the ad-hoc one worked great for everyone.  Nine out of ten customers, when offered the option of a piece of silverware, said that they had a fork or spoon in the car or office, and they didn’t need anything.  Those that took them tended to come back and return their fork (great for retention), and most everyone understood that – while this was an admittedly weird system – they appreciated not feeling guilty for using a manufactured item from a far-flung country once and then tossing it into the waste stream.

Put this system side by side with the “normal” thing to do in the restaurant industry: putting a disposable fork, spoon and napkin (and knife and chopsticks….) in every bag, just to make sure everyone absolutely gets utensils.  Taking the time to ask everyone who gets something to go, and explaining that they can actually take utensils (or bamboo chopsticks) takes a lot more time and effort, but one of the main differentiators between a business that is “green” and one that has in its mission to have Zero Impact on the planet someday.

We’ve saved over a half million single-use utensils from production and disposal just by making this simple choice – that’s a good start.

Choosing not to have disposable utensils, and dozens of other ‘unusual’ behaviors and choices we make every day at Chaco Canyon, are what makes us unique and special.  It’s why we won the 2013 Green Washington Award and the 2014 Recycler of the Year Award for small businesses, as well as many other accolades and awards throughout the years.

WSRA

The sustainability and zero impact ethos permeate the café, from myself to the staff, to our customers and out into the city.  One of our staff recently contacted me to let me know that, as part of a bridal planning committee, she was assigned to buy a bunch of one-time use Solo cups for the reception.   “The environmentalist in me cringed”, she stated, and then asked if Chaco could buy some re-usable cups for her to bring to the wedding, and then put them into use at the cafes afterwards as water cups.  Of course we can!  I love our staff.

Working for a sustainable planet has changed over the last 30 years.  Recycling and composting are no longer the hallmark of environmentalism; they are the base expectation to start from.  Thanks to smart local legislation around Styrofoam and plastic bags, Seattle is a true leader in the movement for a sustainable planet.  We as a community should keep pushing for more, better, and weirder solutions to loving our planet.  What are you doing in your house?

 

Chris Maykut
Proud Owner
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafes

Chaco CanyonMoving Beyond Green
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