Sustainability

There’s More than Meets the Fung – eye

Its December, the last remnants of Chanterelles are leaving your taste buds. The first freeze is here. Just a few weeks ago mushrooms were everywhere! They were in your cedar chips, in your lawn and between. You’re curious about them, that’s why you’re reading this. You know some of them are super poisonous, some are super delicious, some are super medicinal and some are super fun. You are afraid to pick and eat them because of that lethal thing I mentioned – don’t worry so am I.

Foraging for mushrooms often takes a little more experience than foraging for edible plants as there can be a lot of false identification. For that reason I am not here today to talk to you about identification.

You’re asking, well then why the hell are you here? I’m here to talk to you about why Fungi are more important then just their delectable edible bodies.

Fungi are in the streets, on the internet, and in the market. Those fungal networks: think of em like the dark web of our soil. A Matrix of interconnected webs spanning miles beyond miles. Alright Neo are you ready to take the red pill?

Connected to that little mushroom you saw yesterday is a network of mycelium that can span so far that one of the biggest organisms on the earth is a fungi. These networks have symbiotic relationships with the plants growing above ground, this relationship is called mycorrhizae. They exchange nutrients and knowledge. Wait knowledge? What do you mean knowledge?

Scientists have proven that mother trees use these networks to send nutrients to saplings and communicate- sometimes to different species even. I know, you’re like whoa! Hold on to your horses cause it gets better.

Fungi are not only the highways for the the transportation of nutrients, they are also like the markets making those nutrients more readily available for plants. So instead of having to travel deep into the soil with its roots or break down some complex compounds, fungal networks do that for them. Look at that fungi making nutrients more available for plants. So now you’re asking, what do they get in trade? They get carbohydrates! We all want sugar right?

Now that you know mushrooms are so important for your garden, what can you do to encourage fungi in your soil? Lets start with what not to do. DON’T use pesticides. Don’t use too much nitrogen or phosphorous rich fertilizers/composts. Don’t till your soil. Don’t mono crop. Rotate them crops yo.

If the land you use is new to you I suggest assuming its been compromised. Most garden shops will have something to help perpetuate that amazing mycelium. A startling 80% of land plants have a symbiotic relationship with fungi and I’m willing to bet most of the plants in your garden do too.

So now you’re like, well I don’t grow a garden I don’t care. Well there’s even more to meet the eye with fungi then just soil health. Mushrooms are being studied in the treatment of breast cancer (turkey tail mushrooms), the filtering of pollutants and the creation of new biodegradable packing materials. Soon we’ll be able to say good by to styrofoam.

Fungi are responsible for my three favorite things: beer, bread, and cheese…mmm fermentation. So next time you see that little fruiting body called a mushroom popping up remember that’s the tip of the of the iceberg.

Want to learn more about mushrooms? I’d suggest checking out Paul Stamets and Susie Simmond TED talks to start.

 

Nichole Criss
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe
Social Media Manager
Chaco CanyonThere’s More than Meets the Fung – eye
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Using Natural Food Dyes In Your Home and At Chaco

Everything’s beginning to change for fall. The tree leaves, the sky, and the food around us are all taking on new colors. Natural food dye is the partner to seemingly all festivities this time of year, from icing on cookies to festive cakes and other homemade treats.

The Chaco kitchen has been resourceful in bringing our natural food ethos to our love for wacky-colored food. Turmeric, hibiscus powder, beet juice, and chlorophyll are all ingredients we use to color our raw cheesecakes, truffles, and cake frosting.

The pink coconut flakes on our seasonal raw truffles are dyed with beet juice, and our gluten-free chocolate mint cupcakes are made with chlorophyll for a green frosting.

At home, if you’ve ever cooked with fresh turmeric or beets, you know how easily they can stain your hands and cooking surfaces. I have yellow-tinted nails for days after juicing turmeric for the café. While I don’t find my yellow nails particularly pleasing, you can put that beautiful golden yellow color to good use, especially if you’re thinking about creating your upcoming Halloween costume. If you have any light-colored material or yarn you’d like to dye, turmeric makes a great natural fabric dye. All it takes is some ground turmeric, water, salt, and thick gloves to save your skin! Make sure the fabric you’re dying is a natural one—cotton and wool work great. You can follow a similar process with chopped beets for rose-colored results. Grab some yellow onions or red cabbage out of your vegetable drawer for even more color palate possibilities.

I’m constantly looking for ways to save my scraps and keep usable produce out of the compost bin. Not only does creating my own food dyes help me with this mission, it also prevents more chemical dyes from entering the trash and waste water system. Even food-grade dyes contain petroleum-based ingredients and animal products. Synthetic fabric dyes are also known to cause skin irritation and rashes. Ditch synthetic dyes and try making your own natural ones for a rewarding Halloween project!

Do you have a favorite food dye? Leave a comment telling us about your experience. Whether it’s with cooking or just for looking!

 

Recipe for turmeric dye:

4 cups water

¼ cup salt

Natural material (light-colored wool or cotton work best)

Bring the water and salt to a boil, then add your fabric. Let simmer for an hour. This process makes the dye take to your fabric much more easily. Then:

2 cups water
2 T ground turmeric

Bring water and turmeric to a boil, then add your fabric. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove your fabric and let it dry. Viola!

Happy Holidays
Annie
General Manager
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe & Bakery, Greenwood

brandontutmarc_pqo1knUsing Natural Food Dyes In Your Home and At Chaco
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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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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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