Celery-brating summer’s bounty

Hey there,

Pop quiz: How many edible delights can you get from one head of celery? Hint: The answer is somewhere in this newsletter (ooh, the suspense).

At Fix, we believe there’s no better way to build community than to break bread (and celery) around a shared table. In other words, we really like to chow down with friends. That’s a little tricky these days, but we’ve hosted a couple of virtual dinner parties this summer to connect Fixers in the Southeast and on the West Coast . Each dinner spotlighted the recipes and philosophies of a Fixer chef in the region — former math professor and food-waste crusader Hari Pulapaka of DeLand, Florida, and San Francisco’s Anthony Myint, whose Zero Foodprint initiative helps restaurants reduce their carbon footprint — and each sparked conversations about food, agriculture, climate solutions, and connection.

We hope these events will be the seed of great things to come for Fixers who are now in conversation with each other, and we’re looking forward to hosting similar feasts in other parts of the country soon.

Be well and safe, and drop a line at any time. And please share this newsletter with others who might like it.

— Chip, Grist and Fix founder

Your new hero

Abiodun Henderson, a 2019 Grist 50 Fixer, is the founder of Gangstas to Growers, an Atlanta-based program that employs formerly incarcerated youth and teaches them to grow crops on nearby Black-owned farms. Participants also make and sell a signature hot sauce. Henderson’s organization reduces recidivism by giving young people economic opportunity, as well as lessons in sustainability and self-sufficiency. “Knowledge, unconditional love, and money,” she says. “That’s what we’re about.”

Gangstas to Growers is one of 10 organizations that will be supported by Reparations Summer — an initiative aiming to devote more than $1 million to activities related to Black land stewardship. With funding from Reparations Summer, Gangstas to Growers will set to work clearing acres on a family-owned farm in Georgia, then plant hemp and bamboo to turn into an array of products. The goals are clear, Henderson says: “We can create environmental warriors, get people well paid, and just create better products for the world.”

Read our interview with Henderson to learn more about her work.

Your reading list

A few years back (OK, more like 15 years back), Grist hired our first food writer. At the time, it struck some people as a slightly wacky move. A food writer at an environmental news site? Shouldn’t you be writing about trees and polar bears and whatnot? But talented farmer and writer Tom Philpott soon proved that food and agriculture should indeed be a core part of the national environmental conversation.

Philpott has gone on to become a staff writer at Mother Jones, and he’s written a new book about how we can fix our food system, Perilous Bounty. In it, he lays out the brutal practices of corporate agriculture, then profiles farmers and communities doing things differently, from rebuilding depleted soil to adopting water-wise practices. As always, Philpott shows us clearly how we can get out of the not-so-Funyun mess we’re in.

Your pick-me-up

    • Cleaning up their act. In a newly launched partnership, General Motors and EVgo are installing 2,700 renewable-powered fast-charging stations around the country. And Spin, a Ford-owned e-scooter company, is pledging to be carbon-negative within five years.
    • Talk about an upgrade. Researchers are exploring a new approach to photovoltaic cells that would ditch the traditional silicon for perovskite. Seems the compound mineral could maximize efficiency and extend the life cycle of solar panels, decreasing the industry’s environmental footprint.
    • More e-trees, please. Studies show that virtual-reality renderings of nature do wonders when it comes to persuading people to protect wildlife. 3D modelling also helps researchers plan conservation efforts. But trees have been tough to portray accurately in the Metaverse — until now.
    • An uplifting reed. A Ghana-based enterprise is converting native bamboo — an abundant, carbon-absorbing powerhouse — into recyclable bikes. Women comprise at least half its local workforce, and the project donates bikes to kids in rural communities who otherwise have to walk up to four hours to get to school. Can you say win-win-win?
    • Some brave soles. Climate activists in different parts of the world are deploying a creative, socially distanced approach to protesting: shoe strikes. By placing pairs of pumps and other footwear outside government buildings and museums, groups from the Society of Fearless Grandmothers in Santa Barbara to Extinction Rebellion Coventry in the U.K are taking an unshod stand against fossil-fuel projects.
    • Youpi, Team Green! The Green Party in France showed unexpected strength in several city elections this summer, signalling a climate-driven change in the country’s political tides. The victors include Bordeaux Mayor Pierre Hurmic, who ran on a promise to ban cars from the city center and toppled a 73-year Conservative Party stronghold.

Your next move

  • Go on vacation — at home. Take some recommendations from four climate leaders and salvage what remains of this quarantine summer. Go on a bike tour of your city! Spice up your Spotify rotation! Have a (solo) dance party in a swimsuit and snorkel mask! The pandemic may have upended your travel plans, but it’s never too late for a bit of fun and self-care.
  • Go outside. As Fixer, birder, and podcast host Jason Ward puts it: “There is a never-ending amount of wonder and learning that can happen once you’re out there and you’re able to disconnect from whatever drama is going on in your phone and reconnect with the world.” Check out our conversation with Ward and fellow Fixer José González for more insights on equity, inclusion, and inspiration in the outdoors.

Your weekend plans

Make celery nine ways.

Hari Pulapaka

You know how they say celery has nine lives? In one of our aforementioned Fixer dinner parties, the wonderfully talented Hari Pulapaka taught us how to make full use of a head of celery — the leaves, the butts, the whole nine yards (see what I did there?). Go grab some of that good green stuff from your nearest store or farmers market, and follow Pulapaka’s steps to use every last bit.

  1. Young, yellow leaves: Per Pulapaka, these have a delicate, nuanced flavor. Add them to salads, sauces, or purées.
  2. Light green leaves: These will strike you as a bit more classically celery-flavored. Add them to salads, tear them up to sprinkle over pizza, or use as a garnish on pasta dishes.
  3. Dark green leaves: Also a strong celery flavor, and a bit heartier — these make a great garnish as well, especially if you crisp them first in a fryer or the oven.
  4. Peel or skin of celery stems: You can fry these up as chips (ever had potato-peel chips? Peels are effin’ good.) or make them into fritters.
  5. Tender hearts: These are best raw. Munch ’em straight up or dip them in your favorite creamy spread.
  6. Tops of the celery stems: So versatile! They can do anything! (Even stop a moving train, if you ask them!) Eat the tops raw, cut them up for stir fries, soups, or purées, or stick them in a Bloody Mary and call it a great day.
  7. Heart of the celery: This is what most folks know as a classic celery “rib” or stalk. Chop it up for a lovely mirepoix, make a soup, or cut it into sticks to make ants on a log.
  8. Fibrous lower tips of the stems: These go straight in the compost. Right? Wrong! Put them in a freezer bag with other veggie scraps to save for vegetable stock, or cook and blend them to fold into mashed potatoes, breads, or other interesting creations.
  9. Celery base: Put this sucker in a bowl of water and watch it re-root and regrow itself before your very eyes. Then start again from the top.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Celery-brating summer’s bounty on Aug 8, 2020.