In Praise of Processed Food

The difference between serving tea made from herbs you grow yourself and herb tea from a bag “is like the difference between serving your guests a good vintage wine instead of some cheap plonk,” says Conrad Richter, president of Richters Herbs in Goodwood, Ont. “Herbal teas packed in bags are usually powdered,” he explains, so they’re “almost never as flavourful as whole herbs.”


I’ve been drying herbs for tea lately. It’s hard work. Plucking early, before the sun wilts the leaves, washing several times to remove bugs or hoping they won’t be noticeable if served to guests. Then drying them in a dehydrator, trial-and-error for what temperature and time to set. Then stripping the leaves or flower buds off from the stems, and scattering the fragrant stems in the chicken nest-box. Making a little jar of mint or lavender takes hours of processing. At one point I thought, “I hate this. I’m spending hours working with my hands for something that costs $1.99 at the store and I’m not sure if it’ll even taste good.” I used to not disagree with those who criticized processed food. But now I realized, processed food = professionally processed food. And if it doesn’t come processed (straight from the garden), then it will ultimately still be processed…by me, instead of professionals.

I suppose there’s some upside. When I process myself, I *know* that the herbs are organic and pure, that I shook off most of the bugs, and didn’t add anything unsavory. I enjoy the labor but will admit it is extraordinarily time-consuming and perhaps not cost effective. My hope that this was worthwhile is if it has better flavor that what’s offered at the store.

One morning I added a few pinches of lavender buds to my breakfast tea. It was full of flavor, a complex spiced kick! At least there’s promise that the food processing was worth it.


Strawberry-Rhubarb Yogurt

A snack I’ve been enjoying most afternoons:
– Plain Yogurt
– Strawberry-Rhubarb curd (garden ingredients & West Seattle honey), or any jam/compote
– Fresh strawberries
– Trader Joe’s Almond Butter Granola

Did you know Lebron James plans and schedules everything, from workouts to meals to naps to snacks? I find myself benefiting from snacking about the same time every day, around 3pm.

Salad with Sprouts & Lettuce

I’m going to document meals I’ve made that use a home-grown ingredient, and create a cookbook/recipe idea collection.

Here, I have a slice of pizza with a salad made with garden lettuce and mason-jar-germinated sprouts.

– Balsamic vinaigrette: 1:1 balsamic vinegar and olive oil, dried basil, touch of honey, shake in a jar
– Lettuce from the garden: Ruby red, tango (frilly green one), and mezclun blend
– Sprouts: alfalfa seeds germinated in a jar
– Pumpkin & sunflower seed topping
– Apple slices

Wok noodles with Little Flowering Kale Thing (Raab) and Black Garlic

I’m on a mission to identify what’s growing in the garden and enjoy cooking with it. There is kale starting to form flower buds, resembling thin broccoli florets. I discovered these flower buds are called “raab”. They are tender and significantly less bitter and fibrous than broccoli.

I harvested these stems (leaving the leaves) and tossed them with shiitake mushrooms, garlic, onions, soy sauce, sesame oil & seeds, protein and egg noodles to create this dish. I used diced bacon and think firm tofu would work well too. Use high heat for that wok hei! Serve with kimchi and black garlic. Enjoy!

On “raab” etymology:

“Turnips are the true “Broccoli Raab”, also called Broccoli Rabe, or Rapini. “Rape” is the Italian name for turnip, and broccoli means something like flowering thing (in Mike’s rustic Italian). Adding “ini” at the end implies that it is a small thing, so if we put it all together “rapini” is a little turnip thing, and broccoli rabe is a flowering turnip thing.”


Wok Bok Choi

There is bok choi growing in the garden, planted by the previous resident. Big stalks of bitter, fibrous stems daunted me for a month.

Recently I got a carbon steel wok. I scrubbed and seasoned it over direct flame. The first several times I used it, I set off the smoke alarm while it was warming up. I think it has something to do with using canola, safflower, or common vegetable oil. They’re not cut out for the high temps of wok frying. For that, look to peanut oil or bacon fat.

I watched this video on how to wok stir-fry bok choi. She emphasizes good technique and using garden-fresh vegetables. She only uses oil and salt to season, letting the bok choi’s natural flavor shine. She’s right about the simplicity. “Fresh vegetable has its own umami and sweetness.” There is a natural sweetness to the crunchy stem; sugar is not necessary. And you don’t need a fancy stove-top with gas flame to stir-fry!

Here’s my result today: Stir-fried garden bok choi with hamachi kama (yellowtail cheek). 잘먹겠습니다! Let’s eat!

To cluck or not to cluck

I’ve been coding! Like the slow erosion of a river forming a canyon, I am steadily pecking away at Python to become a better programmer. Here is a lil project I did today. Why chickens? I’ll explain in a future post. Stay tuned! Bok bok bok!

# Magic 8 Ball - Ask a question, reveal an answer.

import random

name = "Heeju"

question = "Should I get hens this weekend?"

answer = ""
answer_2 = ""

# First question random answer generation
random_number = random.randint(1,10)

if random_number == 1:
  answer = "Yes - definitely."
elif random_number == 2:
  answer = "It is decidedly so."
elif random_number == 3:
  answer = "Without a doubt."
elif random_number == 4:
  answer = "Reply hazy, try again."
elif random_number == 5:
  answer = "Ask again later."
elif random_number == 6:
  answer = "Better not to tell you now."
elif random_number == 7:
  answer = "My sources say no."
elif random_number == 8:
  answer = "Outlook not so good."
elif random_number == 9:
  answer = "Very doubtful."
elif random_number == 10:
  answer = "Don't rush it. Give it some time."
  answer = "Error (number outside of range)"

# Second question random answer generation

random_number_2 = random.randint(1,9)
if random_number_2 == 1:
  answer_2 = "Yes - definitely."
elif random_number_2 == 2:
  answer_2 = "It is decidedly so."
elif random_number_2 == 3:
  answer_2 = "Without a doubt."
elif random_number_2 == 4:
  answer_2 = "Reply hazy, try again."
elif random_number_2 == 5:
  answer_2 = "Ask again later."
elif random_number_2 == 6:
  answer_2 = "Better not to tell you now."
elif random_number_2 == 7:
  answer_2 = "My sources say no."
elif random_number_2 == 8:
  answer_2 = "Outlook not so good."
elif random_number_2 == 9:
  answer_2 = "Very doubtful."
  answer_2 = "Error (number outside of range)"

if question == "":
  print("You didn't ask a question. Please ask one!")
elif name == "":
elif name != "":
  print(name,"asks:", question)
  print(name,"asks:", question)

print("Magic 8-ball's answer:", answer)

print("Is this truly random?", answer_2)

The great reveal:

Slow release

I’ve been doing something called “coaching” the the past year. I pay for monthly sessions where a coach and I work on improving aspects of my marriage, health habits, and career goals so that I feel happier and more in love with life. It’s my biggest monthly expense after rent and food, and also a considerable investment of time to for the sessions and followup homework. Having a coach as an advice guru and accountability buddy is great, but the service doesn’t promise any quick fixes. There’s no guarantee I’ll attain my relationship or health goals, land a better job, or even be happier.

Why do this crazy thing?

As I was watering my mums, I realized that coaching is like a slow-release, natural/organic fertilizer. It takes a long time to notice the benefits, and I don’t feel them right away. Synthetic chemical fertilizers provide the same nutrients that, say composted steer manure can. However, synthetic fertilizers use salt as a vehicle to deliver the nutrients, the salt accumulates in the soil over the season and causes poor soil health plant damage within a few years.

Probably the most well-known of these to the home grower is Miracle-Gro: be it their Kool-Aid blue crystals that dissolve in the watering can, or in colorful bead forms. These are ubiquitous at garden centers and floral sections at supermarkets.

Organic fertilizers come in shocking forms too: crushed chicken feathers and bones, powdered blood and bone (of what?), mushroom compost, worm castings, cow manure, poultry manure, even bird and bat droppings (known as Guano, and highly valued. It’s a cause for near-war rife between Chile and Peru for a special island covered with sea-bird guano). Some are easier to work with than others. I found crushed chicken feathers and bones so powdery it’d fly away and I’d inevitably inhale it. But I find composted steer manure like rich soil – moist, not too clumpy, easy to shovel and top-dress the soil on balcony flower pots, and satisfying, rich color. Surprisingly not smelly either — I think that may be attributed to it being composted so it’s broken down.

Steer manure is a rich source of nitrogen and good for plant leaf growth. It releases nutrients in small quantities over a long time (over several months), as opposed to synthetics that can release a large dose abruptly and overwhelm a plant.

Let’s just say, in a good way, Ama La Vida coaching is like good steer manure. Its slow release has been doing me good with building natural positive mindsets, confidence, healthy habits, and productivity so that I enjoy living.

Garden Zone

As part of my Python programming practice, I came up with a module and function that randomly generates 5 USDA Plant Hardiness Zones / Garden Zones.

def randomgardenzone():
    test_list = ['a', 'b']
    for i in range(1, 5+1):
        x = randint(1, 13)
        res = choice(test_list)
        print(x, res)


For context: the US Department of Agriculture has 13 designated “zones” for the country, based on the average annual min temperature. Each zone number is 10 degrees F apart. There is a further subdivision of zones with a letter ‘a’ or ‘b’, where ‘b’ is 5 degrees F warmer than ‘a’.

These zones are useful for gardeners because we can confidently plant specimens that are hardy (cold/frost/freezing temperature tolerant) to their zone. This is why mango and bananas don’t grow in Minnesota, while they may thrive in a Floridian garden. The Minnesotan would have to have a toasty heated greenhouse in order to cultivate mango trees or bananas through their winter. (Did you know the banana plant is actually an herb, not a tree?)

I’m curious how some plants are able to be cold-hardy and resist freezing. When it gets below 32’F, the water in the plant cells wants to freeze and expand. This would rupture the cell walls and make the plant loose its structure, becoming frost damaged, mushy, and sadly, not salvageable. I heard that cold-hardy plants contain a natural antifreeze that prevents this. I’m curious how antifreeze works, and if it’s similar to what’s used in automobiles. Dianthus is an example of a common plant that is cold-hardy (you can grow them in Alaska), and in fact they need a cold season in order to thrive.

Python Things I learned:

  • Use “for i in range(1, 5)”, not just “for i in (1,5)”. A simple doh!-type mistake!
  • range(a, b) works like [a, b) – it is exclusive of the b value. However, randint(a, b) is inclusive of the b value.
  • The “choice( )” function from the random module let’s you pick a random item from a list. This was useful to pick the zone letters ‘a’ or ‘b’, since randint( ) is only used to pick a random integer.