The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
This Everest Greenhouse Is One of the Highest Gardens in the World
By Frank Giustra
Food has never been the main attraction—or even a side attraction—of my trekking adventures. Instead, it has primarily been an inconvenient necessity, largely consisting of rice, beans and other forms of sustenance. Without fresh vegetables, herbs and garlic, it all starts to taste the same after a day or two.
Of course, mountain adventures aren't about the food. They are about fulfilling ambitions, testing both your physical and mental limits and maybe learning something new about yourself. Sometimes, too, there's a lesson in there about horticulture.
Last year, I trekked with a group of friends to Everest Base Camp for our second high-altitude adventure. (Two years earlier, we summited Kilimanjaro at 19,300 feet.) Everest Base Camp wasn't as challenging as Kilimanjaro—it was 2,000 feet lower than Kilimanjaro and not nearly as steep of a climb.
But there was more to see on the Everest walk. Kilimanjaro was mostly bare rocks, while the Everest views were filled with snowy peaks and tiny villages. We slept in small lodges and visited cultural sites along the way, including a monastery where we were blessed by a Nepalese monk.
And then there was the food, including the unexpected gardens. During our Kilimanjaro trek, our daily sustenance consisted of the aforementioned rice and beans and a lot of ginger tea. But on our Everest trip, we had a much wider variety of food. There were lots of potatoes and French fries, processed meats, soups and, at one point, yak cheese (which I can tell you is nothing like Asiago or Parmesan).
However, the food took a surprising turn when we reached the house of our lead guide, Ang Temba Sherpa. Temba had summited Everest once and would have attempted it again if he hadn't promised his mother that he would never go back after she found out he had gone up the first time. He and his wife, Yangzee, live at 13,100 feet in the village of Pangboche, on the trail to Mount Everest. Once we had taken off our boots and settled in for a rest, Yangzee made us a delicious dinner, the most memorable parts of which were the vegetable side dishes and a fresh salad.
The Sherpas in the area can normally only grow potatoes. They live amid some of the most spectacular high-mountain scenery in the world, referring to the Khumbu Valley as "beyul," which means "blessed sanctuary." But it is a hardscrabble life high in the Himalayas. The Sherpa people must travel throughout the year to survive—in monsoon season, when they can graze their yaks, they move up the valley. To purchase rice, salt, spices and staples, they trek down the valley to the trading village of Namche Bazaar. Everything is carried by porters or on the backs of yaks. There are no wheeled vehicles, bicycles, ox-drawn carts or motor vehicles in the Khumbu—the trails are just too steep.
So, in 2012, without an alternative means to get fresh vegetables, Temba and his wife decided to build their own greenhouse at 13,000 feet. Using stones and mud for the walls and corrugated plastic and plastic sheeting for the roof, they crafted a utilitarian greenhouse. Now, they are able to grow tomatoes, bok choy, broccoli, cucumber, squash and lettuce throughout the year, as well as flavor-boosting herbs like mint, chives and coriander.
In recent years, the growing staple of Khumbu (Sherpa) agriculture at these altitudes has changed: Sherpas began to bring in outside seeds for potatoes, as the new varieties grow faster. But they also lack flavor and longevity and rot much faster when stored in the ground, as Sherpas have traditionally done. Buckwheat, a nutritious grain that is essential for growing children who live at high altitudes, is also widely grown in the area.
Another challenge in recent years has been a lack of snow on the ground during winter. While temperatures are still extremely cold—perhaps even colder than before—without the snow cover, the soil is too dry in the spring, making the start of growing season difficult. Then add monsoon season—the constant rains from mid-June to early September—to the mix. Here, farmers are seeing more rain than ever before—and too much of it.
Difficulties aside, Temba and his wife are rightfully proud of their greenhouse and gave me a tour, describing each vegetable variety as if it were one of their children. We enjoyed a great evening at their lodge, which included a viewing of Everest memorabilia and fascinating photos that they had collected over the years. But the best part had to be that salad at 13,000 feet.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Adrienne L. Hollis
Because extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather hazards we currently face, Union of Concerned Scientist's Killer Heat Report for the U.S. is the most important document I have read. It is a veritable wake up call for all of us. It is timely, eye-opening, transparent and factual and it deals with the stark reality of our future if we do not make changes quickly (think yesterday). It is important to ensure that we all understand it. Here are 10 terms that really help drive home the messages in the heat report and help us understand the ramifications of inaction.
Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Senate Republican who has been a close ally of Donald Trump, did not mince words last week on the climate crisis and what he thinks the president needs to do about it.
By Marlene Cimons
Kyle Rosenblad was hiking a steep mountain on the island of Maui in the summer of 2015 when he noticed a ruggedly beautiful tree species scattered around the landscape. Curious, and wondering what they were, he took some photographs and showed them to a friend. They were Bermuda cedars, a species native to the island of Bermuda, first planted on Maui in the early 1900s.
By Grace Francese
You may know that many conventional oat cereals contain troubling amounts of the carcinogenic pesticide glyphosate. But another toxic pesticide may be contaminating your kids' breakfast. A new study by the Organic Center shows that almost 60 percent of the non-organic milk sampled contains residues of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide scientists say is unsafe at any concentration.
Government Watchdog: EPA Broke Ethics Rules as It Replaced Academic Advisers With Industry Appointees
President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated ethics rules when it replaced academic members of advisory boards with industry appointees, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported Monday.