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10 New Vegetables and Herbs for Your Garden This Spring
By Brian Barth
Looking to spice it up this year in the old vegetable patch?
Plant breeders are always rolling out new varieties and reviving forgotten heirlooms that offer tantalizing tastes. Here are a few to consider.
1. Habanada Pepper
Row 7 Seed Company, the new seed supplier founded by chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill Stone Barns fame, has a growing selection of never-before-seen vegetable varieties, including this twist on a famously hot pepper. It has habanero flavor without all the heat. Get it? "Nada" of the "haba"?
2. Georgia Cabbage Collards
This low-growing collard forms loose heads with a cabbage-like flavor. An old-fashioned hybrid that was likely once grown throughout the South, this variety was nearly lost until a man named Bobby Prevatte, who inherited seeds from his grandparents, brought it to the attention of botanists. It's now available from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
3. Mouse Melon
While it may look like a watermelon that has been shrunk down to the size of a grape, this traditional Mexican vegetable is more closely related to cucumbers. New to North American palates, it's suddenly a hot item at specialty seed companies. The flavor is cucumber-like but with a delightful bite — it's often described as a cucumber that's already been pickled.
4. Ground Cherry
This unique crop looks like a cherry tomato but comes wrapped in a papery husk like a tomatillo. A relative of both vegetables, the ground cherry has a flavor that's a cross between the two: sweet and tomatoey, with a piquant aftertaste. As a bonus, it's not susceptible to the myriad pests and diseases that plague tomato plants.
Hailing from the high Andes, this ancient vegetable has recently found its way onto American plates. It's the tuberous root of the South American sunflower, which grows readily in North American soils. Raw yacón has a crunchy texture, with a flavor somewhere between celery and green apples. It's often added to salads, but it can also be cooked like a sweet potato.
6. Honeynut Squash
Another recent invention of the folks at Row 7 Seed Company, this is, essentially, a miniaturized version of butternut squash. The idea behind the company is to develop new vegetables bred specifically with chef-level culinary attributes. Honeynut squash, which has quickly become the darling of foodie circles, is Row 7's first smashing success. It concentrates all the flavor of a full-size butternut squash into a smaller, more potent package.
7. Tree Collards
These purplish-green collards grow on spindly stalks up to 10 feet tall. The flavor is sweeter and nuttier than standard collards. Even more impressive is their perennial nature: Unlike annual vegetables, tree collards produce year after year without replanting. Unfortunately, they only do so in mild-winter regions (prolonged temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the plants). The good news is that you can grow them in a pot and cut the stalks down to a reasonable size before you bring them indoors for winter.
8. African Blue Basil
Speaking of perennial plants, here is a rare perennial basil, though it, too, dies when the cold weather arrives unless you bring it indoors. African blue basil isn't blue, but it is beautiful, with purple-tinged foliage and flowers. It grows into a compact, rounded shrub that looks more at home in a flower border than a vegetable garden.
9. Roman Camomile
German camomile — the kind that's typically brewed for tea — grows as a spindly, weed-like plant. Roman camomile — its distant cousin — grows as a flat green mat, about three inches tall, that tolerates foot traffic and can be used as an herbal lawn. A cold-hardy perennial, it has a similar flavor and fragrance to German camomile (an annual) but is much more concentrated. Use it as an ingredient in sweet iced tea, or simply sprawl out on the plant for an aromatherapy session.
10. Lavender Mint
Plant breeders are always coming up with new varieties of mint — a plant that is unusually amenable to genetic tinkering (we're talking old-fashioned breeding here, not genetic engineering). There's chocolate mint, pineapple mint and lemon mint, among many others. Now, there is also lavender mint. With two of the world's most popular herbs combined into one, what's not to like?
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Will Sarni
It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.
The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future
We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.
"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.
One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.
Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.
Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.
These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.
We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).
We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.
We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.
Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.
Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.
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