Urban Agriculture From Seed to Tart – Growing Basil Indoors at Square Roots

In two weeks, I start my first classes in NYU’s Masters of Food Studies program (true). I’ve got my backpack (true – I already own this), notebook (someone buy this for me), and pens (can I have this too?). I’ve done my summer reading (true) and I’ve sourced the most sustainable, artisanal, local, and organic apples to bring to my teachers (false – I’m not THAT big of a nerd).

Today I visited Square Roots, an urban agriculture incubator in Brooklyn founded in part by Kimbal Musk, Elon Musk’s brother. Square Roots has an office in the old Pfizer building at 630 Flushing Ave in Bushwick, home to many of your favorite artisan NYC food brands like McClure’s Pickles, People’s Pops, Cinnamon Snail, Joe’s Pizza, and the list goes on…

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Can you find Maple? (RIP )

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Josh and his farm

The bulk of Square Roots’ operation takes place in the parking lot inside large shipping containers that house indoor vertical hydroponic farms. Myself and another volunteer met up with Josh Aliber, one of the 10 entrepreneurs currently in an intense year-long entrepreneurship program with Square Roots. We helped him harvest, package, and plant new basil crops.

Fun facts about indoor vertical farming:

  • You can control everything about the climate of an indoor farm including temperature, humidity, and lighting, so the produce is extremely high quality and farmers aren’t at the will of the weather gods for earning their livelihood.
  • This method of farming uses a lot less water, but still uses a lot of electricity. Since it’s a relatively young technology, there’s a lot of room to grow in efficiency and automation. We harvested the basil plants, removed the leaves from the stems, packaged, and seeded new plants by hand.
  • It takes about 7 weeks from seed to harvest for a basil plant grown this way, which is less time than a traditional outdoor farm.
  • A lot of the advancements in hydroponic farming thus far have come from one of the early adopters of the technology: the marijuana industry. Thanks dude bros!

So what do you do with all this super high quality basil? Josh sells it direct to local grocery stores and restaurants. What did I do? I made the most beautiful fucking tart and sprinkled fresh basil all over it like a dog on their favorite fire hydrant:

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This tart was made with heirloom tomatoes and cipollini onions from the farmers market, fresh mozzarella from BKLYN Larder, and genovese sweet basil from Josh’s 8/23 harvest. I HAVE REACHED PEAK BROOKLYN. (Recipe adapted from Taming of the Spoon.)

Learn more about Square Roots here: Kimbal Musk — Elon’s brother — just opened a shipping container farm compound in New York City

MealPass! Like ClassPass, but food.

For those of you that don’t obsessively scan the NYC food blogs, YUUUGE news on the weekday lunch beat: MealPass is coming and it could very possibly change your life. If you work between 10th St and 34th St, between 3rd Ave and 8th Ave, LISTEN UP. You work in the MealPass zone. (Those outside the zone are welcome to keep listening.)

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MealPass is a lunch subscription service brought to you by the creators of ClassPass. You pay $99/month and get access to one lunch per day at over 120 restaurants in the Midtown/Flatiron area. Each restaurant offers one option each day, and the following day’s menu is posted at 7:00PM the night before. As long as you order by 9:30AM that day, you can waltz into the restaurant, skip the line, pick up your item from the cashier, and sashay out like queen of the world. If the service works the way MealPass claims it should, some potential pros and cons:

The Pros:

Price. The most exciting part of MealPass? The cost. For $99/month, with five weekday meals included, that breaks down to about $5 per meal if you use it every day. This is significantly cheaper than newly launched lunchtime players Maple ($12), Fastbite by Caviar ($15-$17), and UberEats ($16-$20). Put all that extra money in your Roth IRA like the millennial your parents wish you were.

Speed. Have you ever waited in a sweetgreen line a few weeks before peak #croptopseason? Brutal. Your meal will be ready at a designated time and you can get back to work faster.

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Options. MealPass currently has 120 restaurants in its roster, and that’s just for the initial launch. Stand out selections include Blue Smoke, Choza Taqueria, Joe’s Pizza, and ilili Box.

The Cons:

Options. Wait, wasn’t this just a pro? Having 120 options each day can lead to choice paralysis, or what I call “The Cheesecake Factory Effect”. Maybe you want the Tex Mex Eggrolls, but shittttt what about the Louisiana Chicken Pasta, but damn the Factory Nachos look good oh FUCK IT just bring me ten loaves of the brown bread.

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Timing. You have to decide what you want for lunch either after 7:00PM the night before, or before 9:30AM that day. Good luck remembering to make your choices during the times you’re least likely to be by a computer.

Portions. MealPass launched in Boston and Miami in January. If you can get past the impassioned bickering about the size of a normal cheeseburger, this Boston Chowhound thread shows some early complaints about portion sizes being significantly smaller than advertised.

Delivery. Per the laws of physics, my body at rest in my desk chair tends to stay at rest. I’d actually have to get off my lazy ass and go outside with the masses to pick up the food.

The Verdict:

Who knows! The service launches today and my office is in Soho, so I’m not a great candidate. I’m doomed to $13 turkey sandwiches from Dean and Deluca and $8 pureed raspberries from Joe and the Juice, but if you’re in MealPass’ sweet spot, sign up here: https://mealpass.com/

Read more here:

MealPass, a ClassPass-Style Lunch Service, Launches in NYC This Week – Eater

Mealpass is a money-saving Classpass for your weekday lunch – Time Out NY

BREAKING NEWS: TRADER JOE’S IS COMING TO MURRAY HILL

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I’ve lived in Murray Hill for over 5 years. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not NOT proud of it.

When I first moved in, there was an overpriced, cramped D’Agostinos and a smelly, generally upsetting Gristedes. Times were bleak.

In 2012, Fairway arrived like a shiny beacon of prepared food-laden, produce-stacked hope. The subterranean space revolutionized my grocery game. But the cheap frozen foods and cheery Hawaiian-shirt clad staff of Trader Joe’s was still 13 blocks away. Much too far for a Little Girl with Big Bags of food.

(Also there was this one time where a Trader Joe’s checkout guy asked me out via a note in my bag of apples and we went out once and he told me his hobbies included drawing graffiti in subway tunnels but that is neither here nor there.)

EVERYTHING IS ABOUT TO CHANGE. Trader Joe’s is moving into the old Food Emporium space on 32nd and 3rd Ave in fall of 2016. Looks like I’ll be staying in my apartment in Fratty Hill for the rest of my life. Check out the original article below for more details:

Trader Joe’s Coming to Kips Bay – DNAinfo

We’re just waiting on you now Wegmans.

UPDATE: Ice Cream Winner and Revised Menu

The 2010 Reunion Ice Cream Social Poll is now closed. You all are a bunch of weirdos: out of 58 votes, Bavarian Raspberry Fudge won by a landslide. Bavarian Raspberry Fudge? Do you hate America and puppies and babies in miniature versions of grown up clothing?

Whatever. You’ve spoken. You’ll get your satanic Bavarian Raspberry Fudge. The obvious choice was Peanut Butter Mini, but I hope you enjoy your Fascist farce of a flavor.

There will also be three other TBD varieties, so don’t fret if your favorite didn’t win.


In other news, the menu I listed for Friday night’s dinner is a little wrong. Here’s the revised menu (which is better and more exciting and has a whole Italian dessert station):

Friday, June 5th 
Dinner
Italian favorites – salad bar, garlic bread sticks, pizza station – cheese and pepperoni, pasta bar – alfredo sauce, marinara sauce, italian meatballs with marinara (served with red pepper and italian cheeses), tuscan vegetables, Cornell Dairy ice cream, Italian dessert stations, cream puffs, chocolate eclairs

EXCLUSIVE: Cornell 2010 Reunion Food Preview and Important Ice Cream Query

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For all my fellow Cornellians, Little Girl Big Mouth has the exclusive behind-the-scenes look at everything being served at the Class of 2010 5th Reunion from June 4th-7th. Of equal importance (some might even say MORE importance), LGBM readers have the immense privilege and responsibility of deciding what Dairy Bar flavors will be served at the Class of 2010 Ice Cream Social. Vote below and scroll down to read each day’s menus and plan your stomach contents accordingly.
Thursday, June 4th 
Late Night Food
30 pizzas (cheese, pepperoni, buffalo chicken, bbq chicken, mushroom, green peppers, onions, black olives, hot peppers), 375 mozzarella sticks, 200+ servings of french fries

Friday, June 5th 
Breakfast
Continental breakfast – fresh fruit, granola, yogurt, assorted muffins/pastries and bagels, coffee/tea/juice
Wine Tour Lunch
If you’re not going on the Wine Tour, you’re on your own suckasss. But if you are…
Choice of sandwich (turkey, spring mix, brie, plum chutney OR fresh mozzarella, tomato, mayo, basil pesto OR hummus, roasted red peppers, sprouts), bag of chips, jumbo cookie, bottled water
Dinner
Italian favorites – caesar salad, garlic bread sticks, chicken parmigiana, veggie lasagna, sauteed veggies, fettuccine alfredo, cream puffs, chocolate eclairs
Late Night Food 
Buttloads of assorted sandwiches and goodies

Saturday, June 6th
Breakfast
Continental breakfast – fresh fruit, granola, yogurt, assorted muffins/pastries and bagels, coffee/tea/juice
Midday Snack
Flavors TBD by YOU!
Did you vote yet? SCROLL BACK UP WTF YOU WAITING FOR?
Dinner
Southern cuisine – pulled pork, Texas BBQ chicken, macdaddy & cheese (that’s mac and cheese for us Yankees), buffalo blue slaw, stuffed portobello mushrooms, spinach salad, cookies
Late Night Food
216 pounds of wings, onion rings, french fries, salad

Sunday, June 7th
Breakfast
Continental breakfast – fresh fruit, granola, yogurt, assorted muffins/pastries and bagels, coffee/tea/juice

And don’t forget:
158 cases of beer
31 cases of wine
61 cases of juice and soda
Over 100 gallons of water
Plus tons of snacks still TBD!

THIS IS NOT A DRILL: WEGMANS IS COMING TO NYC

Thank god I took this photo in 2012 to prepare for this moment.

HOLY FUCKING SHIT I’M FREAKING OUT DREAMS COME TRUE DREAMS COME TRUE

Read the article here: Wegmans to Open at Brooklyn Navy Yard

But honestly I haven’t even read it myself yet because I’m too excited to focus my pupils on words. Can someone tell me what it says?

If you live in NYC, please let me give you $10

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Munchery, one of the latest players in the somewhat-prepared meal delivery space, just launched in NYC. Their private chefs create a couple of entrees, sides, desserts, and drinks, and you can order any combination of them to be delivered to your door around dinnertime. It’s way easier than Blue Apron or Plated, because the meals are already fully made, so you won’t have to spend the suggested 25-35 minutes preparing dinner (or in my case, chopping lemon rind and thinly slicing rainbow chard for 2 hours). The meals arrive “chilled” but not frozen, so they just need to be popped into the microwave or oven. You can order a week in advance or same day.

Some sample items from next week’s menus:

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Honey-Tea Braised Chicken Thigh

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Seared Spring Salmon

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Celeriac, Fennel, and Apple Soup

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Banana Cream Pie

Want some free food? Click the link below to create your account, and get a $10 credit. Bam.

Click Me For $10 Free from Munchery!