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It All Started with a Seed

Or a pit.

As winter came and all my outdoor herbs and leafy greens started to die, Kay and I started growing a few plants indoors. At first it involved simple tasks like bringing my basil and oregano plants inside and buying a $40 grow light. But it became a bit more complicated when I decided to take a leftover avocado pit and grow it into a tree. Yes, an avocado tree… Here in New York.

At first, I watched this pit do nothing but sit in a cup of water, so I decided to try it again. Kay and I have been eating avocados in salads and smoothies so we have a lot of pits to spare. I set up 3 cups with pits which eventually became 6 cups with pits because… why not? Just in case some failed I would have backups. Well, pretty much each and every one of them, with a little bit of patience, has turned into a small baby avocado tree.  We even gave both our mothers small 2 foot avocado trees (with fluorescent grow lamps) as Christmas presents.

Now there’s no guarantee these trees will bare fruit, but it got me thinking: if it was that easy to grow a southern fruit plant up here in the north (in a cup of water!), why couldn’t I grow all of my fruits and vegetables indoors? All you need is the right temperature (heated house), light (sunlight or grow lights), and fertilizer for nutrition. So that’s exactly what I did. I started growing a bunch of herbs such as basil, chives, rosemary, oregano, and more indoors. Kay and I started on this “clean food” diet, trying to rid ourselves from the harmful chemicals and pesticides that larger businesses use in their food, and this was the perfect way to do it: grow our own food.

Then came the experiments with garlic, onions, scallions, and more… Most with success (still waiting on the garlic but it’s looking good!) Then it dawned on me, I could use my spare room as a “greenhouse” (or a “greenroom” to be a bit more literal) and provide not just myself but maybe friends, family, or heck even local restaurants and grocery stores with herbs and leafy greens all year round. Next thing you know I’m writing a business plan and registering a new company with the state of New York.

Currently I’m growing over 100 herbs and leafy greens, over a dozen tomato plants, and some garlic, scallions, and onions. Some in soil, and some hydroponically. I just seeded sage, beans, carrots, peas, and sweet peppers.  Most of these plants will be my “safety” crop that is guaranteed to grow. I also have my “experimental” crop like the avocado trees and more recently my new Lemon, Lime, and Pomegranate trees that are being shipped in from California. The other experimental part of this is that I’m slowly testing out and expanding the hydroponic part of the operation. There seems to be many benefits to it including less bugs, diseases, and uncertainty. Studies have shown that the plants grow better and are actually healthier because they get more nutrients through liquid fertilizers.

I’ve even already found a local restaurant who is interested in purchasing my first harvest. I’ve started contacting grocery stores and was approved to sell at the Stormville Flea Market this summer. Who knows, maybe by this time next year I will be selling locally grown avocados and pomegranates from my Greenhouse in New York!

Below are a few pictures from the early stages of development:


Seedlings in early January

Dutch Bucket System1

Building the bato bucket hydroponic system for tomatoes.


Avocado Pits

Different growing stages of the avocado pit.

Avocado Tree

A small avocado tree grown indoors.


Hydroponic Towers1

Building the vertical hydroponic growing system.


In the next few posts I’ll explain the soil and hydroponic systems I’ve set up, including the vertical tower system (above) which is finished and up and running. It holds up to 80 different herbs and leafy greens!



A Visit to Crown Maple and Madava Farms

Last weekend my partner-in-crime and I went over to Madava Farms in Dover Plains, New York with a few friends. Madava, named after the owner’s daughters Maddie and Ava, is a maple syrup manufacturer located on a beautiful 800 acres of farmland. Despite a sprinkling of rain and a few clouds, it was a beautiful time of year to go, probably the best weekend to see the fall foliage had it not been overcast.




After being greeted at the entrance-way, our tour guide took us around the factory teaching us about its history, which is still in its infancy, and describing the maple syrup making process in pretty good detail. The owner purchased a house on the property in 2007, and when he realized, with the help of a friend, that he was surrounded by acres and acres of maple syrup trees, he started purchasing the surrounding land. By 2010 a state-of-the-art factory was up and running and currently as of 2014 the company has over 40,000 trees tapped, 30 employees, and yields over 18,000 gallons of syrup a year.

Our tour, which only cost $10 per person, ended in the Tasting Room where we got to try Medium, Dark, and Extra Dark Amber syrups, one aged in bourbon barrels (which was delicious!), as well as maple syrup sugar. My personal favorites are the Dark Amber and Bourbon ones. They’re absolutely fantastic.



After our tasting we ordered lunch at their cafe, which obviously infused maple syrup into almost everything, followed by enjoying some ice cream (with maple syrup) and coffee (with maple syrup ;) ) while sitting outside on the patio which included a very nice size fire-pit. Overall it was a great trip and one I highly recommend taking if you live in the area or are passing through.

You can view an album of pictures here.


The Osage Orange Tree of Bear Mountain

doodletown80When I moved to New York in 2006 I was very interested in finding cool and unique places to go, the kind that I constantly found out west. While living in California I hiked in the San Jacinto Mountains finding new types of vegetation I had never seen before. I found Ghost Towns with remnants from the Gold Rush. I found “seas” that were dying (the Salton Sea) and desert canyons whose multiple colors defied the typical brownish red most people think of. So when I moved back to New York, a place I grew up and typically viewed as boring, my hope to was explore new and fascinating places.

Through some research I discovered a ghost town in Bear Mountain called Doodletown. I’ve written about it here. It was abandoned in the 1960s with only foundations and plaques remaining. There are also a few mines, one of which was Thomas Edison’s. During one of my hikes there I discovered some strange fruit fallen from a tree which really grabbed my interest. Researching online I discovered it is called the Osage Orange. There is a bit of disinformation out there on the fruit, so I went to a few reliable sources and found some interesting facts about it. It’s a rather disgusting looking fruit, which to me looks like worms or brains on the outside, but people loved using the plant as hedges, or fences, back in the day due to its density and thorns. Native Americans cherished the wood from the tree so much they made bows out of it. Meriwether Lewis claims to have traveled hundreds of miles to get ahold of it. When dried the wood has an extremely high BTU content, and it’s used for handles, bows, fences, etc. He supposedly sent Thomas Jefferson some seeds, who in turn gifted some to George Washington. The oldest tree standing on Washington’s River Farm today is an Osage Orange Tree and to this day it is the largest Osage Orange tree in the country. More recently, when President Roosevelt started his Great Plains Shelterbelt WPA project in the 1930s, this was one of the trees used to create weather and soil barriers.

Here’s a snipbit from the Smithsonian’s website:

“In March 1804, while Lewis was in St. Louis attending the Louisiana Territory transfer ceremonies, he sent Jefferson a shipment of botanical specimens, including live Osage apple cuttings. Though they did not survive, some samples Lewis collected in 1807 did, and as Susan H. Munger writes in Common to This Country: Botanical Discoveries of Lewis and Clark, “trees growing in Philadelphia and at the University of Virginia are said to be direct descendants of the cuttings sent back by Lewis.”

The Osage orange, which Lewis obtained from Pierre Chouteau, a former Indian agent, was probably the expedition’s most significant botanical discovery. The plant’s long thorns created a virtually impenetrable hedge, and later in the 19th century, many thousands of miles of these trees would be planted as frontier fencing. The fragrant tree held its popularity as a barrier until it was eclipsed by barbed wire in the 1880s.”


One reason I’m excited to even write about it is how rare it is to see one in this part of the country nowadays.  It’s native to Texas, Oklahoma, and parts of Louisiana today. Apparently it’s so uncommon that when Superstorm Sandy took down the centuries old one in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, one publication wrote a whole article about it.

I did find one government website with locations of the tree here in New York. It does list Rockland County, where Bear Mountain is located in. So while this tree may not be very common in the Northeast, it does still thrive in a few parts, and there is one in a ghost town called Doodletown.


The North Fork, LI


The Private Beach

Kay and I recently went to a Bed and Breakfast over in the North Fork of Long Island. The BnB is called By the Bluff and it is a very beautiful and well done home. The owners, Pat and Maurice were very accommodating, the food was delicious, and they also provided bottled water, towels, and chairs for you to take down to the private beach you gain access to by staying there.

Over the long weekend Kay and I ate at aMano, Noah’s, and our favorite of the trip: The Frisky Oyster. For our appetizers we had the Peconic Gold Oysters with serrano honey mignonette and the Cornell Oysters Friskafella. Both are amazing! I cannot decide which I liked better (for Kay it is the Oysters Friskafella.) I then had the filet of beef and Kay had the garganelli with local lobster, arugula, and a meyer lemon vodka sauce. It was by far the best meal of our trip, and those oysters were the best I’ve ever had!

We also visited several vineyards including: Kontokosta Winery, Pindar Vineyards, Sparkling Pointe, Bedell Cellars, and Macari Vineyards. All were beautifully done, and oddly enough the least elegant of them all, Pindar, had the best tasting wine. It was still a nice vineyard, but not as classy and polished as the others. Our server, Matt, was very polite and incredibly funny. Between him and the great tasting wine, it totally put Pindar at the top of our list for places to recommend for a tasting.


Sparkling Pointe


A tasting at Bedell Cellars

The area also had a lot of cool farm-stands, gift shops, and attractions. We visited Lavender By the Bay and The Village Cheese Shop, the latter which I would definitely recommend if you like or want to explore different kinds of cheese.

It was an amazing and relaxing trip which was even better than I had expected. Between Bar Harbor ME, Stowe VT, and now the North Fork of Long Island, I’m given hope that the East Coast does have some great places to offer on par with its Western counterpart.

You can view an album of photos here.


Homemade Trail Mix

Recently I wrote about new dispensers at some Mrs. Green’s locations here in the Northeast. They hold dried fruit, granola, beans, nuts, seeds, and more. On my most recent visit I grabbed several ingredients in an attempt my make my own trail mix and I think I perfected it this week :

LT’s Trail Mix
Coconut Flakes
Chocolate Chips
Salted Nuts
Pumpkin Seeds


The cranberries and currants give it a nice sweet flavor and the nuts and granola balance out the fruit’s soft texture with a crunch. If you ever find yourself craving something portable and new for a hike or even just for your desk at work, give it a shot!



Replace Sugary Drinks with a Fruit Infusion Pitcher

A few months back I bought this great 1 liter Water Pitcher and Drink Infuser from Grosche International. I found it on Amazon for $22, but since January 19th it’s gone up to $29.95.

It’s all glass with a stainless steel lid. The lid has a removable silicon bottom which mounts it to the glass bottle. As you tip the bottle (as if to pour) a filter in the lid slides allowing water (and only water) to come out. Right now my favorite new drink is pineapple water, although I haven’t experimented a lot yet. I’ll just toss in pineapple chunks, lemon wedges, strawberries, or other types of fruit. It’s an easy way to have naturally flavored water right at your fingertips. After about thirty minutes in the fridge the pitcher is ready to go. You can keep refilling it with water for days, depending on what kind of fruit it is. My pineapple chunks last about a week. Lemon wedges, about 3-4 days.

Since I’ve gotten this I have been drinking a lot more water. It has really helped me eliminate all of the nasty (yet admittedly tasty) sugary drinks I used to consume.

Home-made Juice


Pregnant Peppers?

A few days ago I was making my favorite Sausage Gumbo and ran into this when slicing a Bell Pepper:

Inside Pepper1

Inside Pepper2

A baby pepper growing inside a mature one. Creepy but cool. After looking into it on the internet I found this, and this:

“During normal pepper development, seeds develop from fertilized structures known as ovules. Peppers have many ovules, which turn into lots of tiny, obnoxious seeds. Occasionally, a pepper ovule will go rogue and start developing into a so-called “internal proliferation” …that looks much more like a tiny pepper than a seed.”

and lastly:

“Understanding what gives rise to these strange baby peppers could actually help us figure out how to make seedless (parthenocarpic) pepper varieties. You can already thank parthenocarpy for the lack of big, nasty seeds in bananas and several types of oranges. Maybe seedless peppers will be next!”

Who knew bananas used to have big nasty seeds?

For a cool MRI scan of a pregnant bell pepper (and other food) check this out.


Are Mrs. Green’s Fruit, Nut, & Bean Dispensers Worth the Price?

Last weekend my Partner in Crime and I stopped at a Mrs. Green’s supermarket in Connecticut. The store looks brand new, and is huge compared to the smaller ones I live near. This location in Connecticut had installed Organic Fruit, Nut, and Grain dispensers on the right-hand side wall as you walk in. I was intrigued by the prices they had, wondering if they were a good deal compared to the organic kinds in bags or containers sold from other companies. Here are a few of my findings through a random sample:

Chia and Flax



Mrs. Green’s Dispenser White Chia Seeds : $9.99 / lb
Shiloh Farm’s Bagged White Chia Seeds : $1.25 / oz     ($20 per pound)

Mrs. Green’s Dispenser White Quinoa : $5.99 / lb
Shiloh Farm’s Bagged White Quinoa :  $.50 / oz         ($8 per pound)

Mrs. Green’s Dispenser Brown Flax Seeds : $1.49 / lb
Shiloh Farm’s Bagged Brown Flax Seeds : $.31 / oz     ($4.96 per pound)

Seems like it’s worth it to me!

You may be thinking that the non-organic variety in the major supermarket chains are less, but that’s not necessarily the case. It really depends on which item you’re talking about. Mrs. Green’s sells organic pinto beans for $1.99 / lb whereas the Goya pinto beans in the A&P are $2.49 / lb!

Either way, my goal here is to eat healthier and remove as many toxic chemicals and pesticides as possible.


Real Food Pledge – Day 10 of 10

Well, this is it! Day 10! I made it. Kay was awesome enough to make a strip steak for dinner, with a simple but good marinade. I’m pretty beat so I’ll write a more elaborate overview of my 10 day experience later. Goodnight.

DAY 10

Smoothie : 330 calories

Morning Snack:
Almonds : 139 calories

Ham and Cheese Sandwhich : 450 calories

Afternoon Snack :
Larabar : 220 calories

Strip Steak : 400 calories
Quinoa Side : 340 calories

Calories Eaten :  1879
Calories Burned: 2195


Real Food Pledge – Day 9 of 10

Today I tried a really strange recipe for dinner: Nacho Cheese Chicken Soup. Because one of the ingredients was “nacho cheese soup” from a can, which is against the rules, I tried melting cheese and throwing it in the crockpot anyway. Didn’t work too well. I did take the soup out, place it in a bowl, and slice up Colby Jack Cheese and throw it over the chicken. It melted right onto the chicken and tasted decent. Overall I probably wouldn’t try this again though. Only one more day left!


Smoothie : 330 calories

Pasta : 271 calories

Afternoon Snack :
Dried Apple : 96 calories

Cheese Chicken Soup : 1,122 calories

Calories Eaten : 1819
Calories Burned: 2232