Planting an ideaThe words "endangered species" bring to...


February 20, 1994|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Sun Staff Writer

Planting an idea

The words "endangered species" bring to most people's minds the image of pandas, grizzly bears and Siberian white tigers. But another kind of species depredation is going on, and it's something that most of us can do something to halt.

"Backyard biodiversity" is the way to save endangered plant species, according to documentary filmmaker, author and seed-company CEO Kenny Ausubel. Mr. Ausubel's company, Seeds of Change, is dedicated to growing and selling rare, unusual and heirloom seeds -- seeds like Rouge d'hiver lettuce, green Hubbard squash, burdock, quinoa, purple prairie clover and wild quinine. The seeds are 100 percent organically grown, and many were collected from attics and barns, from farmers and preachers and ordinary people across the country.

Mr. Ausubel has written a book about biodiversity called "Seeds of Change" (HarperSanFrancisco, $18). Last week, he and Nina Simons, Seeds of Change's president who is also Mr. Ausubel's wife, were at the Red Sage restaurant in Washington to promote the book. Guests nibbled on quinoa -- called "the mother grain of the Aztecs" -- with fruits and a melange of exotic beans, among other things, from Red Sage's kitchen.

The book contains resources, growing tips and recipes. Seeds of Change also offers a free catalog of its more than 800 varieties of seeds. For a copy of the catalog, write Seeds of Change, P.O. Box 15700, Santa Fe, N.M., 87506-5700. Or call (800) 95-SEEDS. Seeds of Change seeds are also carried at some health-food stores and markets, including Green Earth, 3811 Canterbury Lane in Baltimore, and Environmentally Sound Products, 8845 Orchard Tree Lane in Towson.

People still struggling with the idea that new USDA dietary guidelines require them to eat six to 11 servings a day of grains and legumes can take heart from "The Rice Book," by Sri Owen (St. Martin's Press, $24.95), a veritable travelogue of recipes and information mostly from places where rice is a culture as well as a staple. Ms. Owen, a native of West Sumatra who now lives in London, spent two years researching the book. Here's a sample recipe that would be a good way to serve that first, tantalizing, expensive, spring-promising asparagus that shows up in grocery stores about this time of year.

Rice salad with asparagus

Serves 4 to 6

7 1/2 cups water

1 pound green or white fresh asparagus

1 cup long-grain rice or brown rice, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes, then washed and drained

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive or peanut oil, divided use

1/3 cup freshly made bread crumbs

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large pinch of chili powder or ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped spring onions or chives

1 tablespoon chopped parsley or mint

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Bring the water to boil in a saucepan. While waiting, trim the asparagus, peel the stems, and cut them diagonally in 3 or 4 pieces. Then wash them. Keep the tips separate from the stems.

When the water is boiling, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and put in the asparagus stems -- but not the tips. Cook for 4 minutes, then add the tips. Continue cooking on medium heat for 3 minutes. Take out the asparagus with a slotted spoon, put them in a colander and refresh under the cold tap. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the asparagus cooking water to cook the rice.

Put the drained rice into a saucepan and pour onto it the asparagus water plus 1 tablespoon of the oil. Bring it to the boil and give the rice a stir with a wooden spoon, then cover the pan tightly. Lower the heat and let the rice simmer undisturbed for 20 minutes. Remove the saucepan, place it on a wet towel, and leave it to rest for 5 minutes, still tightly covered.

Now transfer the rice to a bowl and fluff it with a fork. Leave it to cool a little, and while you are waiting heat the remaining oil in a wok or frying pan. Stir-fry the bread crumbs and garlic until they are just slightly colored. Add the seasoning, the chopped hard-boiled egg, onions or chives, parsley or mint. Stir, then add the lemon juice and asparagus. Stir again, and pour the whole lot, including the oil, into the bowl of rice. Mix well together, adjust the seasoning and leave the salad to cool further before serving at room temperature. Note that this salad must not be chilled, or the crunchiness of the bread crumbs will be lost.

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