Fire cider is a tonic that’s been used by herbalists for decades, whether to give a kick to prepared dishes or to impart an immunity boost when taken plain. And it’s anything but plain, with a base of apple cider vinegar that’s usually infused with garlic, onion, ginger, horseradish, and hot pepper — and herbs added to the herbalist’s taste.
As the recipe, first dubbed “fire cider” by Rosemary Gladstar in the early 1970s, spread, herbalists prepared their own proprietary versions and took them to market. For example, herbalist Nicole Telkes, director of the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine, blended “Texas Fire Cider,” which she regularly sold at her local co-op in Austin, Texas.
Then, in 2012, a company named Shire City Herbals trademarked “fire cider,” and herbal businesses started to receive notices asking them to stop selling products by that name. Telkes reached out to resolve the issue, but Shire City maintained the trademark. Ultimately, Telkes, as well as Mary Blue of Farmacy Herbs and Katheryn Langelier of Herbal Revolution, who came to be known as the “Fire Cider Three,” began a campaign to render the fire cider name generic. They believed trademarking a traditional herbal product could set a dangerous precedent. “We saw this as a canary in the coal mine for what’s to come of herbal remedies and our culture as herbalists,” Telkes says. Shire City then sued the Fire Cider Three in April 2014.
The presiding judge ordered pro bono representation for the Fire Cider Three, who prepared for trial over the course of four years. They received organizing support from Gladstar, and the herbalism community rallied around them. Thousands of people signed the “Free Fire Cider” petition, and small donations fueled the movement. “We raised all the money on $5, $10, $20, up to $1,000, and a few herb companies helped out,” Telkes says. “But it was generally the average people who were dedicated to seeing this through that helped support it, whether they were calling companies or educating students or giving money. It was really a grassroots effort.”
The case went to court in early 2019, and the trial lasted nine days over five months. The Fire Cider Three testified about their experiences with fire cider, and why they took issue with companies controlling common phrases. After three months of post-trial deliberation, the judge declared “fire cider” a generic term on Sept. 30, 2019. With the court case off their shoulders, according to Telkes, the Fire Cider Three were left with solid friendships and a reinforced respect for shared traditions.
“I don’t believe that we have to all be competing all the time to be successful, and that’s what I want to keep promoting; I truly believe there are business models where we can all be successful and support each other and not have to worry about who’s trademarking what,” Telkes says. “I think that it’s about building trust and believing in our community.”
Learn more about the court case and fire cider’s history at the Fire Cider Three’s website.
Rosemary’s Fire Cider Recipe
- 1/2 cup grated fresh horseradish root
- 1/2 cup or more chopped onions
- 1/4 cup or more chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup or more grated ginger
- Cayenne pepper, fresh (chopped) or dried (flaked or ground), to taste
- Apple cider vinegar, preferably raw and organic
- Honey, to taste
- Place herbs in half-gallon jar and add enough vinegar to cover by 3 to 4 inches.
- Seal jar with tight-fitting lid.
- Place jar in a warm spot and let sit for 3 to 4 weeks.
- Shake daily to help the maceration process.
- After 3 to 4 weeks, strain out herbs, reserving liquid.
- Heat honey and add to vinegar, to taste. Fire Cider should be hot, spicy, and sweet.
- Bottle and label.
Fire Cider will keep for several months unrefrigerated if stored in a cool pantry, but it’s best to store in the refrigerator. A small shot glass daily serves as an excellent tonic, or you can take Fire Cider by teaspoons throughout the day if you feel a cold coming on.
Recipe is from Fire Cider! (Storey Publishing) by Rosemary Gladstar.
University’s Fair Trade Status Raises Sustainability Standards
The University of North Carolina, Asheville (UNCA), was named a Fair Trade University in 2017. The Fair Trade certification wasn’t the school’s first or last step toward sustainability. Rather, according to Meghan Ibach, Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services’ Sustainability and Marketing Manager, the designation reinforced the university’s existing efforts, and opened up conversation about further opportunities. “It’s nice, because it’s a nonbinding commitment,” Ibach says. “It’s more of an incentive to continually grow and do better than you were before.”
To achieve Fair Trade Certification, a group of UNCA students, faculty, and staff formed a committee to host educational events and increase the number of Fair Trade products in each of the university’s food venues. The committee’s success was a stepping stone for the development of UNCA’s own sustainability brand, FEEDS (Farm-Forward Eating and Environmentally-Driven Sustainability), a platform that encompasses all of its sustainability efforts, such as educational programs; local, sustainable, and humane food sourcing; waste reduction; and food donations.
UNCA networks with other universities that are making similar strides in sustainability, and some colleges have adopted UNCA’s FEEDS brand for their own campuses. Ibach says schools should continue to collaborate, not compete, on sustainability missions. “We must make a difference, and we have an opportunity to make a difference because of the scale in which we’re serving people and working with food,” Ibach says. “It’s never going to be perfect; you’re never going to be able to purchase 100 percent high-value things and experiences. Recognize where there’s more opportunity, and just keep trying.”
To learn more, visit the UNCA Dining Services‘ website.
Bison Return to the Badlands
For the first time since 1877, bison are free to roam a formerly private parcel of Badlands National Park. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) acquired 22,553 acres in a land swap, and, in partnership with other nonprofit organizations, it raised almost $750,000 to expand the Park’s bison habitat.
Bison were once a mainstay of the Great Plains. Up to 60 million of them grazed the Plains landscape and had an essential role in Plains ecosystems. According to the WWF, their grazing patterns and the soil depressions they created, known as “wallows,” enabled water conservation, formed breeding and nesting grounds for other animals, and established a specialized habitat for a number of native medicinal plants. But as European colonists spread westward, bison populations were devastated, their numbers dwindling down to 512 individuals in just a few decades.
Now, though they’re still considered “near threatened,” 20,504 bison live on the Northern Great Plains, about 1,200 of which reside in Badlands National Park. WWF is aiming to increase that number, with a goal of expanding to five herds of 1,000 bison each, and is forming partnerships with national parks, Native American reservations, and ranchers to locate and restore prairie landscapes that can host these herds, and to return bison to their ancestral homelands.
Learn more, and see a video of the bison being released, on the World Wildlife Fund’s website.
Incubator Farm Becomes Community Hub
The Woolsey Farm property is a historic 5-acre site owned by the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, which, in 2018, approached the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) Southeast Regional Office and other local nonprofits to develop the Woolsey Incubator Farm Project. The project got off the ground with funds from an EPA Environmental Education Award.
The project provides growing space and training for farmers who can’t yet purchase or lease land, and plans to host each “incubator farmer” for 3 to 5 years. The incubator farmers also establish the backdrop for on-farm education as they develop their businesses.
Since spring 2019, a nearby location, Cobblestone Farms, has hosted three incubator farmers, Jenni, Hamayoon, and Watata, on quarter-acre plots, and has provided space for workshops while the Woolsey Farm is developed. Those initial incubator farmers have received technical assistance, support, and recommendations, and can sell their wares at a local church market. During their first year of production, Jenni set up a successful community-supported agriculture (CSA) program; Hamayoon grew vegetables to sell as well as donate to refugee families in need; and Watata used his entire plot to grow tomatoes, some of which he sold to a local ketchup company.
Hamayoon and Watata came to Fayetteville through a refugee resettlement organization, and all three farmers had farming experience, but no land of their own. NCAT Horticulture Specialist Luke Freeman says that’s why the incubator idea is so valuable. “For both Hamayoon and Watata and for their families, access to land has been incredibly important for their acclimation and psychological well-being,” Freeman says. “And for Jenni, this … is letting her develop her business skills and production skills. It’s amazing to see how the only thing holding her back was that access to land.”
Follow the project on Facebook @NCATSoutheast.
Fossil Record Reveals Plastic Pollution
The modern geological era has colloquially been dubbed “The Anthropocene,” with the prefix anthro- referring to humans and their powerful impact on climate and ecosystems. And, according to a study published by Science Advances in September 2019, the Anthropocene’s geological proxy is the appearance of plastic particles in the fossil record.
The researchers behind the paper studied a sample of coastal sediments in California spanning from 1834 to 2009, and found an exponential increase in plastic accumulation from 1945 to 2009, with the amount doubling every 15 years. This escalation correlates with a rise in both global plastic production and California’s coastal population. According to the researchers, the consequences of plastic-laden sediments on ocean-floor organisms and food chains are unknown. They call for further assessment of long-term plastic accumulation in overall ecosystems.
Cutting Upfront Emissions
Buildings are responsible for 39 percent of energy-related carbon emissions, according to the World Green Building Council (WGBC), and a structure’s emissions begin with materials. In its new report “Bringing Embodied Carbon Upfront,” the WGBC has called for curtailing “upfront carbon,” or the carbon that’s released during the extraction and transportation of building materials. The Council urges a focus on upfront carbon, because these emissions will be responsible for half the carbon footprint of new construction between now and 2050. Addressing a structure’s often-overlooked “embodied carbon,” or the carbon used over its entire life cycle, will be essential to decarbonizing buildings entirely.
The Council’s report contains coordinated actions that can be taken by stakeholders, civil society, cities, and businesses to address embodied carbon. Its vision includes a 40 percent reduction of embodied carbon in new structures by 2030; and entirely net-zero buildings, in both upfront carbon and operational carbon, by 2050.
Document Details Organic Transition
Shifting to organic production can boost a farm’s financial gains and sustainability, but the upfront investments can be tough to estimate. So, the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has released a publication Turning Grain into Dough that outlines transitioning to organic production and the financial requirements of doing so.
Paul Dietmann, who prepared the publication, has led workshops and webinars on farm financial management and organic agriculture for years. Dietmann says this financial handbook is an extension of his teachings on grain production. The guide emphasizes that making such a switch calls for considerable planning, so it includes information on how to calculate long-term costs, develop a feasibility plan, generate a projected budget, and more. Plus, its introduction indicates that a farmer’s production philosophy must adjust along with their practices if they’re to successfully alter their farm — and that farmers who are committed and well-prepared will better withstand the trials that arise during the transition period.