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Wonders of watercress

Before we finish National Nutrition Month, it’s worth noting that the Centers for Disease Control puts out a nutrition score card for green vegetables. In the No. 1 slot: watercress. Not exactly a household veggie, watercress is a member of the mustard family. Its small, dark green leaves are packed with beta carotene, calcium, potassium and vitamin C. Slightly peppery, bitter and tangy, watercress adds zip to soups, salads and sandwiches. You can juice it into smoothies, use some as a burger topping or as a garnish like parsley. And like parsley, watercress should be used in moderation; a little goes a long way.

Upping the barrel tax hurts the poor more

One of the tax increase bills that is still afloat at our Legislature concerns the environmental response, energy and food security tax, which we refer to as the barrel tax. This tax started off as the environmental response tax, imposed at 5 cents a barrel of imported petroleum product as a way to create a fund for environmental cleanup in case of an oil spill in Hawaiian waters. It was hoisted to its present rate of $1.05 in 2009, and the difference was used not only to shore up our general fund, but also to feed various special funds that pay for environmental conservation programs, energy and food security, and related activities. As a result of all of the additional responsibilities placed upon the fund, it was given its new and much longer name. Now, faced with the prospect that Hawaiian Electric Industries will be fueling its power plants with liquefied natural gas instead of oil, our Legislature is thinking of extending the barrel tax to all forms of fossil fuel including coal and liquefied natural gas. The bill currently in the Legislature would impose tax at the “British thermal unit (BTU) equivalent” for energy generated by these other fossil fuels.

Workshop focuses on keeping Hawaii’s trees healthy

Native as well as introduced tree species face a host of alien pests and many environmental challenges in Hawaii. New insect pests, diseases and other plant problems are imported regularly. Staying current on diagnosing plant problems, being able to identify causes and control the issues is important if you are to help keep our trees healthy.

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Wear green and eat green on St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Today, it is customary to wear something green and to eat corned beef and cabbage. For those who don’t eat corned beef or just don’t want to invest the time it takes to cook, here’s an alternative: Use the cabbage; lose the beef. If the usual stinky-smelling boiled cabbage does not excite you, allow me to offer several delicious alternatives. After all, cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, antioxidants and some B vitamins. It is said to improve digestion and help reduce the risk of cancer. And there are so many varieties: the waxy, green, compact heads we are familiar with; the Chinese (Napa) cabbage with its oval shape and broad leaves; savoy, with its crinkly, delicately-flavored leaves; and bok choy, found in many stir-fry dishes. So, in addition to wearing green, you can be eating green with a hearty, main-dish salad featuring cabbage. Select cabbages that are firm and heavy, with ends that are not dried out. Store in your refrigerator’s crisper, in a plastic bag.