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YouTube / KQED

How Compost is Made

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YouTube / KQED

Where I live in Portland, Oregon, the compost and recycling bins are picked up every week, but the trash bin only every second week. When the program first started (cutting back from weekly trash pickups), I was worried—how would composting suddenly reduce my trash output so much?

Well, it worked (mostly), and these days it's rare that I even fill the trash bin every two weeks. It turns out that a huge chunk of the trash I was creating is compostable, a lot is recyclable, and it has been an easy transition. But how does compost get made from the stuff I chuck into the green bin? In this video from KQED Science, we see how San Francisco creates their compost, and gives us an idea of why compost is so useful to plants. Have a look:

For a look at a different compost plant, here's a How It's Made segment on compost:

And if you want to make compost at home, there are a zillion videos explaining how.

(Via The Kid Should See This.)

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Aquapioneers
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Food
Grow Produce at Home With This Open-Source Fish Tank
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Aquapioneers

What’s the secret to fresh, tasty produce that basically grows itself? A steady supply of fish poop, according to Aquapioneers. The brand's aquaponics kits recycle the natural waste from fish tanks into fertilizer for indoor gardens. And unlike some other home growing systems, these tanks are cheap and easy to assemble.

The Aquapioneers Ecosystem is intended to be an open-source digital file available online, Fast Company reports. Anyone can download the design and take the data to their local maker lab for printing. Once the plywood frame has been put together, it's ready to hold a standard-sized home aquarium.

The fish in the tank and the plants in the garden above them rely on one another to flourish. The fish produce waste, microorganisms in the water convert the waste to fertilizer, and the plants drink up the fertilizer, cleaning the tank in the process. “Think about it—fish and plants can harmoniously coexist in the same ecosystem,” the Aquapioneers website reads. “So why not put those fish to good use?”

People standing in front of a fish tank with a garden on top.
Aquapioneers

The system yields produce faster than a traditional soil garden while using less water. Plants are nourished by a low-energy LED light, which means they can grow in the corner of a kitchen until they’re ready for harvest.

Home gardeners won’t be able to live on an aquaponics diet alone: The kit is best suited for growing herbs, greens, and strawberries. But for people looking to learn more about where their food comes from, the product is a great introduction to personal agriculture.

To reserve a digital download of the design, you can donate to Aquapioneers’ crowdfunding campaign today. The plans will be made available on an open-source basis at the campaign's conclusion.

[h/t Fast Company]

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iStock
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Big Questions
Is a Tomato a Fruit?
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iStock

It's been called a super food, a functional food, and just plain delicious. It's the tomato, and it has an abundance of vitamins and nutrients that help keep our bodies moving, from lycopene (which may help ward off some chronic disease) and beta-carotene to Vitamin C.

It should be a regular part of your diet. But if you're big into food classification, you might be wondering—is a tomato a fruit? Is it a vegetable? Or is it some weird hybrid of the two?

The answer is that it depends on who's asking. In the world of botany, a fruit is defined as the part that develops from the fertilized ovary of a flower. Vegetables are the edible parts of plants that aren't fruits. By this definition, the tomato is a fruit.

Botanists, however, don't have the last word on the subject. In 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court was asked to decide whether a tomato was a fruit or a vegetable after importer John Nix was slapped with a 10 percent import tax on vegetables coming in to New York's Port Authority. He argued the botanical definition, but the judges disagreed, ruling that in the "common language of the people, whether sellers or consumers of provisions," the tomato was a vegetable.

Nutritionists in particular like to categorize the tomato as a vegetable because it lacks the abundance of fructose (sugar) found in many fruits like oranges and apples. In less formal terms, fruits are also classified based on their ability to be incorporated into desserts due to their sweetness. There's a reason we have apple pie and not broccoli pie.

So is the tomato a fruit? As a seeded growth, yes. Nutritionally, no. If you want to stick to the legal term, according to Nix's case, the tomato is a vegetable. He couldn't prove otherwise. Then again, it might depend on where you live. Tennessee made it the official state fruit, while New Jersey calls it the official state vegetable. Arkansas played both sides of the fence by declaring the tomato both the state fruit and the state vegetable.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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