On Top Of Hong Kong’s High Rises, Rooftop Gardens Take Root

Rob Schmitz wrote . . . . . .

On a typical block in Hong Kong, thousands of people live on top of each other. Pol Fàbrega thinks about all these people as he looks up at the towering high rises above the streets. And then he thinks about all that space above all these people.

“The square footage here is incredibly expensive,” says Fàbrega, staring upwards. “But yet, if you look at Hong Kong from above, it’s full of empty rooftops.”

It is, he says, a big opportunity for growth.

Fàbrega is not a developer. In a city full of bankers, he’s a gardener. He helps run a gardening cooperative called Rooftop Republic that aims to make the best use out of Hong Kong’s thousands of roofs.

“In Hong Kong, currently there’re around 700 hectares of farmland that are being farmed,” explains Fàbrega, “So the amount of rooftop space is almost the same as the amount we’re using today to farm – like, actual farmland.”

Hong Kong’s agricultural contribution to its GDP is 0.02 percent. Fàbrega’s goal is to boost that tiny number by filling Hong Kong’s 1,500 acres of rooftop space with vegetable gardens.

He’s starting small, by giving tutorials to city residents. On the roof of Fringe, a French restaurant in Hong Kong’s Central district, Fàbrega and Rooftop Republic co-founder Andrew Tsui give a tour of garden containers full of Romaine lettuce, kale, cherry tomatoes, and carrots.

Rooftop Republic has helped fill more than 26,000 square feet of rooftop on 22 rooftop farms. The biggest one is on the roof of Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific, where 40 employees manage container vegetable plots on a daily basis.

Expat resident Gina Ma’s rooftop garden is tiny by comparison, but she’s spreading the word at her children’s school. “I was like Johnny Appleseed. I was calling everyone up, called the school and I was like, ‘I have seedlings they’re amazing! And they’re all, like, organic and stuff that you can’t get here. Take them!’ ”

It’s that last point, being organic and healthy, that’s important to Rooftop Republic’s clients. “In the case of Hong Kong, we also face a particular challenge that 98 percent of our vegetables and fruits come from China,” Fàbrega says. “There’s endless amount of scandals surrounding food that’s from mainland China.”

And that’s why Rooftop Republic’s first clients were a handful of restaurants and hotels in a city where returning to the land can be as simple as a quick trip up the stairs to the roof.

Source: npr


Spicy Lamb Shanks with Carrots, Chickpeas and Potatoes


4 lamb shanks (about 1 pound each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), well rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
four 3-inch-long strips of lemon zest, removed from a large lemon with a vegetable peeler
4 large sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
5 cups reduced-sodium beef broth, or as needed
3 small Yukon Gold potatoes (about 14 ounces total), scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
5 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
one 15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
2 green onions (white and green parts), thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup very coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
warm naan, for serving
plain low-fat yogurt for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven or other wide heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then add the lamb shanks and cook, turning occasionally,for about 10 minutes, or until browned. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add the onions and leeks to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until tender.
  4. Add the garlic, curry powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, thyme, and bay leaf and stir for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir in the vinegar and cook, stirring to scrape up the browned bits, for about 3 minutes, or until reduced by half.
  5. Return the lamb shanks and their juices to the Dutch oven. Add enough broth to nearly cover the shanks, bring to a simmer, and cover.
  6. Transfer the pot to the oven and bake for about 2 hours, or until the meat is just tender.
  7. Return the Dutch oven to medium-low heat on the stovetop. Add the potatoes and carrots and season lightly with salt. Cook at a gentle simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are nearly tender and the liquid has reduced slightly.
  8. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, carefully transfer the lamb shanks to a plate (try to keep them intact) and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaf.
  9. Stir the chickpeas into the braising liquid and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and carrots are tender.
  10. Stir in the green onions and half of the cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  11. Return the lamb shanks and their juices to the pot and simmer for 5 minutes to reheat the shanks.
  12. Divide the lamb shanks and braising mixture among four wide shallow bowls. Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro. Serve hot, with naan and yogurt on the side.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Curtis Stone – What’s for Dinner?

Nutrition and Frailty

Many would recognise ‘frailty’ in our older population. Clinical definitions of frailty typically involve physical criteria including weight loss, fatigue, physical activity, walking distance and grip strength. Frailty is characterised by diminished strength and endurance, and reduced function that increases vulnerability for higher dependency and deterioration in health.

Although malnutrition and frailty are distinct, it is recognised they are overlapping conditions, with presentations of muscle and weight loss in both. And for both conditions, early identification and treatment is important in prevention or delay in development.

But what can we learn from the scientific literature about the association of nutrition and frailty?

A greater understanding of which nutrition aspects are of most importance may help us start to identify the best way nutrition could be used as part of prevention and treatment of frailty.

This has been explored in a new systematic review looking at studies published since 2005 on nutritional determinants of frailty in older adults. The largest number of studies in this area have looked at the relationship between malnutrition or risk of malnutrition (measured through a screening tool) and frailty, and all found significant associations. But the review also explored whether poor micro- and macronutrient intakes may be linked with frailty.

Micronutrients and Macronutrients

The review found a small number of studies that investigated the association of vitamin intake or status with frailty. These studies largely looked at antioxidant vitamins (vitamins C and E, as well as carotenoids like beta carotene), B vitamins and vitamin D, and suggest that lower dietary intake or lower levels in the blood were associated with higher risk of frailty. A few studies have also looked at protein, with the majority (but not all) showing an association between low intake and frailty. Interestingly one study found that it was the overall distribution of the protein throughout daily meals that was significantly associated with frailty, suggesting the importance on ingesting a sufficient amount of protein with each meal.

Quality and Quantity

Other studies included in the review have investigated the association of frailty with diet quality, including both broad healthy dietary patterns as well as the inclusion of foods high in antioxidants such as fruit and vegetables. In total these suggest, in accordance with previous findings, that a high-quality diet with foods rich in antioxidant nutrients and with sufficient energy intake, and adequate and timely intake of protein are important in reducing the risk of frailty.

However, this review has a major limitation in that most studies are cross-sectional in nature (taking place at a point in time) which makes it difficult to establish what is cause and what is effect. If nutritional factors are associated with frailty, is that because these factors are contributing to frailty, or because people that are frail reduce their intake? And it is likely that there are other confounding variables that are not accounted, like the need for feeding assistance or swallowing difficulties that may be contributing to the findings.

So whilst the evidence we have is suggestive, it cannot determine conclusively the impact of nutrition on frailty, and more studies are needed to further understand the potential role of nutrition in the prevention, postponement and reversal of frailty. However, this should not in any way deter from the provision of diets in care homes that are both sufficient in energy and protein and that supply important micronutrients.

Source: Quality Compliance System

The frailty syndrome requires at least three of the following five characteristics:

  • unintentional weight loss, as evidenced by a loss of at least 10 lbs or greater than 5% of body weight in the previous year;
  • muscle weakness, as measured by reduced grip strength in the lowest 20% at baseline, adjusted for gender and BMI;
  • physical slowness, based on measured time to walk a distance of 15 ft;
  • poor endurance, as indicated by self-reported exhaustion; and
  • low physical activity, as scored using a standardized assessment questionnaire.

In Pictures: Sunflower Character Bento

OCD May Be Linked to Inflammation in the Brain: Study

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have high levels of brain inflammation, a discovery researchers say could lead to new treatments.

In OCD, people typically have frequent, upsetting thoughts that they try to control by repeating certain rituals or behaviors, such as washing hands or checking door locks.

Canadian researchers compared 20 OCD patients and a control group of 20 people without the condition. In the OCD patients, inflammation was 32 percent higher in six brain regions that play a role in OCD, according to the study.

“Our research showed a strong relationship between brain inflammation and OCD, particularly in the parts of the brain known to function differently in OCD. This finding represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the biology of OCD, and may lead to the development of new treatments,” senior author Dr. Jeffrey Meyer said.

Meyer is head of the Neurochemical Imaging Program in Mood and Anxiety Disorders at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Inflammation or swelling is the body’s response to infection or injury. While it helps the body heal, it can sometimes be harmful. Altering the balance between helpful and harmful effects might be a key to treating OCD, Meyer said in a center news release.

He said medications developed to target brain inflammation involved in other disorders might help treat OCD.

Finding a new approach to treatment is important, because current medicines fail to help nearly a third of OCD patients. About 1 percent to 2 percent of teens and adults have the anxiety disorder.

“Work needs to be done to uncover the specific factors that contribute to brain inflammation, but finding a way to reduce inflammation’s harmful effects and increase its helpful effects could enable us to develop a new treatment much more quickly,” Meyer concluded.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Source: HealthDay

Today’s Comic