First fruit

First fruit

Tons of rock. Yards of soil. Comparing the relative values of heirloom seeds vs. organic starts. Six trips to the nursery to puzzle together a jigsaw of drip irrigation. Finally my garden fantasies are starting to bear fruit.

How does your summer vegetable garden grow? | Daily Dish | Los Angeles Times

A timely article. I’ve spent the past two weeks coordinating – and trying to do some of the hard work – of tearing out the non-edible parts of the landscaping in our 4000 square foot lot by the sea and planting to eat. Inspired by Novella Carpenter’s Farm City, I swapped the yucca and curly willow in the front yard for a Mutsu apple and an Aprium, tucking yerba buena, thyme, and oregano between stepping stones of fossil rock scavenged from the beach. Sod beneath the no-longer enjoyed play structure made way for raised beds filled with (local) chicken manure and vegetable planting mix, my mind dancing all the while with fantasies of freshly picked frisee salads and zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese on the grill. I’ll let you know how it goes; I’ve really only dabbled in growing veggies before. This latest fancy of mine is a big investment in time, energy, and money, so I want to make sure I do this right. I only know enough to realize it’s hard to grow food when you live next to the sea, where summer mornings are doused in fog and the average temperature isn’t even high enough to successfully grow basil. So far I’ve got an assortment of Oregon Spring and SunGold tomatoes, organic starts from the farmer’s market. Zucchini, summer squash, and three types of cucumber, just to see what grows. Spinach, sweet peas, and lettuce. Lots and lots of lettuce. If I do this right, I’ll never have to buy a bag of greens at the store again. Here is the yard before my garden...

The over-packaged banana

For reasons of self-preservation, I don’t get angry with the content of most news reports. I generally accept that, despite best intentions and the presence of good in this world, there will always be greed, evil, and just plain stupidity. But a plastic-wrapped banana – seriously? What’s going on here?

Urban farming

Novella Carpenter is my newest heroine. I’ve just finished reading her book Farm City: Confessions of an Urban Farmer, in which she moves into a ramshackle apartment on a dead-end street in a dead-end Oakland, CA neighborhood and hesitantly plants a garden in the empty lot next door. This quickly grows to a full-scale, tenth of an acre, urban farm, complete with beehive, egg-laying chickens, “meat birds” (ducks, turkeys, and more chickens) and rabbits, all successful experiments is loony locavorism that leads to, by the book’s close, her careful cultivation of two Red Duroc pigs for future meals. Carpenter lives the intersections of food with community and environment in a high crime, low income, politically weak area, and her observations become the backdrop to her story. She does such an excellent job at demonstrating a way of life instead of evangelizing it, and made me think about abundance and waste in different terms. She’s also a completely engaging writer, open and funny in telling her story. I laughed out loud several times, especially when she describes feeding her pigs their first meal scavenged from a Chinatown dumpster. The key to Farm City, however, is that although its premise of two white kids growing vegetables and butchering rabbits in the inner city sounds like it could be the teaser of a doomed Hollywood movie, she is genuinely honest and passionate about her avocation; there is nothing precious, pretentious, self-righteous, or gimmicky in her tale. This book came along at a perfect time for me. We took down the play structure just as winter started and have been thinking about how best...
Got water?

Got water?

Definitely go and watch the excellent documentary Tapped. As soon as you can, before the next episode of Jon Stewart or Married to Rock, or whatever your viewing pleasure may be. Then go out and recommend it to everyone you know. The movie addresses what the filmmakers call “the not-so-new bogeyman in town: the bottled water industry.” They explore a variety of issues that are all bonded together with those tiny molecules of hydrogen and oxygen – privatization to plastics and farming to pharmaceuticals, all topped off with a healthy dose of environmental (in)justice. I knew there were issues surrounding bottled water from an excellent water law class I took – I just didn’t know what they were. The professor slyly pointed out that “Evian” spelled backward is “naive” before stating that he was prevented by court order from sharing anything he knew about the bottled-water industry. We moved on to specifics of California water law. A few year later, now, Tapped fills in the blanks. Here are a few of the points the movie made: The business of bottled water began around 1989 when the introduction of disposable plastic bottles made it cost-effective. Now the bottled water industry collectively generates over a billion dollars in sales each year. Water bottling companies purchase or lease water rights from private parties to pump water from the ground to sell to us. The quality of bottled water is not regulated by the FDA or anyother governmental agency. Municipal water supplies are. In fact, many tap water quality reports are even available online. Communities located in close proximity to plastic bottling plants...
Fresh crab from the Gayle R

Fresh crab from the Gayle R

Freshly steamed Dungeness crab tastes like the early-morning air smells at low tide, succulent and moist and just fantastic. Let go of the fear and mystery involved in getting a big live pinching creature from the ocean to your plate and learn to duplicate this taste. All you need is bucket full of live crabs, a meat cleaver, and a bamboo steamer – this will tell you how.

Eat more kale! (a field trip)

Eat more kale! (a field trip)

Water connects a favorite summer pastime to the ingredients I buy and prepare for our meals. Here’s a drive past some of the farms, fields, and food lining the roads to Highway 101, taking us to play in fresh, clear lakes and rivers of summer.

HFCS, a gloppy monster

News that Hunt’s is cutting high fructose corn syrup from their catsup recipe makes me wonder if HFCS will fall into the “seemed like a good idea at the time” category along with DDT and subprime mortgage loans. I cut it out of our diets over decade ago and since then it just sounds worse and worse. Give me my sweets straight from the plant, please!