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Posts tagged ‘locavore’

Grow Your Own #29

June 17, 2009

zora naki

Wow! Prepare to be awed by the fabulous entries for this edition of GYO.

Cannellini Bean Salad

Cannellini Bean Salad

Andrea Meyers (Virginia, United States) of Andrea’s Recipes came up with her usual yumminess in her recipe for Cannellini Bean Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette.


Artichoke Salad with Sage

Graziana of Erbe in Cucina used sage from her Italian garden to make Artichoke Salad with Sage.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs

Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs

I never thought that a chicken recipe would appear on my blog, but this one from Núria of Spanish Recipes (which makes sense since she is from Barcelona) sounds good – Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs with Rosemary, Honey and Orange.

Braised Rhubarb with Herbs and Saffron

Braised Rhubarb with Herbs and Saffron

Jessamyn Tuttle from Mount Vernon, WA used up some of her rhubarb harvest in Braised Rhubarb with Herbs and Saffron which you can read all about in her blog Food on the Brain.

Lemony Rosemary Polenta Cake

Lemony Rosemary Polenta Cake

Bee and Jai from Jugalbandi created a Lemony Rosemary Polenta Cake using some home-grown rosemary from their garden in the North-Western U.S.

Quinoa Flake Crisp

Quinoa Flake Crisp

Linda Simon (WI, USA) from Kitchen Therapy created a lovely Q-is-for-Quinoa Flake Fruit Crisp using the last of her rhubarb.


Lemon Thyme Shortbread Hearts

Elissa from the blog 17 and Baking lives in Seattle, WA (USA), and made Lemon-Thyme Shortbread Hearts using lemon-thyme grown in her herb garden. Sounds yummy. I wonder if she’ll have to change the name of her blog when she turns 18?

Potato Salad with Peas and Peppers

Potato Salad with Peas and Peppers

Kim Lewandowski (Portsmouth, VA) of Live, Love, Laugh, Eat came up with a delicious Potato Salad with Peas and Peppers, featuring her spring peas.

Raspberry Tiramisu

Raspberry Tiramisu

And finally, this fabulous-looking Raspberry Tiramisu comes from Dhanggit’s Kitchen in Aix en Provence, France and uses home-grown raspberries.

Bon appetit! If I’ve missed anyone, please fire me an angry email. I hope to have the cojones to contribute to the next round of GYO – #30, hosted by Graziana of Erbe in Cucina.

Grow Your Own 2009

gardening goals

June 25, 2008

zora naki

we had a locavorious dinner last night – fresh peas and broccoli from the garden to go with barbecued salmon and yams, and then 47 strawberries and 8 raspberries for dessert. it has become obvious that i really like to count things. the salmon was a whole chinook (minus the guts), and my husband had great fun making it talk to the kids before i slathered the inside with pesto, wrapped it in foil and threw it on the grill.

now that we’re well into the growing season, i’m revisiting my garden goals and results.

1. Peas: of the four varieties i planted, the Alderman are producing the best and the earliest so far and they’re up over the top of the fence already. We’re eating them as fast as they grow, so i will plant some more now in a cooler area of the yard to produce more for later. i can’t imagine how many i would need to grow to have enough to freeze for the winter – maybe an entire 4′ x 8′ garden box? maybe more?

2. Beans: these (purple, yellow, green) are coming along and halfway up the netting towards the top of the fence. I was most excited about the edamame at the base of the trellis, but these seem to have been mysteriously swallowed up by something. Will replant in a different location. The dry beans (speckled bay, black turtle) are short but leafy.

3. Gourds: I may have gone a bit nuts on the gourds. i have zucchini, various squashes, and three pumpkin plants growing like crazy in relatively confined spaces. They are now long enough that i can try to train them upwards. I looked at building the upright frame outlined by Mel Bartholomew in Square-Foot Gardening (rebar, pipe conduit), but it seemed expensive and complicated. Plastic is strong (right?), so i’m going to try growing them on the same nylon netting i’m using for everything else (it’s attached to the wooden fence). I think i also need to fertilize to sustain their growth.

4. Herbs: my herb bed rocks – i think this is the most successful thing i’ve done this year. The chamomile is flowering, so it’s time to start harvesting for tea.

5. Cucumbers: Part of my master plan was to grow cucumbers and dill for making pickles. The dill in the herb bed is coming along well, but only one sad little cucumber sprout came up and then quickly expired. i made a quick trip to the gardening store to buy some seedlings (twist my arm) and i’m going to plant these today.

6. Carrots: i finally grew some carrots! at least, i can see them lurking – i’m waiting to pick them for a few more weeks. in the past, i have tried and failed miserably at growing carrots (thankfully, my in-laws grow oodles of them every year without any problems and come to visit us with bags of carrot contraband tucked into their luggage). because i was feeling pessimistic, i only planted a few short rows, and now i think the harvest will last us about a week. too late to plant more?

7. Broccoli: planted 6 plants, but should have planted more (we eat a lot of broccoli) and staggered yield times.

8. Cauliflower: is really purple and should be ready to eat in a few more weeks.

9. Greens: spinach, lettuce, etc. are producing consistently. The spinach grows super fast (it’s an italian variety), so i need to remember to plant less of it, but more frequently.

10. Beets, Turnips, Artichokes, Brussel Sprouts: too soon to tell, but growing.

11. Swiss Chard: coming along. must remember to water. the mutant swiss chard is now taller than i am.

12. Tomatoes: after early casualties due to a late snowfall (April! in B.C.!), i replanted and these are growing nicely – especially after i cleared out the potato foliage that was blocking the sunlight from reaching them.

13. Potatoes: i’m still planting them in random spots around the garden.

14. Asparagus: I planted 10 plants far too late in the spring, and then (to add insult to injury), moved the bed a few weeks later. A few straggly shoots came up (and they look so pretty and feathery now), but won’t expect much of anything for a few years.

15. Strawberries: the yield is up to 1 strawberry per plant now (80 plants). These are doing great and i would highly recommend a strawberry patch to anyone trying to get kids excited about gardening. We’re also heading out to a U-pick this week to get a whole bunch for jam and freezing.

16. Fruit: i planted this year for future yields from apple, plum, and pear trees, and a kiwi vine. They all seem to be doing well, except for the pear tree, which has developed raised orange blotches on most leaves. Of the two new rhubarb plants, one is doing well, the other not so much. No sign of the melon seedlings I transplanted. Either they’re hiding or dead.

All four blueberry bushes are bearing fruit, but i think i would need about 20 bushes to meet our snacking needs. The raspberry (2 years old) has lots of berries forming on last year’s canes, and the blackberry (running rampant through the camellias – i keep hacking it back) has lots of blossoms.

And that’s my gardening report for today…

design object: eglu

March 23, 2008

zora naki

egluWho wouldn’t want to keep chickens in the city with a stylish coop such as Omlet’s Eglu? It even comes with a fox-safe chicken run, a handy egg-hatch, and the “grub-and-glug” food/water container. Chickens are optional.

If you’re thinking of raising chickens in the city, consider the following:

backyard chickens
the ubiquitous path to freedom project
the city chicken – a lady who loves her chickens
ny times: chickens in manhattan

planting is afoot

February 27, 2008

zora naki

in spite of the rainy drizzle that plagued us, another square foot box (4’x10′) was built and installed and planted in the garden over the last few days.





A number of people have recommended Lasagna Gardening, so I tried to apply some of Patricia Lanza’s principles to building my soil. The garden has been fed with compost and seasoil over the last few years, so I didn’t want to chuck it and start from scratch. I dug down about 6 inches and did layers of leaves (from last year), half-digested compost (i want to move the bin and it composted very slowly this winter, so I figure 8 inches of soil will finish the job), garden soil, peat moss (and let me tell you, that bag weighs a ton), seasoil, mushroom manure, and sprinkles of bonemeal.

I am also going to add some wood ash to the top, because I’ve planted peas and apparently, they really like the stuff. My mini-minions and I planted peas (Alderman, Oregon Trail and Karina), spinach and a few radishes (Easter egg). The raspberries have been pruned back (in the far right corner of the box).

Also got the first of the frankenfruit trees planted – the espalier apple along the fence. It wouldn’t be my preferred method, but I ended up digging twice (or was it thrice?) and planting once, because what’s the point of an espalier tree if it’s 3 feet away from its supports?

Also had a bit of finagling to do with the planting depth – dug a honking big hole and then had trouble getting the tree to the right level above the soil. Hopefully it will survive the drama. Threw lots of seasoil with some bonemeal at it to cushion the transition.

path to freedom project

January 12, 2008

zora naki

The Path to Freedom project is the Big Kahuna of sustainable homesteading. The Dervaes family in Pasadena, California have transformed their 1/5 acre city lot to an organic gardening oasis. They grow more than 350 varieties of edible plants and produce a staggering 6,000 pounds of produce annually. Imagine a giant scale with three cars on one side – how many carrots would it take to balance? The mind boggles.

path to freedom projectIn addition to gardening, the family gardeners, currently comprised of dad Jules Dervaes, and offspring Anaïs (32), Justin (28), and Jordanne (23), run a home business supplying local restaurants with fresh produce, incorporate earth-friendly technologies such as solar panels and a cob oven, run their vehicle on home-brewed biodiesel, and keep a small flock of animals including goats, ducks and chickens. Is that all?

Well no. They also run the Dervaes Institute to spread their message, sell goods at their online store, the Peddler’s Wagon, and blog extensively at their website.

This project is such a fabulous mix of contrasts. The Dervaes live a rural lifestyle in an urban setting. They practice a back-to-basics lifestyle of self-sufficiency (hand-cranked washing machine), and yet they are incredibly savvy about utilizing the Internet and web technology to promote their cause. Their press kit and Youtube collection are professional and comprehensive in scope, which gives the casual reader a great introduction to bio-intensive, permaculture farming on a small, and impressively productive scale. Through hard-earned experience, they have a lot to teach the rest of us wannabe urban homesteaders.

The family has bravely opened their garden up to public consumption, offering us an ongoing glimpse over the fence into their lives. Inevitably, perhaps, in the face of the unrelentingly positive comments and profiles that flood the blogosphere, you start to wonder about the failures and fallout from four adults living and working in a small space on a daily basis. What happened to the other son – Jeremy Dervaes – who, as of 2004, apparently moved out and moved on from the homestead? How much of the family’s faith has influenced their lifestyle decisions? What do the neighbours think? Does biodiesel smell like french fries? Do the offspring have plans to move out onto their own homesteads at some point?

What we can all take away from this ambitious project, is the idea of possibility. We can all do something. The question is, how much? If it takes 4 adults working full-time (?) to produce 3 tons of food, how much can one person realistically produce, fitting it in around regular life? What are the limitations for gardeners who don’t live in Southern California? How can I incorporate bio-intensive farming into my plans? How do you build a cob oven? There is a lot of information to digest and ideas to consider.

The most important thing that I came away with after reading about the Path to Freedom project, is the passionate commitment to their goals the Dervaes family practices. Let me be so willing to put my spade where my mouth is!

More info on Path to Freedom:

Path to Freedom website
Path to Freedom YouTube videos

the forest garden

January 12, 2008

zora naki

Forest gardening is a great concept for the urban gardener with limited space. In the early 1960s, a British gardener named Robert Hart explored the positive relationship that exists between plants in natural woodland systems – from below the ground to the top of the tree canopy. By copying this structure , his concept of the “forest garden” made productive use of limited space and gardening energy to maximize food output in a natural and ecologically sound manner. I’ve translated it to urban jungle terminology for the benefit of us city-dwellers:

  1. the urban jungle skyscraper: mature fruit trees
  2. lowrise: dwarf-stock fruit and smaller nut-trees
  3. street-front: berry bushes
  4. hydrant level: herbaceous plants
  5. pavement: groundcover
  6. subway: underground roots and tubers
  7. hydro (poles and wires): climbing vines

By planting and growing in layers, especially with native perennial plants, we have a glimpse of the gardener’s nirvana – a perpetually producing, low-maintenance source of sustenance. Our forest garden/urban jungle becomes a place of respite and sanctuary.

Quote from The Forest Garden by Robert Hart:

If one is starting a forest garden from scratch, the best way to form a canopy is by planting standard apples, plums, or pears at the recommended spacing; twenty feet each way. Then fruit or nut trees on dwarfing rootstocks can be planted halfway between the standards, to form the ‘low-tree layer,’ and fruit bushes between all the trees to form the ‘shrub layer.’ Herbs and perennial vegetables will constitute the ‘herbaceous layer,’ and horizontally spreading plants like dewberries and other Rubus species, as well as creeping herbs such a buckler-leaved sorrel (Rumex scutatus) and lady’s mantle, will form the ‘ground-cover layer.’ For the root vegetables, mainly radishes and Hamburg parsley, occupying the ‘rhizosphere,’ a low mound can be raised, so that they will not be swamped by the herbs. As for the climbers that constitute the ‘vertical layer’: grapevines, nasturtiums, and runner beans can be trained up the trees, while raspberries and hybrid berries, such as boysenberries and tayberries, can be trained over a trellis fence, forming a boundary to the garden.

I think that these are lovely ideas, and I can only imagine how beautiful his British forest garden was (Robert Hart died in 2000). Now the question for me is, how do I translate these lofty goals to a very small plot of land in an urban setting? I don’t have a pre-existing orchard to work with and I only have room for about two fruit trees. Does that qualify as a forest? I think that the idea of layering in biodiversity vertically as well as horizontally is essential. The Path to Freedom Project seems to be exploring this in depth – I think I’ll head over to their website to check it out.

More info on Robert Hart:

Spiral Seed: Tribute to Robert Hart
The Garden of Love: Article on Robert Hart’s Forest Garden
Wikipedia: Robert Hart

edible estates project

January 10, 2008

zora naki

Edible EstatesEdible Estates is a project started by architect/artist Fritz Haeg to “replace the front lawn with edible garden landscapes”. He aims to challenge the grassy lawn supremacy of front yard suburbia with six test projects. To date, yard conversions have been completed in Salina, Kansas; Lakewood, California; Maplewood, New Jersey; and London, England; with upcoming projects slated for Austin, Texas and Baltimore, Maryland.

I like how this project challenges the domain of grass. For most of us with front lawns, this space is essentially for public consumption. The grass anchors our home in a neighbourhood through assimilation – a sea of green sweeping down the block. The space is rarely used for anything more than the yardwork – mowing, seeding, trimming, feeding – necessary to maintain a velvety green appearance. In our neighbourhood, few of the front yards are fenced in (including ours). The lack of physical or visual barriers blur the distinction between public and private space.

Edible Estates aims to engage the unquestioned assumption that the front yard is both public and for grass. By planting edibles, it speaks to pre-suburbia when land use was necessarily utilitarian. It engages community with the gardener’s visible presence. It challenges the unspoken (or in some cases legislated) assumption that grass is king. It promotes partial self-sufficiency by the homeowners – it’s hard to eat more locally than visiting your front yard. All of these are interesting and timely goals – certainly food for thought (sorry – I couldn’t resist).

Edible Estates Lakewood Garden

Once a location is selected, Mr. Haeg and a crew of volunteers descend on the home to rip out turf and establish the garden with donated materials. Each garden is designed to reflect local conditions through plant choice, and each garden looks quite distinctively different. The Lakewood garden after planting looks quite pretty, while the Maplewood garden seems founded on square-foot gardening principles.If I had a criticism, it would be that the gardens as designed seem to be very labour-intensive, and seasonal in nature. The garden will look great for a small part of the year, and bedraggled for the rest. Is it possible to design an edible landscape that still looks pretty year-round?

A front yard is private property, but it is still for public consumption. This is one of the questions that I am struggling with in designing my own front-yard garden. What permanent elements can provide year-round structure and form, while still allowing for ongoing turnover in the vegetable beds? How do you combine the strictly functional nature of vegetable production with artistic impulses? Perhaps I will plant great swaths of swiss chard and drifts of radicchio…

More info:

Edible Estates website
NY Times article: Redefining American Beauty, by the Yard
Treehugger TV: Edible Estates

Photos sourced from

book review: the omnivore’s dilemma

January 10, 2008

zora naki

the omnivore’s dilemma by michael pollan

The Omnivore’s DilemmaEveryone interested in food should read this book. I loved it and it changed my thinking about how we as a family and a species should eat.

Michael Pollan is a journalist and contributing writer to the New York Times magazine. His prose is elegant and informed and reflects his wide-ranging interests and eclectic depth of knowledge about food.

The book starts off a bit slowly, but as you track his exploration into the origins of four meals – McDonald’s fast food, Organic Big Food (purchased at Whole Foods), Organic Small Food (from a self-sustaining organic farm), and Self-Produced (hunted, gathered and grown by the author) – you get seriously caught up in the evils of monoculture agriculture (corn bad!), the bliss of cow manure (yay fertilizer!) and the nail-biting tension of mushroom hunting (seriously). I literally could not put the book down over the Christmas holidays, and believe me, there were plenty of other demands for my attention.

For more information, visit Michael Pollan’s website.

This book is rated E for Excellent- who knew reading about corn could be so suspenseful?
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