Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A New way to look at the Victory Garden

You really must check out the Freedom Garden Movement! It is a new way of thinking of the Victory Garden concept of days gone by. Think victory over your food bill, victory over manufactured and genetically modified food, victory over your status of couch potato. Yes indeed, Freedom from all of the above and more!

Here is the press release from the FREEDOM GARDEN website....

Think of it as Facebook meets the Farmer’s Almanac: A social networking site for 21 st century pioneers who want to fight soaring food prices and global warming by growing their own food. On this site, novice and expert growers from all over the world can gather to post success stories, ask questions, and challenge one another to ever-increasing levels of self-sustained living.

That was Then, This is Now

In response to the heavy impact of World War II on the U.S. economy, Americans were urged to grow a victory garden (also called a war garden) in 1943. The gardens were planted by about 20 million families and would eventually provide nearly half of the fresh produce consumed during this troubled time. On rooftops, in back yards and even in containers on front porches, Americans produced eight million tons of fruit, vegetables and herbs in their own households.

Presently we are faced with a future that’s will be fraught with fuel scarcity, rising food cost and environmental implications.

As the world encounters hard times - there will be need of practical and back to basics solutions.

Freedom Gardens is growing beyond victory garden a food security movement person to person, blog to blog, neighbor to neighbor. A modern gardening era/movement for the 21st century resulting in efforts to become free of foreign oil, corporate controls, contamination and food miles while creating a sustainable future by promoting local food production.

Behind This Site

Freedom Gardens is backed by the example of its founders, the Dervaes family, the urban-dwelling “eco-pioneers” who have been growing most of their own food since 2001. On their one-fifth acre residential lot in Pasadena, Jules Dervaes and his three adult children, Anais, Justin, and Jordanne, grow over 400 varieties of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers-with enough left over to run an award-winning “green” business selling fresh organic produce to local restaurants and caterers.

Freedom Gardens is an offshoot of the family’s first website, PathtoFreedom.com, a seven year-old sustainable living blog that gets 5 million hits per month from 125 different countries. The new, more interactive site uses social networking software to connect visitors with other gardeners in their area. They can share tips about local climate and soil issues, display which challenges they are participating in on their profiles, and find others nearby doing the same challenge.

Through FreedomGardens.org, people everywhere can take back control from the corporate food system. In the process, they can improve their health, reduce their ecological footprint, and save money.

Funding for Freedom Gardens is from the Dervaes Family businesses (Dervaes Gardens, Peddler’s Wagon) and from their non-profit Dervaes Institute. Dervaes Institute is registered as a 508(c)(3) public charity and governed by the state of California.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An Abundance of Greens and Herbs

I have begun offering fresh produce to friends and family weekly as I have such an abundance of greens and herbs that we can't eat it all. Fresh greens are so good for you and the more you pick, the more they seem to produce. And the possibility of growing greens year-round means that there is no reason for preserving the harvest for long-term storage! Besides greens are much better fresh.
The picture here shows greens (rainbow swiss chard, mixed cole greens..collards, purple veined brussel sprout leaves and broccoli leaves) and herbs (chives and lemon grass) harvested and waiting for pick-up. I pick the fresh greens and rinse them, then bundle them into bunches and put them in mason jars with fresh water to keep until pick-up.
Here is an excerpt from my letter to family and friends, introducing the "Fresh Start" concept.
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This year my garden plot has turned the corner and is producing a beautiful abundance of organically grown, lovingly nurtured produce. More than my family can hope to eat... and we are eating well!

My mission with my garden was first to grow the organic produce that I wanted to feed Rebecca but could not afford to buy at the grocery store. As I got more into my project, it became more and more about eating LOCAL, minimizing my carbon footprint and nurturing the planet. It has been a wonderful journey, watching the land that is my yard become a magnet for birds and butterflies and bees. There is more good happening here than meets the naked eye! Layers and Layers of good and important steps forward. A Fresh Start!

I have spent the summer wondering what to do with all of this wonderful food and realizing that the time and effort I spend is like having a full-time job! I have been looking for ways to get my garden to start bringing in some income. I have considered starting a small CSA but have concluded that I am not ready for that yet..
What I have decided to do is to offer each week an email of what is available in the garden. This email will go out on Monday and Thursday. Let me know what you want to order and the next morning, I will pick and bag your order. You can pick it up that day (Tuesday or Friday) at the Garden......

You can be assured that your produce was fresh picked because I am not going to pick it until you let me know what you want! This is LOCAL food at it's best with a small footprint and layers and layers of good!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Making Connections

Oooo I have discovered another great site which to my way of thinking speaks to some of the "whys" of the grow your own food movement. The site is Slow Movement and has fabulous food for thought! Check it out!
Here is their take on "How to make the connection to food"
We can create a strong connection with our food, local farmers, community members and others by:
* Joining or starting a community food system;
* Eating food grown in your local area or bioregion;
* Eating organically or sustainably grown food;
* Starting a back-yard veggie garden; or helping someone else to do it;
* Joining or starting a community food garden;
* Encouraging local shops and restaurants to buy from local farmers;
* Becoming acquainted with local farmers;
* Volunteering to work on a local community supported agriculture project or community food system;
* Growing and promoting traditional foods;
* Refusing GM food;
* Promoting community food systems amongst your friends and fellow workers;
* Growing fresh produce to donate to food kitchens
* Joining a local slow food group.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Organic Facts of the Week

I want to encourage you to check out the work of the Organic Consumers Association. They are working for everyone on this planet! Their website encourages a "Get Local" approach and includes an action center to keep you up-to-date on issues that matter to us all. OCA gives you ways to add your voice to the grassroots campaigns for "health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy".

Check out the many calls to action. You may be surprised to find that some of your favorite "organic" products are not what you think they are.

You can subscribe to their newsletter which includes great information on the following topics...Organics, Planting Peace, Environment and Climate, Health Issues, Genetic Engineering, Food Safety, Fair trade and Social Justice, Farm Issues, and Politics and Democracy.

In today's newsletter there was the following list of Organic Facts...
* If organic farming methods were practiced on all the planet's food-growing land, it would be like taking more than 1.5 billion cars off the road.
* You can increase your antioxidant intake by 30 percent by choosing organic.
* The average child in America is exposed to five pesticides daily in their food and drinking water.
* The U.S. water system is regularly contaminated above safe limits immediately following chemical fertilizer applications to farm fields.
* Farms in developing countries that use organic techniques produce an average of 79% more than farms that don't.
Now if that don't make you want to buy and grow organic... I don't know what will!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Grow your own Shiitake Mushrooms!

Last year, I had to good fortune to get 8 shiitake logs passed on to me by a friend who was moving. I am a lucky woman! They have been around a while but still have life in them! Generally, I pick out 2 logs to soak in the rainwater barrels. I soak them for a day, then set them out in the shade. After a few days, they start fruiting and we get to enjoy shiitake mushrooms for dinner! Local food that requires only a few steps to harvest!

here is a quote from ShiitakeMushroomLog.Com
Shiitakes have four to ten times the flavor of common white button mushrooms. In addition to their robust/pungent, woodsy flavor and meaty texture, shiitakes provide high levels of protein (18%), potassium, niacin and B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. They have natural antiviral and immunity-boosting properties and are used nutritionally to fight viruses, lower cholesterol and regulate blood pressure. Lentinan, an immunostimulant derived from shiitakes, has been used to treat cancer, AIDS, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibrocystic breast disease, and other conditions with impressive results. Researchers S. Suzuki and Oshima found that a raw shiitake eaten daily for one week lowered serum cholesterol by 12%.
Oh my family loves our mushrooms and how wonderful it is to know there is SO much goodness in them.
Think about growing your own. It really is worth the investment and effort. You can watch these baby mushrooms emerge from the logs and enjoy knowing that you will soon be feasting on a delicious nutritious local meal!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Raised Beds

I love working with raised beds. I think that is the sense of great organization I get when I look out over the beds. But what this picture shows is the great variety of possibilities available in found materials! I get alot of my materials from FreeCycle, the side of the road, or the recycling bin!
The above beds are made of found bricks, concrete pavers, wine and beer bottles, scrap wood, concrete pieces, and rocks from the garden. If you can let go of the need for everything to match or be the same size, you can make just about anything work.

Why raised beds??

Most gardeners find that raised beds are easier to maintain and promote better plant growth. Walking in a garden causes soil compaction, which can cause problems with drainage and oxygen availability to the roots. It's also more difficult to weed when soil is compacted. With a raised bed, you can plant, weed and harvest without ever walking on the soil.

Raised beds can be filled with high-quality soil and it's easy to add compost or other organic matter. Long-rooted plants, such as carrots, do especially well in this environment, because there are no stones to hinder their development.

Plants in raised beds get more sun and air circulation and they can make better use of water. You often can plant earlier and harvest later, because raised beds warm up early in the spring and stay warm later in the fall.

Raised beds also make ideal places to grow plants that can be invasive in a regular garden – such as mints and horseradish. But ease and convenience is the benefit many gardeners appreciate the most. If you get a bad back and sore knees every year from gardening, a raised bed may put an end to those aches and pains.

Raised vegetable beds are excellent for gardeners who have trouble with their backs and older people who don't have limited flexibility. They are also excellent for people in wheelchairs or with other disabilities and those who don't want to spend the summer on their knees in the garden.

I invite you to keep your eyes open to the vast possibilities of materials that are available for free or nearly free for your raised beds. Raised beds can be had for free or little money out of pocket. You will be amazed at the difference it will make in the success of your garden!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What to do with all of those greens

My winter greens are starting to really come in now. Swiss Chard, Spinach, kale, collards. Yum! But what to do with them all. I am always looking for new ways to prepare the feast. Greens can be picked fresh all year round so I see no need to try freezing or canning them. Besides they are best fresh picked right out of the garden! Here is a recipe that I found and adapted to suit my family and they loved it! Give it a try.

Greens with Toasted Pine Nuts and Raisins
Serves 6
2 1/2 pounds of greens
(spinach, kale, chard, collards, others) either mixed or one kind
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions sliced
1-2 cloves of minced garlic (optional)
4 tablespoons of raisins
(or dried cranberries or blueberries), plumped in hot water and drained
4 tablespoons of pine nuts, toasted
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Fresh pick and rinse greens well. Saute in a large pan with only the rinse water that still clings to the greens. Cook over medium heat, turn frequently until wilted. Drain and set greens aside.
Add olive oil to the empty pan. Saute the onions and garlic over medium heat until tender (about 8 minutes). Add the greens, raisins and pine nuts. Saute briefly to warm and bring the flavors together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

With the leftovers, I made the most fantastic frittata topped with cheddar cheese! Warm the oven to about 350. Scramble 2 or 3 eggs. Put the left over greens in an iron skillet that has been lightly oiled. Pour in the scrambled eggs. Top with grated cheese. Bake until the eggs are cooked. ENJOY..

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quote of the day

To create a garden is to search for a better world. In our effort to improve on nature, we are guided by a vision of paradise. Whether the result is a horticultural masterpiece or only a modest vegetable patch, it is based on the expectation of a glorious future. This hope for the future is at the heart of all gardening.
~Marina Schinz

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Celebration of Rainbow Swiss Chard

Today's post is a celebration of Rainbow Swiss Chard. Why eat boring food when you can eat a rainbow imbued with liquid sunshine!

~from a seed catalog description....
A beautiful chard, its colors are brilliant (pink, yellow, orange, red and white). This chard originated in Australia. Very mild, ornamental, and tasty. Great for market growers and specialty markets. Pretty enough to plant in the flower garden, so delicious, one of our favorite greens! Can be sown any time up to late summer for fall use; often overwinters except in very cold-winter areas.
But what is this stuff called "Chard"? and where does it come from? And what the heck do you do with it?

Swiss Chard, the beta vulgaris Cicla group, is actually a close cousin of the beet and also goes by the name "spinach beet." The rainbow variety of Swiss chard, often known as "bright lights" comes with stems in a wide range of bright colors including magenta, orange, red, purple, and golden yellow.

Cooks prize Swiss chard for its colorful veins and ribs. The contrast of the vibrant red, orange, yellow, and white stalks against deep dark green leaves make for a strikingly beautiful presentation. And chard not only looks fantastic but it has a mild delicate flavor that is sweeter, and more refined then other greens. Swiss chard can be used as a substitute for spinach in recipes, or stands alone nicely as a side dish.

One cup of cooked chard provides the following vitamins, minerals and nutritional components shown below as percentage of USRDA.

Vitamin K: 300%
Vitamin A: 100%
Vitamin C: 52%
Magnesium: 37%
Manganese: 29%
Potassium: 27%
Iron: 22%
Vitamin E: 16%
Fiber: 14%

So again I say, "Why eat boring food when you can eat a rainbow imbued with liquid sunshine!" Try some today!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

You know that time between really waking and not quite still sleeping.. that seems to be the time that I remember dreams best... Well I woke from a strange one this morning. It seemed that the city decided that home gardens needed to be permitted. With a hefty permit fee of course and all sorts of odd rules. Rules about everything and mostly rules that made no good sense. Yikes.. The permit would require an end to the season, a specified date when the garden would need to be shutdown for the winter and covered over with some sort of impervious cover so the it could "rest" properly... It had rules about what could be grown and what was not allowed. And rules about when to plant and what chemical applications were required.
What really got me was that one of the best reasons for home gardening is that not only do you know where your food comes from and how it was grown but that you don't have to worry about the regulations or lack of regulatory oversight for our food industry.
I tell you it was the strangest dream!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Garden Fresh Roasted Veggies

Here is an amazingly simple yet wonderful garden fresh dish shown here before cooking. It has a beautiful variety of colors! My High School Home Economics Teacher would be SO proud. Beets, Carrots, Onions, Garlic, Potatoes (red, russet, blue), tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and topped with fresh parsley and sprigs of rosemary.
Bake uncovered in the oven at 350 or so... oven setting can be more or less depending on what else you are cooking in the oven at the same time... consider a cover for a bit if you are cooking at a higher heat. Bake until the veggies are done.
Local and Fresh... it can't be beat!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Why Bother?

You can't start growing your own food without asking yourself the question, Why Bother? It is work, pleasurable work with amazing returns... but at the end of the day aching and tired, you just gotta wonder.. if it really is worth the bother... Friends may even give you a hard time about your "million dollar tomato". And you wonder... I could just drive to the grocery store and buy food... I could even buy food already made...
Ahhh, but the rewards of growing your own and making food from scratch.....the good feeling, the great food.
I am writing now with a full and satisfied belly from an amazing meal. A mostly local meal: Meatloaf (made with local beef and homegrown carrots, squash, onions, garlic, shitake mushrooms, and tomato), Fresh Homegrown Kale braised with homegrown garlic, and Rice. Yum!
This evening I stumbled on an article by Michael Pollan, first published in the New York Times on April 20th, 2008. You can read the entire article, WHY BOTHER? But here is the piece that I wanted to share with you..
But the act I want to talk about is growing some — even just a little — of your own food. Rip out your lawn, if you have one, and if you don’t — if you live in a high-rise, or have a yard shrouded in shade — look into getting a plot in a community garden. Measured against the Problem We Face, planting a garden sounds pretty benign, I know, but in fact it’s one of the most powerful things an individual can do — to reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but more important, to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness: to change the cheap-energy mind.
A great many things happen when you plant a vegetable garden, some of them directly related to climate change, others indirect but related nevertheless. Growing food, we forget, comprises the original solar technology: calories produced by means of photosynthesis. Years ago the cheap-energy mind discovered that more food could be produced with less effort by replacing sunlight with fossil-fuel fertilizers and pesticides, with a result that the typical calorie of food energy in your diet now requires about 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce. It’s estimated that the way we feed ourselves (or rather, allow ourselves to be fed) accounts for about a fifth of the greenhouse gas for which each of us is responsible.
Yet the sun still shines down on your yard, and photosynthesis still works so abundantly that in a thoughtfully organized vegetable garden (one planted from seed, nourished by compost from the kitchen and involving not too many drives to the garden center), you can grow the proverbial free lunch — CO2-free and dollar-free. This is the most-local food you can possibly eat (not to mention the freshest, tastiest and most nutritious), with a carbon footprint so faint that even the New Zealand lamb council dares not challenge it. And while we’re counting carbon, consider too your compost pile, which shrinks the heap of garbage your household needs trucked away even as it feeds your vegetables and sequesters carbon in your soil. What else? Well, you will probably notice that you’re getting a pretty good workout there in your garden, burning calories without having to get into the car to drive to the gym. (It is one of the absurdities of the modern division of labor that, having replaced physical labor with fossil fuel, we now have to burn even more fossil fuel to keep our unemployed bodies in shape.) Also, by engaging both body and mind, time spent in the garden is time (and energy) subtracted from electronic forms of entertainment.

You begin to see that growing even a little of your own food is, as Wendell Berry pointed out 30 years ago, one of those solutions that, instead of begetting a new set of problems — the way “solutions” like ethanol or nuclear power inevitably do — actually beget other solutions, and not only of the kind that save carbon. Still more valuable are the habits of mind that growing a little of your own food can yield. You quickly learn that you need not be dependent on specialists to provide for yourself — that your body is still good for something and may actually be enlisted in its own support. If the experts are right, if both oil and time are running out, these are skills and habits of mind we’re all very soon going to need. We may also need the food. Could gardens provide it? Well, during World War II, victory gardens supplied as much as 40 percent of the produce Americans ate.

But there are sweeter reasons to plant that garden, to bother. At least in this one corner of your yard and life, you will have begun to heal the split between what you think and what you do, to commingle your identities as consumer and producer and citizen. Chances are, your garden will re-engage you with your neighbors, for you will have produce to give away and the need to borrow their tools. You will have reduced the power of the cheap-energy mind by personally overcoming its most debilitating weakness: its helplessness and the fact that it can’t do much of anything that doesn’t involve division or subtraction. The garden’s season-long transit from seed to ripe fruit — will you get a load of that zucchini?! — suggests that the operations of addition and multiplication still obtain, that the abundance of nature is not exhausted. The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. Michael Pollan

Don't Play with Your Food

Well sometimes you just can't resist the temptation to play with your food!
So meet Pedro the Hot Pepper Guy! He's one of a kind, spicy and debonaire!
My hot pepper harvest has been abundant.
I am hoping to find the time to make a batch of hot pepper jelly this week.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What Eating Local Really Means

  1. Eating local means more for the local economy.
  2. Locally grown produce is fresher.
  3. Local food just plain tastes better.
  4. Locally grown fruits and vegetables have longer to ripen.
  5. Eating local is better for air quality and pollution than eating organic.
  6. Buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons.
  7. Buying locally grown food is fodder for a wonderful story.
  8. Eating local protects us from bio-terrorism.
  9. Local food translates to more variety.
  10. Supporting local providers supports responsible land development.
I found this wonderful list at http://www.eatlocalchallenge.com
Consider committing to the EAT LOCAL Challenge.