Wednesday, October 28, 2009

MHS goes to Little City Gardens

The Mission High School gardeners took a walking field trip over to Little City Gardens the other day to check out the amazing work happening there, get ideas of how to get the most growing power out of a small space, and talk about small, community-minded business and entrepreneurship with the amazing farmer/owners Brooke Budner and Caitlyn Galloway.

We got a tour of the garden where they grow mostly an artisanal salad mix and herbs for a local restaurant and have a CSA in the works. We also got to check out their seed starting area with totally brilliant half bike hoops to hold up row cover, and got to smell fennel and take some prickly chayote squash back for our garden (chayote are a beautiful vining squash native to central or south america depending on who you talk to, that grow really well in the warmer parts of San Francisco. You can grow a new plant from a ripe fruit (which you can get at the farmers market and even some local grocery stores when it's in season) by letting it sit in the dark until it sprouts, then burying it on it's side (sprout side up!) half way up in potting soil until it develops enough roots to be transplanted)

I thought this was a great trip on many levels, but especially because of how much Brooke and Caitlyn are managing to do with a fairly small space that is nearly right around the corner from the high school, and because I think it's really important for the students to see urban gardening not just as a non-profit and educational endeavor, but also as an important addition to our local economy, and a positive source of entrepreneurship, grassroots business and potential employment.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

give a fig!

It's finally getting around to fig season in San Francisco! Figs are another tree that grows quite happily in our climate and there are quite a handful of old and established, hugely abundant trees tucked away around here. I find that fig trees have more pest issues than some other fruit trees, the birds, possums, raccoons and rats, all seem to have field days in the fig trees, and are highly in tune with the ripening of the fruit. With that said, I've harvested a beautiful tree in Potrero twice now, and have made quite a decent harvest despite the fact that the resident told me that I've been sharing it with a family of about seven raccoons!

This most recent harvest, I had the help from two amazing and inspired ladies, Anja and Charissa, who are doing research on projects that they consider to be beyond urban agriculture. I was honored to be on their radar, and we had a chat over some Mission Pie, and then they graciously volunteered their time and tree climbing skills to help harvest. They came by my home garden afterwards and I loaded them up with scarlet runner beans, african blue basil, apple quince butter, plum rose petal jam, and a bottle of ipa homebrew. I really get overwhelmed with the food sharing sometimes, and just can't stop myself!

Figs are quite quick to become mush, and while most of them will make it to the Free Farm Stand, I did make a pretty substantial batch of fig jam with home fermented red wine vinegar, which will definitely be out for the next jam sale. And the figgy ends all go in our compost, which has been hotter than ever! Those microorganisms sure do have a sweet tooth!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Placerville apple sensation!

I just can't say enough that we meet some of the nicest, most generous folks doing this work. After our incredible score of some of the most delicious pears I've ever tasted, I didn't think we could match that bounty for some time, but right away I had a call in to Camilla, an amazing woman from San Francisco, who has a house with a small apple orchard on Apple Hill in Placerville. Erin landed in SF by way of western Massachusetts and had been having major fall in New England blues, so it took little convincing to get a harvest partner on this outing.

It was a beautiful day and Camilla's land was quite magical. We set out picking early, starting out with some super sweet golden delicious. Shortly after we got going, my friends from the Free Farm Stand and the Julian Pantry, Page, Margaret, Caleb and Lyn arrived, which was so much fun to have a big group of San Francisco food activists out in the country picking delicious and abundant fruit!

It was really wonderful to sit down to lunch with everyone and have amazing vegan cauliflower and lentil soup that Camilla so generously made for us all. Sitting down to eat great food with great company is really one of my most absolute joys.

After lunch, Erin and I moved on to the red delicious and winesap apples, also incredibly sweet and juicy. After we had filled the car with apples, we picked a handful of the concord grapes along the fence and then sat in two stray adirondak that we stumbled on walking through the side orchard. Lovely!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Clearlake pear extravaganza!

I had the good fortune of meeting a really nice man named Ed with a pear orchard up in Clearlake through the folks over at Neighborhood Fruit. Erin, Greg and I jumped on the chance to hightail it out of the city for fruit pickin' and a camping trip by the lake.

We arrived in the afternoon, and the orchard was huge! Ed is working on going organic after purchasing the land from some conventional growers, which takes a few years of actually growing organic before you can get certified, so he has been growing his 8 acres of pears with no spray since 2007. Needless to say, we had a field day, stuffed the station wagon to the gills with beautiful and delicious pears, almost 800 lbs!

Here at Produce to the People, we know the importance of testing your product. Strictly research, of course! We gleaned the red and bartlett pears from the side of the orchard that had already been harvested (but still had quite a bounty left hanging). The bosc were about to be harvested the following week, so they were in abundance. I think it was the common consensus that the red pears were the flavor champions.

Off to pitch the tent and kick back by the campfire! (I know that looks like the ocean, but it's the lake! No joke, it was rowdy!)

All the beautiful photos in this post were taken by the fabulous and talented Gregory Bartlett. See more of his art work at:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Produce to the People featured on Design Sponge!

I'm so honored to have PttP and my humble little garden featured on Design Sponge! Thanks to Lia and Studio Choo for the lovely article, you guys are the best!