Monday, March 30, 2009

Save The Date!!

This tour, which is the first of its kind in Mar Vista, boasts some truly exquisite examples of what can happen when outdoor lawn spaces become fully realized sustainable gardens.

One of the most special things about our neighborhood is its commitment to community gardens - both Ocean View Farms, which is the largest community garden in Los Angeles (six acres, and 500 plots), and the Venice High School Learning Garden are featured on the tour. They are both remarkable places to visit. I had my first garden at Ocean View!

For a map, and a description of the featured homes, go to:

Mar Vista Garden Tour Blog

We are proud and excited to be on the tour! Please be sure to stop by our house if you go...we're doing seed starting demos and fabulous green architect Roberto Sheinberg will be here to answer your design questions!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring Dessert For A Sunday Dinner...

We planted blueberries last fall. They're tiny - just over a foot tall - and will take a few years to reach their glory. However, they're blooming right now, and the promise of a handful of fruit this year is so exciting! The bushes are supposed to reach 5'. You must plant more than one for pollination to occur. They should be within 6 feet of each other.
I have been seeing them again at Marina Garden Center. We amended the soil with an organic acidic planting mix, and have been fertilizing with Dr. Earth Organic 4 Plant Food. GOOD LUCK!


A few weeks ago, we decided to revive the Sunday Dinner with our friends Robert and Roberto. We are doing pot luck, rotating houses, and are supposed to try recipes we've never made before. It has been so much fun, and a lovely end to the week! I decided to try my hand at desserts, which are challenging for me because I have difficulty following directions (I'm a more "pinch of this" and "glug of olive oil" kind of cook). Last Sunday, I made the dessert below, using store bought blueberries. It was a wild success. Hopefully, your berry plants will yield enough to make many of these!

The recipe is featured in the current (April 2009) issue of Gourmet Magazine. It is outstanding, simple, rustic, and elegant, with a very intriguing history. It's also so much fun to make.


yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings
active time: 35 min
total time: 2 hr

The ruffly white meringue called a Pavlova is all about sublime textures. Here, the crunchy yet marshmallowy meringue meets silky lemon curd, juicy ripe berries, and billows of whipped cream. Virtually the national dish of Australia, the dessert is claimed by New Zealand as well; it was named for the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured both countries in 1926. The inspiration for this recipe came from food stylist (and New Zealander) Toni Brogan.

For meringue:

* 1 cup superfine granulated sugar
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch
* 3 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
* 3 tablespoons cold water
* 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

For filling:

* 2/3 cup granulated sugar
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1/3 fresh lemon juice
* 1/2 stick unsalted butter
* 3 large egg yolks
* 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
* 1 cup heavy cream
* 4 cups mixed berries


Make meringue:
Preheat oven to 300°F with rack in middle. Trace an approximately 7-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Turn parchment over and put on a baking sheet.

Whisk together superfine sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.

Beat whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Add water (whites will loosen) and beat until whites again hold soft peaks.

Increase speed to medium-high and beat in sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more.

Add vinegar and beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes (longer if using hand-held mixer).

Gently spread meringue inside circle on parchment, making edge of meringue slightly higher than center (the "crater" is for curd and fruit). Bake until meringue is pale golden and has a crust, about 45 minutes (inside will still be marshmallow-like).

Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringue in oven 1 hour.

Make Lemon curd while meringue bakes:
Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a 2-qt heavy saucepan, then add lemon juice and butter. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking, then continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Lightly beat yolks in a small bowl and whisk in 1/4 cup lemon mixture, then whisk into remaining lemon mixture in saucepan. Reduce heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until curd is thickened, about 2 minutes (do not let boil). Transfer to a bowl and stir in zest. Chill, surface covered with parchment, until cool, about 1 1/2 hours.

Assemble Pavlova:
Beat heavy cream until it just holds stiff peaks, then fold 1/4 cup beaten cream into curd to lighten. Spoon lemon curd into meringue and mound berries on top. Serve remaining whipped cream on the side.

Cooks' notes: •For best results, keep oven door closed as much as possible during baking.
•Meringue can be made 2 days ahead and frozen, wrapped well in plastic. Thaw before serving.
•Curd can be made 2 days ahead and chilled.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Sunday!

"When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other" - Chinese Proverb


Thursday, March 19, 2009


"Obamas to Plant White House Vegetable Garden"

On Friday, March 20th, 2009, 23 third graders will join First Lady Michelle Obama on the South Lawn of the White House to break ground on an 1100 square foot kitchen garden that will provide food for family dinners and formal dinners.

According to the New York Times:

The Obamas’ garden will have 55 varieties of vegetables grown from organic seedlings started at the executive mansion’s greenhouses.

And better still:

Almost the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said laughing.

Ok, you can stop pinching yourself: you aren't dreaming this and an off batch of sauerkraut hasn't caused a rare case of lacto-fermentation-hallucination.


Roger Dorian, who started the EAT THE VIEW campaign, created this press release:

(Scarborough, Maine) –100,000 people signed a petition asking the Obamas to replant a Victory Garden at the White House, and recent news reports indicate that they are about to reap what they sowed.

For advocates of sustainable and healthy foods, this harvest of good news was as welcome as the summer’s first red-ripe tomato. “I’m thrilled for the Obama family and for all who will be inspired by their example to grow gardens of their own this year,” said Roger Doiron, founder of the nonprofit Kitchen Gardeners International and leader of the successful petition campaign, “Eat the View.”

Launched in February 2008, Eat the View proposed that the Obamas replant a White House Victory Garden while planting a few extra rows for the hungry. The campaign used viral videos and social networking technologies like Facebook to grow a large support base, attract international media attention and help inspire a larger grassroots effort. In January, 2009, Eat the View won the “On Day One” contest sponsored by the United Nations Foundation, beating out 4,000 other entries and resulting in thousands of messages being sent to the White House in support of its proposal.

Over the course of the past month, the Eat the View campaign has touted the economic benefits of home gardens as part of its pitch to White House staff members. As proof, Doiron and his wife spent nine months weighing and recording each vegetable they pulled from their 1,600-square-foot garden outside Portland, Maine. After counting the final winter leaves of salad, they found that they had saved about $2,150 by growing produce for their family of five instead of buying it. “If you consider that there are millions of American families who could be making similar, home-grown savings, those are no small potatoes,” Doiron said.

Although the White House garden campaign is now winding down, Doiron says the Eat the View campaign is just getting warmed up. “Now that the Obamas are on board, we’re going to be reaching out to other people and identifying other high-profile pieces of land that could be transformed into edible landscapes. Sprawling lawns around governors’ residences, schoolyards, vacant urban lots: those are all views that should be eaten.”

History of Harvest at the White House
While the Obamas’ garden and the online technologies that campaigned for it might be new, the idea of an edible landscape at the White House is not. Throughout its history, the White House has been home to food gardens of different shapes and sizes and even to a lawn-mowing herd of sheep in 1918. The appeal of the White House garden project, Doiron asserts, is that it serves as a bridge between the country’s past and its future. “The last time food was grown on the White House lawn was in 1943, when the country was at war, the economy was struggling and people were looking to the First Family for leadership. It made sense before and it makes sense again as we try to live within our own means and those of the planet.”

Additional info:

Eat the View campaign website:

History the White House as an edible landscape from 1800 to the present:

Many thanks to Roger, to Alice Waters and to Michael Pollan, who supported this project, as well as Barack and Michelle.

I really really can't believe it!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

So Cal Gardeners, Save The Date!

If you can't make the workshop, and are interested in learning more about reducing run off through your own landscaping, check out these links:

The Surfrider Foundation
South Bay Environmental Services Center


PS. Keep those Kitty Poo Ideas coming!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Litter bug

Perhaps you've read about some of the pests we've been dealing with and as with all of them the ultimate goal is to kill them. Dead. Gone. Enjoy whatever little green heaven you subscribe to. However, the latest and more troublesome "guest" in our garden has been leaving a very succinct and destructive calling card. We'll call him/her F. catus, and the F doesn't stand for Fun. But unlike the other un-welcomes this is not a pest one sets about to exterminate. Instead the job becomes one of deterrence, at which we've had moderate success. The most effective solution we've had to date is to poke a bunch of sticks into the ground (see photo). I also apply good dose of hot sauce (I use Tapatio or Valentina) to the dirt which seems to help but doesn't work on its own. While it's not the most visually appealing solution it doesn't require chemicals or batteries like some of the advertised products I've seen.

C'est ne pas une litter box

I'm curious to hear if you have a solution. Whether it's from dealing with the same problem or if you simply have a creative idea that we may be overlooking. What ever it is post it in the comment section of this post. At some point in the near future we'll have look at what you've come up with and pick one as our favorite and award that person a nominally priced gift from Seed Savers Exchange.


Top this:

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Save the date(s)! Tomatomania is coming!

White Flower Farms is sending hundreds of tomato plants to these events, scheduled to take place in March, April, and May. Most of them are in California, but they've adding events in CT and MD. There are unbelievable varieties of tomatoes.


Here is the URL:




PS. Thank you so much, Donna P., for the head's up on this!!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pancakes In The Mountains

We went up to the mountains a few weekends ago with our friends Robert and Roberto to celebrate our dear Beto's birthday. We had the most fabulous time, staying in a beautiful, eco friendly cabin on 63 acres of land, complete with a small veggie garden and horses, up near the Sequoia National Park.  We took hikes in the rain, and had some very memorable meals. Here is one of our breakfasts, cooked by Beto, that has already become legendary. I wish I could say that I grew some part of this meal in my garden!

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes
(From Epicurious)

3/4 Cup Quick Cooking Oats
1 1/2 Cups Plus 2 Tablespoons Well-Shaken Buttermilk, Divided
3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
3/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Large Egg, Lightly Beaten
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Melted + More For Griddle
1 Tablespoon Packed Brown Sugar

Soak oats in 3/4 cup buttermilk for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.
Mix together egg, melted butter, brown sugar, remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, and oat mixture. Add to dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Heat a griddle over medium heat until hot. Lightly brush with butter. Working in batches, pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto griddle and cook until bubbles appear on surface and undersides are golden-brown, about 1 minute. Flip with a spatula and cook other side, about 1 minute more. (Lightly butter griddle between batches).

Serve with caramelized ginger pears (recipe to follow).

Roberto’s Caramelized Gingered Pears
(Use Bosc or Asian Pears)
serves 4

Core and cut 3 pears in 1/4” wedges, unpeeled
Put pears in a heavy (preferably cast iron) pot with one handful of dark brown sugar per pear.
Stir in 1 teaspoon of ground ginger.
Simmer on low until sugar melts, stirring occasionally, until sugar is melted and pears absorb the dark brown of the sugar.
Spoon over pancakes!

Instead of pears, peel and cut into wedges, a mango, and follow recipe. Apples can also be substituted.
A pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon can be added as well!


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Happy Sunday!

"Gardening is, by its very nature, an expression of the triumph of optimism over experience. No matter how bad this year was, there's always next year. Experience doesn't count. Just because the carrots have been knobby, misshapen, and somewhat bitter for four years in a row doesn't mean they're going to be knobby and misshapen next year. No sir, next year you will (1) work in twice as much compost and peat; (2) plant a new, improved variety; or (3) get lucky. Or even better, you can forget carrots and plant something exotic like blue cauliflower in that bed. Because every year starts with a clean slate, and the phenomenon I call garden amnesia ensures eternal hope....

Blessedly, the voice of experience, the voice that should be crying, "Oh, puh-lease!" never pipes up in the garden. And I, for one, hope it never does. It is not wanted there."

- William Alexander "The $64 Tomato"