Category Archives: Growing Vegetables

Bitter Melon Juice

bitter-gourd   I guess it’s time to grow bitter melon.  I have some seeds from Kitazawa Seed and this article about bitter melon juice potentially fighting pancreatic cancer makes it a must grow! “Researchers from the University of Colorado Cancer Center found that the juice of the bitter melon — a green squash-shaped produce with a bumpy skin — could stop pancreatic cancer cells from metabolizing glucose. This is important because cancer cells need this energy in order to survive — and blocking off their glucose supply kills them.” Read the whole article here.  Look for bitter melon juice at the farm stand this summer…


All grape achievements require time…

The early peach tree already bloomed and is leafing out, the apricot tree has flowers on it…and the buds on the grape vine are popping!  So it was like kismet when I found my favorite virtual friend in this morning’s mail.  Peaceful Valley Organic Gardening supplies is a favorite online resource, I only dream of a real visit!  I love Trish and her informative videos on all kinds of garden tasks.  The one below is a great explanation of pruning the grape vines.  At the Spring Street Butterfly Garden, we have several grape plants that went in the ground August 2010 and are in dire need of a prune.  Please message me if you would like to work on the vines.  Enjoy the video to get you in the spirit!

True Crime Novel: Tomatoland

In the back of our minds we know the common store-bought tomato is not worth purchasing.  We know that the T in a BLT or Caprese Salad in 90% of restaurant establishments will be a disappointment.  We know this, but have been able to look past it. Not only will you want to shun the agribusiness tomato, you will want to sign a petition and attend a rally against the Florida tomato.   The new book by Barry Estabrook -Tomatoland-shines a bright and unforgiving light on the immoral human rights violations taking place in the name of corporate greed.  This is just one of many of the inexplicable over sights and bad calls made by our own USDA.  Americans must demand that our government stop propping up these industries, corporations and CEOs.  We know better, now we need to do better.

Grow your own tomatoes.  Buy at farmers markets.  Can for winter. Take a break from tomatoes when they are unavailable locally.  Share this information with people that can make a difference, like the chefs and owners of your favorite restaurants and grocery store managers.

To read reviews and hear interviews follow the links below.  The information is grim, and everyone should be aware of the true costs of consumer apathy and indifference.  We are allowing corporate greed to ruin this country at every level, right down to the condiment on your fast food burger.

New York TimesNPRDaily Kos

4th Saturday at Green Lab

Mike with his produce box!

Square Foot Gardening is tomorrow morning from 10am – 12noon.
$10 at the gate, no rsvp required.

Available for purchase:
2 x 2 and 2 x 4 square foot garden boxes
Fresh Eggs from our Happy Hens
Spring Street Farm Produce boxes
purchase includes “pick your own” swiss chard and english peas
Boxes are $25 and available for pick up every Friday and at most events

Stop by for a snack!!

Square Foot Gardening Workshop!

Join us this Saturday April 23rd 10am-12noon at the Green Lab Urban Farm for a demonstration and talk about the Square Foot Gardening system.

Jennifer van der Fluit, Square Foot Garden expert, will facilitate a 2 hour presentation/lecture/demonstration.

Class description:
Learn a new method of gardening that eliminates long, single rows and wasted space by condensing your garden into small boxed areas! This method simplifies rows of organic produce into manageable bites, allowing you to conserve money, time and resources!  Square Foot Gardening is a wonderful activity for gardeners of any ability!  Whether you consider yourself a green thumb or a hopeless gardener, you will discover that Square Foot Gardening is the way to grow!  Jennifer van der Fluit is a certified Square Foot Gardener and teacher in Long Beach, California.  She is also a master composter.  She has been featured in the LA Times for her living mural planted in front of their Wrigley home.

If there is interest, we will schedule follow up classes: a box-building workshop and seed starting.  With a planting session on another Saturday.

Available on Saturday for purchase:
The Square Foot Gardening book –
2’x4′ and 2’x2′ boxes –
Fresh Hens’ Eggs –
Assorted produce from our farm –

To attend this class on Saturday April 23rd at 10am, there is a $10 fee that goes directly to our instructor for materials, knowledge and her precious time!  You may pay at the door.  No reservation is required. 

Please park in the LBCAP lot at 3012 Long Beach Blvd.  The class will be held in the Green Lab garden, located 1/2 block north – entrance through the alley.  Walk toward the Spring Street Farm and picnic area and turn left.  See you in the garden!!

Church of Vegetables. Lettuce Pray…

I think the saying goes: Welcome to the Church of the Holy Cabbage. Lettuce pray.  I certainly feel the magic of creation when I am starting seeds, praying for germination and that chickens don’t discover the seed starting racks!

Saturday May 28th Green Lab welcomes you to Tomato-mania which just became a Veggie-mania!! We will be at the garden from 9am – 2pm. There will be a chicken keeping class at 10am with a potluck. Plant sale going on all day. Today I met a fabulous Urban Homesteader from Winnetka Farms at the Artisanal LA event. He had a crazy good variety of Italian Heirloom Seeds!! I was relatively reserved in making my purchases…but I guarantee the selection will impress gardeners at all levels of skill and commitment. Here are a few of the heirloom varieties that we can add to the selection of tomatoes at the plant sale in May:

Cantalupo di Charentais
This well known French melon variety is world famous for its dark orange,sweet and fragrant flesh. Fruits are smooth-skinned and weigh about 2 lbs. You won’t find Charentais in your grocery store — it’s thin skin and high sugar content make it fragile to ship when ripe. Enjoy its vine-ripened perfection straight from your garden. If starting seeds indoors, don’t move out until late spring.

Wild Red Chicory
Chicory, wild of the fields is an open plant that grows close to the ground and has white stems and red center with green serrated leaves. Use young in salads or cooked. Sow direct in rows or broadcast sow autumn into spring.

Zucchino Striato D’Italia
Italian Striped has dark green fruit with light green stripes and light ribbing. It has an excellent taste with many flowers on a large, vigorous plant. A good producer and does well in cool weather. Good eating quality even when quite large, but best when picked small.

Nero di Toscana Precoce-
Black Tuscan Cabbage. Used to make the Florentine National dish called ‘Ribollita Toscana’, a stew made the day before. Kale chips or you can pan-fry it with olive oil, pancetta or bacon, and garlic. Elegant Kale.

The Italians love their nettles.  Make ravioli, soup, frittata or even pesto with the prepared greens.  Be sure to blanch them to tame the stinging aspect of the little hairs on the leaves!

Peperone Topepo Rosso
Round red pepper, about 2 inches wide. Sweet and fleshy. Eat fresh, roast, or pickle. The type of pepper you see pickled in Italian delis.

Zucchini, Bolognese
Short thick fruit, almost halfway between a typical zucchini and a round one. Medium green with light speckling. No ribs. Same great taste and texture as all Italian zucchini.

Basilico a foglie di Lattuga
“Lettuce-leaf basil”. This is a vigorous plant with large leaves and a milder taste than Italiano Classico. Use it to  put on a sandwich, wrap a slice of tomato with mozzarella cheese, or on bruschetta. Can be grown in containers.

Gourmet Potatoes

Having always been drawn to books, magazines and ephemera – I have amassed a fairly good start on a resource library for plants and food.   Having a chatty advocate (my mother) is very handy when building such a collection.

Years ago a neighbor was cleaning out the garage and had decided to let go of her stash of Gourmet Magazines-40 years of gourmet wonder.  Chatty Advocate happened by at the right moment and scooped them up for me, a culinary intern.

Years ago when I was cleaning out the garage, an executive decision needed to be made-hang on to all issues from 1940’s through the 1960’s.  Throw away 70’s and 80’s.  Fast forward to last summer when book seller Sean hands me a box filled with Gourmet Magazines from the 1970’s.  I took it as a sign, and started reading them.  The Universe wanted me to have these issues and I think I discovered why.

James Beard articles and fabulous references to the specialty crops available, or should I say not available.  And of course the writing!  The research, information and attention to detail is wonderful!  Oh, and the ads and the graphics and the traveling those writers got to do!

I was drawn to this one for the cover photograph of eggs.  It is part of a story on Cornwall, England and the small farms.  Now I want to go to Cornwall, England.

The James Beard article was all about potato dishes.  He comments there are only two kinds of potatoes available, russets and new.  Oh how times have changed!  Farmers Markets have an incredible array – but even Trader Joe’s and most grocers now offer many choices from russets and red new potatoes to fingerlings, yukon gold, yellow, white, and even purple.

Makes me want to start a whole bed of potatoes!  Peaceful Valley, Seed Savers or even the farmers market are great for purchasing starts or seed potatoes.  If they are small, plant the whole potato.  If you cut them up, make sure there are two or three growth eyes and let them callus over before planting.

I am going to try a modified Scandinavian method and plant in towers with a mostly straw growing medium.  They are going in late for So Cal, but I will plant on a north facing wall and hope for the best!  Keep you posted.

Now, Pommes Anna for dinner!