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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Month By Month Planting Guide for Southern California

A 'Cheat Sheet'

Lettuce seedlings shoot for the sky.  Well, maybe 'shoot' is the wrong word, but they are on their way!  One small packet of seed produces hundreds of seedlings for a fraction of the cost of a single six-pack.  You get much more for much less; it does take a little more skill and a little more patience. 
These generalizations are for The Learning Garden, located in Sunset Zone 24, less than 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean in an alluvial plain that is just above sea level. Cold air from the surrounding hills drains into our area and we are reliably cooler than much of the surrounding areas. If you are growing inland from us, your temperatures fluctuate more than ours. As one gardens further from the ocean, the temperatures are less moderate and the effects of heat and cold are more pronounced. While we can grow some cool season crops year round (kale and chard come to mind first), this becomes more difficult without the ocean's pronounced influence.


Plant in the ground: lettuce, carrots, beets, parsnips, potatoes, celeriac, radishes, spinach,
Plant in containers: lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, (these last two can be started now, but they would have been better started earlier – their production will be reduced by the coming warmer weather), peas, fava beans, lentils, garbanzo beans


Plant in the ground: lettuce (and other salad greens), carrots, beets parsnips, radishes, spinach, purple beans,
Plant in containers: early tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, summer squash


Plant in the ground: purple beans, lettuce, radishes, purple beans, beets, radishes, spinach, set out plants of basil, early tomatoes, later in the month, sow early sweet corn,
Plant in containers: tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, all squash,


Plant in the ground: beans of all colors, lettuce, radishes, beets, spinach, set out plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil, you can start planting all corn now
Plant in containers: tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons and squash, okra,


Plant in the ground: all basil, eggplant, all melons and all squash (including cucumbers, set out plants of same and all tomatoes, eggplants and peppers) green and yellow beans and all the dried beans; corn too, if you have room
Plant in containers: As in April, but it's getting late – peppers, eggplants and basil are still OK to start, but it's getting late


Plant in the ground: all the above, but it's getting late... you can still get a crop, but it will be cut shorter by any early cool weather; the last of the corn can go in early in the month
Plant in containers: after starting pumpkin seeds, take a nap


Plant in the ground only out of necessity
Plant in containers: continue napping


Plant in the ground: nothing
Plant in containers: towards the end of the month, in a shaded location, the first of the winter veggies can be started, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, fava beans


Plant in the ground: nothing, until late in the month, start sowing turnips, parsnips, radishes, beets and carrots – keep seeds moist! Peas, lentils and garbanzo beans can be sown... If you grow onions from seed, start them now so you can transplant them out from October on.
Plant in containers: Cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, favas, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts,


Plant in the ground: by now you can begin to set out some of your cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, chard and so on. Continue with seeds as above... you can also direct sow favas if you want. Potatoes can usually be found about now as well as onions, garlic and shallots and they all should be planted from now until late November.
Plant in containers: More Cruciferae and favas, celery and celeriac,


Plant in the ground: More of September's plants can be sown – you still have time for all of them except onions, this will be the last month to plant peas, lentils, garbanzos and fava beans. Their growing season is too long to get the harvest you would want.
Plant in containers: I'm still sowing cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower, but Brussels sprouts are a longer season item so they're not a part of my efforts until next season's planting begins.


Plant in the ground: Too little light and too many parties make it difficult to find garden time – but if you have some things left over from November, try to get that done.
Plant in containers: Pretty much the same story, if you have time, do more from November.

There are two big shifts in Southern Californian gardening: At the end of September, beginning of October it's all about the winter crops. At the end of February, beginning of March, the focus all shifts to summer and the heat lovers. Seeds get started slightly before then (if you have the right conditions, up to six weeks before then!). 

In General:  

Plants Started From Seed In Situ include:  

All root crops, including radishes, carrots, parsnips, beets, celeriac

Plants that can fend for themselves against pests, like fava beans, peas, green and other beans.

Plants that tend to stress when their roots are messed with: corn.

This list, however is not laid in stone. I have seen folks transplant corn, favas and even carrots more or less successfully. In my experience, it is a waste of time to carefully transplant carrots only to get mis-shapened roots.

Plants to set out as transplants:

One could just say, “Everything else,” but that's cheating.

Some things really do benefit by transplanting, including: broccoli, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, to name a few. They can be set lower in the soil when transplanted making for stronger, more healthy plants.
Plants that start out really small and could easily fall victim to pests, like lettuce or any of the various greens. Small seed = 'normally' sown in a sheltered location to be transplanted later.

The bottom line, however, is what is convenient to you or what your preference is as a gardener. If you don't have time, and you have relatively few slugs and snails, you might find lettuce easier to sow in the ground. I have had rows of tiny lettuce plants mowed over night, so without a sheltered location, I rarely will direct sow lettuce or other soft delectable snail and slug attractants.


Recipe: East African Peanut Soup

Carrots, which help form the base for this stew, growing in the autumn sunlight.  Carrots can be one of the harder seeds to germinate, they are small and need lots of water to sprout.  However, they positively hate to be transplanted - the only sure way to get good carrots is from seed.  

When I made this for the class, I had only Basmati rice and so the consistancy was more 'mush-like' than it would be with the long grain rice called for in the recipe.  This is, no matter which rice is used, a fulfilling and satisfying main dish that is a substantial meal - especially on a cold day! 

4 Tablespoons olive oil
4 Tablespoons butter
4 ribs of celery, sliced
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
2 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
½ cup uncooked long grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cups vegetable broth
1 cup peanut butter

Heat the oil and butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrots and onion. Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice, salt and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.

Ladle out 1 cup of the broth and place in a small bowl and add the peanut butter. Stir until the peanut butter liquefies. Pour this back into the soup and simmer for another ten minutes.

Serve hot.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Basic Fresh Vinaigrette

1 finely chopped shallot
Vinegar, enough to cover chopped shallot w/ a little extra
Handful chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, basil, chive or mixture of)
1 Tspn mustard
1 tspn honey
Olive oil

Macerate chopped shallot in vinegar for at least 20 minutes.
Place chopped herbs in a bowl; cover lightly with olive oil. (Keeps the herbs from turning brown.)
Whisk shallots, mustard, honey, herbs & a pinch of salt in a bowl.
Drizzle 3x the amount of olive oil to vinegar.

Remember to look for the balance...this involves tasting as you go along!

Ciao for now,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


If you are at all like me, there are only so many meals one can take of sauteed or steamed Swiss chard.  I like this dish because it is much more than just Swiss chard made limp and eaten.  Much more!  All ingredient amounts are flexible. 

This dish might seem to have daunting ingredient list. But don’t be put off; enough of the ingredients will already be lurking in your kitchen. And, if you leave out any one of the spices, it will probably still turn out well. In contrast to some meat tagines, which take hours to prepare and cook, this dish can be made from start to finish on a weeknight. And the flavor is a lovely mélange of spices, slight sweetness from the raisins, and savory flavor from the chickpeas. Serve with rice or quinoa for hearty vegetarian dinner.

• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• ½ sweet onion, minced
• 1 teaspoon paprika (sweet or smoked according to preference)
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• ½ teaspoon turmeric
• ¼ teaspoon thyme
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ cup golden raisins
• 1 tablespoon organic tomato paste
• 1 bunch chard (about 8 ounces) washed, center ribs removed, and chopped
• 1 cup cooked chickpeas plus 1 ¼ cups of their cooking liquid, or 1 can organic chickpeas with liquid plus ½ cup water
• 1 teaspoon hot sauce or ¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional)

Add the olive oil, onion, and garlic to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or 3-4 quart pot, and turn the heat to medium. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes, then add the paprika, cumin, turmeric, thyme, salt, and cinnamon. Stir together and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and turn the heat down to medium-low.

Be sure to stir every 3-5 minutes to ensure that the bottom does not burn and that your ingredients are evenly combined. You can add a tablespoon of rice flour if you like your stew thicker. Remove from the heat after 20 minutes. Enjoy!


Kale Salad Recipe

A few greens never hurt anyone, especially a little KALE. Don't tell anyone you really want to impress that it's good for you. Just kidding.
Kale is a great source of calcium, potassium, beta-carotene & other anti-oxidants.

This recipe is easy to make but requires a little prep time, meaning washing and taking the leaves off the stem. Removing the stem is key to how well the salad is can be quite fibrous if not removed.

I like to mix the varieties that are available, i.e., purple, Tuscan "dinosaur" & Russian kales, but staying with one variety is just as delicious.

Kale Salad
(4 single serve or 8 small side servings )

1/4 cup Liquid Aminos*
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 - 2 Lemons juiced; start with 1 and adjust to taste
1/2 medium Red onion, thinly sliced
2 bunches of Kale, cleaned, stemmed, ripped into bite-size pieces
Black pepper to taste

*Braggs Liquid Aminos, is probably the easiest to find @ a health food store, Whole Foods or your local co-op.

Mix liquid aminos, olive oil & lemon juice together in a bowl. Add sliced onions, let sit while prepping kale. This will take some of the bitterness out of the onions and soften them. Wash kale like you would spinach; dirt is well hidden so check front and back. Drying kale: I recommend getting a few drying kitchen towels, a baking sheet, lying each leaf flat next to one another in a row, making stackable layers as you wash individually. Pat leaves dry, slide stem off and rip into bite size pieces; place into large bowl.

Pour 1/2 of dressing with onions over kale. Toss gently with your hands! (you can use utensils but this way you get to feel the texture of the leaves and put some extra love into your dish.) Add more dressing until well coated.

NOTE: The liquid aminos will help release water in your kale so you will have extra liquid at the bottom of your bowl once your salad sits. Depending on how crunchy-raw you like your greens, you can serve right away or let sit for 20 minutes before serving. I like to make it in the morning, put it in the refrigerator and throughout the day I have something already prepared. The salad keeps well up to 3-days. You can play with levels of texture and taste with this salad, so make it your own.

Optional add-ins.
This is the basic recipe for this salad but you can add the following to layer it:

1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms with the onions.
1 Tbspn maple syrup or agave nectar, if to salty or sour for you taste.

Items to add when tossing the salad - last minute:

1 cup julienne, (thin slices), red or yellow peppers or both
1 ripe avocado, cubed
Handful fresh sprouts (whatever kind you like)
1 apple, thinly sliced
1 tsp sesame seeds

I'm sure there are more items out there to add to this salad, but most of all have fun while creating and sharing this wonderful healthy green from your garden!

Bon Appetite!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Stinking Rose: GARLIC

What is there not to love about garlic?

If you are a vampire then you might have some problems with it but with time you will probably get over it.

Roasted garlic turns into to this wonderful sweet flavorful paste as you witnessed yesterday. Fresh bread, garlic paste, brie and a little slice of apple...
mmmm good!

Simple and easy is what makes garlic so much fun to work with.

I find that it "layers" the dish. Meaning as you pick out the various flavors, garlic if used in good measure delights the senses.

Staying with our "fresh" theme, my goal is to suggest recipes that use as many garden items as possible. I know that fresh tomato season is coming to an end and may be hard to find, but if you canned some of your fruit you can give this recipe a go.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

More garlic than you think, sautéed in a good bit of olive oil until light golden.

Add chopped fresh tomatoes, a pinch of salt, and a little marjoram.

Let simmer down to sauce consistency, add fresh basil and taste for salt.
(J. Theroux)

No exact measurements are given on purpose. I encourage you to get involved with cooking your food intuitively. I know it may sound funny or even feel a bit awkward but if you take the time to grow it enjoy it to its fullest!

Remember to have fun and don't forget to taste along the way.



A Short List of Seed Houses

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog, with their slogan "Saving The Past for The Future," expresses a lot of what I think is important in a seed company.

This is a completely revised seed list in an effort to avoid seed companies that carry Seminis (Monsanto) products. To my knowledge, none of the following companies carry GMO seeds.

BAKER CREEK HEIRLOOM SEEDS; 2278 Baker Creek Road Mansfield, MO 65704; 417.924.8917 What a catalog! Beautiful pictures of the produce – vegetable porn for sure. I have never ordered from them, but I have heard good things about them.

BOUNTIFUL GARDENS; 18001 Shafer Ranch Road; Willits, CA 95490; 707.459.6410 Organic seed; open-pollinated. A part of the work done by John Jeavons, a proud and active member of the population of organic and open-pollinated gardeners. If you see him, he owes me a laser pointer.

FEDCO; PO Box 520, Waterville, ME 04903 207.873.7333
They are rabidly anti-GMO, though they do carry hybrids in addition to open-pollinated seeds. A wonderful and extensive selection. (A lovely letter to customers can be found on their site, Sticker Shock Moves from the Oil Tank to the Seed Catalog. Someone who writes this beautiful deserves to get some of our money!)

PEACEFUL VALLEY FARM SUPPLY; PO Box 2209; Grass Valley, CA 95945; 916.272.4769 I have purchased many seeds (and other things!) from Peaceful Valley – I love their catalog. They have an excellent selection of cover crop seeds as well as a lot of organic gardening supplies and tools.

NATIVE SEED/SEARCH; 526 N. 4th Ave. Tucson, AZ 85705; 520.622.5561 (Fax 520.622.5591) Specializing in the seeds of seeds of south western United States, concentrating on the ancient seeds of the First Nations People from amaranth to watermelon. A worthy cause for your money. Please note, this entry does not appear on the handout distributed in class, that is my error.

PINETREE GARDEN SEEDS; PO Box 300, Rt. 100; New Gloucester, ME 04260; 207.926.3400
Probably the best for a home gardener – small packets of very current seed, a very good value. The smaller packets mean a smaller price so a person can order a lot more varieties and experiment. I have been a customer for many years.

SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE; Rt. 3 Box 239; Decorah, Iowa 52101; 563.382.5990 Membership fees $35. Free brochure. Some organic, but ALL open-pollinated. There are two ways to save seeds: one is to collect them all and keep them in a huge building that protects them from everything up to (and including) nuclear holocaust. The other way is to grow 'em. You can find the chance to grow them here.

SEEDS OF CHANGE; 621 Old Sante Fe Trail, #10; Santa Fe, NM 87501; 505.438.8080 .com Organic, open-pollinated…pricey, I am not a fan.

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE SEED EXCHANGE; P.O. Box 460, Mineral, VA 23117, 540.894.9480 (Fax: 540.894.9481)
A commercial venture that is somewhat similar to Seed Savers Exchange, but really isn't an exchange. They do carry seed saving supplies - nice to have if you are going to save seed.

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