Blogs for 2014
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
This time last year, I was working on the movie Godzilla on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. I spent the whole summer on the island and had a magnificent time. In the past I had visited and worked in Hawaii many times, each time the wheels would turn in my head and I would ask my self how I could manage to live here. It never occurred to me that I could do my regular job here (training animals for movies and television) even though Hawaii does get its fair share of films.
Here I am, on the set of Godzilla.
The pigs were in a very small part, but unfortunately cut out of the movie.
Some work acquaintances (now, very good friends) who worked on Godzilla suggested I move here and start my own company. At first I kind of just chuckled to myself and walked away at that suggestion – but it kept nagging at me. I gave it a lot of thought and decided that I needed a bit of a change in my life, so I did it! A year later here I am living in Oahu.
I was very lucky to get another movie to work on right when I moved here, so that was a huge bonus. I continue to go back and forth to Los Angeles, I am still very involved with my pet line here at The City Farm. And I still love doing all their photography for the website. So its a win/win for me. I love it here, I feel like its my home and my dog was just shipped out so it feels especially like home now.
My local beach is a 7 minute walk and the best part is you are allowed to take dogs on the beach! I cannot tell you how amazing that is! Its just wonderful. I go nearly every morning and walk Jesse (I am taking care of him while his parents are out of town) and my dog Dennis Hopper. I feel very fortunate.
Not only am I still doing studio training here in Hawaii, I am also branching out to offer some local pet services, like dog sitting and also helping people get their pets here to the islands from the mainland. I will be writing a post about that shortly – it seems like a very daunting process, but with planning your dog never has to set foot in quarantine in order to live on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific!!
“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.” Tennessee Williams wrote in Camino Real. And in some tellings of the myth of Attis, the Phrygian god of vegetation, violets were thought to have grown from his suicidal blood-letting, driven mad after his nymph mistress was killed by his jealous lover Cybele, also, in some accounts, thought to be Attis’ mother.
How did a flower with such a storied past become the representative of the reticent and shy? The origin of the phrase “shrinking violet” is debatable – while Merriam Webster claims it was first used in 1915, there are citations to its use as a figure of speech to describe a shy or introverted person from 1870, as found in the Pennsylvania newspaper The Titusville Herald. The Phrase Finder describes its use in a “rather sarcastic article is about the New York businessman William Tweed, who was widely believed to have stolen large amounts of public money: ‘…deputations of the tax payers of New York waiting upon Mr. Tweed with the title-deeds of their mansions and the shrinking violet Tweed begging them to pardon his rosy blushes. Can it be that he is a humbug?’”
(Can we talk about the origin of “humbug” next?)
If you plan to grow violets in your garden, find a lightly shaded spot, with moist soil, and deadhead often to keep the flowers blooming as long as possible. Plant in the spring, as they thrive in cooler weather, and again in the fall.
Violets add gorgeous color to your garden or windowsill, and can be used as a garnish or to add flavor to certain foods. I just learned that “the flowers and leaves of the cultivar ‘Rebecca,’ one of the Violetta violets, have a distinct vanilla flavor with hints of wintergreen.” Have you ever used sweet violets in your kitchen in cakes or to make jam? Ever tried to make violet extract with vodka? If you’re ready to play with your pansies, take a look at the recipes for for candied violets, simple violet syrup, and violet martinis on What’s Cooking in Your World. Share your stories and recipes over on Twitter: @RebeccaSnavely & @TheCityFarm!
(Photo Credit: What’s Cooking in Your World)
The Budweiser commercial “Puppy Love” was just nominated for an Emmy! So proud to have been the puppy trainer on this spot. Fingers crossed to director Jake Scott, production company RSA and ad agency Anomaly – it HAS to win!!
When you ask me about sweet peas, I’ll tell you two stories. (You may be wondering, ‘Why would I ask Rebecca about sweet peas?’ Just go with it.)
I discovered sweet peas through my lovely friend Tricia, a woman at my childhood church in Oregon who lived with her husband, two kids, and her “girls,” chickens that roamed about and roosted in a coop at their house just outside Oregon City. Tricia would bring us eggs from the girls, a feather tucked inside each carton that identified them as farm-fresh. She grew food and flowers in their yard, and when I house-sat one summer, I received my first lesson in caring for the climbing, delicate sweet peas growing along her fence. I love flowers that grow best when picked often — bringing in the beautiful blooms to add color to your house also allows the annual to put its energy into new blooms. They’re a gorgeous addition to an outdoor table setting: check out a few suggestions on how to make the most of your summer outdoor space over at the Enjoy Blog!
I fell in love with sweet peas, and the stories they’ve told me: memories of Tricia and her abundance of love and care, seen in her family, friendships, and garden, and of Jonathan, one of my closest friends, whose green thumb changes whatever corner of L.A. he lives in into a greenhouse. One spring morning he dropped off a bunch of sweet peas at my apartment, the bright riot of reds, purples, yellows and stark whites off-set in a dark blue tea pot. Car-free, I walked through the streets of West Hollywood on my way to work, balancing a laptop bag on one shoulder and spilling water from my teapot o’ flowers, proudly flying my floral freak flag.
If you want to plant sweet peas for your summer and you don’t have a fence or trellis to train them up on, Jonathan suggests a tomato cage, which you can buy in a variety of sizes to suit your space. When your seeds sprout into tendrils, use ribbon or twist ties to train as many as possible to grow up the inside of the cage, so that they will spill out as they flourish. They just need a little guidance, and overnight the tendrils will latch on, even to each other. Some plants grow 6 or 8 feet tall.
Though it’s an annual plant, sweet peas keep on giving for years to come. That’s what is especially great about the flower, says Jonathan. While cutting them makes gorgeous, fragrant bouquets, if you leave some of the blooms on the vine, they will turn into green pea pods. Once the pods are brown, snap them off, save them in a brown paper bag, and next spring, open the pods to find between 2 to 8 seeds to replant.
Mark your calendar to plant your sweet pea seeds in the spring! Originating in Sicily, they love full sun and well-drained soil. Check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac for more tips on growing, and Austin Wildflower’s post on the romantic history of the flower, and how to grow winter-flowering sweet peas, if your climate is right.
(Photo Credit: Sunset.com)
I owe a post explaining how I ended up here – but the above photo is a sampling of what July 4th looks like in Waikiki, Oahu.
Oh yes, that IS a pig! He is quite famous here in Oahu. His name is Kama The Surfing Pig. You can follow him on Instagram at: http://instagram.com/kamathesurfingpig
You can also follow me on Insatgram at: http://instagram.com/tailsticks
And The City Farm: http://instagram.com/thecityfarm
I am a lemon addict.
I am out of lemons.
This lemon-less dilemma would not feel quite so tragic were I not home-bound the past few days with a summer cold, an energy-sucking nuisance that I have been treating with my best friend, the lemon. Squeezed into a cup of tea with two heaping spoonfuls of The City Farm’s Avocado Honey, or simply prepared, on its own, with steamy water from the kettle, a tisane I started making part of my morning routine after reading about its many health and detoxing benefits. And that skinny people do it. I’m not above vanity rituals, especially ones that offer to balance my pH levels, aid digestion, and seem so easy.
So easy, until you’re housebound without a lemon in sight. Car-free, there is no quick drive down to the store for me, there are running shoes and sweat is involved, which sounds exhausting to my cold-addled mind. I *could* order delivery from my local, spendy shop with their cute, city-sized vans and adorable wanna-be actors making a living bringing lemons to shut-ins. But that seems extravagant. Instead, I’ve decided it’s time to grow my own lemons. I live in Southern California, after all. The fact that I DON’T have a lemon tree is probably grounds to revoke my citizenship.
I’ll have to grow a container tree, as I don’t have any green space, but if you do, and want to add a lemon tree to your yard, according to SFGate, the hardy citrus tree is among the easiest to care for, demanding little attention, as long as you live in zones 8b – 11.
For those who don’t live in a lemon-growing green space, or want to plant in a pot to save space, Canadian gardener and author of Growing Wild C.E.E.D.S. has tips to start one from seed, eventually producing citrus that can survive and thrive indoors with the northern light of a place like her home of Toronto. It may take three to six years to produce fruit, so, if you’re like me and need a lemon fix from your front stoop, stat, pickup one that has already been started at your local nursery.
The National Gardening Association suggests you choose a smaller fruit, Meyer lemons are a favorite both for space, and for their level of acidity that grows well indoors. When looking for a lemon variety for your limited space, consider choosing one that is grafted to Flying Dragon (Hiryu) rootstock, as it “will be significantly dwarfed, thereby extending its useful life in a container.”
Do you already grow your own lemons? Have you had any trouble growing them inside, or from seed? Share your story in the comments, or tell us @TheCityFarm and @RebeccaSnavely.
“Location, location, location,” may ring true for many a circumstance, but for entertaining, “presentation, presentation, presentation” can transform any location into a picnic in Provence.
Admit it. You haunt Pinterest pages, planning that perfect soiree. At The City Farm, we believe you only need a few staples to create the dreamy feeling that will have your friends lingering over their last glass of wine ‘til long after the sunlight fades away.
Presentation: Will you choose a floral centerpiece for your farm table, or several small bouquets, perhaps one at each place setting? The City Farm Wire Bottle Tote basket with three small milk bottles looks lovely with sprays of a delicate flower like Sweet pea. To create an easy-going farm atmosphere, add some wildflowers to The City Farm’s red watering can. Martha has some inspiring tabletop centerpiece ideas here, including a creative crudité arrangement. Take inspiration from her ideas, and run with your own!
A vintage vase, cheese board, and rustic bowl will set the scene, whether for high tea in the afternoon or a mid-morning brunch with a quiche. Take a look at some of our favorite recipes for entertaining, including an Easy Smoked Trout Pate, Salmon Mousse, and Spinach Dip over on our COOK blog.
No room for a long farm table to host a large party? Invite a few friends over to enjoy a couple of delicious courses, made the more meaningful by your small space and the intimate conversation of coffee talk… or mimosas – either inspire story telling and the sharing and mixing of lives, which is the best part of outdoor parties. Set the scene with good food and a few lovely touches, and then sit back and enjoy the space you’ve created for friendships to flourish.
Share your favorite spaces and ideas for outdoor entertaining with us in the comment section or over on Twitter @TheCityFarm!
Parking the car, we patiently waited for the seemingly endless bicycle traffic to pass as we wended our way into the farmer’s market stands. As Cantinetta chef and owner Deborah Mullin pointed out and discussed various herbs, the woman behind one table separated the leafy greens into sections, deftly wrapping them into brown paper cones with practiced care. A short summer rain shower made us huddle closer under the covered stalls, and the boyfriend and I waited for Deb and her wife Claudia to choose vegetables for the evening’s menu, packing them into bags to take to Cantinetta Wine & Pasta, their farm-to-table osteria in Amsterdam.
Visiting Holland, I had visions of constant fresh food (and tulips and cheeses and wooden shoes). Surely the healthy, tall, bike-riding denizens of a canal-filled city would prioritize organic, fresh food. The air was sucked from the windmills of my Netherlands dream as Claudia, Deb’s wife and partner at Cantinetta, described her favorite childhood breakfast from Holland, a piece of white bread toast smothered in sugar sprinkles. But that makes Deb & Claudia’s farm to table restaurant all the more critical. Yes, critical. I feel the need for hyperbole when discussing the delicious, simple food prepared and served with skill, flavor, and love that made up one of the best meals I’ve eaten.
Visiting Cantinetta on a busy Saturday night, the tables were crowded with regulars including a Dutch filmmaker and his actor wife celebrating a birthday, the conversation and food overflowing to the tables on the sidewalk outside, and we felt part of a family. Seated at a table along the brick wall, we were served a glass of Villa Doral, an organic prosecco. Claudia, my sister-in-law via marriage once-removed (it gets complicated, so I just call Deb and Claudia my sisters-in-law, as they feel like family), asked if we would like to order from the night’s menu, or allow Deb to craft a meal for us. We’re not dumb. We waited to be surprised by the chef’s choices.
We tried to slow ourselves to truly taste each bite of every dish that Deb sent our way, from the salad of mixed organic Knotwilg Farm salad greens grown in Beemster, organic Belgian endive, local, organic mint & parsley from Bellemarie, Drenthe, toasted hazelnuts, organic, local beets, pecorino romano cheese, red wine-lemon and thyme vinaigrette, with mozzarella from Buffalo Farm Twente.
That was just the SALAD. Our next course was roasted, organic cauliflower & broccoli, flavored with house-marinated fresh anchovy, sea salted capers, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and pepperoncini. Though I love reds, the courses were best paired with a delicious white wine, Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium Lazio Bianco, made by nuns on an organic vineyard in Italy. Nuns. It’s like we were in a movie. (You can buy a bottle of Coenbobium in the U.S. here.)
The wine paired deliciously with our pasta (gluten-free for me, the Celiac traveler), which was the first time I’ve tried guanciale: pork cheek procured from italy via fumagalli salumi. Delicious.
Though I felt too full even to finish the wine, which is a first for me, I somehow managed to fit in the cheese and dessert course, a ricotta con fragola e grappa, with fresh ricotta from Buffalo Farm Twente, flower blossom honey from Beemster, a strawberry-grappa marmelatta, and toasted hazelnuts. We finished with a sparkling dessert wine, a Birbet Brachetto Lungo from the Roero.
We’d closed the place down and sat sipping our wine, watching the staff polish the wine glasses and set the tables for the following week. Deb carefully plated the “family” dinner for the staff to enjoy, and we left them sitting shoulder to shoulder at the bar, to their delicious meal. They’ve created a feeling of family at Cantinetta, breaking bread next to strangers who feel like friends as you wish them bon appetite or happy birthday, listening to people laugh together, forks laid on empty plates, wine glasses clinking in toasts to the good life.
If you’re visiting or live in Amsterdam, e-mail Cantinetta for a reservation at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at +31 20 737 0149. And then tell me all about it! @RebeccaSnavely and @TheCityFarm.
What’s your favorite place to eat farm-to-table?
(Photo Collage by Rebecca Snavely – peonies were in season in Amsterdam.)
I spotted a new favorite flower while waiting for my smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and the boyfriend’s croque madame, sitting outside at a table on the patio of Look Mum No Hands, a restaurant, bakery, and bicycle repair shop. A typical grey morning in London, a collection of cut flowers in green-glass bottles caught our eyes, and we grabbed one to add a dash of color to our unfinished wood tabletop. The blueish-purple thistle stood out against the browns and greys of the day, and I went straight to the answer machine to find out how I could have more of them in my daily life. Upon Googling the photos I snapped (and the help of a Facebook friend who pulls endless amounts of them from her flower-bed in France), I learned it was called an Eryngium “Sapphire Blue” thistle from the Apiaceae family. Say THAT five times fast. The flower is often called Sea Holly (a bit easier on the tongue) and is not only drought resistant, but also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, and reportedly repels rattlesnakes.
An image search revealed the popularity of Sea Holly in bouquets and centerpieces as well as an easy-to-grow garden favorite. To add them to your yard, table tops, or bridal ensemble, plant the thistle in a space that receives full sun, with plenty of drainage, as they will not survive wet, soggy soil. According to BHG, these perennials “thrive on neglect,” so they also make a perfect gift for the would-be gardener who claims their green thumb has turned grey.
“A weed is but an unloved flower.” ― Ella Wheeler Wilcox
If unwanted, these thistles may be labeled weeds, so you’ll want to prune and deadhead fading flowers to encourage a longer flowering season, as well as to prevent them from self-seeding and taking over your garden. Easy to love, they’re not only ornamental, but have health benefits as well. Many of the family Apiaceae have been used in folk medicine or as an herbal remedy for scorpion stings in Jordan. If you’re interested in researching more, take a look at the scintillatingly titled Phytochemical Constituents and Pharmacological Activities of Eryngium L. (Apiaceae), which states that “Some Eryngium species are cultivated as ornamental, vegetable, or medicinal crops for folk uses. With increasing chemical and biological investigations, Eryngium has shown its potential as pharmaceutical crops.” The review explores the potential use for the plant in “anti-inflammatory, anti-snake and scorpion venoms, antibacterial, antifungal, and antimalarial, antioxidant, and antihyperglycemic effects.”
If you’re simply looking to add more to bring the birds and butterflies to your yard, be sure to plant your Eryngium in a permanent place where its long taproot can reach deep down. Check out GardeningKnowHow for a list of Sea Holly varietals, from the Rattlesnake Master, so named because of the myth that the plant could cure snake bites, to the Giant Sea Holly, a.k.a. Miss Wilmot’s Ghost (named for English gardener Ellen Wilmot). These thistles seem to tell tales with each planting…what story does your garden tell? Share photos with us on Twitter at @TheCityFarm
(Photo Credit: Rebecca Snavely, center bouquet from TribalRoseFlowers)
How often do you hear not one, but two friends, talk about wwoofing within a two-week time span, and not in reference to a four-legged friend? I learned about wwoofing this month, which, with its extra w, is an acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. In a video created by one wwoofer and his girlfriend, who spent eight months on eight farms in nine countries across Europe, one farmer talks about living in harmony with the earth, and puts it simply: I’m not a political person, I’m not going to change the world by revolution, but living the way I feel is the right way for me.”
In this age, where the only time we bump into each other is because our eyes are on our smartphones, not our world, that life seems pretty revolutionary. One friend, a horticulturist, is on her way to wwoof for the first time in France, while the other wwoofed a few years ago, and, though I knew her as a writer and Web producer, she’s now a cheesemonger who knows the ins & outs of sheep, goats, and cows. (That sounded grosser and a little more veterinarian than I intended… she knows their milk.)
Wwoofing reminds me of a book, In Praise of Slowness, by Carl Honoré, that introduced me to the Slow movements around the world – Slow Cities that design for pedestrians to walk to work, creating bike lanes for ease when grabbing groceries from a farmer’s market or local shop, and ways of creating space for community. Slow Food movements that include farm to table restaurants, where you know where your food was grown or where your chicken lived her last days, a la Portlandia (“his name was Collin.”) Eating at a restaurant in Congo that catered to the expat community, I recognized the Slow Food insignia on the wall. The owner, a Congolese woman, laughed. In Congo, she explained, where there is no infrastructure, all food is locally sourced and slow.
Also, not totally unrelated to the other kind of woofing: It’s farm dog week over at Modern Farmer. It’s very important that you know: Modern Farmer has an Official ModFarm Farm Dog Cam! “Brought to you live from Border Springs Farms in Virginia,” which hundreds of sheep and nine border collies call home.
“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds” ― Carl Honoré
If reading a book feels too slow for you, you can watch Honoré’s TedTalk here. It’s a good call to action – slower, more focused, attentive action. How can you slow down in your daily life? Check out wwoof.net to watch the short video referenced above, and wwoofinternational.org to learn more about how it works. Have you ever wwoofed? Do you want to? Share your stories of farm life in the comments, or over on Twitter@TheCityFarm and @RebeccaSnavely.
My mantra when having family and friends over has always been “Prepare it in advance.” I especially like appetizers and hors d’oeuvres that can be made ahead of time. This allows me ample time to focus on the main course when my guests arrive. Below are two of my favorite Summer menu ideas. The Salmon Mousse recipe came from my college roommate, Marlene Kamin. The Hot Spinach Dip recipe came from my neighbor, MaryAnn Green. I hope you like them.
1 cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
dash lemon juice
1 tsp. Dill weed
1 tsp. Horseradish – red or white
1 1/4 lb. of fresh cooked salmon (or use 1 lb. can of salmon plus 1 small can)
½ cup warm water
1 package Knox gelatin
Dissolve gelatin in ½ cup of warm water. Put all else into a blender and blend, then add gelatin mixture and blend well. Pour into well oiled mold, or pour into serving bowl and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Serve with crackers or thin sliced bread.
Hot Spinach Dip
2 Tblsp. Oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 Tblsp. Canned chopped green chilies
1 10-oz. Package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups grated Monterey jack cheese
1 8-oz. Package cream cheese, cut into ½ inch pieces
½ cup half-and-half
1 Tblsp. Red wine vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
Saute onion in oil about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and chilies and cook 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to large bowl and mix in remaining ingredients. Spoon into shallow baking dish.
At this point you can refrigerate the dip and bake it later, or bake it immediately. Bake at 400° on top third of oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with corn chips or pita chips.
Being car-free, I often write about walking in L.A., stopping to smell the roses and star jasmine, seeing a tiny green shoot defy city life and flourish in the crack of the sidewalk, the minutiae missed when you’re hurtling by at 40 miles an hour. But I also take for granted the ease with which I navigate my familiar city. Walking through the busy streets of London can be hazardous to your health, or at least your life expectancy, should you forget that the bus barreling down the narrow roadway drives on the left side of the road. The city has graciously painted guidance on many a street corner, telling tourists to “look left” or “look right,” but what about looking up?
As you make your way through the throngs of central London, you see signs directing you to gaze skyward, and you might catch a glimpse of green from the rooftop gardens growing veggies. You might also catch sight of a swarm of lawyers and bees. The London-based international law firm Olswang transformed its rooftop into a bio-diverse garden, growing flowers and food, and is now home to over 80,000 bees. Volunteers at the firm, trained in bee-keeping, are part of a self-sustaining bee network in the community.
We’ve talked before about the secret life of bees here on the blog, and why we so desperately need our bee network. As the law firm’s Website reminds us, that “environmental changes, pesticides and new diseases are all causing the world’s bee population to decline rapidly. The issue is so serious that it has been recognised as a global phenomenon by the United Nations. Yet bees are crucial to our ecosystem; of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees.”
In a continuing quest to bring back the bees, what will you plant? Check out my previous post to get tips on growing bee-friendly sunflowers, and think about what else you want to add to your garden to attract the pollinators to your yard: from heather to red-flowering currant to English lavender.
Is London leading the way for growing from the roof down? As its Rooftop Greenhouse initiative reminds us: “Not only can we grow food crops and consume them in the building below, we can also make use of the greenhouse to heat the building during the day, and the building to heat the greenhouse at night.”
Back across the pond, the folks behind Fresh Food Generation noticed under-served communities in Boston, who, lacking the food trucks of other areas, as well as grocery stores with options for organic, affordable food, were in need of healthy food choices. The team formulated a plan to “retrofit a food truck to serve healthy, locally sourced meals at affordable prices in neighborhoods that have been missing out” on the gourmet food truck trend, providing them with locally sourced, nutritional foods, year-round. Original Green, based in Los Angeles, is a project of home&community, inc., and supports homesteading, urban farming, and food entrepreneurship in low-income communities.
What is your city doing to grow green and fight hunger? What do you dream of doing and growing? Tell us in the comments, or over on Twitter @TheCityFarm.
Look Right. Look Left. Look Up. London reminds us that life is to be lived in balance, looking both ways, eyes on the street for safety, with plenty of pauses to look up, look around, and take in the swarming and buzzing of life around us
(Photo credit: Olswang Rooftop Garden)
What fruit or vegetable are you most like? It’s a great ice-breaker for that awkward first date or soiree. And? If people look at you like you’re crazy, you can cross them off the list for your next gardening party.
I’d like to think I was a hearty vegetable, with my love for the unknown and unexpected in life, for traveling off the beaten path. But researching the growing needs of the long, cylindrical fruit of the Cucumis sativus, I found myself thinking: I am one sensitive cucumber. I, too, require regulated temperatures, too cold, and I won’t flourish (or leave the house), too hot I wither. Too much stress? I too become bitter.
That’s right, your summer cukes might not be the refreshing addition to your salad if you allow them to get stressed out in the garden, and the level of bitterness depends on the severity of the stress. And just like us introverts, they definitely need their space: If the leaves start to turn yellow, give them more nitrogen by giving them more room to breathe. Organic Gardening suggests you grow trellised plants 8 to 12 inches apart, and hills with one or two seedlings should be spaced about 3 feet apart, with rows 4 to 5 feet apart.
Like tomatoes and squash, while cucumbers are most often treated as a vegetable, due to having an enclosed seed and developing from a flower, cucumbers are classified as accessory fruits. Native to India, cucumbers have a long, flavorful history; even the legend of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest surviving works of literature, describes people eating cucumbers. From India they made their way to Greece and Italy, and later into China, who is one of the world’s greatest producer of the crop.
When they’ve been raised healthy and happy, cucumbers are your best beauty friend. We all know to slap them on puffy eyes, and Positive Health Wellness states that the fruit has powerful antioxidants and flavinoids that are thought to reduce irritation. 90% water, they help keep us hydrated on those extra-hot days when we might grow a bit bitter. They’re a good source of B vitamins, and the dark green skin contains vitamin C. While they may seem like delicate flowers that demand careful conditions, they do their fair share of hard work around the house.
Do you have experience raising happy cucumbers? Tell us in the comments or over at @TheCityFarm.
I only make the coffee so I have the grounds to grow a greener garden! I’m NOT addicted.
“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.” ~ Dave Barry
I admit, I was once that person whose first move in the morning was reaching blindly (there was no energy for the putting in of contacts or donning of glasses) for the coffee pot, beans ground the night before, water at the ready, to brew with the push of a button. On a dare in my early 20s, I weaned myself off caffeinated coffee, clearly dependent on it for college life. I swore I could do it, and I can’t turn down a dare. I could handle my 21 unit, basketball playing, part-time nanny life without my multiple cups of joe! And I did. I may have been a bit slower on the court that season, but, as my friend noted, my eyebrows appeared “more relaxed.”
“I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.”
~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
I’ve weaned myself to one morning cup, one of which I’m rather picky about. Raised in the northwest, a coffee snob is just another term for a denizen of Portland.
Is coffee such a bad addiction, in the long run? One study says yes, while the next study says no. Meanwhile, the world keeps making mud, from drip machines to Turkish stovetop pots to French presses to baristas in white lab coats concocting the perfect cup.
While you sip your morning latte, consider that there’s little debate over how good the grounds are for your garden. Brew it, savor it, and scatter it. Sunset magazine reported back on the benefits of adding grounds to your — ground, after sending to a soil lab the coffee grounds Starbucks gives away for free. “Turns out the grounds provide generous amounts of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper. They also release nitrogen into the soil as they degrade. And they’re slightly acidic, a boon in the Western climate. Dig or till them into the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.”
Serious Eats gives us the rundown on why these nutrients are part of any great garden fertilizer: “Nitrogen allows plants to convert sunlight into energy; phosphorus helps that energy get transmitted throughout the plant through its root system and cells; potassium helps the plant retain moisture, which aids photosynthesis.”
To start your coffee habit, store your grounds in an airtight container, and add them directly to your soil, then cover with mulch, or add to your compost pile, making sure it’s at a ratio of one fourth of your other compost items. Bonus: coffee ground compost keeps the rodents away, apparently having never “acquired the taste” for the delicious drink.
Beyond growing a more productive garden, Organic Authority notes eight other ways to use coffee grounds around your house, including using them to clean caked on pots and pans, or in lieu of baking soda for odors in your fridge or freezer. For the more ambitious among us, there’s a recipe to make coffee soap. I love coffee scented – everything, but I know my limits. Who’s going to get crafty and take on the task of trying out the soap recipe and reporting back? And check out The City Farm’s Coffee Mug and Spoon Set to add some color to your morning java!
“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
Share your coffee and composting stories with us here in the comments, or at Twitter: @TheCityFarm
I could not be more excited about this feature in AllRecipes Magazine! As you will read, my love for The City Farm and Dream Street Foundation is really what makes me who I am today and I’m happy and very proud to share it with all you. Thank you for all of your continued support.
Read The City Farm’s feature in AllRecipes below, or download the AllRecipes Article here. Enjoy!
Have you ever found yourself in the wild (or as wild as you can find, if you’re a city dweller), and felt suddenly overwhelmed by being one with the world? Those moments always come to me when I’m outside. I remember sitting outside on the front stoop of our house in Tennessee, the fireflies coming out, one by one, timed with the sun dropping down below the horizon. A warm summer night, the air buzzed with heat, electricity, and the flickering lights of bugs in the fields. It’s a bit of a spiritual experience, feeling something beyond one’s self, connected.
“The Divine Presence was strongest outdoors, and most palpable when I was alone. When I think of my first cathedral, I am back in a field behind my parents’ house in Kansas, with every stalk of prairie grass lit up from within. I can hear the entire community of crows, grasshoppers, and tree frogs who belong to this field with me. … My skin is happy on the black dirt, which speaks a language my bones understand.” ~ Barbara Brown Taylor
Growing plants that trigger those feelings can help us remember how our bodies are connected to this earth, how we survive when the planet thrives. The birth flower for May, lily of the valley, is delicate and beautiful, with red-orange berries. A sweet smelling flower, it’s a perfect reminder of spring. But don’t let the graceful blooms fool you, it’s a plant with poison. According to MentalFloss, the plant’s toxicity is its defense against animals eating its seeds. All parts of the plant—the stems, the leaves, the flowers and the berries—are extremely poisonous.
Happy birthday to you, May Babies! Taurus folk born by May 20th are known for their earthy, realistic ways of living. Later May kids born under the Gemini sign are typically intellectually inclined, forever seeking information. Does that describe you? Have you planted your birth month flower? Careful where you choose to put down your roots: lily of the valley are notorious for taking more than their share of space, so it’s best to plant them up against a wall or driveway, and curtail their wonton growth.
Planting outdoors, find a spot that has light to moderate shade, and soil that drains well. The bulbous roots are called “pips,” and it’s best to cut an inch off them before planting. Perennials, your lily may not flower the first year. Or, to grow indoors, try these tips from Erin Boyle on Gardenista. I love how Erin concealed the plastic pot in a wooden box, and filled in the gaps with moss. An elegant way to bring the connection to earth into your home.
(Photo Credit: ©Wayne Claflin)
We love our avocado grove here at The City Farm – from the shade of the trees to the bees it attracts, to the delicious honey we harvest, the trees provide for us. And we took note as the 2013 / 2014 winter’s polar vortex wreaked havoc on most of the U.S., and snowstorms and ridiculously cold temperatures raised the costs of heating homes, snarled traffic and travel, and caused Chipotle to issue a “guacamole warning.”
It sounds like a bad joke, like when it starts to sprinkle in Southern California and the local newscasters use terms like “Storm Watch, 2014.” But when it comes to losing the side of guacamole on your lunch-break burrito? Things are getting serious. Fast.
According to NPR, who covered the restaurant chain’s threat to abandon the avocado due to the drought in California, as well as the reported freezes in Mexico that made prices for the fruit skyrocket, Chipotle “goes through a staggering amount of avocados to make its fresh guacamole – 97,000 pounds of avocados every day. That adds up to 35 and a half million pounds of avocados every year.”
It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around that many avocados. (Yummm.. wrap … burrito…) But. For most of us who enjoy a daily slice on piece of toast with goat cheese, the rising cost of avocados is disconcerting news. Especially as we’ve learned of late how great the healthy fats are that we get from them: from adding shine to your hair, a glow to your skin, the healthy omega-3 fatty acids and the insoluble fiber that keeps your colon regulated. Avocado oil is also great to cook with, as we learned from Prevention.com, it is high in mono-unsaturated fats that help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase “good” HDL, as well has having a high smoke point (520°F), which makes it a great oil for stir-frying, sauteing, roasting, and even baking.
How does an avocado nut prepare for the higher-priced off season? First step: check your freezer. Do a little (late) spring cleaning, and make some space for frozen avocados. That’s right. Like bananas, you can freeze your fruit, and have it ready for guacamole on game day or – really? Just chips & guac night, is all you need to celebrate with the tasty treat. While avocados are in season, typically in the summer, make some room in your freezer, and then follow these steps from the Huffington Post to save some for those winter months when you’re craving guacamole, or even ice cream.
Wash the avocado, skin still on.
Cut the fruit in half, and peel.
If you are opting to keep them as halves, put them in a Ziploc bag and freeze.
If you’re pureeing, either mash the avocados with a fork or in a food processor with a little bit of lime or lemon. Store in a re-sealable bag and freeze.
As the HuffPo author notes – frozen avocados will fade, so don’t expect them to be party-friendly for display in slices. But they will perfectly blend into your guacamole, or with a frozen banana for the texture and taste of ice cream. Lauren Conrad’s site features a face and hair mask made of avocado and apple cider vinegar, and a promise that “both of which will make your hair shiny and soft and add a glow to your skin.” The facial includes honey, so be sure to order your City Farm Avocado Honey, to make the cycle complete!
Will you freeze your farmer’s market avocados, so you can pack your own guacamole, in case the condiment situation grows dire? Share your favorite recipes with us in the comment section or on Twitter @TheCityFarm.
May 13 is National Apple Pie Day. I have never really mastered the art of traditional pie crust. Instead, when I get a craving, I turn to apple cobblers and apple crisps. One of the reasons I like these dishes over apple pie is the ease of preparation. Cobblers and crisps can be whipped up in no time while pies take a little longer. And pie crusts can be temperamental. If you don’t treat them right they end up tough and dense. Here are two of my very favorite recipes. The first is for Apple Cobbler. It’s a variation on a recipe from William’s Sonoma from years ago. The second is a recipe for my brother Bill’s Apple Crisp. It’s simply delicious! Enjoy!
½ cup sugar
1 ½ Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 lb. Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. Fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. Baking powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 Tbsp. Unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1/3 cup crystalized ginger, chopped
zest from one orange
1 cup heavy cream, plus cream for brushing
For filling: Combine sugar and flour. In large saute pan, melt butter. Stir in apples, lemon juice and sugar mixture. Cover partially and cook until tender, 20 minutes. Stir in vanilla, let cool, then transfer to buttered 1-1/2 qt. pie dish.
For crust: Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl. Using pastry blender or fingertips, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in ginger. Combine cream and orange zest. Stir cream-zest mixture into flour mixture, just until it holds together. Gather into ball and with floured hands on floured work surface, knead briefly until soft, then roll out a little larger than the pie dish. Transfer to dish, trim off excess. Cut small hole in center for steam to escape. If you wish, cut out leftover pastry into fancy shapes and decorate the crust; brush cream underneath the pieces to make them stick.
Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375° and bake until golden, 20 – 25 minutes longer.
Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm. Serves 6 to 8.
6 apples, peeled and roughly chopped
1 ½ tsp. Cinnamon
1 cup flour
1 stick butter (½ cup)
1 cup brown sugar
Put apples into greased baking dish.
With a fork, work together the flour, butter cinnamon, and sugar until crumbly. Sprinkle mixture over apples.
Bake at 350° for 40 minutes.
Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Yummy!
(Image via Pinterest)