O79 Growing and Breeding Tomatoes with Fred Hempel

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Want to know how to grow tomatoes? What are the best varieties to plant? Want to learn how to breed your own? Our guest this week is farmer and tomato breeder Fred Hempel. Fred farms and breeds gourmet vegetables in Northern California. His focus is on tomatoes, peppers, squash, herbs and edible flowers. In the podcast we ask if there is such a thing as a heirloom tomato? What does a tomato breeder look for in a tomato? Why do supermarket tomatoes taste so crappy? And what happens when you turn a tomato breeding project over to an eight year old. We also talk about how to water tomatoes and prepare soil. During the podcast Fred mentions:

Dumont #4 tweezers

And two tomatoes bred by Fred that you can get seeds for:

Blush Tomato

Orange Jazz tomato

I’ve had the pleasure of tasting these tomatoes at a lecture Fred does at the Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa and they are really amazing.

Fred’s website are: Artisan Seeds and Artisan Seeds in Facebook and Baia Nicchia Farm.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Organize Those Drip Irrigation Parts!

IMG_0772Behold: an ordered toolbox full of irrigation parts. Now this could be one of those self-aggrandizing homesteady posts were it not for the fact that it took me fifteen years to organize my drip irrigation parts. I spent those previous years fishing for parts in a partially collapsed cardboard box. Take my advice: if you own a house, are an avid gardener and use some kind of timed irrigation, thou shalt organize all those parts.

Maintaining an irrigation system is, unfortunately, not a build it and leave it proposition. Inevitably, a shovel slices through a line or a surprise freeze bursts a pipe. More importantly, a garden changes over time. For instance, a drip line under a tree needs to be expanded as the tree grows or maybe that group of natives you planted has matured and no longer needs irrigation.

“All is change” as Heraclitus once said. And I’m sure that because of his philosophy of impermanence, Heraclitus carefully separated and organized his drip irrigation parts.

078 Mark Lakeman on City Repair

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Is your neighborhood not all it could be? Do people drive too fast? Does it feel lonely and anonymous? Is there no safe place for your kids to play? Mark Lakeman has some ideas for how all of us can transform the communities we live in. Hint: it starts with a potluck! Mark is the co-founder of the non-profit placemaking organization The City Repair Project, and principal of the community architecture and planning firm Communitecture. He is also an urban place-maker, permaculture designer and community design facilitator.

And if you’re on the West Coast of the US, you have a chance to participate in a series of workshops this month. For more information visit marklakeman.net. To find out about events in Los Angeles visit change-making.com.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Rucola Selvatica A Foglia D’ulivo: the arugula you’ve never heard of

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If I could boil down my vegetable gardening advice to one sentence it would probably be: just grow stuff that does well and tastes good. Let some other schmuck fight aphids on those Brussels sprouts. Another bit of advice is that you can never have enough arugula. The stuff at the market is wilted, tasteless crap. Grow your own and you’ve got an incredible diversity of arugula varieties to choose from.

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This year I grew two varieties from Franchi, Rucola Coltivata Sel. Ortolani and Rucola Selvatica A Foglia D’ulivo. Arugula falls into two categories, “wild” and “cultivated,” though since a seed company is cultivating and selling “wild” varieties it does seem strange to call them “wild”. It might be more accurate to describe them by taste with the cultivated varieties being mild tasting and the wild types being sharp and spicy. Plants in the Brassicaceae family such as arugula cross readily and there’s a befuddling array of popular names, but I think both of these varieties are Eruca sativa.

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The Rucola Selvatica A Foglia D’Ulivo or olive leaf arugula has a much sharper, almost bitter flavor. It also doesn’t look like the cultivated varieties. Were it not for the distinctive taste, I wouldn’t even recognize the plant. The leaves are indeed shaped like olive leaves and the edible flowers are yellow rather than the usual off-white.

I sow blocks of arugula seed every two weeks in the winter to guarantee a continuous supply. We had some hot weather so it went to seed a little faster than usual. One of the reasons I like arugula is that there are no insect problems, at least here in Los Angeles.

My mom’s late Greek neighbor used to grow at least four varieties of arugula every year and treasured the different flavors. He also used to refer to arugula (and many other greens) as the “Greek Viagra.” There is, apparently, a history of the use of arugula as an aphrodisiac in Mediterranean cultures. According to some sources, you have to cut the arugula with lettuce (a calming plant) so that the salad bowl doesn’t lead too directly to the bedroom.

Find more arugula varieties at growitalian.com.

Do you have a favorite arugula? As usual, I love hearing from our Italian readers about the special culinary uses of specific varieties. And, in this election year here in the US, I’m a little surprised that arugula has not come up as a campaign issue like it did in 2008.

077 Radical Mycology

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Our guest this week is Peter McCoy. Peter is a self-taught mycologist with 15 years of accumulated study and experience, Peter is an original founder of Radical Mycology, a grassroots organization and movement that teaches the skills needed to work with mushrooms and other fungi for personal, societal, and ecological resilience. Peter is the lead cultivation expert for the Amazon Mycorenewal Project and Open Source Ecology and the primary author behind Radical Mycology, a nearly 700-page book on accessible mycology and mushroom cultivation. During the podcast we discuss:

  • What are fungi?
  • How to cultivate edible and medicinal mushrooms
  • How to establish a mushroom bed in your garden
  • Tempeh
  • Peter’s cultivation how-to videos
  • Growing mushrooms in an apartment
  • Easy to grow mushroom: King Stropharia
  • Source for spawn: Field and Forest
  • Plugs
  • Improving soil with fungi
  • Remediating soil
  • Peter’s new book Radical Mycology

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.