Growing Chayote

ious passion fruit vine making for a combo that produces many pounds of fruit all summer long. Chayote (Sechium edule), for those not in the know, is a wonder plant of the gourd family hailing from Mexico and Central America. It has a mild slightly sweet cucumber-like taste. They can be boiled, pan fried, steamed, baked, pickled or chopped up and tossed raw in a salad. Though requiring a fair amount of water, it grows like a weed here and one vi...

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Physalis pruinosa a.k.a. “Ground Cherry”

rry and the much more common (at least in our neighborhood) Physalis ixocarpa or Tomatillo. To add to the confusion several hybrids exist of these plants. Clammy ground cherry pie anyone? As for the fruit of Physalis pruinosa itself, it does not ship well, hence you’ll never find it in American supermarkets, which only seem to carry things that have been shipped for thousands of miles and are therefore both durable and, inevitably, tasteles...

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Native Plant Workshop

Vitus californica covering our ugly chain link fence There’s a couple of common misconceptions amongst novice gardeners about native plants: 1. If you use native plants the whole garden has to be natives. In fact, it’s great to mix natives with non-native plants. The natives bring in beneficial wildlife, are hardy and are efficient in terms of water use. Flexibility is key here–go ahead and mix natives with vegetables, fruit...

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Tell the Bees

ical free style of beekeeping). Even if you aren’t in Los Angeles, the Backwards Beekeepers site has a lot of nice tips and information. And what an amazing group people! In the midst of our challenging economic times, it’s groups like this, forming around a sense of group cooperation and problems solving that are going to really shift the paradigm in the coming years. Let’s hope that Backwards Beekeeping groups will form all o...

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Texas Town Outlaws Common Sense

Lancaster Texas city officials have decided to enforce codes outlawing backyard chickens and Marye Audet a food writer, author and owner of nineteen heritage breed Barred Rocks has been pulled into their poultry dragnet. She ain’t happy about it. “My dad and my father- in- law were WWII vets. I am a veteran. My husband is a disabled veteran. My oldest son is in Iraq currently, for his second tour of duty. And this afternoon, as I...

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Italian Dandelion Redux

Italian Dandelion (Cichorium intybus) It’s been a difficult winter growing season here in Los Angeles. Our unpredictable Mediterranean climate has thrown a few curve balls in the past few months courtesy of an ocean temperature phenomenon known as La Niña which has caused alternating periods of cool weather followed by 80º days and little rainfall. Our deciduous trees did not loose their leaves until after New Years, most of the winter ve...

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How To Calculate Anything

It needn’t come to this! (Though we think this is pretty cool.) Need to calculate Ohm’s law? Convert women’s clothing sizes? Calculate the area of a circle? Figure out whether its better to buy or rent a home? It’s all at www.calculatoredge.com. The site has lots of formulas for the urban homsteader even if you never have to perform a Sallen-Key Butterworth Low Pass Filter equation (except, perhaps, for recreational reaso...

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City Farm Chicago

e development comes, pull up everything and move on. Assuming that urban land is contaminated, the City Farm folks simply piled up about three feet of compost, soil and mulch right on top of the broken concrete and asphalt of its current location. All that soil will move when the yuppie condos replace the salad greens and radishes. City Farm is an idea that makes sense in big U.S. cities which, despite astronomical real estate prices, have large...

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