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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City Farm Chicago

Chicago’s City Farm is a stunning bit of green smack in the middle of the concrete jungle, sandwiched between the remnants of the controversial Cabrini-Green housing project and the Gold Coast. A program of the non-profit Resource Center, City Farm sells produce to chefs, operates a vegetable stand and provides opportunities for economically under-developed neighborhoods. City Farm is a mobile endeavor. The basic idea is to take advantage...

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California Agriculture Journal Online

The University of California has put 63 years worth of its journal California Agriculture online for convenient downloading at californiaagriculture.ucanr.org. There’s plenty of detailed (peer reviewed!) nuggets for the home gardener between the pages of this scientific journal. Make sure to check out the article and video of UC Berkeley entomologist Gordon Frankie explaining what kinds of plants are best for attracting bees in your urban...

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The Homegrown Mailbox: How and Where Do I Get My Soil Tested?

When you write a book you get questions. In our case, due to the sinking economy in California, they are delivered by Kevin Costner on horseback rather than by email or regular federal postal trucks. No problem, we like questions. A caveat here: like Nancy Klehm, the Green Roof Growers and Black Swan author Nassim Taleb, we prefer the term “practitioner” to describe what we do as opposed to “expert”. We favor experience o...

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Mulberries

The Mulberry trees (Morus nigra) along Houston’s Buffalo Bayou are producing their delicious fruit. The picture above is an immature berry–this particular tree produces a dark purple berry when ready to eat. Some sources on the internets, as well as Delena Tull’s excellent book Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest warn against consuming the unripe fruit, claiming that doing so produces an unpleasant, mildly psyc...

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A Bicyclist’s Bill of Rights Part II

Despite a few last minute grammar and punctuation controversies, the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights is now public at the Bike Writer’s Collective: CYCLIST’S BILL OF RIGHTS WHEREAS, cyclists have the right to ride the streets of our communities and this right is formally articulated in the California Vehicle Code; and WHEREAS, cyclists are considered to be the “indicator species” of a healthy community; and WHEREAS, cyclists are both environmenta...

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Nitrogen Deposition

Thanks to the millions of SUV driving knuckleheads out there we may not have to take a whizz in our compost pile after all. It turns out we have ample free nitrogen fertilizer in the form of air pollution which settles back down to the earth in a process science types call nitrogen deposition. According to Edith Allen, a professor of botany at UC Riverside, “Nitrogen deposition occurs at high levels in southern California, and is fertilizi...

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Make Your Own Damn Cheese

We live in a country where buckets have warnings on them, but the greatest indignity of our present nanny state is that the Man does not want us to eat raw cheese. As Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin put it, “A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman who lacks an eye” and if that cheese was made with crappy pasteurized, homogenized and sterilized milk it ain’t worth eating. That’s why you’ve got to make your own...

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Loquat Season

For some mysterious reason our corner of Los Angeles has an abundance of loquat trees (Eriobotrya japonica) that, at this time of year, produce prodigious amounts of fruit that mostly goes to waste. Many of these trees live in public spaces, the parkway and people’s front yards making them prime candidates for urban foraging i.e. free food. The tree itself has a vaguely tropical appearance with waxy leaves that look like the sort of plasti...

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Make a Sourdough Starter

Every damn urban homesteader ought to have a sourdough starter living on their countertop. It’s easy and here’s how we do it around the Homegrown Evolution compound: 1. Get yourself a glass or ceramic container with a lid. It should be able to hold at least three to four cups of starter. Don’t use metal. 2. Put into this container one cup of white flour and one cup of lukewarm water and stir until mixed. Put it in a warm place....

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