The Making of a Great Olive Oil

Kelly admires the olives Thanks to our good friend Dale Benson, Kelly and I got to see how a really high quality olive oil is made. Dale knows Matt Norelli, the wine and olive oil maker at Preston Vineyards of Dry Creek, an organic family farm near Healdsburg in Northern California. Matt was nice enough to let us watch the complicated olive oil machinery in action. First the freshly picked olives go into a big hopper (above). They are...

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Broom Corn–or is it Broomcorn?

...mer I suggested we plant broom corn for no other good reason than I saw the seed pack at the nursery and thought it would be fun to make a broom. (This sort of temporary insanity often overtakes me in the seed aisle.) So without knowing anything at all about broom corn or broom making we planted a block of the stuff. Maybe I should have done a little research into broom making before planting, but I let it slide ’til harvest time. It’...

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Back on the Yogurt Train: How to Make Yogurt

...to make yogurt. In fact, I do believe we covered it in our book. Thing is, back in the day when we made yogurt, it was Erik’s job. When he slacked on it, I didn’t even consider picking it up. Chalk it up to the mysteries of division of labor in a household. Anyway, we went to see Mark Frauenfelder talk about his great new book, Made by Hand , and one of things he mentioned was how much he and his family are digging making their own...

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Flowers from Vegetables

...e flowers go to seed the birds will move in. Of course this means that I’m “wasting space” and making my garden “unproductive” but the rewards outweigh any inconvenience. New gardeners are often surprised to see what amazing flowers different vegetables make. People with no connection to food plants whatsoever may not even know that vegetables make flowers, so it’s fun to show them a carrot flower, a squash blo...

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Perennial Vegetables

For lazy gardeners such as ourselves nothing beats perennial vegetables. Plant ‘em once and you’ve got food for years. For novice gardeners, perennials are plants that, unlike say broccoli (an “annual”), don’t need to be replanted every spring. The best known perennial vegetable in the west is probably asparagus which, given the right conditions, will produce fresh stalks for years. But there are many thousands more...

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Vertical Vegetables

...“Gardens That Grow on Walls.” For certain plants vertical growing might work. I haven’t tried it, but this DIY vertical succulent garden in Sunset Magazine certainly is striking. But vegetables? Their roots need space and you’d need to do a lot of watering to keep a vertical vegetable wall happy. But growing vertically does not have to mean attaching roots to a wall. I can think of two simple vertical vegetable garden st...

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Eight Things to Consider When Saving Vegetable Seeds

The directions for seed saving in our last book, Making It, almost got cut. Perhaps we should have just changed those directions to “Why it’s OK to buy seeds.” The fact is that it’s not easy to save the seeds of many vegetables thanks to the hard work of our bee friends. That being said, Shannon Carmody of Seed Saver’s Exchange gave a lecture at this year’s Heirloom Exposition with some tip...

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Looking for the Union Label

...derwear on the internets recalled a highly catchy ad jingle from the roller disco era, “Look for the Union Label” (youngsters can watch it on youtube here). We looked for the union label and we were surprised to find it via a company called Union House which carries a functional, if unexciting line of apparel. Unless hipsters take to golf shirts in an ironic fashion judo move, these offerings will never be cool like the domestically m...

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Which fruits and vegetables should I buy organic?

...#53 being the least (onions). So tomatoes are sort of middling contaminated. I should note the EWG wants to make it clear that you should not necessarily flee screaming from the Dirty Dozen. This is about awareness, and choices. From their FAQ:    Should I stop eating celery or blueberries or other produce items on your Dirty Dozen list? No, that has never been the Shopper’s Guide message. We would certainly recommend produce from our Dirty...

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Harvesting and Drying Calendula

...a previous post I talked about growing Calendula. This post I’m going to talk about harvesting and drying it. The next post I’ll do on the topic will be about making a skin-healing salve from the dried petals, olive oil and beeswax. When to harvest:  Start harvesting your Calendula as soon as the first flush of flowers is in full bloom. Don’t try to “save” the flowers. The more you harvest, the more flowers each pl...

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