Worth Doing From Scratch: Corn Tortillas

We do a lot of experimentation here at Root Simple Labs. Some things work out and others fail miserably. I thought I’d periodically look at the projects that have worked in the long term, specifically from scratch. Call this the first blog post in a sporadic series about stuff that’s easy and economical. Now you should be suspicious of any tortilla making advice dispensed by a gabacho. Let’s just say it̵...

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Making Tofu From Scratch at the Institute of Domestic Technology

Around once a month I teach a bread class at the one of a kind Institute of Domestic Technology, founded by our friend Joseph Shuldiner. The IDT is not your usual cooking school and its offerings are difficult to define succinctly. If I had to take a stab at explaining what the IDT does it would be that it teaches things worth doing from scratch that most people haven’t attempted since the pre-Betty Crocker era: cheesem...

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Is Purslane the New Kale?

Purslane in a Greek salad. Image: Wikipedia. Salty, crunchy, nutritious and edible raw or cooked, purslane (Portulaca oleracea) could soon be ready for its fifteen minutes of vegetable fame. We planted some this year in our summer vegetable garden and I’ve used it in a lot of salads this week. Purslane is a common weed in North America. We’d love to be able to forage it in the neighborhood but, for some reason, it...

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Fruit Tree Maintenance Calendars

Where we live, it’s the time of year to prune and deal with pest issues on fruit trees. The University of California has a very helpful page of fruit tree maintenance calendars for us backyard orchard enthusiasts.  The calendars cover everything from when to water, fertilize, paint the trunks and many other tasks. You can also find them in one big handy set of charts in UC’s book The Home Orchard. The permacultura...

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New Project: Making Bitters

Our friend Emily Ho over at The Kitchn recently posted a good set of instructions on how to make homemade bitters. Bitters are made up of various aromatic substances tinctured in alcohol. These flavorings can be used to concoct fancy artisanal cocktails. True bitters are made with sharp, bitter herbs, like wormwood and dandelion–their original purpose was to stimulate digestion, and you’ll find them used often in...

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What’s in Worm Leachate?

Garden Professor Jeff Gillman analyzed worm leachate (the liquids the flow our of your worm bin) from a home vemicompost setup. It’s pretty strong stuff! Gillman concludes, this could be a great liquid fertilizer if it were used properly.  I’d recommend diluting it somewhere between 1:1 and 1:5 worm juice : water before applying it, and I’d only apply it once every week or two.  If you want to use it, try it on somethin...

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Straw Bale Garden Part IV: Almost Ready to Plant?

Over the past fifteen days I’ve been “conditioning” my straw bale garden by adding blood meal and a lot of water. During the conditioning process we had both a freak rainstorm (helpful) and a freak heatwave (not so good). The bales did not heat up as much as I expected–as of this morning they are around 80° F, around 15° to 20° higher than the ambient temperature. Several sources I checked, however, su...

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Straw Bale Garden Tour Part I

In this vide we take you into the backyard for a tour of our straw bale garden. We started rotting the bales in late April by adding blood meal. In May we added a balanced fertilizer and started planting the bales. In the video you’ll see the veggies we planted in early June. The soaker hose you see comes from Home Depot. I’m pretty sure it is this stuff. Every other week I add some fish emulsion to a watering can and hand water t...

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Radish Surprise

A volunteer radish–I think it is a daikon–sprouted up in a little clear pocket of our yard. We let it go, ignored it. It grew bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Usually a radish is harvested early, so we never see how big they can get. This one got huge, then burst out into hundreds of tiny purple flowers. Hummingbirds, honey bees and all sorts of flying insects visit it all day, every day. It has become one of the q...

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Our New Straw Bale Garden–Part I

Straw bales–ready to prepare. Pot in the center will be a solar powered fountain. We’re going to experiment with a straw bale vegetable garden in our backyard, inspired by Michael Tortorello’s article in the New York Times. The plan is to grow in the bales and harvest the resulting compost for use in permanent raised beds (that have yet to be built). We’ll keep growing in bales until we have enough comp...

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