Participate in the Science of Sourdough Project

If you missed the short sourdough lecture I linked to last week, you can watch it above. To summarize, researchers at North Carolina State’s Department of Applied Ecology are attempting to figure out the biodiversity of sourdough cultures from around the world. One of the questions they’d like to answer is how the type of flour you feed a starter influences its taste and viability. This is where you can help through their Science of Sourdough Project. Using the simple instructions on that site, you create a new starter with whatever flour you have on hand, record the results and send that data back to the researchers. If you’re a teacher or a parent this would be an easy science project for our days in quarantine. I’m going to participate and share the results on this blog.

Quarantine Meals From Jennie Cook

Jennie Cook, our dear neighbor (and podcast guest), is a caterer. Covid erased all of the events and weddings that she depended on for income. So she pivoted back to what she used to do: cook home meals for pickup and delivery.

Her food is delicious and the portions are generous. If you live in the Los Angeles area consider ordering some food from her. It will support Jennie and her employees and you’ll get a break from cooking.

On Saturday Jennie sent over a package with an Easter ham dinner. While I’ve enjoyed cooking from scratch for the past four weeks it was nice to have a special meal for a change. Jennie’s delicious dinner really lifted my spirits.

If you’re not in Los Angeles, Jennie has some great recipes on her blog.

Home Orchards for Year Round Food Resiliency

One of the things I’m thankful for during this covid crisis is having a small yard with a variety of fruit trees. If you’re smart about the types and varieties of fruit trees you plant, you can maximize the amount of time during the year that you’re likely to have fruit. Here in California, if you have enough space, you can have fruit year round.

The handy chart above from Dave Wilson nursery (head here for a downloadable version) can be used as a guide to planting for year round food resiliency. Results may vary. Due to a high squirrel population stone fruit doesn’t work well in our yard. But at least I have avocados and the olives I started curing back in October are now ready to eat. In August we’ll have figs and in September more pomegranates than we could possible eat. If the squirrels don’t take them all we might have some apples too.

This chart from the Maddock Nursery in Fallbrook shows avocado and citrus harvest times. If you’re lucky enough to live in an avocado friendly climate and have space for four trees it’s possible to pick varieties that will be ready to harvest year round. That’s a lot of guacamole. Even with one avocado tree, as we have, you can leave the avocados on the tree and harvest as needed (they don’t ripen on the tree). Our Fuerte gives us several months of avocado toast.

Growing fruit takes knowledge and effort. Thankfully, we have a great resource in UC Davis’ guide to backyard orchards. My advice: talk to avid gardeners in your area to learn what grows best. Pay attention to irrigation and pruning. Take out under-performing trees. Buy bare root trees to save money.

If you don’t have a yard perhaps a school, business or faith institution in your community could be convinced to plant a small orchard. One of the many lessons of this crisis is that we need to work on local food resiliency and not depend so much on long supply chains.