Archives for category: farming

this past weekend, our loft building in downtown los angeles had the first planting of our community garden. we started with a tabula rasa, added some organic soil, trellises, stepping stones, lanterns, tables and chairs.

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we all agreed we wanted it to be organic, so no gmo’s or pesticides allowed. one of our members, and original instigators, linda, also known as the farmers market fairy, was able to pick up a good portion of the seedlings at the wednesday’s santa monica farmers market, and dan, our hoa president, was able to find the remaining at armstrong’s nursery, including a dwarf meyer lemon tree he has named ‘lucy.’

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to celebrate the occasion, dan mixed up a pitcher of refreshing strawberry basil cocktails, which with all the herbs we are growing was a fitting premonition and inspiration for upcoming garden cocktail parties.

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we spread out our newly adopted wee loved ones, guided by what little knowledge we knew of what needs sun or shade, and some other random tips we had collected.

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with that…we started digging.

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once everything was planted, we did a trial watering to get the roots good and soaked.

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we are all aware that urban gardening has it’s challenges. for instance, here in skidrokyo, we find trash thrown over the fence daily, like this welcoming pile of clothing on this particular afternoon…

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…but bringing together our neighbors…

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…and seeing those vibrant green sprouts sticking out of the dark brown soil…

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…makes it all worth it.

‘when i go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed, i feel such an exhilaration and health that i discover that i have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what i should have done with my own hands.’  -ralph waldo emerson

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for those interested, here is a list of the fruits, vegetables and herbs we have planted thus far:

  • arugula
  • spinach
  • mint
  • spearmint
  • parsley
  • thyme
  • mediterranean thyme
  • rosemary
  • variegated sage
  • oakleaf lettuce
  • chamomile
  • cilantro
  • lavender
  • basil
  • thai sweet basil
  • purple basil
  • oregano
  • mexican oregano
  • greek oregano
  • poblano pepper
  • fatali pepper
  • serrano pepper
  • green bell pepper
  • red bell pepper
  • yellow bell pepper
  • maui onion
  • bunching onions
  • honeydew
  • snap beans
  • appalachian pole bean
  • tsungshigo tomato
  • cherokee purple tomato
  • hawaiian pineapple tomato
  • sungold cherry tomato
  • sausage tomato
  • armenian cucumber
  • persian cucumber
  • meyer lemon
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who knew that dave jr. would be the inspiration for implementing our very own community garden here at little tokyo lofts in downtown los angeles?

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for those who don’t know about dave jr., he was a tomato plant, and my first foray into gardening, but apparently our HOA president watched as i was diligently carrying water up to the top floor of the parking garage to water him, and thought he should have a proper place to live.

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i have been wanting to start a garden here for a while, but honestly, lacked the motivation, time and energy. thankfully it seems as though others in my building also wanted the same thing, and as a group we brought together enough of those key elements to make it happen. we have met once before to talk about what we needed to get the ball rolling, the HOA approved our budget, and tonight we met to discuss what we wanted to plant. oh, and we added these lovely lights and some little garden tables and chairs to enhance the area for relaxing.

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follow along as i post updates, photos, recipes, tips, and yes, most likely some failures. ultimately, hopefully we will not only see our seedlings, little green orbs, and buds grow, but our community brought together and cultivated with something as simple as growing produce, herbs and flowers.

we start planting on saturday.

little tokyo lofts • 420 s. san pedro street • los angeles • ca • 90013

ltlcommunitygarden@gmail.com

i think it is safe to say that dave jr. is a yellow cherry tomato plant.

several of them seemed just soft to the touch and ripe for the picking, so today was the day i decided it was time to pluck a few of the beautiful orbs and have a taste test.

they are like little pieces of candy.

i’m off to the market to get some fresh bread, arugula, bacon and perhaps and avocado, because a blt for dinner is screaming my name.

i know i just posted a dave jr. update a couple days ago, but when i got home from work today i noticed so many more little green orbs emerging from where there once were flowers. i decided to count them. a whopping 35!

i leave on sunday for 6 days to take a road trip from chicago to los angeles with my sisters kate and emma.

although i am really excited for the trip, i can’t imagine how my little fruits will grow. i already miss them. i am absolutely certain this is exactly how parents must feel leaving their newborns. i need to find a tomatositter.

while watering dave jr. today, i noticed in the place of one of his flowers was a very tiny green orb hanging in it’s place. i am very proud, so just like a doting parent, i took too many photos. he’s only the size of a blueberry right now, but here he is:

what is also exciting is that i saw more than a few flowers had dropped, and green fruit is emerging from them, so he will soon have brothers and sisters to hang with. i am still in fear of the returning yellow leaves, but have trimmed them as well, and none of them have been flowering branches.

suddenly i am craving a blt. hello summer!

it’s has been just over a month since planting dave jr. and because i am a newbie to growing tomatoes, i have relied on the interwebs to teach me a thing or two about making him be big, strong and bear beautiful flavorful fruit. there is conflicting advice about whether or not to prune flowers and/or branches at all. one article i read said that it would teach him to continue to grow more flowers, and not bear fruit too soon when he wasn’t strong enough to hold them up. seemed like good advice. i chose to pluck the flower buds until just recently.

most suggested to remove the ‘suckers’ which start to grow in the v between the main stem and other branches. of course, since i didn’t come upon this information until a couple weeks in, the base of dave jr. has become quite full. right around the time i stopped plucking flowers, some yellow leaves started to appear, which concerned me.

i worried i was watering him too much, but after reading more, it could be because i haven’t been watering him enough, there aren’t enough nutrients in his soil, or perhaps he even has a virus. so today i added crumbled up egg shells (for calcium), and some fertilizer (nitrogen) to the top and cultivated it in, gave him a good watering, filled up his reservoir, and trimmed the yellow branches and leaves.

dave sr. didn’t know what kind of tomato dave jr. would produce. the good news is that almost every main branch has flowers on it or at least little tiny buds on them, so hopefully that means lots of fruit this summer, whatever kind that might be.

the anticipation is killing me.

i know it’s only day 10, out of i don’t know how many, but i haven’t killed him…yet. yay for me!

i had to clip one flower off the first week, and was worried the rain we got a few days ago would drown him, but he’s doing really well. actually, i think he may have grown an inch since taking this photo yesterday. seriously.

he looks healthy and green and strong. i’m going to bed in hopes to dream of blts, gazpacho, and hot tomato jam.

is this what it’s like to have a child? probably not in the least huh?

i realize i haven’t posted in quite some time. honestly, i have been working and busy, which is good, but leaves little time to blog. well, last week i was working on a tv show and talking with one of my co-workers about my love of tomatoes, and how i’d love to eventually jar them for the off season. much to my surprise, the next time i worked with him he brought me a tomato plant.

this is very exciting! i planted him today, and placed him in my parking spot on the roof of my garage where i live in downtown los angeles.

i will continue to post on his progress, and hopefully down the line be able to post my first recipe with tomatoes from the plant. i am thinking about names for the plant, and open to suggestions. tom seems too obvious. dave jr. has a ring to it, since it was a dave that gave me the plant. mostly just hoping i don’t kill him.

spring has come and summer is close. i could tell just by seeing all the new colors this morning at the hollywood farmers market. cherries were everywhere! there is something about that bright red color that just pops surrounded by all the green. they haven’t quite reached their peak, but i don’t give them long. i may go back later this week and get a bunch more. since they’re still a bit on the tart side, i find them good for a pie, and who doesn’t like homemade cherry pie?

it was nice to see fava beans and fresh peas still around, and the first of the summer sweet corn was being shucked. i can’t wait to make grilled mexican corn!

here is some of the loot i brought home today:

also, an update to a post i wrote this past week about the south central farmers who were displaced from their original home at 41st and alameda. some of the families moved to bakersfield to continue the cooperative, and as it turns out i got artichokes and squash blossoms from them this morning:

the other really exciting thing to see was tomatoes. i think they are the produce i look forward to the most in the summer. i’m not sure what is my favorite way to eat fresh tomatoes: caprese salad, gazpacho soup, or perhaps just a simple blt?

in sad news, i actually overheard someone say in passing, “i think i am going to get my tomatoes at trader joe’s,” and i thought to myself (wtf!) ‘clearly she did not pass the stand with the rainbow of heirloom tomatoes that i just saw!’

on my way out, i ran into my friend the farmers market fairy, which reminded me that not everyone has the time, energy, or even the knowledge of how to shop for what is good at the market. lucky for those of you who live in the los angeles area, here is a shameless plug: you can have her do it for you (for a fee of course). she really knows her stuff, and will also go to other specialty shops as well if needed, such as mccall’s meat + fishthe cheesestore of silverlake and the like.

so that was my morning at the market. i will be doing occasional updates from time to time, and if you didn’t pick up on it, there were a few hints to what is to come here on wild, fresh + tasty this summer.

cheers!

a few years back i worked on a documentary about some trees that were being transported from a south central dirt lot in los angeles to huntington botanical gardens in san marino thanks to the annenberg foundation. it was june of 2007, and i had just moved to downtown los angeles the previous fall, so i was pretty stoked that i had such a short drive to work, but when i showed up to 41st and alameda, less than a 10 minute drive south, i really had no idea what had inhabited this plot of land not so long ago. sadly i didn’t know much about the back story. i am sure at the time i was told what the project was about, but in the midst of a 14 hour day in the dirt, heat, and running my ass off loading film, it really came down to a paycheck and not the cause.

i do remember thinking what a cool thing that they were saving these trees and transporting them to the huntington gardens. i also remember absolutely loving the lunch. it was some of the most authentic and delicious mexican food i have ever had.

(even back then i was taking pictures of my food.)

i remember the passion of the filmmakers, and after a very long day, the director made a point to come up to each of the crew personally and thank us. that just doesn’t happen all that often.

cut to present day, when i have developed an interest in making my own garden while living in an urban setting. i hear about a documentary called the garden, which is about the south central farm. i vaguely remember my friend rafiel (who also worked on on the tree documentary) telling me that it was somehow connected to the one we worked on. it was nominated for an oscar and i like documentaries, so i biked up to old bank dvd and rented it. tears welled up in my eyes within 5 minutes. this was the precursor to the tree documentary that i had worked on a few years back.

after watching the garden, i was pretty frustrated and pissed off. i was amazed that jan perry, my city council woman, and ralph horowitz, the owner, had full control over whether or not they were going to let these farmers continue and stay, and that they let their egos and greed direct them.

this was one of the biggest urban gardens in the country covering 14 acres. members of rage against the machine helped to raise money at a benefit concert, and celebrities such as daryl hannah, joan biaz, and danny glover tried to make a difference, by locking themselves to trees and making calls to the mayor. when the annenberg foundation offered to purchase the land for the 16.3 million dollars mr. horowitz was asking for it, he said in an interview with nbc4,

“even if they raised $100 million, this group could not buy this property. it’s not about money. it’s about i don’t like their cause and i don’t like their conduct. so there’s no price i would sell it to them for.”

what a prick.

some of the farmers have moved on.

ultimately, what an amazing venture, to have an urban garden of such substance in los angeles, and really, in one of the more industrial areas. it’s really too bad it had to go. it has been almost 5 years since the farmers were evicted. this what the lot looks like today:

clearly mr. horowitz has put his land to good use.

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