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Invade, invade!

How to Make Candied Mint from Pattie Baker on Vimeo.

For more stories, tips, and recipes, buy my book on Amazon, available in all global markets in both print and digital forms (instantly-downloadable to all devices). I’m an indie author and your support is greatly appreciated. As always, 10% of all proceeds helps to grow food for those in need.

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Growing citizens

Story: So I was driving home from getting new bike tires (every 26 years, whether I need them or not!) (note: I needed them), when I passed this stunning front yard food garden. I turned at the next block and retraced my route, parked, and just stood there in awe. The raised beds. The mulch. The stone walkway. The Little Free Library, for goodness sake! Heaven, absolutely heaven. But then, of course, I remembered that 60 million Americans (including 90% of all people living in a house built during the 1990s and beyond) live in neighborhoods with homeowners associations, many of which have covenants that do not allow front yard food gardens (or any food gardens at all in some cases). Even some cities have this rule. And thus I remembered how growing food actually grows involved citizens as well. Because the next thing you know, you’re showing up at neighborhood meetings and City Hall. The next thing you know, you’re running for mayor.

Tip: Read your neighborhood covenants before putting in a front yard food garden. Find out your city ordinances. Start showing up and speak out for change. Talk to neighbors and elected officials. Research best practices nationwide, as well as easy ways to make it extra pretty (Swiss chard, anyone?). Become an expert. Become an advocate. Grow the damn tomatoes while you work through the bureaucracy. Share them with people — their minds will change. (See my book for more specific tips relating to this topic.)

Recipe: Saucy Neighbor Sauce (see a picture of this on Instagram). Squeeze roasted garlic into a pot with chopped onions, tomatoes, and basil. Chop and toss in yellow squash, zucchini and eggplant if you have them, too. I add sea salt and a little sugar. Bring to boil and then simmer until a lot of the liquid is gone. Make Mama Bread. Open your door so the smell fills the neighborhood. Sit outside in your front yard garden with the pot of sauce and the warm bread for dipping. Share.

For more stories, tips, and recipes, buy my book on Amazon, available in all global markets in both print and digital forms (instantly-downloadable to all devices). I’m an indie author and your support is greatly appreciated. As always, 10% of all proceeds helps to grow food for those in need.

 

 

 

 

Building success

Story: I saw a post on Twitter about a first harvest from a garden being grown by employees of the company building the new Falcons Stadium in Atlanta (technically called Mercedes Benz Stadium, supposedly going to be the “greenest” professional stadium in the nation). The garden is directly across from the stadium, in fact, in the construction trailer village. I asked if I could visit, and then rode my bike there. There are about 10 raised beds and much good is happening. But the soil is lacking. With some minor changes, they could be building success more easily. This actually matters because food grown here will be used by a workforce development culinary class later in the summer. I hate to butt in (husband laughs maniacally right about now) but I hate even more to think I could have helped and didn’t.

Tip: I sent the person with whom I met the Georgia Organics planting calendar (see if there is a calendar like this available where you live) plus the suggestion that she add three large bags of organic soil and 25 pounds of organic fertilizer to each bed. I also sent her this very simple year-at-a-glance gardening advice for Metro Atlanta gardeners that I created years ago for those who might be new to organic gardening. You may find it helpful, too.

Recipe: I make a very simple pizza dough that serves as a terrific base for all kinds of garden veggies and herbs throughout the year, but especially in summer. It also allows for a great deal of experimentation, so it’s a great fit for people who like to tinker and create in the kitchen. You know, wannabe-chefs. That recipe as well as one for pesto are both in my book. To make the pizza vegan, leave out the cheese and blend canned white beans with your sauce to boost the protein. To make the pesto vegan, substitute nutritional yeast for the parmesan. Thats it, folks. Not that hard.

For more stories, tips, and recipes, buy my book on Amazon, available in all global markets in both print and digital forms (instantly-downloadable to all devices). I’m an indie author and your support is greatly appreciated. As always, 10% of all proceeds helps to grow food for those in need.

 

 

Side by side

 

Story: Once a month or so, I roll one of them to somewhere in my garden (which isn’t a garden, per se, but rather, well, everywhere. Let’s just call it everywhere. I roll one of them everywhere). I empty the sort-of-finished compost directly around specific plants that I feel could use a boost (see super-short video on how to side-dress plants here), or I just cover a cleared-out patch with whatever’s in there — the remnants of my days, the sliced-off edges and ends of my life. It’s three of us most of the time now, instead of four, who feed the soldier flies and worms who work these containers turning garbage into gold. Soon it will be just two of us. Side by side. Sitting. Spinning. Making something good.

Tip: To make a steady flow of home compost from kitchen waste, get two enclosed rotating bins like the ones pictured. Fill one about a third with “browns” (dead leaves, wood chips, and/or shredded newspaper without colored ink). Then add fruit and veggie peels daily and spin often (daily is great but don’t kill yourself). In a month, start the second one and then fill only that one for the next month while also spinning the first one often as well. In a month, the first one is ready. Empty it in your garden and start filling it again. The next month, the second one is ready. Keep up this simple routine, and you’ll now have a load of free, fresh compost every month. Don’t forget the browns. A compost bin should not smell anything but sweet (which is why I can keep it conveniently right outside the kitchen door on the patio). If yours doesn’t, you don’t have enough browns. Add more.

Recipe: This is more of a general recipe comment today. If you are making your own compost, you want peels and skins and ends as much as possible. So don’t give in to the overpriced convenience stuff at the store. Buy the unpeeled carrots and the whole squashes. Get the whole potatoes and slice and bake them for fries rather than buying packaged fries. It really doesn’t take very long to make things from scratch (you may be surprised if you haven’t done this before), and there are moments of grace and peace when you take the time to be truly present to prepare something. Plus, you’ll increase your chances of growing more of your own beautiful food by feeding your compost bins as well as your family.

We’ll talk worm bins another day. (And, yes, I still have the descendants of the ones featured in my book!)

For more stories, tips, and recipes, buy my book on Amazon, available in all global markets in both print and digital forms (instantly-downloadable to all devices). I’m an indie author and your support is greatly appreciated. As always, 10% of all proceeds helps to grow food for those in need.

Tea for free

Story: So I stand there at Starbucks or wherever (I spend far too much time in coffee shops nowadays, as my life has changed in odd ways lately) and watch as people order herbal teas and pay several bucks for a little cup of it. It makes me cringe, since I know that all it takes is tossing a handful of fresh herbs into a pot of water, boiling for a bit, and there you have it. So darn simple. And organic to boot, which it usually isn’t in these places. I don’t say a word, because, frankly, there I am on line for a cookie or something which I could easily make at home. But I am not at home, so I don’t beat myself up, and I don’t judge others. I just cringe . . .

Tip: Make the tea at home and then carry it with you in a thermos or something for during the day. Take your work break in a pretty public greenspace rather than in Starbucks. Don’t know any near you? Take a walk one day –you’ll be surprised what you find.

Recipe: My favorite summer tea is peppermint and lemongrass. I cut a big handful of each from my garden, rinse, put in a big pot, fill about hallway, and bring to a boil just for about two minutes or so.  Then, let the tea steep for 10 minutes or so more. You can drink this hot, refrigerate and serve iced, and even use as the water when making rice.

For more stories, tips, and recipes, buy my book on Amazon, available in all global markets in both print and digital forms (instantly-downloadable to all devices). I’m an indie author and your support is greatly appreciated. As always, 10% of all proceeds helps to grow food for those in need.

 

 

Guilty

Story: Big secret. There’s a mistake in the Mama Bread recipe in my book. You’re never told when to add the 1/2 cup water and the yeast to the dough. I think of this every time I make Mama Bread (such as pictured, from tonight, with just-harvested garlic chopped inside), and I feel, well, guilty about it. I should fix this error. I will. Eventually. But in the meantime, here’s what you do. Add the water and yeast about five or ten minutes after you add the two cups of boiling water (after that has a chance to cool a bit). That’s it. I feel better now.

Tip: You have to wait two hours between each rising of the dough for Mama Bread, so it can be a long process (although the hands-on work is really quite minimal). Here’s a trick. Start it at about 7 PM. Let it rise once. Punch it down. Go to bed. When you get up, tun the dough out and cut it into 16 rolls or two loaves, let it rise a half hour or so, and then bake it.  I don’t know why it works without the second rising, but it does. Maybe you never need to do the second rising.

Recipe: I vary the Mama Bread recipe all the time. Here’s one idea — cut the oats down to half a cup and add a half cup of chia seeds. This boosts your nutrition a ton, and adds some cute black specks to the bread. Also, if you substitute 2 tablespoons olive oil for the butter, then, voila!, the bread is vegan.

For more stories, tips, and recipes, buy my book on Amazon, available in all global markets in both print and digital forms (instantly-downloadable to all devices). I’m an indie author and your support is greatly appreciated. As always, 10% of all proceeds helps to grow food for those in need. 

Room to Grow

Story: I wander around the community garden peering into my friends’ beds as if I am visiting with them themselves. Rebecca’s onions (ready to pick, when are you coming here, I text her), Bob’s tomatoes (always planted too early, always doing well anyway), Caryn’s lettuces (the last of them, time to harvest before they get bitter, I tap away), Tracy’s turnips (where has she been? I wonder). But it’s the basil that drives me crazy. If you buy it in a pot, there are usually about four stems. Most people plant this as one plant, but these are actually four different plants that each have the potential to deliver great bounty if you give them room to grow. It won’t be long ’til you can make a pizza like this (pictured). But before that, the basil can’t be stifled, silenced. Nor can I, apparently. Nor can I.

Tip: Turn the potted basil upside down and gently shake the pot while holding the basil until the whole dirt ball falls out in your hand. Gently separate the three-to-five basil stems, trying to keep as much soil clinging to each of them as possible. Plant each one separately, about 12 inches apart. Water for a few days until roots get established. Be sure to pinch off flowers when they appear on the top of the plants so that energy is forced back into the plant and you grow bushier, more bountiful plants.

Recipe: Basil Lemonade. Put a handful of basil leaves in about two cups of water. Bring to a boil for a minute and then turn off heat immediately. Let steep and cool. In about ten minutes, squeeze half a lemon into a glass. Add some basil water, sugar or honey to taste, and ice cubes. Add a basil leaf for garnish and extra flavoring. Kick back.

For more stories, tips, and recipes, buy my book on Amazon, available in all global markets in both print and digital forms (instantly-downloadable to all devices). I’m an indie author and your support is greatly appreciated. As always, 10% of all proceeds helps to grow food for those in need.

Enough

Story: I pull up one, and then another and another. I don’t stop. They are fat and full and ready after nine months underground, after zero care, after all that’s happened elsewhere. And I realize yet again — right then, right there — that I don’t need to worry so much about two pounds per square foot per year and all the other calculations I used to do to maximize my garden yields. All I need is enough, and there is enough. There is always, somehow, enough.

Tip: Check a planting calendar to see when garlic is best planted near you. For me, it’s November 1. Mark it on your calendar now (you will forget). When it’s time, buy an organic garlic bulb and separate the cloves. Plant each clove pointing side up about an inch deep. Then, as we say in my native New York, fuggedaboutit. When the leaves (if that’s what you call them) start to die (for me, it takes nine months), start pulling them up. Let them “cure” for a couple of dry days (lay flat on a screen outdoors or dangle from a chain link fence) and then store somewhere dry and moderate in temperature (I usually leave them in my garage).

Recipe: Garlic “Butter”: Slice off the roots and the top of the garlic bulb just a bit. Wrap in foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour. Open and let cool a little bit. Squeeze the garlic bulb and a soft paste will emerge. Spread this vegan garlic butter on Mama Bread (recipe in my book).

For more stories, tips, and recipes, buy my book on Amazon, available in all global markets in both print and digital forms (instantly-downloadable to all devices). I’m an indie author and your support is greatly appreciated. As always, 10% of all proceeds helps to grow food for those in need.