Gardening where the sidewalk ends

California Goodness December 1, 2008

You know, I truly love Michael Pollan, but I always get a little annoyed when he talks about eating seasonally and locally, living as he does in Berkeley, CA. Easy for him to say! Here in Seattle, the locally grown stuff is waning fast to a winter pittance, and if all we ever ate was local produce, we would never taste even a bite of one avocado, banana, grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, mango, papaya, etc etc and the list goes on.

I’m not advocating against making good-for-the-planet choices and being mindful of where our food comes from. I just wonder if Mr. Pollan would be so quick to advocate for localvore-ness if he lived in, say, Manitoba.

A recent visit to the California Avenue Farmers’ Market in Palo Alto proved illustrative of this point. Here we were, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, strolling around in the sun. It was in the 60sF, so a lot of people weren’t even wearing jackets.

Strolling the market

Palo Altans have not one, but two Markets to choose from when they wish to buy direct from producers. The other, on Saturdays in downtown Palo Alto, has been around longer (since 1981) and is therefore more established. They are run by different entities, not sure what’s up with that. We flew in on Saturday evening so we only had the Sunday market option.

Here is just some of the goodness that was on offer. Root veggies and squash, pretty standard anywhere at this time of year.

Loads of fall veggies

Biking to the market, also possible elsewhere depending on your climate and personal hardiness.

Bike to market

But then things started to get a little more interesting. Fresh raspberries in late November, anyone? Pricey, but I had to have some to share with family and friends. Won’t have any again until next summer, so it was worth it.

Mmmmm, raspberries in late November

The raspberry ladies were also selling flowers. I loved their pumpkin vase, I’m going to have to remember to try this next year for a Halloween centerpiece.

Pumpkin vase for fall flowers

Organic lemons and limes for $2 a pound, now I was almost crying with joy. And right next to them, tiny little perfect Hass avocados. I bought some of everything and made guacamole. I wondered if the avocado pits would be proportionally large for the fruit, but they were tiny and perfect too. I should have saved one to sprout indoors back home.

Lemons, limes and baby Haas avocadoes

Pomegranates are almost at the top of my all-time favorite food list. They are $3/each for organic ones at my Seattle food co-op, so they are usually a once-a-year treat. Here they were super cheap, ditto persimmons. Into my bag they went.

Pomegranates and persimmons

My daughter is not big on tasting new things but even she had to agree that the Fuyu persimmons were tasty. There sure were a lot of options for sampling!

Citrus and persimmon tastes

Oh man, I forgot to mention the pineapple guavas. I’d never even heard of those, and I consider myself a foodie! And yes, they were organic and grown locally. They tasted more like a flower than fruit, and are the little green lime-looking things at the top of the final photo, below.

I’m definitely down with the eat-locally cause. I just know it would be a heck of a lot easier, and would have so much greater variety, if I still lived in California!

California November fruit goodness


Seattle Tilth Harvest Fair, Continued September 9, 2008

There was so much going on at the Harvest Fair, I couldn’t fit it all into one post!

The turnout was big this year, due to the nice weather and, I think, the increasing interest here in all things “green.”

Happy folks listening to music:

Harvest Fair Crowd

Young fiddle player in the bandstand:

Fiddler at Rest

As I mentioned in the previous post, I didn’t get to attend any workshops this year. This one on “hot composting” looked cool, pitchforks were flying! I just peeked at it through the apple trellis:

Composting Demo

Lots of friendly animals to visit, we city folks get so excited by the most common barnyard animals. These goats were super happy to be fed tufts of grass by anyone who passed by:

Friendly Goat

This mobile chicken coop was a real conversation-starter. Hope a certain farm machinery company doesn’t ever sue this guy for logo infringement! The city of Seattle allows chicken keeping, with some restrictions. Click here to find out more.

Mobile Chicken Coop

The end of summer in Seattle always brings a frenzy of activity at Farmers’ Markets as we all realize we’ll be stuck with a limited selection until spring, if we plan to eat (at least mostly) local. Everyone was snapping up the late-summer goodies at the Fair’s big market.

Pepper tower (I saw someone carefully asking about and writing down every variety after purchasing a smaller one):

Super Fancy Pepper Chain

Pile o’ sweet corn:

Corn Pile


Box O' Tomatillos

And a nice reminder that not everyone can afford Farmers’ Market prices, so we need to donate produce when we can to help everyone eat the good stuff:

Beet Hunger

I came home with a nice little flat of winter veggie starts (several lettuces, spinach, a mild mustard, Chinese broccoli and rainbow chard) to put in the parking strip. I’m going to get to it this week before the snails discover them!

Flat O' Winter Veggie Starts


Zucchini Races! August 21, 2008

One food crop that tends to do well in a parking strip is squash. It can take a lot of heat/sun and you can give it ample space to spread out, plus doesn’t need the best soil. But then harvest time comes and sometimes you have too much. Wondering what to do with all your extra zucchini? If you can’t think of any more recipes or give it away to the neighbors or food bank, you can always make a toy out of it! We went to Seattle’s Lake City Farmers’ Market last Thursday and they had a “Zucchini 500” booth set up for kids to make, decorate and race mini squash cars of all shapes and sizes.

Zucchini Racecars

The kids had a great time fancying up their zukes and putting them on the track for 3-up challenges. My daughter’s wheels got stuck the first time through but after an adjustment, her car won the next race! It was a super hilarious late-summer dose of garden silliness.

Zucchini Race