Last week was my first-ever visit to the National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, and stepping onto the Sonoma County Fairgrounds was like stepping into a Garden Betty dream. Imagine booth after booth of produce porn, tables lined with late summer bounties, vendors serving up local, sustainable, and organic food, and a pop-up farm filled with fluffy sheep, alpacas, goats, rabbits, turkeys, chickens, and other fowl.
If you like to geek out on garden stuff, run an urban homestead or a full-scale farm, strive toward a life of self-sufficiency, or simply appreciate good food that comes from the earth, coming to the Heirloom Expo is like coming home.
Sometimes it feels like I’m waiting alllll summer for my basil to grow into a bush, and suddenly at the end of the season, boom. My Thai basil explodes overnight and I find myself blending and freezing several pints of pesto to save for the winter months.
But fresh basil is a favorite of mine in the kitchen, topping bowls of arrabiata-sauced pasta and creamy tomato soup, cut into a chiffonade (I love that word) for stews or stacked whole on top of Caprese salads. But beyond those traditional uses for basil, I particularly like it in unconventional recipes, like my baked blueberry-basil donuts or this homemade Thai basil ice cream.
Every time I wrap up another phase of my cookbook, it always feels so, so close yet so, so far away. We’re still months (like, six months) from the official release, but since half that time is spent in printing, we’re much closer to the finish line than it seems.
This week, the blurbs are starting to come in from authors I’ve long admired (I’m still stunned they’ve agreed to review my book!), the final tweaks are being made on the book layout and design, and the front cover is set. in. stone. !!
May I announce my soon-to-release first book from Voyageur Press, The CSA Cookbook: Thinking Inside the Box.
Hi friends! I am pretty psyched to confirm this — I’ll be making my way up north to the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa this Thursday, September 11!
I’ve wanted to go to this expo for a few years now. It’s put on by the great people at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (where I get most of my seeds) and has grown to become quite an impressive event since their first in 2011 — the “world’s pure food fair,” as they call it.
For a while I was lucky with my raised bed garden, and had few problems with pests and diseases. But this summer, a vicious case of wilt (I’m guessing Fusarium wilt) weakened or stunted several of my plants (mostly peppers) and a hungry colony of flea beetles had taken up residence in my tomatillo crop.
Combined with the drought in California, a particularly hot season, and a month-long vacation looming, I decided to put all those problems to bed — under a sheet of plastic for the remainder of the summer.
Soil solarization is a highly effective, nonchemical method for controlling soilborne diseases. While it’s commonly used on commercial farms, it’s not as prevalent in home gardens because it does require part or all of the soil to lay fallow during peak summer. In a home garden where space is often limited, it’s hard to give up a raised bed for the four to six weeks it takes to treat the soil.
But if you plan ahead (or, like me, you know you’ll be away from the garden for an extended period), soil solarization is an ideal solution for killing weed seeds, controlling nematodes and pests, eliminating soilborne plant pathogens, and improving tilth and soil biology. Think of it as a solar oven in the garden, baking everything underneath it — and what comes out is sterile soil, free of the problems that used to plague your plants.
The five little things that made my week…
1. Road trip around the entire 116-mile coastline of Salton Sea.
I’ve always been fascinated by fermentation in its many forms, from the souring of cabbage in sauerkraut to the souring of grains in a whole-grain feed made for chickens. The sourness happens through the proliferation of Lactobacilli in your food, and simply by letting this good bacteria accumulate over a few days or a few weeks, you (and your gut) will get all the benefits of these natural (and delicious) probiotics.
Long a fan of Japanese rice bran pickles, or nukazuke, I’ve wanted to make my own at home but knew that the art of fermenting food in nukadoko (a fermented bed of rice bran) required a long-term commitment in the kitchen.
While making homemade nukazuke is fast and easy compared to, say, sauerkraut, inoculating the nukadoko does take more than a few steps the first week, and then an everyday routine to keep your bed flourishing with beneficial bacteria. From the first day you mix your own nukadoko, it needs daily stirring by hand to aerate the rice bran and keep the microbes in check.
Yes, every day. By hand. And in summer, sometimes twice a day.
If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen and your nukadoko lives in a spot where you see it every day, stirring takes no more than 20 seconds. Nukadoko thrives on the bacteria that naturally lives on your hands, the same bacteria that can turn a baby cucumber into a crisp, piquant pickle overnight or a handful of spring radishes into refreshing, tart little crudités in just a couple of hours.