In summer, keeping a vegetable garden well watered means keeping an open tap like you haven’t seen since your last kegger in college. But if you live in California, the little rainfall we see in winter can make it seem like summer year-round. And that makes our finite resource ever more precious in spite of the few rainstorms that did pass through in December.
Since 2011, California has become increasingly thirsty, with 80 percent of the state suffering extreme to exceptional drought. A recent scientific study found that the last 3 years of drought in California were the most severe conditions ever experienced in the last 1,200 years. And it’s looking like another dry year ahead.
For those of us in urban areas, it’s sometimes hard to wrap our heads around the fact that our water supply is dwindling. After all, we simply turn on the tap and water magically falls, as much as we’d like. But I think a lot of gardeners (especially edible gardeners) feel the struggle, financially and emotionally, every time a new seed is sowed or another bounty is brought in.
In a conservation-conscious area, this could mean a bit of creative planning, cutting back on raised beds or finding ways to reuse gray water. But irrigate your garden right, and your crops can continue to drink up without exceeding your city’s water restrictions. In fact, you’ll be able to tend your vegetable garden while saving water at the same time.
My first book, The CSA Cookbook, is slated to release on February 16. (I shared a sneak peek of it recently!)
Can you believe it’s been one year in the making? Nope, neither can I, even though I feel like I’ve been saying It’s coming! It’s coming! for soooo long now. It’s exciting stuff, and I’ve been bowled over by all the kind comments and emails of encouragement from readers near and far.
Now, it’s really coming. And as a show of thanks for your immense support and incredible patience, I have three copies of my book to give away to three lucky winners this week!
The five little things that made my week…
1. My mug on an “About the Author” page. This makes me smile because my parents never understood what a blog was, why anyone would read a blog, and what it means when I say I’m a blogger. (Plus, they just think it’s a funny word to begin with.) But I think they’ll take author!
Yesterday, the very first copy of my book arrived in the mail. Tears of joy, everywhere. (Better than pee everywhere, which is what I nearly did in my pants!)
It is just so surreal to finally see a project I’ve worked on for an entire year take tangible form. After feeling reluctant to open the package, then overwhelmed with the first sight of the cover, then nervous as I thumbed through each page, hoping there wasn’t a spelling mistake we missed, I grew more and more excited as I made my way through all 224 pages of The CSA Cookbook.
I can’t even put into words how proud I am of the finished product and how grateful I am for the incredible team involved in its creation, from my editor and designer to my photographer husband and recipe testers.
There’s often an unsettling fear of inadequacy with a project of this scope (Will the food turn out well? Will my readers enjoy it? Will the critics hate it?), but I can confidently say that I believe (I hope!) you will love this book as much as I do. At the very least, I think you’ll find it an interesting and useful reference to keep in your kitchen when you’re looking at a pile of produce and wondering how you’ll ever go through it all.
If you’ve been on the fence about preordering the book, I hope this post will nudge you toward getting a copy of your own. While The CSA Cookbook can be called a farm-to-table book, it’s not just any farm-to-table book. It takes a nose-to-tail approach to cooking with vegetables so you have as little waste as possible in the kitchen. If you grow your own at home, it’ll help you look at vegetables in a whole new way, with recipes for using the edible but unconventional parts of your plants like pepper leaves, bean leaves, squash shoots, radish pods, and watermelon rind.
When other gardeners ask how I amend my soil, the answer is almost always with compost tea. It’s a safe and natural fertilizer that revives and replenishes the soil food web, a highly complex ecosystem comprising a community of good and bad bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, earthworms, and arthropods. To put it simply, the soil food web forms the foundation of your plants, and subsequently your food.
Above ground, compost tea envelops your plants in a protective “web” (or biofilm) of living microorganisms that helps reduce foliar diseases and increase the intake of nutrients.
For several seasons, I was brewing my own tea using the compost from my garden (like the castings from my worm bin or the black gold from my compost heap) and any number of add-ins: kelp meal, fish emulsion, fish hydrolysate, blackstrap molasses. A single brewing session almost looked like a science experiment!
And if you turn to the many sources online touting the “right” way to make compost tea, you would find more opinions and suggestions than you could ever try in a growing season.
In all honesty, brewing a batch of compost tea isn’t that tricky. I found that as long as I followed a few basic principles, like proper aeration and dilution, it was hard to mess up… but there could always be a better way.
“Can you eat them?” is the question I’m inevitably asked when we find dense mats of mushrooms growing up from our wood mulch after a good rain.
And while these ones look quite showy and fleshy, you’d easily walk by them without a second glance. Each mushroom is no more than the size of a pinky nail, just a few millimeters wide and tall. In their immature state, the mushrooms are inconspicuous nubs with spiky sides, fully enclosed to protect the “eggs” inside. As they age, the caps break away to reveal a nest of eggs denotive of the mushrooms’ common name: bird’s nest fungi.
I can hardly believe that in just a little over a month, The CSA Cookbook will come to fruition!
Retailers are currently listing the publication date as February 16, which means those of you who have preordered the book will start to receive your copy shortly after. Which means you still have a few weeks left to place a preorder if you haven’t already!
To sweeten the deal, literally, I’m offering a bonus collection of recipes for every person who preorders The CSA Cookbook from any bookseller!