Archive for the ‘School Garden’ Category

Flavorella Plum Hand Pies
This summer’s favorite dish for the concerts in the park…was hands down the hand pies. Nectarine, plum, strawberry or a combination of all three.

The best of the lot was the elusive Flavorella plum pie, which I could only produce one time…I must have caught the tail end of the season for that tree. The ease of this dish is what makes it such a favorite of mine and the tangy deliciousness combined with puff pastry made it a real crowd pleaser.

Buy puff pastry sheets and let thaw in the fridge. Each box makes about 8 pretty good sized pies. I just lined the giant muffin tin with squares of parchment paper, then with the puff, then dollops of the fruit mixture, topped with tangy strawberry preserves. Pinch together and bake!

Fruit Filling-Cut up 8 plums and toss with a couple of tablespoons of flour and sugar. Strawberry preserves-made earlier in the summer, just mash up berries and cook down a bit with 1/4 (or less) the amount of sugar for jam…and lots of lemon juice. It won’t set up, but use as sauce…way tastier!


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The Los Cerritos Carnival is coming up Saturday May 16th and that means the Garden Booth will be bursting with handmade goodies. The kids are working on clay plant markers, mobiles and garden decor that are going in the kiln Monday. There are jars of Apricot Jam from a family tree, and packs of seeds we have saved from the school garden. The Eco aspect of the Garden Booth is sponsored by the school’s Green Team. My entry is inspired by a good friend and her quest to be Naturally Frugal. She found the following recipe for homemade cleaning wipes on Apartment Therapy and swears by them! She added Tea Tree Oil instead of the Olive Oil, but I imagine you can use any essential oil that blends well with the orange essence. I found this old postcard with the title “Orange Groves of California” to use as the recipe card. As you only need the rind for this concoction, you can eat the orange while you make these sweet smelling wipes.

With almost three weeks to work on items such as seedlings and cloth napkins, there is bound to be something for your home or garden.


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Okay-we have been having so much fun with science fair!  Last night Kiely cut up the fabric swatches, 6 x 6″ linen squares.  We then mixed up three separate mordants.  Mordant means “to bite” and is the step that keeps colors fast, and can completely change the pigment.


You can simmer the fabric in the mordant, but we chose soaking over night.  Kiely kept swishing them around a bit to keep them submerged.  We used household pantry items;  salt, vinegar and baking soda.

This morning we made the dye baths.  Onion skins, red cabbage, grass clippings and annatto seeds (commonly used as a colorant for margerine, also known as achiote).


I grabbed a bag of skins over at Buy Low.  The checker looked at me questioningly, I told him what they were and he just shrugged and threw them down the belt-no charge.  Next up-basic red cabbage, which my kids are now wondering why it’s called red if it’s purple and the dye is blue?


The cabbage made blue-check out the amazing bright jewel tone of this blue too-it’s amazing!  The annatto seeds also from buy low cost about .86 cents.  I am going to dye a few tee shirts for sure!  We didn’t crush them up…I bet the color would have been much deeper and more red if we had.


Kiely was hoping for a green, so she got the idea to try grass clippings.  We had the grass cut the day before, so she went out and scooped some off the lawn.  Pale, maybe longer, overnight in the dye bath for a greener green…but it worked!  Guess all those grass stains were a good indication that it would work.


Dye baths brought to a boil, then down to a simmer.  Added the mordanted linen two staples for baking soda, one staple for vinegar, and no staples for salt.  All swatches in to the dye baths to simmer for 40 minutes or so.  Rinsed and hanging to dry.


All the colors are fantastic!!  I would have thought the annatto seed was going to be the darker rust color…but that is the onion skins.  I am in love with the blue.  Clear, crisp and perfection.  We are totally inspired to dye some baby clothes, blanks left from their baby days.  We might try the mulberries from school…I noticed they started dropping last week.

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An absolute favorite of the kids at the school garden, and known in the under 10 set as Sour Leaf. It’s the first thing they ask for when they are turned loose for their weekly moment of zen in the urban farmyard.

Sorrel starts well from seed and I will be working up a tray this weekend. Until I buy a soil block maker, I will start with an empty flat, lay a piece of tulle or burlap on the bottom to line. Fill with moist, friable soil and poke evenly spaced, shallow holes for the seeds. I like to cover with vermiculite as it retains moisture and helps keep the seedlings from drying out while germinating. This clump pictured above, could probably be dug up and separated in to several good sized individuals. When it comes time to harvest, just pick leaves as needed.  If you have a nice row of plants, go ahead and cut completely…it will come back nicely. Do this often to avoid letting the plant go to seed. It will last all year in inland LB if it gets partial shade. This would be a great item to replace the shade garden cauliflower over at Victory Home Garden! I’ll throw you some baby Sorrel when they’re ready for transplant Adrianna!!

Sorrel was always a popular ingredient with the European Chefs I worked for in the 80’s…mostly served up in a bowl as soup. Here is a good recipe from Epicurious.

Sorrel, Pea, and Leek Soup Gourmet | April 1996

Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less but requires additional unattended time. Makes about 4 1/2 cups

White and pale green parts of 3 leeks (about 3/4 pound), chopped, washed well, and drained
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small boiling potato (about 1/4 pound)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cold water plus additional to thin soup
1/2 cup shelled fresh or thawed frozen peas
1/4 pound sorrel*, stems discarded and leaves washed, spun dry, and cut crosswise into thin strips (about 3 cups loosely packed)
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

In a large saucepan cook leeks in oil with salt and pepper to taste over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Peel potato and cut into 1-inch cubes. Add potato, broth, and 1 cup water to leeks and simmer, covered, about 10 minutes, or until potato is tender. Stir in peas and simmer, uncovered, about 5 minutes, or until peas are tender.

In a blender purée potato mixture with sorrel in 2 batches until very smooth, transferring to a bowl. Whisk in sour cream and remaining 1/2 cup water, adding additional to thin soup to desired consistency. Chill soup, covered, at least 2 hours, and up to 24.Just before serving, stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

I might use borage flowers to garnish and probably use an immersion blender, rather than get out the regular blender. I saw a really good one in Saveur Magazine current issue. Really great page on kitchen must have gadgets and tools. Loved it!
Also, saw a few comments out there about the color of the soup not being a bright and springy green, as the sorrel leaves are very tender. I believe, if memory serves, the chef would sometimes direct you to blanch a little watercress to brighten up the greens. There is a great book out there from the 80’s, called Secret Ingredients, that has the inside scoop on those untold techniques for polishing a dish. Brightening color, punching up flavors, stretching expensive ingredients and amazing and “magical process of combining flavors”. All fair game and just plain smart tips. Authored by Chef Michael Roberts from the now closed but much celebrated Trumps Restaurant on Melrose.
I just pulled out my book, and he has a recipe in there for Pea and Sorrel Soup. He touts the importance of aromatics in all soups. I agree and always start with a mire poix of 2 onions, 1 carrot, 2 ribs celery and 3 cloves garlic. Going out now, to start the seeds and to check on the strawberries. More on Strawberries tomorrow…I am battling right now with squirrels, rollie pollies-probably mice and birds too.

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At first glance it looked like a tiny cosmos.  Friend to tiny butterflies.  But just clicking through the Theo Payne website (my new fave-this week), I think I am going with Santa Susanna Tarweed. Love the name!  It is in the aster family and in fact it is a nectar flower for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees!


Catalina Cherry.  I really like that we can have a cherry in So Cal.  I will be looking for the cherries in a couple of months.  This nursery, Las Pilitas in Santa Marguerita, looks like it would be worth the drive.



I know the nasturtiums are a prolific pain to some, but I love them!  The picnic area has fields of them on either side of the path, and we were noticing how much larger the leaves are on the shady side.  Nasturtiums have a slightly peppery flavor and can be used in salads as a lovely garnish or stuffed and served whole like a squash blossom.  The immature seed pods can be pickled and used like capers.  If using as a fruity salad dressing add a little honey for sweetness.  You can also make a nice chiffonade of the petals and use in a compound butter.

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Last night the White House announced that Michelle Obama is taking out 1100 square feet of the White House lawn and planting a vegetable garden. You can read more about the “eat the view” movement at Kitchen Gardeners International, and see the plans. This is awesome! It’s the first step toward food reform and a promising indication that they GET IT! They get that we desperately need to overhaul our food policies and farming in the U.S.

But, not everyone has 1100 sq ft. in a sunny location. Which brings me to the idea for a Community of Gardens. A local garden club with an edible bent. An Urban CSA, if you will. A gathering of like minds and dirt. I have a community garden plot, because the trees in my yard limit the sunlight for certain crops. I wanted to have real farm conditions and grow “crops” to feed my family. And to know that the food I was feeding them was free from pesticides, irradiation, bacteria and full of the nutrients that are supposed to be in them.

Many of my friends and neighbors expressed the desire to grow their own, buy and eat local. Many want to convert front yards to drought tolerant herb gardens and backyards in to robust vegetable gardens. But there are hurdles. So, I was thinking…wouldn’t it be nice to pool our local resources, the land immediately to my right, or left. I can grow celery in my shady yard…pretty much year round. Maybe you have a super sunny yard and cannot grow lettuce during the summer…And there is the time. And the knowledge. You see where I am going with this?

Okay, I can think of 20 projects right now! The local schools have gardens but limited resources, they need teachers and volunteers to run the school garden programs. We could start a community compost, so the green waste being incinerated could go back in to the earth instead of into the atmosphere. We can pick the low hanging fruit, literally…there are dozens, if not hundreds of fruit trees loaded with citrus right now, that just goes to waste. We could take the citrus peels and make our own cleaning wipes. We can grow hundreds of pounds of tomatoes and have a canning party! We could volunteer at the Rancho, and help them with their gardens. We could collectively support bringing a community garden plot in out neighborhood. We can identify friends and neighbors with plenty of space and but no time to farm. There are strips of land for guerilla gardening as well.

But we have to start somewhere and perhaps a little meet up and food/seed swap would be a good start. What do you say the 1st Sunday in April? Now, where should we gather? How about the benches outside Rancho Los Cerritos? If you park in their lot, and walk straight ahead and take the low road…there are picnic benches in a pretty lovely setting! The alstroemeria on the little slope will probably be blooming by them…and the orchard in front of the Rancho is intoxicating right now…there are a zillion orange blossoms on the trees!! There is a red bud tree that is in full flower and their wisteria vine has begun to show as well. It would be a fun place to start and a nice walk around the grounds is an added bonus! The Rancho doesn’t open until 1:00pm, so we couldn’t get in to the area before that time. Hope this works, let me know!!

If you’re on Facebook, we have a Community of Gardens page that you can join. If you’re not on Facebook, get on Facebook!

Also, the photo above is my 10 x 10 raised bed in December, last year. I planted a bunch of peas in the middle on the black rack. There was an x of celery, and four triangles filled with radishes, carrots, onion, cauliflower and broccoli. I jammed the plants in close together and thinned as I went, eating baby vegetables and making room for some of the plants to reach full size. I would go out and break off a few ribs of celery all summer, before they bolted late in July. You would be amazed at how much you can grow in a small space!

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I have been wanting to grow loofa. I have been wanting to see a loofa growing. So imagine my surprise when my neighbor at The Family Plot walked up and handed me one! It is crucial to let them dry on the vine. Three of them yielded a quart of seeds and I am hoping they were not cross pollinated with other gourds and will produce a terrific crop next year. At Garden the kids and teacher were amazed! So many folks think they come from the sea, but are in fact gourds. There are some detailed instructions on growing, drying and buying seeds here. This green one below is the right size, but is a month away from picking.

These are perfect and ready to pick. There were about 6 in the middle of the cage ready to go. I can’t wait to plant these seeds! I guess I am going to have to wait until the spring…but that just means February in So Cal. Below is the one we cracked out of the shell and here are a few of the flat black seeds.

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