Dreaming About Spring

All this rain has us dreaming about spring. No better time for a little planting. Our kitchen windowsill is now home to a trio of our favorite lettuces and our front stoop is sporting some baby rainbow chard, bok choy and thyme. We’ve laid off gardening for quite a while due to some massive construction going on next door to us and the weeds and snails are running wild. But the thought of spring is getting us motivated to get back out there and with a bit of luck we just might just manage a nice little kitchen garden this year. In the meantime, even a few small pots on the windowsill do a lot to lift the spirits.

Luca is excited to get back to the worms and the strawberries and blueberries we abandoned out there last season, as well as the artichoke plant we nicknamed “Sherm”. My husband has late summer tomatoes on the brain and I can’t wait to get my hands on those Little Gem lettuces and to eat some sugar peas right off the vine.

Windowsill or garden, what are you planting this year?

Mushrooms and Coffee?

Mushrooms are not something that come to mind when you’re making a dash for your morning coffee. But my local Peet’s has recently started stocking a grow-your-own-mushroom kit that uses their recycled coffee grounds. “Just add water, and presto! roughly 20 mushrooms appear and are ready to eat in a week.”,  says the New York Times. (Here’s a photo of what your mushroom colony could look like.) Might make for an interesting family project. I bet a lot of kids would think it’s pretty cool especially since you get to start harvesting your mushrooms so quickly. I find myself at once intrigued and a little creeped out by the idea of DIY mushrooms so I’m still thinking this one over. Have you tried it? We’d love to hear how it went!

To start your career as a mushroom farmer, just head over to your friendly neighborhood Peet’s (Whole Foods or Andronicos) You can also pick up a mushroom grow kit online, direct from BTTR Ventures, the entrepreneurial effort of two recent Cal grads with a passion for sustainable food. Each week, they reclaim 7,000 pounds of grounds for their mushroom farming projects. BTW: The nice folks at Peet’s are pretty cool about sharing their grounds for your other compost/gardening needs, too.

Happy colonizing!

Good Eats to Support School Gardens

Urban Artichoke! A view of Twin Peaks from the garden at Ida B. Wells High School.

Take a virtual tour of the Urban Sprouts garden at Ida B. Wells High School in San Francisco.

Urban Sprouts is an amazing organization that is impacting the lives of kids, families and neighborhoods in San Francisco through school gardens. The concept is simple – put unused spaces on school campuses to work as hands-on classrooms. Teachers bring lessons outdoors to the gardens on subjects ranging from science, math and writing. Students get the extra benefit of fresh air, physical activity and connecting to healthy food. The garden has a way of bringing people together. We, the two moms behind “A Little Yumminess”, actually met as a result of our involvement with Urban Sprouts.

Last Saturday Urban Sprouts hosted an inspiring event – “Greens, Eggs & Jam” at Ida B. Wells High School to raise funds for their programs. We enjoyed bluegrass music, a garden tour, a silent auction, and delicious bites courtesy of the talented chefs from Contigo, Radio Africa Kitchen and Nopa restaurants, as well as some of Urban Sprouts’ student chefs.  It was fabulous to see so many restaurateurs, local businesses and individuals come out to support Urban Sprouts’ important work.

It is one of those rare fundraisers where children are welcome.  Ria & Luca had a blast in the garden and were looking forward to the “garden party” all week.  Ria took it upon herself to give her little friends and their parents a tour of the garden as they arrived.  The high-schooler who was supposed to give the tours was relegated to smiling and standing in the middle of the garden as Ria did her job.  “Yeah, Ria has taken over my job.  I have nothing to do,” she remarked good-naturedly as people came by to see the garden.  Ria is totally into growing begetables (not so much eating them). She now wants to be a “garden teacher” when she grows up.  It used to be “Spiderman” – so in our world that is HUGE progress.

If you want to make an impact on healthy eating, education, sustainable food systems, and community-building — all in one fell swoop — we recommend seeking out the school gardening programs in your area. Perhaps it will inspire you enough to go home and start a container garden with your kids.

Yummy Garden: Our first harvest of the spring!

Clockwise top left: strawberries, blueberries ("Reka"), Sugar Snap Peas ("Oregon Sugar Pod"), Spearmint & Sage

I love spring!!! The sporadic hours we’ve put into our garden in Jan and Feb are paying off. Sugar snap peas are one of our very favorites. They love our mild, coastal climate (Sunset Zone 17) and all spring just a couple of plants will produce a nice handful of sweet, crisp pea pods every few days. My two year old’s second favorite garden activity is to hunt for pods in the tangle of foliage and to load up his dump truck with our harvest. He’ll even eat one now and again.

Strawberries and blueberries are coming around. Checking the plants and picking them clean of their fruit is, of course, his #1 favorite garden activity. Our yield isn’t impressive, but the couple dozen we get are such a treat. Leafy greens and herbs do well most of the year — and with the cool, moist air and a bit of sun, they’re super low maintenance (save our ongoing battle with slugs). We’ve been cutting from the same rainbow chard for about a year now! Artichokes and fennel are perfect for San Francisco gardens too and striking to look at… and our dwarf lemons and limes are bearing more fruit than last year which we are definitely excited about.

The space devoted to edible gardening in our yard at the moment comprises just two 6′ x 4′ beds and some scattered pots. I’m continually amazed that that small space can keep us supplied with salads and least a couple of vegetable side dishes most weeks. As our skills improve, I can’t wait to see what we can coax out of our garden. Of course, this is not to say that my picky toddler is eating many vegetables these days, but the fact that he enjoys playing with them is something I guess.

A shout out to some gardening resources we’ve been checking out lately:

GrowCookEat (Visit goodLife {eats} on Fridays during spring/summer for a collection of tips and posts from other bloggers writing about gardening); The Urban Farmer Store (the place to go for drip irrigation and more); Sloat Garden Center (our local “go-to” garden center); CUESA (seasonal eating); Annie’s Annuals (check out their “totally useful plant lists”)