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Monday, September 27, 2010

'Catching Fire' - a book worth reading

Given the amount of time needed to raise food, store it properly, and then cook it, is it any wonder that the thousands of years of human endeavor have created such a wealth of culinary output worldwide. Such creativity is truly inspirational of what mankind can do. A new book last year, "Catching Fire," by anthropologist, Richard Wrangham, may provide the academic argument for the earthy sensual and intellectual moorings of homo sapiens (after h. erectus, of course). In other words, do not underestimate our core biological foundations in cooking (and raising etc.) food! Wrangham argues that as animals we are unique as the 'cooking' ape. In fact our whole anatomy and physiology is based on our ability to cook food to fuel our bodies.
See NY Times review:
Slate review:
Washington Post review:
Powell's books:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What are we learning?

Janet came out west from Atlanta to visit in Pasadena this last week. We discussed possible directions for this blog as we shared our experiences over the last year in raising food. There is no doubt that raising food from scratch is no trivial task particularly if one plans to depend one's own life and that of those you love on it. I easily spend 6-8 hrs. every weekend physically working in our 600 sq. ft. garden. That doesn't count planning, ordering seeds, and documenting. I don't get much time during the week. Fortunately the climate in southern California gives me considerable margin for error and negligence. Nothing dies by freezing! Plants will die for lack of water, of course. I also have a tolerant husband, the cook, who is with our program and will make do with almost any produce from the garden.
Lessons learned so far:
- Sow seeds at least 6 months in advance of expected harvest. In June I planted rutabaga seeds in the hopes of December harvest.
- Seedlings are a major challenge. How do the commercial nurseries do it? I sow seeds and they just don't thrive. Nurseries by contrast will have densely packed thriving 6"+ tall seedlings. The seedlings from the sown rutabaga seeds in June are now (75 days later) barely 2" tall. Plenty of sun and water... why IS that?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Yield in Pasadena

Southern California must be a gardener's dream climate. I was out of town for six weeks, and granted my husband dutifully watered the garden, it's amazing what I found in the garden wilderness I returned to. The zucchinis seem to have missed the mark but the spaghetti squash went wild. I've harvested almost 30! However, no canteloupe and only 3 acorn squash this year. That's a disappointment. Is there a method here? Hard to say. The summer (June-July) was cool by Pasadena standards. In fact, it seems that the zucchinis have finally awakened to their promise with the recent hot weather. I may have them producing into October. However, I do want to get the broccoli and cauliflower going. I did start seeds for rutabaga in late June and recently transplanted them. So there's hope for a December harvest. My shock today was to see that Seed Savers was all sold out of garlic! I have to find another source since I don't have enough to supply the kitchen AND the garden.