Category Archives: Urban Agriculture

6 Tips for a Southern California Edible Garden in the Summer

Hi! Abby here. You may have noticed in my Mother’s Day post that I mentioned we moved. It’s true! We no longer have a third of an acre on a canyon as our backyard, playground, and chicken farm. It was a fast move, and our edible garden was just getting good on the day we moved. 

edible garden

Our new backyard will have room for some small garden boxes. Which brings me to the question: can you plant new vegetables in the heat of a San Diego summer? Guest blogger, Emily, recently reached out wanting to share some of her knowledge of gardening and conservation. She put together this guide for us with her best tips for planting edible summer plants in Southern California. 

Best Edible Summer Plants to Grow in Southern California

Southern California is a unique area with a climate that is varied, ranging from Mediterranean to desert-like conditions. Summers in SoCal are warm and dry with infrequent rain, so growing during the warmest days can be a bit of a challenge. However, overall, Southern California has an amazing climate for growing almost anything.

The average temperature in July is 92 degrees with only .04 inches of precipitation. Fortunately, there are still a number of edible plants that do well in this type of warmer weather and will thrive for you. There are also tweaks you can use to help plants grow better or take root when you transplant them.

1. Choose Plants that Take Heat

anasazi green beans

The harsh summer sun cooks delicate plants. In the summer, focus on plants that withstand heat, such as sunflowers, beans (like the Anasazis, pictured above) and corn. There are some additional things you can do to help these plants withstand dry conditions, such as regular watering and installing an irrigation system in your garden. Make sure you water early in the morning or early in the evening, so the water doesn’t heat up and further cook your plants.

2. Shade Transplants

When first moving plants to a new edible garden, they are particularly vulnerable. Use screens or taller plants to create shade for these transplants until they fully take root in the soil. Remember that the sun is harsher from June until August, so anything you can do to reduce the intensity a bit, without completely taking it away, will help your new plants. The key to planting in the summer is to do it in the morning or evening when temps are cooler.

3. Plant Melons

Melons tend to love the heat and absorb the sun. While they do need some water, they do okay in drier conditions as long as you give them water occasionally. To see if they need watering, pay attention to the vines and make sure they aren’t drying out too much. The first thing to suffer if the plant gets too dry is the edible part of the plant, or the melon. You can also purchase water stakes that deliver water to the roots of the plant throughout the day.

4. Pick Heat Tolerant Greens

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to grow your own organic salad? Unfortunately, many varieties of lettuce or vulnerable to heat and wilt in the summer sun. There are some heat hardy varieties, such as magenta spreen and calaloo amaranth. Choose varieties that do better in the sun both for garden décor and to make a salad for your next dinner.

5. Start Your Winter Vegetables

In August, start your winter vegetables. Some varieties that do well in the area include cabbage, broccoli, kale, leeks, onions and fava beans. If you’re worried cool weather will arrive sooner rather than later, plant in pots or above ground gardens, so you can easily cover and protect from the cooler nights.

6. Choose Everbearing Strawberries

strawberry picking

Southern California grows about 80 percent of the strawberries in America thanks to the perfectly suited soil that drains quickly. Even though it is ideal to plant in cool weather, so that the blooms develop properly, everbearing plants will bear fruit all summer long, giving you fresh berries to enjoy during the warmest days of summer.

Growing Your Edible Garden

Summer is a good time to enjoy the fruits of your edible garden labor. You don’t need a lot of acreage to grow your own garden, either. Even a patio will suffice if you’re willing to go vertical or put plants in pots. Although you’ll need to pay particular attention to how much water plants get, overall the milder weather of Southern California allows you to not only grow fabulous crops in the summer, but to enjoy fresh foods all year long.

About Guest Author, Emily Folk:

Emily Folk, guest author on Conservation and Sustainable GardeningEmily is passionate about gardening and is currently working on a three bin composting system. You can read more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks.

Emily on Twitter

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Emily on LinkedIn

Loquat Sorbet Recipe with Tequila and Salt

Here’s a fun post: a delicious recipe for loquat sorbet made with a splash of tequila and sprinkled with Hawaiian black lava salt.

Loquat Sorbet Recipe using fresh loquats and a splash of tequila and salt

The loquats came from a tree in our backyard. We started it from the seed of a tree down the street and it’s taken off. According to the Specialty Produce App, loquats grow well in most Southern states, but usually only fruit in California, Florida and Hawaii.

Loquat Tree with fruit ready to make into loquat sorbet

This post is a family collaboration! Papa Bird (our sorbet master) came up with the recipe and shot the “making of” photos. The child labor came from the (not so) Baby Birds.

Fresh loquats from the treekids cooking loquat sorbet

Kids Cooking in the Garden

Kids cutting loquats for sorbet with playful chef safety knives

The girls have been honing their kitchen skills with their new knife set. They love the safety knives from Playful Chef (Amazon link) which are designed to cut through apples and carrots, but safely fit in young hands. They use them almost daily.

The kids also harvested the loquats from the tree, selecting the ripest, softest and sweetest fruit.

My kids enjoy cooking, especially sweet treats. And they LOVE making and eating anything from our garden.

How to Make Loquat Sorbet

Loquat Sorbet Recipe using fresh loquats and a splash of tequila and salt

Loquats are from the same family as apples, pears and roses. The fruit have a mild, sweet, slightly sour and refreshing flavor.

loquats on the tree, ready for this sorbet recipe

They grow rampant in Southern California. So check your neighborhood and forage! If you or a friend have a tree, you likely have more fruit than you can deal with. And sadly, there are not very many loquat recipes out there. Select fruit that are a little soft and pull off easily from the branch.

Loquat sorbet

Next, Papa Bird set up an assembly line for the girls outside. The fruit can be juicy and sticky.

Kids Cooking Recipe: Fresh Fruit (Loquat) Sorbet

The kids cut the fruit in half. Loquats contain 3-7 large, hard, inedible seeds in the middle.

fresh loquats with seeds

Remove the seeds. The fruit are now ready to run through a juicer.

loquat sorbet

Preparing the loquat sorbet

This sorbet came out delicious!

Loquat sorbet with tequila and Hawaiian lava salt

To make 2 cups of juice, Papa Bird used approximately 60 halved, seeded loquats. We have a Breville compact juicer, which quickly separated the juice from the skin and less edible parts.

Read the printable recipe below. Continue reading

Honey-Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd

Our citrus tree is bursting with Meyer lemons. Baby Bird, who is 14-months-old and walking, loved picking the lemons. Meyer lemons are sweet and juicy and made a great lemon curd.

honey sweetened meyer lemon curd

baby bird picking meyer lemonsI have been trying to feed us less refined sugar this year. I find that our taste buds are slowly adjusting. For example, my husband and I don’t sweeten our coffee anymore. Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter than a conventional lemon. This recipe came out delicious sweetened with just honey, and I used a fraction of the amount of sweeteners other curd recipes use.

honey sweetened meyer lemon curd over blueberry pancakes

Little Bird is 3-years-old now and is quite the pro in the kitchen. She loves cooking projects. She loves to taste all of the ingredients, but at one point I had to pull the honey away from her. I think she ate half the container. (So much for limiting our sugar!) The lemon curd was perfect over Papa Bird’s famous gluten-free blueberry pancakes. I also used it to make a quick lemon-meringue tart with a (gluten-free) cashew/almond crust. Since my curd uses only egg yolks, a meringue was a perfect way to use up all of the whites.

Honey-Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 3.5 cups
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
This version of a classic lemon curd uses honey to sweeten. I used grass-fed butter, but it could also be made with coconut oil for a vegan version. I recommend using organic citrus anytime you are using the zest or peel.
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from approx. 5-6 lemons)
  • 1 cup lemon juice (the juice of approx. 5-6 lemons)
  • 8 oz butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup honey
  • 8 egg yolks
Instructions
  1. Rinse the lemons and use a microplane to grate the zest of the lemons. Set aside.
  2. Juice the lemons until you have about 1 cup of juice. Set aside.
  3. Place water in a 2 quart saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil. Place a double boiler or bowl on top of it.
  4. While the water is coming to a boil, place the butter in the bowl of a mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the honey and beat well. Then add the egg yolks one at a time and mix in. Then slowly add in the lemon juice. It is okay if it is not totally smooth in the mixer, because the butter will melt in the next step.
  5. Pour the mixture into the top of the double boiler or the bowl over the pot. Occasionally, stir gently with a heat proof spatula. Heat the mixture until it comes up to 170*F. At that point it should be smooth but not necessarily thick.
  6. Pour into jars for canning, a crust for a meringue, or store in the fridge. Allow to cool completely. It will thicken as it cools.
  7. Keeps in the fridge for 1 week and freezes well.
Notes
From this size recipe, I used two cups of the curd in a tart/lemon meringue pie and used the remaining 3 pints as curd. If you want a super smooth texture, strain the curd after taking it off the heat to remove the zest. I left it in and liked it.

meyer lemon curd ingredientsGet all of the ingredients for this recipe ready ahead of time and then it will be easy to throw together. Just watch out for three-year-old honey swipers!

No fancy equipment is required, but a kitchen-aid mixer helps get a creamy texture and a microplane make zesting citrus much easier. A double-boiler let me not worry about scorching the bottom while it cooked and a thermometer let me know exactly when to take the curd off the heat.

Click here to pin this recipe on Pinterest.

Honey-Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd from @BabyBirdsFarm

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Eggplant Recipes: In Season NOW

Eggplants are peaking right now, in our garden and in the markets, so I wanted to share a round up of quality eggplant recipes to inspire you! Here’s a tip for picking a great eggplant at the farmer’s market or store: find one that is relatively heavy for its size. It will have less seeds and more delicious flesh. Papa Bird (our family’s resident farmer) says homegrown eggplants are ready to pick when you push in with your thumb and it leaves an imprint. He recently put up a shade barrier to protect our growing eggplant from the strong San Diego sun. For more tips on cooking eggplant, check out this post.

Eggplant Recipes: In Season NOW

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM BABY BIRDS FARM

Some of my family’s favorite, “regular rotation” recipes highlight eggplant.

  1. Baba Ganoush: a garlicky dip, similar to hummus, and delicious with veggies to dip. Makes great baby food, too!

lamb, eggplant and pomegranate moussaka

  1. Pomegranate, Eggplant and Lamb Moussaka (above): a layered dish that is sweet and savory and spiced with cardamom and cinnamon.

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Maria Nasir of foodaholic is a Pakistani home cook and caterer turned international food blogging star. She has lot’s of delicious eggplant recipes from around the world. But this kid-friendly appetizer caught my eye:

  1. Eggplant Roll Ups: kid-friendly but with a delicious vinaigrette to please picky foodie parents.

 nam prik noom thai green curry

Another international blogger I follow, Azlin Bloor of Lin’s food, recently shared the above treat featuring aubergine (eggplant with a British accent):

  1. Nam Prik Noom (Thai Green Chilli Sauce)

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM FAMILY SPICE

Laura of Family Spice features eggplant in both Italian and Persian-inspired dishes.

roasted eggplant parm sandwich

  1. Roasted Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich from Laura of Family Spice (above): a nice, non-fried version of an eggplant parm.
  1. Pickled Eggplant and Vegetables with Pomegranate (torshi-yeh bademjan va anar): I have never even thought of using this combination of flavors and I am dying to try it.

Persian Eggplant Stew

  1. Persian Eggplant Stew (Khoreshteh Qiemeh Bademjoon) (pictured above).

EGGPLANT RECIPES FROM SIMMWORKS FAMILY BLOG

Danielle of Simmworks Family Blog makes a lot of delicious family meals that are often quick and easy for busy families – without sacrificing taste.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

  1. Baked Eggplant Parmesan: an easy family dinner that will please adults and kids.
  1. Eggplant French Bread Pizza: simple, with just a few ingredients and perfect for lunch.

For even more eggplant ideas:

10 Fantastic Eggplant Recipes from Simmworks Family Blog.

Mint Julep Kale Krunchies

Summer in San Diego means the Del Mar Racetrack is open and an abundance of mint in our garden. Both were the inspiration for “mint julep” kale krunchies, our latest variation on kale chips. Using the same technique and creamy cashew base as my Cilantro Lime Kale Chips, these kale crunchies are flavored with the summer drink ingredients. Yes, even a splash of bourbon.

Mint Julep Kale Krunchies

Mint Julep Kale Chips Recipe

  • 1 head of kale
  • 3/4 cups of raw cashews, soaked in water for at least one hour, then drained
  • handful of fresh mint, washed
  • 1-2 tablespoons of agave or coconut nectar
  • 1 teaspoon of bourbon (optional but fun)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
  • a little water, if needed, to process in the blender

1. Wash the kale in cold water. Holding the end of the stem in one hand, firmly and quickly slide your other hand down the center rib. The leaves should tear off of the rib in one move. Dry the kale very well and rip any large pieces into smaller bits.

Or – Purchase a bag of kale pre-washed and cut. Just make sure to remove the thick center ribs as they do not dehydrate well. (Little Bird likes to help rip and sort the kale.)

2. Blend the rest of the ingredients in a small food processor, like a Magic Bullet, or blender. If the blender struggles, add a little water, a tablespoon at a time, until it blends well. Blend at highest speed until smooth, scraping down the sides at least once. Keep in mind the more water you add, the longer the chips will take to dry out in the oven.

3. Preheat oven to 200° F. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, massage the “sauce” into the kale. Then spread it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Bake for 45 minutes or so, checking and gently stirring the kale occasionally, until it is dried but not overly toasted.

For step by step photos of how to make kale chips, please see my previous recipes for Easy Homemade Kale Chips and Cilantro Lime Kale Chips.

Enjoying the Mint Julep Kale Crunchies with the eponymous drink is optional, but highly recommended!