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Preserving the Perennial Heritage of the Sierra Print E-mail
Written by Amigo Cantisano   

Felix Gillet portraitA very significant portion of my life has been devoted to research and action related to the life and projects of Felix Gillet (pictured left). Gillet was the pioneering nurseryman in California, opening his nursery in Nevada City in 1871, and importing and breeding most of the plants that became the foundation of California's and the Pacific Northwest's perennial agriculture. I have worked as a part-time volunteer on this project for 40 years, finding and identifying hundreds of plants from his introductions, researching his life and published works, propagating and preserving some of these grandparent trees and vines, and promoting his place in California's history.

Just one segment of his important work was wine grapes. Gillet introduced hundreds of grape varieties. A few that are still in California wine production include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Syrah, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Marsanne, Rousanne, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Vert, Alicante Bouchet, Gamay, Petite Verdot, Malbec and dozens more. One of his catalogs had 241 varieties of grapes!

This breadth of detail and importance is evident in more than 15 other important West Coast crops introduced first by Gillet: Cherries, Walnuts, Almonds, Chestnuts, Filberts, Pears, Plums, Prunes, Strawberries, Raspberries, Apples, Table and Raisin Grapes, Figs, Nectarines, Apricots, Peaches and more. Felix also published numerous articles that taught the foundation principles for the growing, propagation and pest management for many of these crops.

Now it is time to move the Felix Gillet project into high gear. I and 6 other plant enthusiast friends have formed a 501(c)3 non profit organization, The Felix Gillet Institute, to further the development of many aspects of this important work. You can find bits and pieces about Felix by doing a Google search but, unfortunately, no one has done the thorough research that is necessary to document his most important work. That's where we come in.

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New Edible Garden at Beverly Hills High School Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Beverly Hills High School GardenUnder the direction of teachers Julie Goler and Darrell Smith and with the costs underwritten by their PTSA and ROP, Beverly Hills High School recently installed two raised beds using a variation of Mel Bartholomew’s "Square Foot Garden." According to Julie Goler, the idea is to “create a living breathing space for produce that will ultimately be used in the culinary arts program.”

The program started with the building of raised beds in two 10x 3 boxes with room for 60  different crops. Following a visit by Jo Anne Trigo from Two Dog Nursery, the students put in crops that include kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, arugula, sweet peas, spinach and romaine. Future plans include fruit trees and blueberry bushes – and a rotating composter arrives this week.

The garden is envisioned as a collaborative effort and is also as an example for those with space as small as an apartment balcony of what’s possible in a small space.

 
Lessons to be Learned from the Esalen Garden Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

EsalenIt is hard for me to imagine that anybody who visits Esalen isn’t immediately struck by their gardens. They are, quite simply, spectacular. Of course, the location (on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur) doesn’t hurt. A year ago this week (just as we were getting ready to launch this site), I attended a workshop led by Shirley Ward, the Esalen garden and farm manager, and learned an amazing amount of things I could use both for GardenstoTables and in my community garden. Shirley is leading another workshop this coming week called “Timeless Spring: Groundwork in the Esalen Organic Farm and Garden” and, yep, I will be there. Her co-teachers are Amigo Bob Cantisano (who was a great guest speaker last year) and Wendy Johnston, who wrote “Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate.”

I hope to have a lot of new posts to share based on what I learned. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask while I’m up there, please let me know by sending me an e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

In the meantime, those of you who haven’t seen the Esalen gardens can take a glimpse in this three-part video the farm and garden team made recently:
Esalen Farm & Garden 2009, Part One, Growing Through the Seasons
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gd3zvcuQwSg
Esalen Farm & Garden 2009, Part Two
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-hI0So89E8&feature=related
Esalen Farm & Garden 2009, Part Three
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPMhdBwY9bM&feature=related

 
Amazing Edible Weeds or "If You Can’t Beat Them, Eat Them!" Print E-mail
Written by Laura J. Ennis   

PurslaneOne day, my husband came home with a big bag of “weeds” and a big smile on his face. He explained that what looked to me like weeds was actually a vegetable. He had volunteered to help in the garden at the Zen Center and they wanted to throw them away. Back home, he explained, they use it in salads, sauté it with tomato and onions, or make a soup. The name he gave in Arabic was “barbeen” (which sounded a little like “berbeen”). We tried cooking it as a soup with tomato sauce and fried onions, and it was delicious. I was hooked. “Weeds” could be very tasty. We later found the very same green for sale at the market with the Spanish name “verdolaga” ("purslane" in English and pictured right), but it was always expensive. I later learned that Henry Thoreau swore by purslane as a nutritious, filling meal.

The next wild green he brought home is called “mallow” or "cheeseweed” in English. He called it by its Turkish name, “penjer”. This is an exquisite leafy plant that can be used in the same way as purslane, but I prefer to sauté it with onions and tomatoes or to make it into a soup. I have never seen mallow in the grocery stores, so I considered this a rare commodity. One Saturday after several days of rain, we left the car with the mechanic and walked to a library to spend the hour reading. On the way to the library there is a nice park where the grass had grown almost a half-foot due to the rain. Also growing among the grass in a big patch was some nice, tender mallow. We came back the next morning with some plastic bags and filled them. (Click "read more" for the rest of the article.)

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How to Start a Produce Cooperative or Let's Eat Our Way to a New Social Paradigm Print E-mail
Written by Hynden Walch, Hillside Produce Cooperative   

Hillside Produce CooperativeI was asked to write an article about how to start a produce cooperative. The easiest way to start is to tell you a little bit about mine. The Hillside Produce Cooperative is a once-a-month FREE exchange of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers in North East Los Angeles. My objective in starting this project was to feed everyone on my hill for FREE with all the gorgeous local organic produce we grow in our yards that would otherwise go to waste.

Here's how it works: once a month I send out an email asking who among our 250 or so members is interested in participating in the next exchange. If they are, they RSVP by email, letting me know roughly what they will have to contribute food-wise, or if they'd like to volunteer to bag or deliver. Once the tallies are in, I put my energies toward higher mathematics (!) and discern how many volunteers we'll need versus how much food we'll have to go around. Once I figure that out (!), I cross my fingers and send out an email with the final details.

The final details are always the same: First, the exchange is always on a SATURDAY and takes place at my house (I was given use of the neighborhood community center at one point, but quickly realized the exchange needed to be held in a place to which I had the keys.) On the chosen SATURDAY, food contributors drop off their grapefruits and rosemary, their apples and avocados, their tomatoes and bay leaves, spring onions, beets and celery, their lemons and lemon verbena and lemon curd, their homemade bread and jam, their persimmons and kale, their Thai chili peppers, their burning sage, etc., before NOON. When I open my door Saturday morning it's like Christmas - my steps are covered in bags and boxes of this incredible fresh food – smelling like a spicy feast of citrus, earth, herbs and generosity. Wow. It always takes my breath away. (Click "read more" for the rest of the article.)

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