Gardens to Tables

Spring is time for:


The Tomatomania folks will be offering pop-ups through the end of April throughout Southern California. They will not only (obviously) have a wide variety of tomato seedlings but also peppers and other veggies. For more information, click here.

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Garden Poll

What's the first thing you're planting this spring?
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Written by Ann Shepphird   

Chipotle Spicy GuacamoleAs a way to continue living into its motto of “Food with Integrity,” the Chipotle restaurant chain recently announced a commitment to source at least 35 percent of its produce, including bell peppers, jalapenos, romaine lettuce and red onions, from within 200 miles of each restaurant (the industry average is 1,500 miles) This is an increase of 10 percent last year before, when the program was initiated.

I recently spoke with Chris Arnold, a spokesperson for Chipotle, on the program, how they keep the ingredients consistent and tips for home gardeners on working with peppers and chilies. He was also nice enough to give us their recipe for spicy guacamole (click "read more" and the recipe will be at the bottom of the post).

What made you decide to embark on this program?

We have been on a journey for about the last 10 years looking to find more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients that we use. It started by using naturally raised pork and has grown from there. We serve more naturally raised meat than any restaurant in the world. Now we have been increasing the amounts of organic and locally grown produce – and have committed to buying at least 35 percent of at least one produce item from local farms. The food tastes better and it’s better for the animals and the environment.

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Written by Alan Toy   

We’ve all seen them -- those impossibly large zucchinis that someone should have picked weeks ago, but they just looked so nice on the vine that they didn’t get harvested until they became the size of small children or pets. Zucchinis are squash, not gourds, so they don’t keep forever either as evidence of your prowess at growing monster fruits of the vine.

So, what to do? Strata, of course! Strata is kind of a lasagna without pasta. It involves cheeses, often eggs and veggies, all layered and baked. Now, I had someone’s zucchini concoction at our Labor Day party in the garden last summer and it was delicious, so I decided to try making something like it on my own, no recipes, just intuition, a very large zucchini and as much stuff grown in my garden as possible.

Here’s how I did it (click "

Farm-to-Table Among the Skyscrapers Print E-mail
Written by Michael Costa   

Fresh Picks produce

The other day a friend of mine asked what to do with all the garlic scapes she bought at a farmers market here in Chicago—she simply thought they looked cool. “I have no idea what they taste like, what they're used for, or how to prepare them. Any helpful hints?” I wanted to say, “Just scapes? What do you do with an entire box of farm-to-table vegetables that you don’t know the contents of until it arrives at your door?”

This is the culinary quiz that my wife and I gladly take each Wednesday. We live in a high-rise condo among the skyscrapers in Chicago’s Loop, we don’t own a car, and our tiny balcony has just enough room to grow handfuls of rosemary and mint this summer. We could trek down to the Green City Market or even the nearby Daley Plaza Farmers' Market once a week, but it’s just not as fun as receiving a seasonal mystery box collected from nearby farms in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.

“Farmer's Shuffle” is what I call it—like an mp3 player’s shuffle, using food instead of music, presenting serendipitous surprises. The “shuffle” we subscribe to is Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks (

Alan's Loosey Goosey Pesto Recipe Print E-mail
Written by Alan Toy   

What to do with a bumper crop of basil? One word: pesto. Here's a great recipe from Alan Toy, one of the gardeners at the Park Drive Community Garden in Santa Monica:

Start with a whole bunch (that's figurative, not a literal bunch) of basil, including perennial types (I use three different varieties, but mostly the really green, annual kind), with the leaves picked from stems (including their own stems if they are large leaves) - at least six ounces or more of plucked leaves.

About a quarter that much cilantro leaves, also picked from their stems

About ten ounces of pine nuts, toasted  (just spread them on a cookie sheet and put in the oven at about 350 for a few minutes.  Don't forget them or they'll burn before you know it.

About 6 ounces of pumpkin seeds, shelled and also toasted  (same method as the pine nuts)

1 - 2 whole heads of garlic, depending on how much you like the stuff - I use two (peeled, of course)

A bottle of extra virgin olive oil, which you'll add throughout - the exact amount you'll use is up to you, but start with a bottle of least 12 ounces

4 - 6 ounces of grated Asiago cheese (Pavilions/Vons has it in bags, ready to go)

Some sea salt (a few pinches)

6 to 8 zip lock baggies

One gallon sized zip lock baggie

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