22 April 2012


Was about to show off pictures of the newly planted summer garden and realized I should first give love to some of the herbs that have been growing throughout the spring.




We are also growing rosemary (not pictured).  In addition to these herb mainstays we have picked up some green shiso, which I am very excited about.


01 June 2011

It's a Yummy Cherry Mojito summer!

Earlier this year we went to a friend's wedding in Puerto Rico. Upon our arrival, the hotel graciously offered Welcome Mojito's to kickoff our mini-vacation. Since we have been back in California, we can't stop making the homemade version. And it helps that we have a voracious amount of mint growing in our backyard.

Last week's CSA from Auntie Em's kitchen sent some fresh, local cherries. Here is my delicious cherry moijto recipe. Feel free to substitute with any fresh raspberries, blueberries or strawberries or enjoy as a traditional mojito.

Recipe is for (1) delicious mojito

In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 heaping teaspoons of raw sugar, 5-7 large mint leaves, and a couple teaspoons of lime juice. With a muddler, crush the mint in to the sugar and dissolve in the juice. Throw in 2-4 pitted cherries. Crush the cherries and mix together with the mint. Add a few large ice cubes and 1+ shot of organic light rum. Shake.

Strain sugary mixture in a glass half-filled with ice. Fill glass to brim with ginger beer or lime soda water. Sometimes I throw in an extra splash of lime juice if it comes out a little too sugary.

Top with a spring of mint and cherry.

Make sure you have enough ingredients for a refill. You'll want another.

12 July 2010

Please vote!

I am reaching out to anyone who is reading my blog these days. A restaurant in LA called Forage started a program a while back to have urban farmers give their harvest to the restaurant in exchange for a meal. The program was shutdown and now they are starting a group called The Homegrowers Circle. With the help of a grant, they are subsidizing the nominal certification fee so that those involved can grow and legally sell their product to this restaurant and others in LA. Along with this opportunity they are asking the circle to blog about their experiences growing and getting certified.

But before we can join this great group we need your help. I wrote a small blurb about us and now need your vote to be chosen. Click here and scroll down to vote for Malika + Donny.


24 June 2010

Enjoying last year's harvest...

Here's a reminder to use your canned foods. I had tomato soup in my cabinets from last summer that I'd nearly forgotten about. It's especially helpful when you are famished and don't want to run out to the store, but also don't want to slave away in the kitchen for hours.

I made a quick & delicious late lunch of tomato soup topped with fresh homegrown oregano along with a yummy arugula salad.

Pop open your canned soups and after just a few minutes on the stove you will have a perfect piping hot meal that will taste just as flavorful as the day you made it. The salad is just a mix of local arugula, a splash of olive oil & lemon juice and s&p. Add some parsley if you want a little kick. Then toss lightly.

We're in Pasadena now, so get excited for new restaurant and vendor reviews!

18 January 2010

Upcycle Your Sweaters

I try to go through my closet at least once a month to weed out the clothes that I never wear because they are damaged or don't fit or just are not my style anymore. Normally I donate these items to Good Will or bring them to a clothes swap.

Just found a great service, Reknit, that will take your old sweaters and turn them into something else. This month they are "reknitting" sweaters into scarves for only $30.

Thanks to The Zoe Report for promoting this website!

12 December 2009

Recycled Ornaments

It's not often you find an easy and attractive recycled idea. Check out these instructions from Martha Stewart for making an ornament or decoration made out of holiday cards past. I like this idea a lot because you are actually doing something with all the cards people send you and not just throwing them in the blue bin or collecting dust around the house. I might consider this a tradition to make a new card every year with the previous year's holiday cards.

Cut out twenty circles: For a small ball, trace around the base of a jar that's about 1 1/4 inches in diameter; for a large one, trace around the bottom of a glass.

Cut another circle the same size from cardboard; on it, draw an equilateral triangle, points touching the edge of the circle. Cut out triangle; trace it onto the inside of each of the 20 circles. Score, and fold along all the lines.

Next, use clear-drying craft glue to join one flap each from two circles -- triangles should point in the same direction. Using the same technique, attach the flaps of three more circles to these two, forming what will be the top. Make the bottom in the same way.

Glue remaining 10 circles together, this time with triangle points alternating up and down, forming a straight line. Glue the two end flaps to form a ring; this will be the middle section. Then glue top and bottom pieces to the flaps of the middle section.

Use a needle to create a small hole, and hang from thread.

Photographs by Donny Martino Jr.

06 December 2009

Living Locally Spotlight In the News

If you have been keeping tabs on tv or on the newsstands lately, "living locally" has shown up in a few of my favorite places.

Last week's episode of Top Chef focused on local produce & protein from Napa Valley, CA. The contestants were challenged to create a menu use only local ingredients, except for a bit of salt & pepper. Top Chef is a perfect venue to get the word out for living locally. Check out Bravo for a repeat of the episode if you missed it.

And if you find yourself at a local bookstore, pick up a copy of Los Angeles Magazine. December's issue features local vendors in Los Angeles. Not all products are made with materials grown or produced in So-cal, but this is a good start in promoting local businesses and handmade goods.

06 November 2009

Local Autumn Dinner: Roasted Lemon-Herb Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries

We have a few staple meals in our household and one of them is definitely chicken. Donny's favorite. I found this great roast chicken recipe here from WFM. Use local chicken breast or leg & thighs. Instead of buying lots of herbs at the store I picked a few handfuls of herbs from my garden, i.e. basil & parsley. The recipe is very easy, but it does call for overnight preparation.

Homemade sweet potato fries are a delicious side to any meal, especially roast chicken. The recipe is simple, but make sure you have enough oil and a frying pan deep enough. (See below for saving oil.) Candy thermometer is also a good idea. Shout out to Junio for this recipe!

1-2 large sweet potatoes is enough for 2 people. First peel the sweet potatoes and cut into thin strips. The thinner they are the quicker they will cook.

In a small prep bowl combine 1 tsp. of each: minced fresh garlic or garlic flakes, pepper & salt, chili powder. Also add in 1 tsp. each of a couple dried herbs. Any combination of parsley, basil, oregano or your favorite is tasty. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Fill your pan half-full with oil (safflower, corn, or canola will all do the trick). Boil oil until it reaches 350 degrees. Gently toss sweet potato strips into pan. Make sure all strips are full covered with oil. Feel free to have your partner test one of the fries. Should cook fully in about 3-5 minutes. Prepare a bowl with a paper towel lining. With tongs or slotted spoon, carefully remove fries from oil and place into lined bowl. Scatter seasoning over fries and toss to your liking.

If you are having a lot of people or only have a small pan, repeat the frying/seasoning process with multiple batches.

Enjoy fries with some homemade ketchup.

**Oil can be reused. Wait until you are finished with dinner to allow the oil to cool. Carefully pour oil into a glass jar with secure lid. Make sure most food bits stay in pan. Keep in refrigerator for multiple uses.**

01 October 2009

Got Recycling?

Today I was reminded of the little efforts we do to recycle. The milk bottle our household just emptied was made in 2007 and the new one I bought today is from 2008.

Our favorite (featured) is Broguiere's from Montebello, CA. Plus, our market offers several brands & types of local CA bottled milks and whipping cream. A quick $1.50 refund at customer service for recycling each bottle makes it any easy choice.

This may take you back about 50 years ago when milk was delivered to your doorstep. Even if you are not trying to be nostalgic, bottled milk is a simple and cost-saving way to recycle.

24 September 2009

Let's all go to the movies!

I saw Julie & Julia today. I liked it. Of course that is no real surprise. A) my Mom raved about the film and Meryl. Who doesn't love Meryl Streep? B) I like food and things about food and things about making food. And C) I am, I guess, what you call, A Blogger and that is what the co-main character does in her journey. She blogs.

I found the film really inspiring and not just because 1 year ago I started a blog. I was inspired because Amy Adams' character (Julie) used Meryl Streep's character (Julia) as her base, but then made her own story. Personally, I often find it difficult to start something because I am worried that it would be redundant or un-inspiring. Julia Child inspired Julie Powell. Nora Ephron may have, in part, inspired me. As for my blog, I won't change things up in a huge way, but I may give myself some sort of challenge or deadline. I don't want to make any rash decisions just yet, so I will need some time to stew on this for a bit. And bounce ideas off of Donny.

I can't let you go without a little dig to Julie Powell who apparently has a bit of a distaste for organic cooking or the movement, as she calls it. Here is an excerpt from her 2005 NY Times article.

Don't get me wrong: I love a big, ugly tomato, as much as the next girl. I buy my fair share of pencil-thin asparagus and micro-greens, and I'm sure if ever I were to stand in an orchard and taste a peach picked during one of its two days of succulent perfection, I would find it one of life's greatest joys. Perhaps one day I will - if I move to California, where life is apparently just one great organic cornucopia. But even in that exceedingly unlikely event, I'll remain a bit suspicious of this cult of garden-freshness.

Powell goes on to say that while supporting healthy food does support combating child obesity, a noble effort, she has some real problems with organic & local food as a movement. She thinks that it is about "economic elitism", and according to Powell that includes your wallet, your taste buds and your ethics. She ignores the world of growing, canning & preserving your own food, all of which saves money. And I can't say I have felt very elite or wealthy while securing the lid on my pressure cooker, nor taking the bus to the farmer's market.

31 August 2009

Homemade Ketchup

Homemade ketchup is a tasty way to savour your tomatoes all year round. This recipe yields about 3 pints of ketchup. Feel free to multiply it for larger quantities. Other recipes use a food mill or food processor, but this blender ketchup recipe seems more accessible for the basic kitchen setup.

Step 1: Grow tomatoes.

8 lbs. of ripe tomatoes
(1 pound is 3-5 medium sized tomatoes)
1 yellow onion
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
3 cups cider vinegar
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbl. sea salt

cheese cloth spice bag:
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. whole allspice
2 tsp. whole cloves
2 tsp. ground or 1 whole cinnamon stick
2 tsp. whole peppercorn

Step 2: Wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30 seconds or until skins split.
Drop in ice water, slips skins, core, quarter and remove seeds. Remove seeds from peppers and slice into strips. Peel and quarter onions. (Reminder - all skins & seeds can go in your compost pile.) Blend tomatoes, peppers and onions at high speed until liquified. Pour puree into a large pot. Boil gently for 1 hr, stirring frequently. You may need to do multiple trips with the blender.

Step 3: Add vinegar, sugar, salt and spice bag into pot. Continue boiling and stirring until volume is reduced one-half with no separation of liquid and solids. This took me about 2-3 hours. If it does not quite resemble ketchup after a few hours you can put the mixture back in the blender and liquify more. This should bring you the consistency we're used to. Taste it - if too sweet, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

Step 4: Remove spice bag and fill jars, leaving 1/8-inch headspace. Process jars for water bath or pressure canner. Process pint jars for 15 minutes at an elevation of sea level to 1,000 ft., 20 minutes from 1,000 to 6,000 feet and 25 minutes above 6,000 feet. So I've read it is recommended to use home canned products within one year.

23 August 2009

Make Your Own Sundried Tomatoes

No matter what size your home garden - from a few herbs to a dozen tomato plants - food preservation & storage is key to making use of your harvest. Donny and I have spent the last few weeks learning about canning, drying and freezing our delicious food. I look forward to sharing several recipes and ideas we've used.

First on the list is an easy and delicious one - homegrown homemade sundried tomatoes. The great thing about this treat is that you can use just about any size tomatoes. I chose to use our little cherry grande and sprites...I had found that we were not using/eating them fast enough. They also ripen quite quickly, so its best to use them while you've got 'em. This is a great recipe for a sick or rainy day since you will need to check on them for at least 4 hours and possibly 10 -20 hours, depending on the size of tomato you choose to use. The smaller the tomato the quicker it goes. However you should know that the final product will be about 1/4-1/2 the size of the fresh tomato.

The easiest way to make sundried tomatoes without a deyhydrator is in your oven. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees or its lowest setting.
My lowest oven temp was warm, just below 200 degrees. Cut all tomatoes lengthwise in half. If using larger tomatoes you can quarter them. I seasoned the tomatoes with a dash of sea salt & about half of them with homegrown dried basil (stay tuned for that recipe). On a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, lay out the tomatoes seed side up so that they are not touching. They will start to shrink quickly, so its ok to squeeze them in. My suggestion is if you have the tomatoes - use them. I ended up doing 2 batches back-to-back that I could have done simultaneously had I just used 2 cookie sheets. Over the next few hours, check the tomatoes constantly. You will need to turn them on to the skin side and also move the sheets to other racks so they get an even heat. With the little tomatoes I found it easiest to turn them with my fingers. I enjoyed checking them every half hour - hour. You will know they are done once they feel like a raisin, but not brittle. They should have a leathery feel, but you should not feel water under the skin. For the remaining pieces you can speed up the process by cranking the heat to no more than 200 degrees, but be sure to check on them more frequently.

As they are done, take them out of the oven and leave to cool for about 20-30 min. After you complete the batch, store them in an airtight container or plastic bag. A small pallet of mason jars (varying sizes) is a good investment so that you will be prepared to start preserving your harvest. You can pick them up at your local grocer or drugstore.

Be sure to check on the batch of tomatoes for the first few weeks to make sure no moisture has formed. If there is any moisture, throw them back in the oven to dry them out more or use them immediately.

Enjoy them as tomato candies or in a pasta or salad.

19 August 2009

I am an only child. A lot of people think that only children are spoiled or get what they want. That is a stereotype, but what is true is that parents do put a lot of energy into just the one kid.

One of my pepper plants has an only child. I use this term for a small vegetable plant that only produces one piece of fruit. If you notice that your plant is putting all of its effort into just the one "child" / fruit, then you might want to consider cutting it off even if it isn't ripe. This green pepper grew so much and so fast, but nothing else would grow on the plant. We allowed it to grow fairly large, but then cut it off. Since then the tree has flourished. We have now pretty much used this method for all of our plants: Cut off the first fruit, so the plant doesn't put all of its energy into just one early piece of fruit. Only children can be fun, but a large harvest is what you really should want out of your garden.

Sunday morning pepper harvest

26 July 2009

Our rooftop garden is now an idea of the past. Once all of these tomatoes are harvested we will no longer farm on the roof. Landlord interference.
We had a total of 6 tomato plants + 2 volunteers on the roof this summer.

All photos courtesy of D.

16 July 2009

RIP Julius Shulman 1910 - 2009

Here is an excerpt from the LA Times obituary of legendary photgrapher Julius Shulman who passed away yesterday. In my opinion, Shulman made one of the greatest impacts on Los Angeles architecture and lifestyle (through photography, no less) to date:

Julius Shulman, whose luminous photographs of homes and buildings brought fame to a number of mid-20th century Modernist architects and made him a household name in the architectural world, died Wednesday night. He was 98.

Starting with Richard Neutra in 1936, Shulman's roster of clients read like a who's who of pioneering contemporary architecture: Rudolf M. Schindler, Gregory Ain, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Eames, Raphael S. Soriano, John Lautner, Eero Saarinen, Albert Frey, Pierre Koenig, Harwell Harris and many others. His work was contained in virtually every book published on Modernist architects.

After the Depression, Shulman's studio was one of three in the U.S. to which Arts & Architecture, Architectural Forum and other magazines turned to document the exciting new work being done in architecture. The others were Ezra Stoller's firm in New York and the Hedrich Blessing firm in Chicago.

Shulman's 1960 photograph of Koenig's Case Study House #22 -- a glass-walled, cantilevered structure hovering above the lights of
Los Angeles, became one of the most famous architectural pictures ever taken in the U.S. It was, as architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote in the New York Times, "one of those singular images that sum up an entire city at a moment in time."

But Shulman's work went well beyond merely taking beautiful pictures of houses and buildings. His mission was to use his photography to build the reputation of the architects who were bringing innovative design to the West. Indeed, his photographs were, by and large, all that most
people would ever see of noted architects' works, many of which were later destroyed.

Shulman's photographs were not without controversy. Some believed he made the structures look too beautiful.

He rearranged furniture to suit his perspective, brought in props and posed models in the frame. Sometimes he used filters or infrared film to make his photos look more dramatic and full of contrast. He also would shoot through cut branches or pots of nursery plants to give the impression that a newly completed home was more fully landscaped.

Shulman was unapologetic about these tactics, saying he wasn't just taking pictures, he was "selling Modernism."

Shulman is survived by a daughter, Judy McKee, and a grandson, Timothy, both of Santa Barbara.

Click here for the complete article.

Accidental Wheat

Donny and I planted some wheat grass seeds in a small pot. I thought it would be cool to make our own wheat grass like at Jamba Juice, but he just thought it would be good decoration. Either way, the wheat grass has grown quickly and plentiful. What we didn't expect is this:

...actual wheat.

13 July 2009

West Los Angeles Subway??

It almost doesn't seem real that I am blogging about a subway in LA that would potentially get me from Venice to Downtown Los Angeles. The rumors of a "Subway to the Sea" have been floating around for the 9 years I've lived in LA and I'm sure they were around decades before that. The biggest rumor of the stalled planning is that Beverly Hills is against having a subway under their quiet little bubble of a city. (see map of the dream route). According to the LA Times, soil samples were collected today as part of a study to begin planning this monstrosity construction. The samples were conducted in not only Hollywood, Century City and Miracle Mile, but also in Beverly Hills.

The proposed transit system would thankfully connect to the existing subways / railways that run through Koreatown, Downtown and up to Pasadena & the Valley.

There is a light rail sytem called the Expo Train that is already in the works by the MTA. Construction began on this project in 2006. Phase 1 would go from Downtown LA to Culver City and is expected to start running by summer 2010, while Phase 2 would expand the route to the Santa Monica beach and wouldn't open until 2015. While this is a huge step for public transportation in LA and an above ground system would increase public conciousness, I believe an underground option is just more effective. The biggest issue people face is the cost and time of being in their cars. I am concerned that the Expo Train could increase traffic and not be quicker.

While writing this post friends have questioned where the line would run and how fast they could get from Point A to Point B. One friend wanted to get from Hollywood to the beach, but most of these potential lines don't have that option, which means making multiple stops or drive & park. That drive/park idea isn't an option if you want to use the train instead of taking a cab on a night out. Another friend who lives in Hollywood and already takes the Metro Downtown said it takes her 45 min. - 1 hr., which is twice the drive time if she took a car. According to the Expo Train website the average trip from Culver City to Downtown (on the Expo Train) will be less than 30 minutes, which is the same as if you were in your car. Of course you always need to take parking & unforseen traffic into consideration as well, depending on where/when you are going. Take a look at some of the renderings I've posted of the potential Expo Train. I have to say, it looks pretty cool!

I appreciate the bike lane additions. They are going past the idea of public transportation and allowing people to have access and safety in all forms of transport.

02 July 2009

Local Pan-Fried Onion Dip Recipe

This Barefoot Contessa onion dip recipe has been a favorite of mine for a while now. I love to serve at parties and it will be a great snack for the 4th of July weekend. I am very excited to make this dish with our homegrown onions. For the next harvest we will probably store the onions or use for tomato sauce and salsa.


  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise


Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions.) Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature. Makes about 2 cups.

18 June 2009

If your coffee can't be local...can your coffeeshop?

Something has gone terribly wrong in Venice. And it's called Intelligentsia Coffee. One of these "coffeebars" landed on Abbot Kinney this past Monday in the old Scentiments (flower shop) plot. Donny and I walked in there last weekend and were not sure if we were still in Venice; in that bad way.

The coffee was good. And the pistachio scone was yummy. But the interior decoration and overall design went way too far. I love modern and I love to try new concepts, but this was too much and not Venice. Every espresso machine was see-thru, as in you could see the mechanics. There were at least 4-5 espresso coffee stations. Every countertop that wasn't glass or stainless was some sort of wood looking material. It definitely didn't look like reclaimed wood, compared to the tables at Gjelina. And it didn't even come close to the simple, minimalist style at Axe. The baristas were all wearing uniforms, which was a big red flag that this meant corporate. It felt contrived and overly commercial. I'm there to get a cup of coffee, not feel like I'm in a commercial for coffee AND all of its machines, beans, cups, accessories, etc. There were more things to buy than flavors of coffee.

And the clientele. For having been open not even one weekend prior the place was buzzing. I felt as though I was on a TV set filled with happy, trendy people sipping lattes and having just the Most Amazing Weekend! That maybe real for some people in LA, but its not my neighborhood.

My house has a stoner who lives in his car and several cats that roam the streets like they own it.

I never thought we "needed" another coffee shop on Abbot Kinney. I think we have done just fine with Abbot's Habit, 3 Square, Groundwork and the Dola newsstand (see photo), which incidentally sells Intelligentsia coffee. Now, I already know that the owner of the otheroom has plans for a cafe/market of his own so that you can buy snacks and drink beer next door to the bar. Somehow even though I know he has at least 5 bars between NY, LA and Miami - it still feels like a local joint. Maybe its the interior design, maybe because I've met the owner and he's a cool guy or maybe because its just a fun place to hang out and there are only 2 other bars on Abbot Kinney.

Something has to change and I'm not sure what that something is. I am worried that my lovely hippie, arty, often wealthy, yet weird neighborhood has gone too far and raised the real estate prices too much. No one else can afford to own a shop. A good friend of mine opened up a lovely shoe boutique just down the street. They sold designer shoes. Both she & her partner live in Venice. They were open for about 2 years and just closed because they couldn't sell enough to cover the rent. Within a year I fear that twice the number of stores will have valet, t-shirts will cost more than $200 and Abbot's Pizza will be a distant memory. Venice has a lot of history & heart. I didn't sign up to live in Beverly Hills or 3rd Street or even Santa Monica. Venice is my home.

In closing, here is a little taste of Intelligentsia's mission in creating the Venice coffeebar:
...another re-imagining of what a coffee experience can be...guests are not met with the standard experience of waiting in line. After passing through the iron gates facing the bustling boulevard, visitors walk down an ivy-covered hall open to the sky where they are greeted at a butcher block “concierge desk.” From this point, they are taken to one of four custom-fabricated espresso machines where their espresso drink or coffee-by-the-cup is prepared. The idea is for a barista to stay with one person throughout the interaction to create an individualized experience for every customer, regardless of how many are being served.

Intelligentsia hired Ana Henton of MASS Architecture & Design to execute the Venice coffeebar. Henton created a space that contains very little in the way of defined seating, and there is no counter or register, which will create a more communal sense of setting.

09 June 2009

Disposable Technology

Found pic on Gizmodo this morning. I think this is something we can all relate to and don't think about often enough.
art by Kyle Bean

05 June 2009

Local Q&A: Canning et plus

Q: So my girl and I wanna figure out the best, cheapest setup to can some vegetables over the summer. Mostly tomatoes, if that makes a difference. We don't have too big a garden. 10 tomato plants, 4 pepper plants, some beets and onions. We're not preparing for a zombie apocalypse. Just wanna avoid tossing what we don't eat fresh. Also, how are you?

A: Canning is a lot of fun if you make a day or evening of it. Open a bottle of wine and crank some good tunes...it is time consuming, and has to be done all at once. There are two main methods to canning. One is the "water bath" method. This can be done in a large pot (sometimes I use my biggest soup pot.) This method can be used for jams, pickles and other food items with lots of preservatives (salt, sugar, vinegar) Basically you put the goods in the clean jars, submerge them in water and let them boil. Tomatoes are high in acid and are not usually prepared in those preservatives and therefore need to be prepared with the pressure cooker method. I bought a canning pressure cooker at OSH for 40 or 50 bucks. This method increases the temps. Pressure cookers can be a little nerve wrecking since they can explode at any minute. But todays pressure cookers are pretty safe, as long as you use them wisely. I wouldn't trust the one my grandma used to use. The other really important thing to know is that EVERYTHING must be sterilized. Jars, lids, and canning tools should be clean and sterilized. I use a couple of other pots of boiling water. I also use clean towels so I don't have to touch the jars. There is plenty of info online about cooking times for various items. It really depends on the recipe. I recommend "Preserving the Harvest" by Costenbader and "Pickles and Relishes" (if you are into that sort of thing) by Chesman for good recipes. Both books also have chapters on methods and cooking times. Good luck man. That is awesome that you are growing some food.

I'm not sure when the last time we spoke, but we moved into a new house in Highland Park. We're renting, but the landlord is a friend and let's us do whatever we want to the yard. We've removed most of the grass in the back yard and are working on turning it into a large garden. We also just got 3 chickens. Should be sweet once [they] start laying eggs. Their names are Edith (black) Mildred (brown) and Prudence (blonde). We wanted to name them good Depression Era names. Here are a few pics. (see above) You can see how fast they have grown in only three and a half weeks. Hope all is well with you.

04 June 2009

Local Aphid Resurgence

Donny checks the tomato plants every day. He waters them, makes sure the leaves are growing above the ladder rungs and if they're not he trains them to.

He is also on the lookout for aphids. Last season we had a bountiful amount of fruit, but just as many leaves covered in the green slimy suckers. Aphids can not only prevent your fruit from growing, but it can quickly kill your plant. Next to rodents and lack of sun, aphids are a burden to all gardeners.

Donny learned from the head gardener at our local nursery, that when you find aphids you can clip the leaves and put them in a plastic bag. These leaves should go in your trash and not in your compost, which risks infesting all future fertilizer.

And last night, Donny found that the aphids had returned, so he made an emergency run to Anawalt
for a container full of adorable little red ladybugs. The directions advise you to present the ladybugs in colder weather and that if you do not have aphids, the ladybugs will just leave. If the aphids have taken over, then the ladybugs will sit on the leaves and eat the slimy suckers.

Ladybugs are a great non-toxic option to chemical repellents. It also doesn't hurt that they are pretty adorable to look at and see roaming around your garden. They definitely can't hurt your plants, so I suggest giving them a try.

All photos featured here - by Donny Martino Jr.

03 June 2009

1st sign of Summer Flowers

In my mind the best kind of summer flowers are that which turn into tomatoes. In the past week almost all of our tomato plants in the rooftop garden have begun to produce fruits. I've seen maybe a half dozen of the tiniest tomatoes you could imagine. The rest of them are little flowers that almost look like marigolds. Any day now they will all be that gorgeous red color. It is very uplifting to know this year's crop is likely to do really well. We are already looking into canning options.

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