Foraging in Santa Barbara, CA

5am wake up calls are made less sucky if it means you get to forage in Santa Barbara all day. Having lived in Santa Barbara for almost 10 years, I have a pretty good lay of the land.

My first foraged item of the day were these beautiful apple succulent tips. These tiny little guys are just as their namesake; crisp, tart, and refreshing!

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Next up were these wild radish blossoms. Not only pretty, they add a nice spice as a garnish!

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There is a sloping hillside on the ranch that I foraged on, it is shaded and cool. Everything that grows in this area is lush and green. I was so excited to find these little fiddle head ferns along the base of the hillside!

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The climate couldn’t have been better, a mild 70 degrees in February. As the light shone through the canopy of trees, I came across a beautiful field of wild nasturtium.

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And adjacent to that was another field, full of wild New Zealand spinach (also known as Tetragonia tetragonioides). This is a beautiful field green, that is tender and crisp.

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Next stop was the top of the hill, overlooking the Pacific. Just a half mile up the road and the climate changed drastically from the shaded hillside. It was much warmer, and there was wild mustard everywhere!

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Even my dog Moo was getting in on the foraging action! Except I think he was trying to forage lizards :p

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We headed back down the hill to the Cherimoya orchards to look for some Santa Barbara snails!

Cerimoya are a beautiful fruit with white, candy-like flesh. They soften as they ripen, just like a banana.

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We also came across these almond blossoms. They smell sweet and almondy, just as you would expect the flower from this tree to be =]

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And finally…JACKPOT! We found our Santa Barbara escargot, fed off of organic cherimoya trees. Hopefully these guys will like their new digs in Venice.

snails

My car was packed to the brim with all of my foraged treasures. I’m so excited to share a piece of this beautiful place with diners in LA!…but not excited to get back to the traffic =-/

radishflower traffic

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

~Jawaharlal Nehru

Flower Ave Garden Project: Dammit Janet

This is Janet, and she’s totally awesome:

janet

Janet is a business owner who has a shop up the street from the garden, and goes for regular walks around the neighborhood. She was so excited and curious about the Flower Ave Garden; asking questions about everything I had planted. She was very supportive and encouraging, and told me how Korean cuisine uses amazing vegetables (I totally agree). I gave Janet some sugar snap peas as a thanks for all of the kindness =] Love ya Janet!

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”
~Saint Basil

Flower Ave Garden Project: The Cover Up

Ground cover can be a gardeners best friend. It helps keep the soil warm and keeps pests away. And one of the biggest benefits to a culinary gardener is that it can keep the green tops of things like radishes nice and tender. This will make them a beautiful addition to a plate.

 ground cover rad

One perk of being a culinary farmer is that you get hooked up with some seriously yummy food! I dropped off some Red Russian Kale to Chef Fox at Rustic Canyon, and came back with fresh ceviche and tortilla chips! YUM, thanks guys.

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I have been in Venice for about 6 weeks and am settling in nicely =]

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“The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”

~Paine

 

Flower Ave Garden Project: Welcome To The Family Alma!

The Flower Ave Garden has a new friend and customer in Chef Ari Taymor at Alma Restaurant located in downtown LA:

http://www.alma-la.com/

food

ari

Chef Taymor is a big advocate for using seasonal local ingredients. Their menu changes daily, and they find value in supporting their local farmers as well as giving back to their community. In fact, the inside of the restaurant has a chalkboard wall that reads “Our Friends” and below it are listed all of the farms they source from:

chalkboard wall

I dined at Alma when I first moved to LA and really enjoyed it. Chef Taymor’s menu features items such as:

Smoked sablefish, celery, apple, caviar

Orecchiette with whey braised pork shoulder, pickled chili, & pearl onion

Aged duck boudin blanc, brussel sprouts, apple, green mustard

If you live in the the LA area I recommend having dinner there!

Alma has in interesting story. It was started via Kickstarter, a website dedicated to crowd-sourcing funds for almost anything you can imagine. They posted a video, and were able to raise the funds to open the restaurant. Alma also has a strong community outreach program started by GM and co-owner Ashleigh Parsons. You can learn more about Alma’s unique story here:

Kickstarting Success: Alma

I’m excited to welcome Chef Taymor and the Alma family into the Flower Ave Garden Project story.

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don’t need a lot of money to be happy–in fact, the opposite.”

~Jean Vanier

Flower Ave Garden Project: Our First Volunteer

The Flower Ave Garden had it’s first official volunteer today.

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Ken is a Los Angelian via Montana. Ken heard about the Flower Ave Garden through a mutual friend and contacted me to come check it out.

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It was great to have the help and share some knowledge.

Some companion planting was done in the large bed. Companion planting means to plant two different types of plants together in the same bed. For example, these are carrot seeds mixed with radish seeds:

carrot seeds

It’s a 50/50 mix that is sprinkled in the ground and covered with a light layer of dirt. The radish grow at a faster rate than the carrots and will be ready for harvest sooner. The radish also create good spacing between the carrots. Because space is a factor with urban farming, companion planting is a must.

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

~Margaret Mead

Flower Ave Garden Project: Signs

I get a lot of questions from neighbors and people passing by who are curious about what I am planting. I thought it would be helpful to put up signs of what is planted in each bed.

Since I could practically be considered an Eagle Scout at this point, I dusted off the old wood-burning kit and gathered some scrap wood left over from building.

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They turned out great and I hope it will help a curious passerby.

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“Words are but the signs of ideas.”

~Samuel Johnson

Flower Ave Garden Project: Mission Accomplished/ Our First Customers/ Winning!

My mission statement for this project was to create a culinary garden in an urban setting to sell to chefs in the LA market…check.first sale

My first customer was Chef Josiah Citrin at Melisse in Santa Monica. Chef Josiah and Chef Ken Takayama (Chef de Cuisine) were the first to teach me about how to truly respect the products one works with. They were first to teach me about seasonality and working with local farmers; I thought it only fitting to bring them my first harvest.

http://melisse.com

/Melisse2Melisse

I was truly grateful for the next set of events. After Chef Josiah purchased some bronze fennel from me, he offered to introduce me to Chef Jeremy Fox who recently took a position in the kitchen at Rustic Canyon, which is right across the street from Melisse. He walked me to the kitchen and told Chef Fox about my history with Melisse and Meadowood, and how I was a new farmer in the area. Chef Fox used to run Michelin rated Ubuntu, the country’s premier vegetarian restaurant located in Napa CA, and was kind enough to purchase some wasabi mustard micros from me. 

http://www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com/index.htm

lRustic Canyon2rustic canyon

I am looking forward to developing relationships with these two great chefs in my community. I have accomplished my short term goal of creating this garden to sell to market, now I want to make it sustainable. I’m not 100% sure how that model will look, it is constantly changing and evolving, but days like these make me think it could be a reality.

“Hell! there ain’t no rules around here!  We are tryin’ to accomplish somep’n!”

~Albert Einstein