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It’s fig day!

August 30th, 2010
The first fig was ready for harvest today!  It was the “brown turkey” variety and its skin was a pretty purple color.  In the garden I was not sure if the fruit was ready to be picked, but it was soft to the touch, and luckily when we cut into it it was perfectly ripe, juicy and sweet. According to the California Rare Fruit Growers website figs must be allowed to ripen on the tree as they will not ripen if picked when immature, and you will know they are ready when the fruit is soft and begins to bend at the neck.  I also found out that fresh figs do not store well; they will only last 2-3 days in the refrigerator, so when you pick them, make sure you are ready to use them right away!
the first fig of the season
the fig was perfectly ripe and very sweet
If you are lucky enough to have a fig tree in your yard there are tons of great recipes-figs are versatile as they work well in both sweet and savory dishes.  Click here to visit the California Fig Advisory website – they have a great recipe book for “Fig Fest 2010″ that includes fig and orange beignets, Gary’s fig and pecan cinnamon rolls, and causa con salmon with fig compote.
The brown turkey fig tree is only about 5 feet tall right now

Want to plant a fig tree in your yard?  They are picturesque, perfect shade trees that grow up to 50′ tall but are usually kept around 10′ to 30′.  Keep in mind also that they require full sun all day to ripen the fruit, need a lot of space and will shade out anything growing beneath them.  For more detailed information visit the UC Cooperative Extension fruit and nut research information center fig fact sheet.

Here are some other fun fig facts from the California Fig Advisory Board website:

  • Figs provide more fiber than any other common fruit or vegetable.
  • Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The fruits are the seeds or “pedicellate drupelets” found inside.
  • Figs contain a natural humectant — a chemical that will extend freshness and moistness in baked products.
  • California dried fig production has averaged 28 million pounds over the last five years. All dried figs harvested in the United States are grown in California’s Central Valley. 
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A Delicious Dining Event for Your Weekend!!

August 25th, 2010

If you haven’t made plans for the weekend yet, consider adding this wonderful event to your itinerary, but ACT FAST!  Tickets sold out quick last year!

SUPPORT THE SACRAMENTO SLOW FOOD MOVEMENT at the 
Tomato Luncheon and Heirloom Tomato Tasting

When:  THIS SUNDAY, Aug. 29 2010, 2-4 pm

Where:  Grange Restaurant & Bar (926 J Street, Sacramento, CA)
Ticket Cost: $40 per person
Enjoy a three-course sit-down lunch at The Grange, an innovative farm-to-table restaurant in Sacramento’s new boutique Citizen Hotel.  The meal will be prepared by Chef Michael Touhy, a 31-year veteran of the restaurant industry and leading proponent of the Slow Food Movement.
THEY SOLD OUT LAST YEAR, so purchase tickets now to enjoy this special lunch which is sure to be the highlight of your summer eating adventures!!

Click HERE to purchase tickets.

MENU 
Heirloom Tomato Tasting Featuring
Del Rio Botanicals / Watanabe Farm / Soil Born Farm Tomatoes
Assorted Northern California Artisan Extra Virgin Olive Oils
Assorted Sea Salts

First
Tomato Consommé / tomato noodles
Tomato Gelee / basil puree

Next
Stuffed Rosemary Focaccia
Tomatoes / peppers / caramelized onion / bitter greens / extra virgin olive oil

After
Tomato Trio:
Tomato-Plum Pop Tart
Honey-Roasted Tomato Napoleon
Fresh Sungold Tomatoes & Compressed Watermelon w/Lemon Basil Sorbet
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Birdhouse Gourds

August 24th, 2010

 No gourds yet, but aren’t these flowers beautiful?  This season we have an unusual crop growing–birdhouse gourds.  This cultivar has been bred for crafts, so it won’t be as tasty as those bred for eating, but they sure do make cool looking birdhouses.  Here is a great post about creating a birdhouse from one of these types of gourds from Life on the Balcony

Birdhouse gourd blossom.

This is what the gourds will look like after their conversion to a birdhouse!  Cool, right?

This season has been a little strange for our produce.  We haven’t gotten much, and if we do it seems to mysteriously disappear before we are able to harvest it; it could be rodent thieves or over zealous visitor thieves.  Hopefully we will get some gourds soon.  We’ll keep you posted!  Anyone else out there ever grow gourds?  Did you end up making a birdhouse?  How did it turn out?  Give us your tips!

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Another Lemon Tree Update!

August 23rd, 2010

Our struggling lemon tree is producing up a storm!  Last April we let you know we pruned our Meyer lemon tree back HARD in order for it to adjust from its recent relocation/transplant.  See the blog post:  Lemon Tree UPDATE! for a quick review and some disheartening ‘before’ photos. 

The little guy must be happy now…just look at all the lemons we have to look forward to come winter!  Patience is truly a virtue when it comes to creating happy environments for your edibles.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

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New Developments in our Sustainable Gardening Practices

August 20th, 2010

Have you seen the progress of the new winery, brewery and food processing facility on the north side of our garden?  This month the doors will open to a state-of-the art LEED platinum designed facility housing the Anheuser-Busch Brewing and Food Science Laboratory as well a teaching and research winery. 

If you have driven past the campus along 80 West or East, you may have looked over and seen these beautiful silos.  (See photo below.)  They are not for grain storage; these are rain water collection tanks! The rainwater collected here will be used to water the drought-tolerant landscape immediately surrounding this new facility in addition its use in the buildings’ toilets!

Just north of the UC Davis Good Life Garden, these four rainwater collection tanks will soon provide irrigation to our edible landscape.

The UC Davis Good Life Garden is not currently part of this sustainable irrigation system, but will be soon according to director of grounds and landscape services, Sal Genito, who plans to tie the garden to the same system in the coming year.

We’ll keep you updated on our progress.  In the meantime, if you come to the UC Davis Good Life Garden and notice the pinkish/purple irrigation control lids near the new facility, you’ll know that the water from this source is actually ‘green’ in the sustainable sense because it comes directly from the rainwater collection tanks pictured above.  (See photo below.)

As irony would have it, the water from our own campus utility water system is managed under the ‘green’ irrigation control lids.  (See photo below.)

Do you use a rainwater collection system for your landscape or edible garden? Tell us about it!

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Decorating Your Edible Garden with Alyssum!

August 19th, 2010
See our gardener Pat Stoeffel trimming the white alyssum border around our tomato plant bed.

We get great feedback on how beautiful our edible garden looks. (THANK YOU!  We love to hear your feedback!)  We have our campus senior landscape designer Christina DeMartini Reyes to thank for her excellent planting plans!  She likes to use borders of different types of flowers to achieve a variety of goals.  Planting flowers around your edibles not only attracts pollinators, the colors of the flowers provide contrast to the greenery of the fruit and vegetable leaves, they are excellent around the bed borders because they define the space, AND they can act as a type of ground cover.  All of this is great for the garden, but how do you keep it looking good throughout the season?  It isn’t easy!

Today when I visited the garden I noticed that our new Good Life Garden gardener, Pat Stoeffel, was trimming back a border of alyssum that was looking particularly rangy.  She had given it a trim a couple weeks ago, but here it was leggy again!  She wants to keep the area looking nice so she is shearing it back by about half to reveal the new bloomers beneath the old!  (See the photos below.)

Do you plant alyssum to attract pollinators to your garden?  Do you use it as a border?  How do you keep it looking fresh and healthy?  Let us know!

Pat trimmed this alyssum back just a couple weeks ago, but now it needs more pruning.  This photo shows a patch of half trimmed, half untrimmed alyssum.  Note how she is trimming about half of it back to reveal the newer growth underneath.
This photo shows a detail of what the new growth underneath looks like.  It looks compact and fresh doesn’t it?  We want to get rid of the brown, leggy, rangy stuff to reveal the fresh flowers.  It’s kind of like exfoliating your skin to reveal a new fresh layer underneath!  (Okay…maybe not!)
Pat laughs here because she’s feeling more like a barber than a gardener!
This is a different patch of alyssum in the garden which nicely frames our bay laurel trees.  This patch has not needed any pruning, yet.  We think maybe it’s because the fertility of the soil may not be as high as our tomato bed. 
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WEBSITE WEDNESDAY! Honest-Food.net

August 18th, 2010
Hunter, angler, gardener, and gourmand. Is there anything that Hank Shaw can’t do?  A former line cook, Hank spent 18 years as a political writer which he gave up to “walk a less travelled path” as a writer, caterer, and sometimes Sacramento State lecturer.  He now documents his quest for honest food – food that is locally grown, humanely raised, or that he hunts himself – on his website: honest-food.net. 

Hank’s site is extensive and packed with beautiful photos.  It has something for everyone – unusual vegetable recipes, exotic pasta recipes, how to cure your own meats, and for the more adventurous, how to prepare and serve wild game! Particularly interesting articles include “Shark Fishing in San Francisco Bay” “Want to Learn to Hunt? Get Started Now“, and “How to Make Caviar.”

Read all about caviar on Hank’s site.

Go check out all of what Hank’s blog has to offer.  If you enjoy the site as much as we did, you also have his book to look forward to, which is about hunting, foraging and fishing.

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