Try the Padrón pepper for your next tapas.

 In Spain “tapas” are a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks. Tapas are designed to encourage conversation, because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them. One fantastic food for tapas is The Padrón Pepper.

These small-fruited peppers originated in Galicia, northwest Spain, where the bite-sized green fruits are sauteed in olive oil and served with coarse-ground sea salt in tapas bars across the country. Also fine for pickled peppers; the heat increases as they ripen to red. The Padrón is an authentic regional variety. These peppers are grown along the banks of the river Ulla and its tributary Sar, especially in the greenhouses of the municipality of Padrón, hence the name. This pepper is also currently grown in various places of southern Spain and Morocco.

We have limited supply of organically grown Padrón started plants for 2.99 ea. We also have over 10 different varieties of peppers available. 

Behold The "Czerno Krimski"

The "Black Krim" Tomato originates from the Isle of Krim in the Black Sea, near the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine. Soldiers returning home from the Crimean War, in the late 19th century, gathered these seeds and began sharing them.

A true 'beefsteak' tomato, since the fruits are both large with a very 'meaty' but with juicy firm, delicious flesh. A favorite out here on The West Coast for sandwiches, many say it's "ugly" looking. I find it intriguing, and pleasantly unlike the almost to perfect looking red tomatoes we see in the store. Besides, its flavor makes it well worth it's unique appearance.

They are not always easy to find in the grocery store so most people grow them to assure a steady supply during the summer, and fall. Since they are an heirloom type of tomato, the seeds can be saved and planted next season. It’s one of our more popular varieties at the nursery and our home where we can grill them on the BBQ.

San Marzano, the best paste tomato

Considered by chefs as the best paste tomato in the world.  Compared to the Roma Tomato, San Marzano tomatoes are thinner and more pointed. The flesh is much thicker with fewer seeds, and the taste is stronger, sweeter and less acidic. Also, unlike the Roma Tomato  San Marzano vines are indeterminate and have a somewhat longer season than other paste tomato varieties. As is typical of heirloom plants, San Marzano is an open-pollinated variety that breeds true from generation to generation, making seed saving practical for the home gardener or farmer.

According to Wikipedia, "the first seed of the San Marzano tomato came to Campania in 1770, as a gift from the Viceroyalty of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples, and that it was planted in the area that corresponds to the present commune of San Marzano sul Sarno. They come from a small town of the same name near Naples, Italy, and were first grown in volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.

In the United States, San Marzano tomatoes are the genetic base for another popular paste tomato, the Roma Tomato.  The Roma is a cross between a San Marzano and two other varieties (one of which was also a San Marzano hybrid), was introduced by the USDA in 1955.

We have a limited quantity of organically grown San Marzano starts  for 2.99.

Our organically grown summer vegetables have arrived!

Our first organically grown summer vegetable starts have arrived. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and more. While I still think its a bit early to plant for me, lots of people have warmer microclimates, or just want to give it a try. We also still have plenty of spring vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, pak choi, and peas. So whatever you decide, its time to get planting! 

Earwigs are out to destroy your seedlings!

With new vegetable and flower seedlings going in some people are reporting what appears to be chewing going on. No pests are seen, but the leaves start to look like swiss cheese with all the holes. This pictures shows the classic damage from "earwigs", or "pincer bugs". The reason they are not seen during the day is they are nocturnal (operate at night) and come sunrise they hide under rocks, hay, potted plants, just about anywhere it's dark. 

Here at the nursery we use "Sluggo Plus" to get prevent and get rid of earwig damage. Sluggo Plus is the safest and most effective killer and barrier of snails and slugs we have ever used here at the nursery. Its active ingredient is iron phosphate, which is completely safe for pets and wildlife. (It also contains a small amount of spinosad, which is what kills the earwigs.) And as it decomposes, it becomes a fertilizer your garden will really appreciate! Available in 1lb, and 2.5 lb sizes. 1 lb will treat up to 2000 sq. ft.

Vegetables or lawn during drought?

Interesting article in The Sacramento Bee concerning whether to garden this year because of the drought.  It follows the same thinking we have here at the nursery. Use water to grow your food, and make cut backs in the ornamental side of the garden. From the article, "How much water do tomatoes need? Or more specifically, how much does a full-size fruit-bearing tomato plant need to get through a Sacramento summer while providing a good crop of flavorful tomatoes? The average is 5 gallons a week – less than that needed by a square foot of lawn." Wow!

The article continues, "In the vegetable garden, opt for lower-water crops such as legumes (garbanzo beans, limas, tepary beans, etc.), cucumbers, melons, cantaloupe and squash. Skip the corn (it takes more water than lawn), but concentrate on crops that produce a lot of food with what water they get. That includes peppers, eggplant and, of course, tomatoes."


There is no question that growing your own healthy, safe food is the right thing to do, drought or not. We must eat, and either you, or some farmer in the Central Valley is going to use that water to grow or raise that food. 

Maybe it's time to replace that lawn with something you can eat?


 

Soil Moist Natural Water Storing Granules

pso165-a.jpg

Soil Moist Natural is a grafted starch polymer designed to reduce plant waterings by 50% and last in the soil for an entire season. The organic starch in Soil Moist Natural is derived from corn. Soil Moist Natural is completely safe and biodegradable. The product will hold several hundred times it weight in tap water and readily releases it back to the plant as the soil dries out. Ideal for hanging baskets, annual beds and vegetables.

Use 1 teaspoon per 10" container. The product must be incorporated into the soil at the root level.

3oz. 4.99, 8 oz. 9.99, 1 lb. 16.99, 3lb. 39.99

The Bokashi Bucket

We have been looking for a way to compost all our kitchen scraps, including meat, bones, coffee, and dairy. Whatever method we use it cannot smell bad as we want to keep it right in the kitchen for convenience. We think the answer is with The Bokashi Bucket.

The Bokashi Bucket comes to us from Hawaii, and harnesses the power of beneficial microbes using anaerobic (no oxygen) to break down the food waste.  It's 100% natural and 100% safe for people, plants and the environment. The Bokashi Bucket turns your food waste into a nutrient-rich compost that your plants, tress and lawn will love. Dirt ain't cheap anymore. Why buy it when you can make it!

The complete Bokashi Bucket home composting system includes everything you need to get started with Bokashi composting.

Each Bokashi Bucket System includes:

  • Bokashi Bucket
  • 1 bag Bokashi Activator Mix
  • Strainer Plate
  • Smasher Tool

We just ordered some and should have the first shipment in a week. We are looking to see if people are interested, as we will order more based on that interest. Let us know if you would like us to order you one. You can also come to the store and pick one up starting in a week. Cost for the system, $69.99

Here is a link to the companies website where you can find out more about The Bokashi Bucket



Blueberries in your garden

It seems blueberries have become one of the most popular home fruits to grow. Especially here in California where blueberry culture was difficult in the past. New varieties, many of which are known as "Southern Highbush", have enabled Californian's to grow fantastic fruit.  These Southern Highbush types we're bred for heat resistance, unlike the blueberries know as Northern Lowbush. Northern Lowbush we're the only types available to us in the day, and getting them to produce was difficult. The Southern Highbush have changed all that.

We sell 5 varieties of blueberries. All have been chosen to produce well here in our particular area. I grow mine in containers, but you can grow them in the ground if you like. They grow best in full sun, but will tolerate some afternoon shade. Most grow to about 4 foot tall and wide, and if you care for them properly they can produce for months in the summer. 

If you can grow more than one variety so they can cross pollinate and produce even more berries. Join Ed Livo as he takes us on a tour of his backyard, and shows us whats possible. Dave Wilson Nursery is where we procure our blueberry plants. 

 


The natives are restless

24731In this case the natives are insects native to Africa, who have decided that California is the place they ought to be. The Bagrada Bug arrived in Southern California just 6 years ago and already had decides to move north. The experts were hoping the colder winters might kill them off, but they decided to hide in the top layers of soil during winter. Come spring they emerge to eat stuff like "cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, but they don't appear to be picky eaters. They have been known to feed on a wide variety of garden vegetables in California, including green beans, cantaloupe, corn, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and sunflower. Even landscape plants are not immune. Bagrada bugs have been found feeding on ornamental plants in the mustard family, like sweet alyssum, stock and candytuft."24851

From the comment section at The Yolo county extension service, "I am a Master Gardener in LA County, managing a vegetable garden in The City of Bell. Bagrada bug has massively taken over arugula and to a lesser degree, Kale. I tried soapy water spray and pinching but could not keep up with them. Now I vacuum these crops on an almost daily basis with a hand held dust buster. WOW! I get hundreds every day and it is pretty quick to do. I have ordered some stink bug traps and will bait them with alyssum. I think that between the two controls, I MAY be able to grow greens this fall without a huge infestation."  

Becoming indispensable

Yes you can! One of the nicest comments to hear from customers is, "we want you to be here for us". They sometimes preface it with, "we shop here because...we want you to be here for us". While it may not keep you in business, or cause you to become profitable, it is an important first step.

The goal is to find out why you are indispensible to them. Let everything else fall to the wayside. Becoming indispensable to your customers means you provide them with products, or a feeling, that causes them to go out of their way to maintain. There are cheaper places to shop. There might be more convenient places to shop. These thing's don't matter as much when your are becoming indispensable.

They need you, as much as you need them. How are you becoming indispensable (absolutely necessary) to your customers?

So you want to be a farmer?

young-farmer_0"Roy Skeen is a 32-year-old farmer with a degree in history from Yale University. When he graduated in 2004, he moved to New York to work in investment banking, but he found the work unfulfilling.
 
After a trip to the Caribbean, he discovered his true calling: farming.
 'It exposed me to culture that grows food and lives in one place,' he told CNN. 'It was pretty simple, but it was nice and I liked it.'
 
Skeen moved to his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, and now runs his own urban farm and sells produce at the local farmer's market. He says the work is hard but satisfying."

I have been in the botanical trades for over 30 years. The horticulture trade is quite worried about where the new, young gardeners are going to come from. They didn't garden like their parents, and seemed to show no sign of interest in the garden. Many, many nurseries have closed due to the lack of a younger generation of gardeners taking over from the aging baby boomers. 

That all changed a couple of years ago, and has really hit it's stride this year. The number of younger people, especially young families, that come into the nursery has increased from years past. It's all about growing food, which leaves the ornamental side of the trade still hurting, but we take our pleasures where we can. 

I am not sure where all this interest will take us. For now it's a pleasure to be dealing with a whole new group of interested people. They really want to make it work, and are just discovering how hard, but rewarding it can be to grow food. That's an important part of the movement,  putting people back in touch with how much work is involved from farm to table. As far as making a small farm profitable, that's a whole different set of challenges. Still, it's nice to see so many young people heading back to the garden. 

via:
Mother Earth News
http://bit.ly/1mpMBgJ

#smallfarm  
#horticulture  

What diamonds, gold, and The Carob tree have in common.

800px-Arcosu07The carob tree is a landscape tree here in California, but in the Mediterranean region it grown as a food crop. Carob is mildly sweet and is used in powdered, chip, or syrup form as an ingredient in cakes and cookies, and in chocolate substitute. Since chocolate contains theobromine, which is poisonous to some mammals, and carob does not, it is used to make chocolate-flavored treats for dogs. The island of Malta has a liqueur made from carob, Zeppi’s Harruba. I would love to try this someday. 

The carob tree was known in Antiquity and was introduced very early in Greece and is possible indigenous to Crete. During St.John the Baptist's sojourn in the desert he fed himself on the nourishing pods of the carob, along with locusts, and honey.

Ceratonia siliqua's common name, Carob,  alludes to the Greek word "kerátion" literally meaning, a small horn. This is the shape of the carob pod which holds inside the carob seed, used as food. It's this seed that shares it's history with the weight used to measure gems, carat.

The seeds are remarkably uniform in both size and weight, varying within very definite limits. Ceratonia siliqua, the 800px-Ceratonia_siliqua_MHNT.BOT.2011.3.89scientific name of the carob tree, derives from the Greek kerátion, "fruit of the carob" (from keras "horn"), and Latin siliqua "pod, carob." The term "carat", the unit by which precious metal and stone weight is measured, is also derived from the Greek word keráti?n, alluding to an ancient practice of weighing gold and gemstones against the seeds of the carob tree by people in the Middle East. The system was eventually standardized, and one carat was fixed at 0.2 grams. 

In late Roman times, the pure gold coin known as the solidus weighed 24 carat seeds (about 4.5 grams). As a result, the carat also became a measure of purity for gold. Thus 24-carat gold means 100% pure, 12-carat gold means the alloy contains 50% gold. 

Welwitschia, the last of it's kind

sussman_welwitchia_circle_0707_6724_custom-7074ed50f8fdbf2e578811312d47e74161bb6006-s40-c85Found in Namibian desert of Africa, Welwitschia is considered a "living fossil". It has been around for over 200 million years and while all of the other plants from that time have slowly vanished, it has managed to survive in the empty desert of The Namib. The one pictured is estimated to be over 2000 years old. 

The Namib is almost completely uninhabited by humans, except for several small settlements and indigenous pastoral groups. The average annual rainfall is less than 10 mm (0.39 in) of rain. The plant lives by sending a tap root deep underground, and collecting dew formed during the early mornings. 

As they are located in very inhospitable regions of Nambia and Angola, they are not a threatened genus at this time. Plants in Angola are even better protected than those in Namibia, because of the relatively high concentration of landmines in Angola, which keep collectors away.  The plant is featured in the Coat of arms of Namibia right under the shield. Coat_of_arms_of_Namibia.svg

 

 

 

A plant that is able to mimic multiple species

sn-vineAccording to Science Magazine, "the woody vine Boquila trifoliolata... transforms its leaves to copy a variety of host trees. Native to Chile and Argentina, B. trifoliolata is the first plant shown to imitate several hosts. It is a rare quality—known as a mimetic polymorphism—that was previously observed only in butterflies."

There are plants that mimic host species. Some mistletoe species in Australia,  are able to mimic the host, but that's just one species they can mimic. The Boquila can mimic several species. "When the vine climbs onto a tree’s branches, its versatile leaves (inset) can change their size, shape, color, orientation, and even the vein patterns to match the surrounding foliage (middle panel; the red arrow points to the vine, while the blue arrow indicates the host plant). If the vine crosses over to a second tree, it changes, even if the new host leaves are 10 times bigger with a contrasting shape (right panel). The deceit serves as a defense against plant-eating herbivores like weevils and leaf beetles, according the researchers. "

Spring at last

Redbud in bloom at The Vineyard House, Coloma, Ca. On this first day of spring let’s enjoy the changing season. Here in northern California the sun is shining and hope springs eternal. At the nursery we are selling the cool season vegetable starts, flowers, seed starting trays, and lot’s of seed. The number one question this year from our customers is, are your seed free of GMO? Yes they are. I imagine most folks truly don’t understand GMO’s, but the term and “idea” certainly has caught their interest.

We are in drought here in California, and likely won’t see too much relief rain wise in the near future. Our rainy season is fast coming to a close, and after a few years of drier than expected weather, we will likely see more water restrictions. We are currently in a “Stage 2” water alert. The local water authorities are asking us to cut back 30% on our water usage. It’s doable, and an opportunity for us to teach and guide our customers.

I look forward to being a place where people can come to learn more about how to feed their families, and bring beauty into their lives. While the ornamental side of the business has shrunk over the last few years, the edible side had grown exponentially. We seem to be doing better than in years past, and the customer is engaged in their garden like never before.

So it’s it a positive note that stands above the rest this first day of spring. While there will be challenges going forward, we are entering a new age in horticulture. While not all is shinny and bright in the trades, I have never been happier, or more proud to be a nurseryman. Our goal here is to stay small as possible, while making the largest impact in our world. We can change our world more easily, one customer at a time.

Cheers to spring!

Amanita muscari, snails, and Alice in Wonderland.

DSC_4118N “One pill makes you larger, And one pill makes you small, And the ones that mother gives you, Don't do anything at all, Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall. And if you go chasing rabbits, And you know you're going to fall, Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar, Has given you the call, Call Alice, when she was just small.” – Grace Slick, The Great Society.

Seems Alice’s adventures with proportion we’re the results of ingesting Amanita muscaria, yesterdays featured fungus for Google + "Shoorm Staurday”. It is likely one of the most well known yet unrecognized fungus in the world. Mainly noted for being hallucinogenic, a primary result of ingesting this fungus is in distorting the size of perceived objects. This observation is thought to have formed the basis of the effects of eating the mushroom in the 1865 popular story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

The mushroom is commonly known as “fly agaric” or “fly amanita” and can be found in conifer and pine forests in North America, The Mediterranean and Central and South America. Amanita muscaria cannot be commercially cultivated, due to its mycorrhizal relationship with the roots of pine trees. While it is considered poisonous there are few cases of death associated with ingesting it, and in many regions it is eaten as a food in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America after being parboiled (this process removes the mushroom's psychoactive substances).

40mushrooms (1)

The history of the mushroom being used as an hallucinogenic be traced back to 1700–1100 BC and and The Rig Veda texts of India where is may have been the active ingredient in Soma. Dead Sea Scrolls scholar John Allegro has proposed that early Christianity sprang form cultic use of the fungus in Second Temple Judaism.

Franco Fabbro, author of "Mushrooms and Snails in Religious Rituals of Early Christians at Aquileia" documents the depiction of Amanita muscaria, in the art of the Christian Basilica of Aquileia in northern Italy. The section of the mosaic floor which displays these mushrooms is found in the oratory of the northern hall, which is the oldest part of the basilica, dating to before 330 AD. An epigraph in the floor itself claims that the oratory was used for religious ceremonies.

Nearby

Another bowl containing snails, probably of the variety Helix cincta. a favored edible species, is found adjacent to the mushrooms. Fabbro hypothesizes that the snails and mushrooms were eaten together. It is possible, however, that snails were allowed to feed on the mushrooms, and then the snails were consumed. This preparation may have effectively reduced or eliminated the undesirable physiological effects of consuming the mushrooms directly. This is more likely than it might sound initially; not only were the Romans well known for snail breeding, but they recognized that what the snails fed upon had a determining effect upon their flavor.

From the mist of time to the present day Amanita muscari has played an important role in man's development. Surprisingly, or not  the Nintendo video game “Super Mario” features the mushroom.  “Power-up”, and Super Mario might say.

"Power Up"

Sources: entheomedia.org wikipedia.com

 

 

The solution is simple.

Inside The Bookery, our last indie bookstore. Saw this tweet the other day. “Dear Toronto bookstores: Please stop closing.”  My reply, “Dear readers in Toronto, and everywhere, buy more books from bookstores BEFORE they go out of business.”

It’s that simple. If you want to preserve your favorite indie bookstore, garden shop, or coffee shop, you've got to quit speaking up after the fact. There we’re numerous tweets following the original plea, most all wishing these bookstores would stop closing. One person even said, “In Germany, it is illegal to sell books at a discount. Our govt has chosen not to intervene”. There you have it, it’s the governments fault.

Quit blaming the government, Wal-mart, or Amazon. The solution is simple. Go to your local bookstore, and buy some books. Repeat. Tweet, Facebook, and Google + about that awesome store BEFORE it closes. Then buy some more books. Stop on the way to the bookstore and buy an espresso at the coffee shop. Pick up some flower or vegetable seeds at the garden shop afterwards. Make it a habit.

Repeat often.