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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pomegranates – A Healthy Winter Snack

by Zuhayr Mallam, Founder of the UC Davis Diabetes Advocacy and Awareness Group (DAAG).  For more information about this group, visit their website.

Pomegranates make for a delicious snack, and these plump red fruits are also one of the healthiest foods around.

Image taken from
On the Table
Pomegranates are chalk-full of nutrients including Vitamins B and C, fiber, and potassium, while being low in fat, sodium, and calories. Recent medical research suggests potential health benefits such as lowered blood pressure, lowered risk for heart disease (especially in diabetics), and prevention of tooth decay. Although it is high in sugars, these are natural sugars that are attached to special, disease-fighting antioxidants. And remember – the seeds are the edible part of a pomegranate and contain the bulk of the nutrients! The juice is very nutritious as well, but stray away from brands that are packed with refined sugar.

In the Garden
Pomegranates are the perfect winter fruit; they are in season from November to March! Although native to Persia and the Himalayas of Northern India, pomegranates were brought to California in the late 18th century and have been able to thrive in the interior valleys (like Davis!) due to the cool winters and dry summers. This versatile fruit tree grows in a variety of soils (although deep soil is preferred) and is relatively easy to care for. All that it requires is nutritious, well-drained soil, sufficient sunlight, and sparse watering. And even when the fruit dries up, it provides beautiful ornamentation for your garden!

For more information about the varieties of pomegranates grown in the UC Davis Good Life Garden click here!

Try this Recipe for… Pomegranate Salad

Image taken from

Toss yourself a tasty salad including:
·      lettuce
·      pomegranate seeds
·      pomegranate juice
·      lemon juice
·      apples, pecans, and/or pears
·      ground black pepper
·      vegetable oil
·      dijon mustard

Brought to you by the Diabetes Advocacy & Awareness Group (DAAG)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Beans (lentils, kidney beans, string beans, pinto beans, and black beans) are an overall healthy food to add to one’s diet; they are a good source of protein and several vitamins and minerals, while also being low in fat.
They are also a good source of soluble fiber, which is beneficial to diabetics. According to Karen Collins (a nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research), soluble fibers slow down the body’s digestion and absorption of sugars, helping maintain blood sugar levels. Not only that, but these fibers also help prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels. Cholesterol levels should be maintained regardless of whether or not one is diabetic, but beans are especially beneficial to diabetics due to their higher risk for developing heart disease. However, beans also contain large amounts of sodium and carbohydrates, so they must be carefully integrated into one’s diet.
For great bean dishes, look into Italian, Greek, Indian, Caribbean, Mexican, and Middle Eastern food. Included below is a recipe for one of my personal favorites – lentil soup! So grab some beans and enjoy the benefits of these delectable legumes.
Diabetes-friendly lentil soup
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 pound lentils
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
Cook all together until lentils are soft. Add one 7 ounce can of tomato sauce. Add one 1/4 cup of vinegar. Cook for 15 minutes.
A big thank you to Michael Hernandez, the Awareness and Recruitment Officer for the UC Davis Diabetes Advocacy and Awareness Group.  For more information about this new student group at UC Davis, please visit their website:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Introducing Our New Student Group Partners: The Diabetes Advocacy & Awareness Group

The UC Davis Good Life Garden is so pleased to announce its partnership with a new UC Davis student organization called DAAG (The Diabetes Advocacy and Awareness Group). The group's founder, Zuhayr Mallam, contacted us a while back to talk about possibilities and the multiple reasons that such a partnership makes sense. We hope this partnership will further promote one of the main tenets of the UC Davis Good Life Garden: Good Food = Good Health!

Thank you DAAG! As part of this partnership one of the members of DAAG will be posting a blog entry about once a week about diabetes, nutrition, gardening, food, eating fresh, eating local...basically everything we already do, but perhaps with a special angle as it relates to diabetes awareness. Please find the first such entry courtesy of Zuhayr Mallam below.

Above:  Photo of some of the fresh fruits and vegetables picked from the UC Davis Good Life Garden over the summer.  A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can drop one's risk factors for diabetes considerably!
The Diabetes Advocacy & Awareness Group (DAAG) is a new UC Davis student organization aimed at educating others about health and spreading knowledge and awareness of diabetes in order to lower disease incidence and foster healthy living among members of our community.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA), over 20 million children and adults in the United States are living with Diabetes. And with the current rate of growth, it is estimated that approximately 1/3 of the US population will be afflicted with diabetes within the next 20-30 years.

Yes, the numbers are astounding! But, diabetes itself is also astoundingly preventable!

Research has proven that by adjusting your diet to include essential nutrients from fruits and vegetables, your risk factors for diabetes drop considerably.

Therefore, the Diabetes Advocacy & Awareness Group and the UC Davis Good Life Garden have partnered up with the goal of educating the campus and Davis community about nutrition and healthy eating through the wonderful resources we have available to us like the UC Davis Good Life Garden, its blog and related social media outlets, in addition to outreach events throughout campus, and much more!

So keep an eye out for us!

For more information, visit:

or contact us at:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's our second birthday!

Officially the second birthday of the garden was in October.  But it's hard to believe that it has already been two years since the grand opening!

And to celebrate, and because everyone loves "before and afters," enjoy the following photos that show how much the garden has grown!

All photos were taken by David Phillips.








Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Participate in an ORGANIC RICE STUDY & Receive a $20 GIFT CARD

CONSUMERS NEEDED FOR A RICE TASTE TEST!  Be sure to forward to your friends asap.  The study is taking place this week!

Jean-Xavier Guinard, Ph.D., UC Davis professor of sensory science, is looking for 200 people to participate in a rice taste test.

You qualify if you meet the following criteria:
  • US Citizen or Resident, age 18-65;
  • No food allergies or dietary restrictions;
  • Purchase organic products once a week or more (preferably beyond dairy and produce); and,
  • Consume rice or packaged rice products twice a month or more
AND can attend one of the following 1-hour session time slots at the Robert Mondavi Institute Sensory Theater:
  • Thursday, November 4th: 9 am, 10:30 am, 12 pm, 1:30 pm
  • Friday, November 5th: 3 pm, 4:30 pm, 6 pm
  • Saturday, November 6th: 9 am, 10:30 am, 12 pm, 1:30 pm, 3 pm, 4:30 pm.
To sign up, please contact Chirat (Art) at (530) 754-8691 or email

For a map of the location click here

Those who meet these criteria and attend the 1-hour session will receive a $20 gift card.  Whoo-hoo!  When you are done, take a stroll through the UC Davis Good Life Garden to see what we're growing this season!  (We're located right outside in the courtyard of the UC Davis Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

UPDATE: IT'S NOT TOO LATE to plan for the Fall / Winter Season

For all you local gardeners who may be feeling like you've missed the boat by not sowing your seeds yet for the Fall / Winter season; it's not too late!  (Or, at least we hope so!)

Pat, our gardener (in the hat), takes a moment to speak with a journalist.  Note how she has cut back many of our garden perennials like chives and the ornamental society garlic to grow again during the Fall and Winter season.

Last week our gardener Pat worked hard on the "out with the old" chore of garden clean-up by pulling out any herbs unharvested by our enthusiastic community of gleaners!  (Thank you again to those who participated in our last herb harvest of the year!)  She also began prepping the soil by working in compost from our own Student Farm, along with a soil supplement we told you about last season called Earthworks Renovate/Plus.  For more information about this product check out our previous blog entry on the topic here.

This patch is where we grew our corn.  The spearmint patch in the foreground looks very happy doesn't it?  It smells great too, but don't forget to keep it pulled up and pruned back from areas where you don't want it--mint likes to take over!

It is looking rather barren out there now.  It's times like these when there's hope in the in, I hope something grows from all those seeds of lettuce, chard, kale, beets, etc. we'll be planting this week!

What's going on with your garden so far this season?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Roll out the red carpet!

We're on video!  Check out this wonderful video courtesy of Lisa Marini Finerty of  Lisa visited the garden last weekend, shot some great footage, and was nice enough to share the video on their awesome site.  Read our previous post about - a great website that is kind of like the facebook for gardens!
Check out the Good Life Garden video on!

And just two quick notes about the video - we want to clarify that we do use heirloom open pollinated seeds from Seeds of Change, but not all of the plants in the garden are from heirloom open pollinated seeds.  Also, Lisa referred to the building at the Robert Mondavi Institute that houses the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory and the teaching and research winery.  She hinted at the building's LEED certification but did not explain it in detail.  This newly completed building is expected to be the world's first winery/brewery/food processing facility that has a platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification - the highest environmental rating awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council.  Learn more about this amazing building on the UC Davis News and Information website.

Thanks so much Lisa!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Our Last FREE HERB HARVEST for 2010! Don't Miss Out!

The UC Davis Good Life Garden will be converting to it's fall and winter produce plantings next week, so before most of our summer herbs are replaced with lettuces, beets, chard, etc. we invite you to come out to the garden to enjoy the LAST HERB HARVEST FOR 2010! The following herbs are currently available: lavender, basil (green and purple), oregano, chive and mint.

If you are interested, please RSVP to so we know how many people will be attending. Directions to the garden can be found on our website:

The give-away is free to attend; we just need you to bring the following items:

* scissors or pruning shears
* a bag to hold your herbs
* wet paper towels to put in the bag with the herbs (if you don't have a refrigerator to keep them in for the day)
* water to drink (because it's going to be hot!)


Our gardener Pat will be there all day to answer your questions about the different herbs and the harvesting process, as well as to direct you to the correct plants. We ask that no one remove entire plants or remove more than half of the leaves or flowers from any particular plant.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

All the leaves are brown...

Based on the weather lately, and looking at the plants in the garden today, it appears that summer is over.  I headed over first thing this morning and Elias was there (Pat is on vacation this week!) pulling out dead thyme plants.  He said they didn't have anything wrong with them other than that they were probably over-watered.  I did some more research on the UC Master Gardeners Website and apparently thyme has no serious pests or diseases.  I also found this article by Barbara J. Euser on the Master Gardeners site: "Make Time for Thyme."  She also over-watered the thyme in a patch of her garden next to some sword ferns, and it died.  

Here are some fascinating thyme facts from her article:
  • "Thyme is an essential part of the aromatic blend known as Herbes de Provence. Lavender is also one of the Herbes de Provence and according to the Gattefosse, the French father of aromatherapy, thyme is a 'faithful companion of lavender. It lives with it in perfect harmony and partakes alike of its good and its bad fortune.'"
  • "In The Book of Herb Lore, Lady Rosalind Northcote said that among the Greeks, thyme denoted graceful elegance, and the phrase 'to smell of thyme' was an expression of praise for those with admirable style."
  • "Thymol is the phenol that is thyme’s 'active ingredient.' Thymol has been used as an antiseptic since ancient times: the Sumerians recorded using it in 3000 B.C. The Egyptians used it for embalming...Commercially, thymol is used in over-the-counter cough syrups and cold remedies."
So as long as you aren't too heavy-handed with the water, thyme is a great garden option with an interesting history!

All around the garden other plants are in decline as well: the tomatoes, Hopi Red Dye amaranth, melons,  and beans are all on their last legs, although the squash is still going strong, despite the white mildew.  (Learn more about powdery mildew here.)

Some plants are looking fantastic, however.  The fino verde basil is particularly happy in the raised beds, the red metamorph marigolds add pretty oranges and reds sprinkled around the garden, the figs are going crazy, olives are sprouting, and my favorite right now are the sunflowers, which are in full bloom and worth a trip to the garden to see.
The brown turkey fig tree is covered with fruit.
Even though the Hopi Red Dye and elephant head amaranth are in decline, the love-lies-bleeding variety is going strong.
The Teddy Bear sunflowers were so popular last year we planted more of them this year!
The olives will be ready for harvest in November.
The fino verde basil is taking over!  Its smaller leaves make it great for pots.

So even though summer is over, the garden still has some end of the season gems!

Friday, October 1, 2010

UC Davis Olive Oil Tasting & UC Davis Campus Grown Sales Event

To celebrate the fall season (and for some great gift ideas) don't miss the olive oil tasting next week with our friends at the Olive Center.

In addition to the olive oil tasting, the new UC Davis Campus Grown program will have displays of handmade products made from the salvaged wood of campus grown trees! 
  • What: Olive Oil Tasting and Campus Grown Salvaged Wood Product Display. Olive oil and all Campus Grown items on display will be available for purchase! 
  • Date: Thursday, October 7
  • Time: 11 AM to 1 PM
  • Location: UC Davis Main Bookstore at the Memorial Union (click here for location)
Wood products like this olive bowl made from the salvaged wood of campus grown trees will be available for purchase on Thursday.  Other wood products available include bowls made of ash, claro walnut and cork oak as well as olive wood cutting boards and ash wood salad tongs.
The Silo and Gunrock blends of UC Davis Olive Oil will also be available for tasting and purchase on Thursday.

Brush up on your knowledge before the tasting next week - check out our previous posts about olives!
Olive Harvest in the UC Davis Good Life Garden
Seasonal Fruit Profile: Olives
Olive Tree Update

For more information:
UC Davis Olive Center Website
UC Davis Olive Oil Website
UC Davis Campus Grown Website

Questions?  Post a comment or email us.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 27, 2010

WEBSITE MONDAY! The "lawn" and short of it

Chances are, if you've got a garden or had one in the past, you've had grass.  And grass, although it's excellent for many things, can also be difficult to care for and requires lots of water, fertilizers weedkillers and pesticides.  And if you aren't using that lawn for a family game of baseball or throwing around a frisbee with your dog, maybe you can consider a lawn alternative, or a different type of grass.  If this sounds like a good idea to you, then is a great resource!

This lovely garden belongs to Pam Penick, a top gardener and blogger in Austin, Texas.  Check out her site here:

According to the site, the Lawn Reform Coalition is made up of eleven writers and activists that are pooling their "knowledge of up-to-date solutions to the many problems caused by a lawn culture that demands perfection, conformity, and way too many inputs - especially water, fertilizer and pesticides."  They have links to many great resources for ideas for non-lawn alternatives as well as a section on edibles!  And if you're still attached to your grass, or like lawns in general, they include a list of ways you can improve your lawn care to make it more sustainable, and have a page on different types of grasses or lawn coverings that are more suited to particular regions.

Have you replaced your lawn with something else?  Do you have any ideas for lawn alternatives?  Post a comment and let us know!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

We Got Mildew Yes We Do! We Got Mildew, How 'Bout You?

Here is an example of squash with just a few spots of powdery mildew.
 As tends to happen in the late summer, our squash is suffering from powdery mildew.  This problem is pretty easy to identify;  our plants will look like someone tossed some baby power all over them.

It starts small and then just gets worse if left to proliferate.  Powdery mildew sends little tubes into leaf cells to suck out their contents, killing the cells in the process. As leaf cells die and the leaf's surface becomes covered in the white fungus, photosynthesis is reduced and leaves may be lost. Crop volume and eating quality can be reduced.

Here the mildew has been left to keep growing!

So how do you get rid of it organically?  Well, there are quite a few options. 

According to our own UC Davis Integrated Pest Management, prevention is always the best way to avoid this problem.  In other words, if your garden is prone to this kind of issue, next time you plant squash, melon, pumpkin, etc., be sure to start with a resistant variety.

You can avoid powdery mildew my making sure your plants receive plenty of sun.  (Because of the location of these plants near the South Building of the Robert Mondavi Institute, these plants do get more shade than others.)  Also be sure to:
  • Provide good air circulation by not crowding your plants
  • Rotate squash beds on a minimum three-year cycle to reduce the chance of a fungal buildup or reinfection from one year to the next.
  • Pull up infected plants and burn or bury them.
We got the dummy whammie--the plants need more sun and they are not disease resistant varieties--so now what?

According to UC Davis Integrated Pest Management, once you have the powdery mildew problem, oils, like neem oil,  tend to work better at eradicating the issue once you have it rather than preventing the problem. 

You may also want to try a biological fungicide like Serenade Disease Control Concentrate, but like UC Davis Integrated Pest Management states, "While this product functions to kill the powdery mildew organism and is nontoxic to people, pets, and beneficial insects, it has not proven to be as effective as the oils or sulfur in controlling this disease."

For those of you interested in home remedies, it seems that you can also try making your own spray of one part skim milk to 9 parts water.  Skim milk works just as well as other types of milk--whole, low fat etc., but no fat means no odor!  Read more about this research finding here:  Using Milk to Control Powdery Mildew.

Did you get the gift of powdery mildew this summer?  If so, what did you do to get rid of it?  Let us know!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fruits v. veggies: what’s the diff?

Eggplants and tomatoes are confusing!
Our post about eggplant a few weeks ago spurred a debate around the office.  Is eggplant a fruit or veggie?  We all think of it as a vegetable, but the seeds of eggplant are surrounded by the flesh of the edible portion, like apples or watermelon.  Isn’t that what most people think makes a fruit a fruit?

Looking it up online warranted even more confusion however, as many sites referred to eggplants as vegetables (which is what most of us call them, right?) but in more formal classifications were referred to as fruit.

So we did what we do whenever we are confused – we turned to food genius (and awesome guy) Harold McGee.

According to Harold's book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, it turns out that the distinction isn’t as clear as some people would think.  According to Harold, a vegetable is “essentially…a plant material that is neither fruit nor seed.”  Fruit, on the other hand, has both a technical and common definition.  According to botanists fruit is “the organ that develops from the flower’s ovary and surrounds the plant’s seeds.”  But for culinary or "common" purposes fruits are what we typically think of - apples, peaches, cherries - the sweet things we can eat right off the tree or put into pies.  So technically, green beans, eggplants, cucumbers, corn kernels and peppers are fruit.  But chefs consider them vegetables.  Why is this?

It turns out that this culinary distinction has to do with flavor, which is a result of the basic makeup of the plant.  Fruits are engineered to be appealing to animals because it benefits the plant if animals eat the fruits because it helps to disperse the seeds.  As Harold says, “they are one of the few things we eat that we’re meant to eat.” They usually have a high sugar content, complex aroma, and they soften themselves; all characteristics which add to their appeal.

On the other hand vegetables are not meant to be eaten, and sometimes even have chemical defenses that are meant to keep animals from consuming them. (Think of the strong flavors and aromas that raw onions and cabbage have!)  Vegetables also remain firm and have either a very mild flavor or a very strong one and usually require cooking to make them palatable.

So basically it depends on your intentions for the fruit/veggie.  If you are a botanist, a fruit is something completely different than what it is to a chef.

Still not convinced and think that one is more correct than the other?  According to On Food and Cooking, the definition was brought to the attention of the Supreme Court in the 1890s:

“A New York food importer claimed duty-free status for a shipment of tomatoes, arguing that tomatoes were fruit, and so under the regulations of the time, not subject to import fees.  The customs agent ruled that tomatoes were vegetables and imposed a duty.  A majority of the Supreme Court decided that tomatoes were ‘usually served at a dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish or meat which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits, generally as a dessert.’  Ergo tomatoes were vegetables and the importer had to pay.”  

The distinction was so difficult to make it had to go all the way to the Supreme Court!

So is eggplant a fruit or a vegetable?  It depends – are you a botanist or a chef?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chive Harvesting

Let me start off this entry by saying that I am one of those people whose anthropomorphic skill set extends beyond projecting human characteristics onto animals and inanimate objects.  I do the same with plants, and I believe that our proud chives need some attention!  They were mistakenly overlooked in favor of  the ever-popular basil, lavender and mint plantings at last week's free herb harvest.  I think it may be because people don't know how awesome they are!  They are hearty (hard to kill), perennial, beautiful (their flowers are gorgeous), and can be a delicious part of every meal!

At our next harvest (date TBA) check out our chives!  Harvest the stems that are not yet flowers like the one below.  Do you see how it is about to grow a flower yet, but hasn't?  This is a good choice.  Snip it at its base so we avoid that unattractive chive stubble!

There are a variety of ways you can enjoy this wonderful herb; it's not just for topping your potatoes!  With a milder flavor than onion, chives are usually snipped raw as a finishing touch for salads, soups, sauces, vegetable and fish dishes. Chives also work well in egg dishes such as quiche and omelets.  Here are the top 20 chive recipes according to

Is there an edible that you love, that seems to get overlooked by more popular (common) fruits, vegetables, or herbs?  Why do you think it has an image problem?  Let us know!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

FREE HERB HARVEST this Thursday, Sept. 9 from 9:30 AM - 2:00 PM!!

Download the flyer above by clicking here.  (Adobe Acrobat is required.)
We're hosting another herb harvest this Thursday, September 9 from 9:30 AM - 2 PM.

Pretty much every herb is available for harvest (oregano, basil, sage, chives, rosemary, thyme, mint and lavender).

If you are interested, please RSVP to so we know how many people will be attending. Directions to the garden can be found on our website:

The give-away is free to attend; we just need you to bring the following items:

* scissors or pruning shears
* a bag to hold your herbs
* wet paper towels to put in the bag with the herbs (if you don't have a refrigerator to keep them in for the day)
* water to drink (because it's going to be hot!)


Our gardener Pat will be there all day to answer your questions about the different herbs and the harvesting process, as well as to direct you to the correct plants. We ask that no one remove entire plants or remove more than half of the leaves or flowers from any particular plant.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Eggplant eggstravaganza!

imperial black beauty eggplant variety

Eggplant is definitely one of our favorite vegetables here at the garden.  Not only are they pretty, coming in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, but they are also incredibly delicious!  This season we are not only growing the familiar chunky purple variety (imperial black beauty), but also the Rosa Bianca and white "snowy" eggplant.

Hearty and scrumptious in so many different types of food - stir fries, lasagna, baba ganoush... I could eat it every day!  At only 27 calories per cup cooked and packed with pigments like nasunin which may help protect brain cell membranes from oxidative damage, eggplants seem almost too good to be true!  They are also high in fiber, potassium and Vitamin B6. 

Want to learn more about eggplant history and health benefits?  Visit our website or

Check out the bounty from the garden this week!  Pictured here are the imperial black beauty and snowy eggplants, as well as maglia rosa tomatoes in front, black and brown boar, pink Berkeley tie dye and green zebra tomatoes, dark star zucchini, lemon cucumber and reve scallopini in back.
This is one of my favorite recipes for eggplant: sausage and eggplant stuffed pasta shells in tomato basil cream sauce.  It's decadent and time-consuming to make, but a crowd-pleaser every time!  And now is the perfect time as  eggplant, tomatoes and basil all ripe right now!  (Recipe tip:  I leave the cream out of the sauce as the dish is rich enough with the sausage, eggplant and variety of cheeses.)

Eggplant can be a tough nut to crack in the kitchen though.  Grilled?  Sauteed?  Roasted?  Last night I sliced an imperial black beauty roasted it in the oven with some olive oil, sea salt and pepper.  I ate it on toasted wheat bread with melted mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes and arugula, and it was delicious!  But the roasting took a very long time!  It is hard to wait when you know how yummy it will be!

In the past I've sauteed them, but they seem to soak up too much oil.  Do you peel them? Do you eat the skins?  The skins apparently hold much of the nutrients, but are often tough and, if grown non-organically, sometimes covered with wax which traps in pesticides--in this case peeling seems necessary.

Food experts out there: we need your help!  How do you prep and cook your eggplant?  What are some of your favorite recipes?  We need some more ideas for this appetizing edible!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Website Wednesday: Edible Yardworks

Ever walked out to your garden with a big to do list full of great ideas, only to find yourself standing in the same spot ten minutes later thinking "Where do I start?" Well we think we may have found an answer to that question. The Edible Yardworks website is a great place to look for a starting point for various gardening projects. And did we mention it is a Northern California specific webpage! This website is an amazing resource for people looking for that starting place.  It has 15 different 'How-To' topics for those interested in finding out more about everything from composting to mushroom farming.

The creator of this site, Stacey, also offers private classes on how to grow organic and cook great meals. Even better, her price for a class with more than three students is $15 per person! We think that is so reasonable, so, for those of you in Northern California get some friends together and make a night of it!

Stacey also posts several great video from very reputable sources. Her videos are in the "Case for Edible Yards" tab at the top of the page which has 9 reasons why being sustainable is so important including Biodiversity, Industrial Agriculture, and Climate Change.

Stacey uses a clip from this movie in the Industrial Agriculture section

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's fig day!

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. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Delicious Dining Event for Your Weekend!!

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!

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.

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

Tomato Consommé / tomato noodles
Tomato Gelee / basil puree

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

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Birdhouse Gourds

 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!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another Lemon Tree Update!

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!

Friday, August 20, 2010

New Developments in our Sustainable Gardening Practices

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!