Tomato Preservation Workshop July 27 1PM

July 14th, 2014

This class is supported by the Emerson Ave. Community Garden and is part of their educational program.

Join us at the Westchester United Methodist Church on July 27th, 1-3:30pm for our Tomato Preservation class.   Taught by master food preserver, Elizabeth Sala, and assisted by master gardener Dana Morgan, in this class we’ll discuss

  • Hot water bath canning for tomatoes and tomato sauce
  • Food Safety: best practices to keep you and your family safe
  • Drying/dehydration and freezing tomatoes
  • Using a food mill to prepare roasted tomato sauce (Tomato Pasata)

Each student may bring a couple pounds of homegrown tomatoes to can.  All will be involved in the canning process and preparation of a delicious seasoned tomato sauce, which can be served with pasta.

What to bring:  Please arrive promptly at 1:00 with a notebook and pen, cutting board, and a medium size bowl.  Also bring a   sharp knife that can cut through tomato skins.  An apron is recommended.

Registration:  Contact by Friday evening (7/25) to see if space remains in the class.   If so, you will receive an email reply.  Registration is  $15.00/student.


Winter Citrus Recipes

February 24th, 2014


Inspired by “Time to Kill Marmalade” by K. West in Saving the Season.

Total weight of fruit: 4 lbs
8 Blood oranges 34 oz
1 Cara Cara orange 8 oz
1 Eureka lemon 9 oz
1 Navel orange 4.5 oz
1 Grapefruit (10 oz)
4-5 cups of cane sugar
3 cups of water (filtered is best)
¼ cup warm, mild honey


1.  Scrub the fruit in cold water.  If from the grocery, also wash it with hot water to remove wax.

2.  Using a sharp potato peeler, remove the colored zest from the fruit in wide strips.  Remove as little of the white pitch as possible.  Slice the peels into thin strips or confetti shapes as you wish.  To win the Blue Ribbon at the Fair, peel should be consistent in size.

3.  Trim the albedo (white pith) away from the flesh of the citrus with a sharp serrated knife.  Chop the flesh (pulp) into ½ inch dice and place in a large bowl.  The pith and seeds can be kept for making jelly or composted.

4.  Combine the sliced peel (zest), diced pulp, and water in a preserving pan, and boil gently for 30 minutes.  The peel should be tender, cooked all the way through.

5.  Add the sugar 1 cup at a time, stirring gently to dissolve, and bring the contents of the pan back to a boil.  After about 20 minutes test for a gel set. (Small plates or bowls in the freezer will give you a quick check for gel set).

6.  Optional ingredients:  You can add ¼ light honey at this point, to add more sweetness and flavor. And if you add alcohol, such as Grand Marnier, Campari or (to emphasize the pink color),  boil for an additional 30 seconds. Confirm the gel set.  Allow the marmalade to cool for 5 minutes, stirring gently occasionally to distribute the peel; be gentle so as not to stir bubbles into the marmalade.

7.  Ladle into 5-6  8 oz. jars (½ pint). Leave ¼” headspace.  Seal and process for 10 minutes in boiling hot water.  The water should be 1 -2” above the top of the jars.

  • Supplies needed for Winter Citrus Marmalade:
    • Soft brush for cleaning fruit
    • Potato or vegetable peeler
    • Large preserving pan (thick bottom)
    • Large pot for heating jars and lids.  Jars & lids should be hot when filled.
    • *Jar lifter
    • *Magnetic lid lifter
    • *Funnel
    • *Bubble Remover and head space measurer
    • Lid rack (optional)
    • Metal or heat proof ladle
    • Tongs for lifting lids, jars
    • Large bowl for debris (pith, seeds)
    • Quart measuring cup (sugar)
    • ¼ cup measuring cup (honey)
    • Sharp knife (serrated knife for peeling fruit
    • Long spoon or heat-proof long handle silicone spatula (to stir and scrape sides)
    • Tasting spoon(s)
    • 2-3 small bowls or plates for gel set testing (to go in freezer)
    • 6 clean ½ pint canning jars with lids and bands
    • Pot holders
    • Clean cloth for wiping rims of jars
    • Jar labels

*These supplies are included in the Five Piece Canning Tool Set

Timing:  One person working alone but consistently, should be able to get the marmalade into the final hot water bath in about 2 hours. It’s great to have help with the peeling and slicing.

* * * * *

Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup

This is a UDSA approved recipe for raw-packing fresh fruit in light syrup.

  • Select firm, sweet, eating-ripe fruit
  • Prepare syrup, bring to a boil then lower and keep warm
    • Light Syrup Recipe – 1 cup sugar in 1 quart of water yields 4 ¾ cups syrup
  • Wash and peel fruit, remove as much pith as possible as it can taste bitter
  • Break fruit into sections
  • Fill jars with fruit
  • Pour syrup over fruit
  • Release any bubbles
  • Put on lids and rings, allow ½” headspace
  • Place jars in water bath canner and process.
  • Process for  10 minutes. Then, allow to cool 5 minutes in hot water
  • Remove from pan, cool completely for 12 – 24 hours

Amount of fruit:  ¾ lbs fresh fruit = 1 pint canned fruit
Preferred syrup:  Light Syrup – 20% sugar
Amount of syrup: Plan for ½ cup syrup per pint of fruit

* * * * * * *

Lime Syrup
This recipe makes an excellent limeade (2-3 tablespoons: 1 cup water over ice), and can be used in place of Rose’s Lime Juice or sweet-and-sour mix in alcoholic drinks.  The small Mexican limes give the most flavor.  My overly productive tree is a Bearss lime (also known as Tahitian or Persian lime), so that is what I use.

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Zest of 2 limes
1 cup fresh lime juice
2 slices of quarter-sized fresh ginger (optional)

1.  Combine the sugar, water, and lime zest in a medium saucepan.  Heat the mixture over very low heat until the sugar dissolves. Then bring the syrup to a boil and take it to about 230 degrees.

2.  Add the lime juice and return to a boil.  Pour through a strainer into pint jars.  Add lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Or strain the syrup into any bottle or jar, cap it tightly, and store the cooled container in the refrigerator, where the syrup should keep well for months.

3.  The ginger is optional.  I add a few slices of peeled ginger in step one.

4.  To mix limeade for a group:  2 cups Lime Syrup, 8 cups water over ice.  Add slices of fresh limes and mint for garnish.

* * * * * * *


I never saw my grandmother Opal use commercial pectin. And she didn’t make her own pectin, as far as I know.  She simply cooked fruit with sugar and acid (lemon juice) until it set.  Berries were either made into pies, frozen, or canned in light syrup.  I have great memories of her homemade Plum Jam and thick, spicy Apple Butter.  When I make pepper jelly, like Habanero Jelly, I use a cup of homemade apple pectin, which I’ve stored in the refrigerator.     –DH Morgan

Apple Pectin

 Use tart apples, like Granny Smith or slightly under ripe fruit. You can also use crabapples or quince.

  • Wash fruit, and remove stems and calyxes.  If you’re using quinces, rub off the fuzz.
  • Slice the fruit, including the cores.  Combine the fruit in a kettle with 2 cups water for each 1 pound of fruit.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, cover the kettle, and simmer the mixture for 20 minutes or until the fruit is tender.
  • Empty the pulp and juice into a jelly bag and let the juice drip  into a bowl for at least 4 hours.  Pour the juice into a kettle and boil it rapidly until it is reduced by half.
  • Pour your product into small canning jars and either freeze it or hot-water bath can it.

Orange Pectin

Cut Valencia oranges in half.  Squeeze out the juice and save it for jelly, if you like.  Or just drink it!  Remove the seeds.  Scrape out the membranes and some of the white pith/albedo.  I like using a grapefruit spoon.  Fill a 2 cup measure with this material.  Use your blender to mix the membranes with 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 cups water.  Let this mixture sit for 4 hours.  Add 2 more cups water, and let the mixture sit for 12 hours.  Bring it to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.  Strain the juice through a sieve and then a jelly bag.  You should get about 2 cups of liquid.  This product can be refrigerated, frozen, or preserved in a hot water bath. If you’re going to use it within a week, store in the frig.

(Pectin recipes are adapted from Linda Ziedrich’s excellent book, The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and other Sweet Preserves.)


SOURDOUGH CLASS 3/9/14 Registration

February 17th, 2014

Emerson Ave. Community GardenOn Sunday, March 9th, 2014 (1:00-4pm) I’ll lead a class in sourdough bread and crackers.  This class will meet at the Westchester United Methodist Church on Emerson Ave.  As with all our classes, we are limited to 16 students. Inspired by the work of Chad Robertson in his excellent book, Tartine Bread, I will demonstrate how to build and store your own sourdough starter and use it to prepare great San Francisco style, restaurant-quality bread in your home kitchen. I have been baking this type of bread for several years.  We will also learn to make tasty whole grain sourdough crackers.

Taking classes with two of California’s best bakers, Craig Ponsford (San Rafael) and Dave Miller (Chico), I now feel prepared to teach this class.  My friends in LABB (Los Angeles Bread Bakers) and SLOLA (Seed Library of LA) have connected me to like-minded bakers who share my love for the art and craft of baking bread and growing wheat.  Nan Kohler, of Grist & Toll in Pasadena, is helping us recover a true wheat connection in Los Angeles by establishing a mill.  Over the past 5 years, bread baking has become an even more important part of my family life, and I hope you will join me in my enthusiasm for working with whole-grain flours.

Before the class, you may want to read the first two chapters of  Chad Robertson’s 2010 book, Tartine Bread.  If you want to bake your bread in a closed cast iron pot, as he recommends, you can buy a combo cooker online for about $30.00-$35.00.   You do not need to bring it to class.  A cloche works well too, but is more expensive.

Elizabeth Sala and I are very grateful for the generous support of the Emerson Ave. Community Garden Club and its members who have made these Food Preservation Classes available at an affordable price ($20.00/class).

–Dana Morgan

Registration was closed Thursday, March 6 at 10pm.


Winter Citrus — Food Preservation Classes

January 25th, 2014

Our first Food Preservation Class, WINTER CITRUS, will be offered by Emerson Avenue Community Garden Club on Sunday, February 23 from 1-4PM. Taught by master food preserver Elizabeth Sala and master gardener Dana H. Morgan, participants will learn basic hot water bath canning and make delicious marmalade and syrup. Cost is $20 per class. Class size is limited.

This class is closed.



January 25th, 2014


Organic gardening classes begin next month at Emerson Avenue Community Garden (EACG), Emerson Ave. at 80th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90045, on the grounds of Orville Wright Middle School.

Taught by UCCE Master Gardeners: Dana H. Morgan (Coordinator), Don Smith, Lucinda Zimmerman, Julie Strnad.

March 23 through April 13, 2014  from 1-4PM (4 Sunday afternoons)

$75 for the series, $20/class.  20% of student fees are donated to Emerson Ave. Community Garden Club to support educational activities.

Hands-on gardening!  Come get your hands (or gloves) dirty.

Topics: Building soil, planning and preparing your garden, choosing plants and seeds, composting, handling weeds and pests, watering, seeds saving, harvesting and more.

For more information or to register for individual classes, Contact Dana Morgan

Payment is no longer available through Paypal.



Watermelon Rind Pickles

October 7th, 2013

I’ve added my own mix of spices to Kevin’s great recipe.  I’ve grown quite fond of the taste of star anise lately.  And I’ve always been a fan of hot peppers and prefer using the dehydrated, skinny, Thai pepper or chile arbol.  These are not my grandma Opal’s pickles, but I think she’d approve.  She didn’t want to waste anything either.

(adapted from Kevin West, Saving the Season).  I strongly recommend this book.  It’s not only a GREAT book on canning, pickling, and preserving; it’s full of great stories and is beautfullly produced.  I just worry about spilling sticky stuff on it.  Thanks to Master Food Preserver Sarah Spitz for recommending it.

10-15 pound watermelon (organically grown)
¼ cup kosher salt or sea salt. Do not use iodized salt for pickles.
6 cups water (filtered water is preferred)
2 ½ cups red wine vinegar or cider vinegar (no distilled white vinegar)
1 ½ cups cane sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
½ tsp allspice berries
½ tsp black pepper corns
5 whole cloves
3-5 dried red chilies
½ star anise
½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp. yellow or brown mustard seeds
1 dried green cardamom pod, crushed to release seeds
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
–After you eat the flesh of the watermelon, peel the green skin off of the watermelon and scrape the flesh from inside of the melon. Leaving a little pink flesh is quite attractive. It’s the pale green inner rind that you will be pickling. Cut up the watermelon rind into one inch chunks or thin sticks of equal size.
–Make a brine of the kosher salt and water and pour over the rinds. Weight them with a plate, and cover the bowl with a clean dish tower. Set aside for about 8-12 hours (over night is good).
–The next day, when you wake up early, drain the rinds and rinse with fresh water. Combine the vinegar, sugar, and molasses in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Crush the spices—except for the star anise and bay leaf, and add to the pan. When the vinegar syrup boils, add the rinds to the pan, cover it, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the rinds are transparent. Larger pieces will take longer. Keep turning the pieces in the pan, replacing the lid every few minutes. When they are done, remove the watermelon pieces with a slotted spoon, and pack them into 4 sterilized pint jars. Leave a generous ½ inch head space.
–Bring the syrup back to a boil, and pour it over the rinds to cover, leaving ½ headspace. Run a skewer or thin spatula around the inside edge of the jars to release bubbles. Top up with more syrup as needed. If you run out of syrup, top up the jars with straight red wine or cider vinegar. Wipe the rims, seal the jars, and process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes Wait a week or two before eating. The flavors will develop.

The Roma Tomato Experience

September 2nd, 2013


Starting at 7:30 a.m. Paul and I picked Roma tomatoes for an hour at Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark, CA.  My goal was about 50 pounds.  We came home with 80 pounds!  Price was 25 cents/pound.

First, I sliced enough to fill my Excaliber dehydrator.  These Roma tomatoes are too meaty and thick to fit in all 5 shelves in, so I could only insert 3 shelves.  To make use of one other shelf, I grilled  and cleaned 2 pounds of Hatch Chilies, removing seeds and the charred peels.  I will grind this into powder, a real space saver.  And it is hot!

Washed and cooked about 12 pounds of tomatoes to preserve as crushed tomatoes and water bath canned them.  Roasted tomatoes in the oven for an hour for dinner to serve with grilled chicken. We ate half of them!  Delicious, with only salt, pepper, dried red pepper flakes and a sprinkle of olive oil.

What I Learned:  To use the dehydrator efficiently, I need to fill all the trays, so tomorrow I will make tomato chips, slicing the tomatoes horizontally into 1/4 rounds.  I have separated the small tomatoes from the big ones.  Small Romas are 50 grams or smaller.  Making a basic tomato sauce, a staple in our house, is also on my agenda for tomorrow.  My go to canning book is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Kingry and Devine.

Day 2:  I set my alarm for 4 a.m. to turn off the dehydrator, but in the morning I saw that the tomatoes were still too wet.  I want them bendable but dry.  So, I had to turn it back on.  It’s now 9 a.m. and they have been drying since noon yesterday.  Must cut them thinner today.  I’m about to remove the finished ones and will put them in an airtight canning jar.

We need more jars!  And I really need a pot deep enough for my quart jars.  My ever helpful husband is headed to Walmart and Smart and Final to check prices.  I’m looking for wide mouth pint jars for sauce, and half-pints for preserves–my specialty.  I’ve in mind to make a tomato-vanilla jam once I get a chance.

Day 3:  More dehydration.  Cut the tomatoes horizontally and filled the dehydrator again.

Day 4:  Sauce and more dehydration.  I must have other things to do, no?

Day 5:  Roma Tomato Pasata with Rosemary, garlic, onion, lemon thyme, olive oil.  Roasted in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour and then put through the food mill, cooked down for 30 minutes.  Canned in hot water bath.  Delicious beyond belief. I have about 8 pounds of ripe tomatoes left.  I have some green ones to pickle too.  They can wait.



Patricia Klindienst: Ethnic Gardeners

March 16th, 2011

For several years  I’ve assigned Klindienst’s book, The Earth Knows My Name, in my English classes at Santa Monica College.  I’ve recommended to book to many friends and faculty in English, ESL, and history.  At the recent American Horticulture Society Child and Youth Garden Symposium in Pasadena, I realized that I was at it again, recommending her book to almost everyone with whom I chatted.  Fortunately, I was able to meet with Patricia this summer.  After the FEEST at Holyoke, we drove south to see her in Guilford, Connecticut, which is on the coast.  It was a full and rich day.  We chatted a while in her kitchen and then walked to dinner at a local restaurant.

What we discussed: Her book and assignments I’ve designed.

Her new project based on a gardener she wanted to have in the book, but he was no longer living (Jewish).  She took me into her work room, where the wall was plastered with photos, immigrant manifests from their trip to America at the turn of the century, the greenhouses in Brooklyn? Bronx.   She had written about this Jewish couple in the proposed draft of The Earth Knows My Name, but had to cut them out.  He was the only gardener who was no longer living.  The family gave her access to the postcard collection of the family and she scanned the photos and made a beautiful book for them, showing both sides of the cards.  She feels she knows more about the family than the family  members know.  For some reason I thought she was fictionalizing this content, but no, she is writing a biography of this couple, especially this Jewish gardener, who seems to have risen to the top of the florist trade, supplying New York with flowers in the 20s(?)

Bibliography of Farm & Garden

December 11th, 2010

The following books, journal articles, and films represent a small collection of materials that can potentially support instructors in a variety of disciplines  who want to integrate agriculture, farming or the garden into the curriculum. The general focus is on food production and farming, but because everything is connected to food and the land, consumer and economic issues are addressed by many of these texts.  A mix of fiction and non-fiction follows.  I especially recommend William Conlogue’s Working the Garden:  American Writers and the Industrialization of Agriculture as a starting point for your own research.

Berry, Wendell.  The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1977.  In this now classic text, Berry addresses social and economic aspects of agriculture.  Our environmental crisis is a crisis of character, states Berry.  In his 1986 reprint he wrote that the crisis has only worsened since he first wrote this book.  Indeed, even in 2010, this book is current.   Berry describes how we lost, and are continuing to lose many small farms in the U.S.  For our students, this book can remind them that this is not a new problem, rather it is an ongoing and dangerous process.

—.  The Art of the Commonplace:  The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker and Hoard, 2002.  Forward by Norman Wirzba.  The introduction argues for agrarianism, as Berry sees it, as a corrective to our current destructive industrial culture. The non-fiction collection is drawn from a wide range of books by Berry and organized into five sections.

—.  Bringing It to the Table: On Food and Farming.  Introduction by Michael Pollan. Berkeley, California: Counterpoint, 2009.  Another, and more current, collection that reminds us that much of the current conversation on the “food revolution” began in the early 70s with the work of Berry who was inspired by Sir Albert Howard, the British agronomist. Berry uses the farm rather than the wilderness as his subject, as did H.D. Thoreau.  He brought wildness close to home, into the garden.  “Eating,” says Berry, “is an agricultural act.”  This one statement may be the germ of the food revolution.  The book includes several parts: essays by Berry on farming, farms, and farmers.  In the final, highly recommended section on food, the excerpts are from  Berry’s fiction.  Through these selections, chosen by Berry, we learn of the food preparation, eating, and appreciation of food by farm families.

— and Paul Merchant.  Wendell Berry (American Author Series). Lewiston, Idaho:  Confluence, 1991. This unusual volume includes new poetry, and a new short story by Berry, an interview with him, several letters, and a few essays of criticism and appreciation.  Photographs of Berry range from 1960 to 1990, age 26 to 56.

The Climate Friendly Gardener:  A Guide to Combating Global Warming from the Ground Up. This is a .pdf  published by the Union of Concerned Scientists

Conlogue, William.  Working the Garden:  American Writers and the Industrialization of Agriculture. This author discusses how literary works document the costs to American culture of the denigration of the family farm and direct work with the land.  We are less likely to look for this documentation in the works of Willa Cather, Ruth Comfort Mitchell, John Steinbeck, Luis Valdez, Ernest Gaines, Jane Smiley, Wendell Berry, and others.  Themes addressed include the impact of technology, evolving gender roles, exploitation of agricultural workers, and environmental degradation.  The setting may be the farm, but the effects are wide ranging, affecting all of us.

Crawford, Stanley.  A Garlic Testament: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm. New York:  Harper Collins, 1992. Crawford is an excellent writer, who teaching about everything while writing about growing garlic.  We learn about the land and farming, about economics, about the culture of the southwest in his small town near Los Alamos. This is one man’s story about his relationship with the earth and with his wonderful garlic.

Fukuoka, Masanobu.  The One-Straw Revolution (1978).  Goa, India: Other India Press, 1992.  In inspiring book about organic farming practices but also about life and returning to a rich heritage of working closely and simply with the land. Photographs.  Previously an agricultural scientist, the author has had a profound effect on farming practices which require less labor and less destruction of the soil.

Howard, Sir Albert.  The Soil and Health: A Study of Organic Agriculture (1947). University Press of Kentucky, 2007. A classic of the organic food movement. The introduction by Wendell Berry argues that Howard’s one great subject (health, both qualitatively and quantitatively) should be the subject of universities.  It’s worth the price of this book.

Jack, Zachary Michael.  Black Earth and Ivory Tower:  New American Essays from Farm and Classroom. University of S. Carolina Press, 2005.  A fascinating collection of pieces by academics with one foot in the farm and one in the academy.  Academics on the farm and the farms of academics are written about with a sense of history, culture, and an eye for the American farm as a source of knowledge.

Lappe. Francis Moore.  Diet for a Small Planet. Twentieth anniversary edition, 1985.  For Lappe, food is still the best way to understand world politics.  As a historical marker, this book can remind students that food is always a “hot” issue.  Food writing reflects the historical period.

Lappe, Anna.  Diet for a Hot Planet. Intro. Bill McKibben.  Anna addresses the major role industrial agriculture plays in today’s climate crisis. Responsibly researched and cogently articulated, this far-reaching investigation entails questioning scientists; attending UN, governmental, corporate, and grassroots agriculture conferences; plowing through daunting reports and studies, and, most pleasurably, visiting organic farms around the world. She gathers facts proving that global industrial agriculture—specifically the use of hazardous chemicals, concentrated animal feeding operations, biotech crops, and processed foods—is impoverishing the land, destroying rain forests, polluting waterways, and emitting nearly a third of the greenhouse gases that are heating the planet. In contrast, well-designed organic-farming techniques reduce carbon emissions and toxic waste while nurturing soil and biodiversity. Convinced that eating wisely is one way to influence the marketplace and, ultimately, help combat world hunger and climate change, Lappé decodes food labeling, dissects Big Ag’s “greenwashing” tactics, and offers “seven principles of a climate-friendly diet” in an impeccable, informative, and inspiring contribution to the quest for environmental reform. –Donna Seaman (Booklist).  A trailer featuring Anna Lappe is available at www.

Marquart, Debra. The Horizontal World. Marquart writes of her life growing up on a North Dakota farm, the youngest of four siblings.  She has a love-hate relationship with the farm, like many children raised on the farm, and her essay from this book, “Chores” was published in Orion magazine.

Harrison, Robert Pogue. Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition. Chicago, Chicago UP, 2008.  Harrison discusses the garden in literature from numerous perspectives.  He discusses ancient philosophers and many modern writers, beginning with the garden as the site of the first earthly paradise.  Example from the chapter “The Human Gardener”: Karel Čapek in The Gardener’s Year (1929) sees gardening not as a subset of life, but life as a subset of gardening.  Harrison writes, “Gardening is an opening of worlds—of worlds within worlds—beginning with the world at one’s feet.  To become conscious of what one is treading on requires that one delve into the ground’s organic underworld, so as to appreciate, in an engaged way, the soil’s potential for fostering life” (31).

Kingsolver, Barbara.  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Harper Collins, 2007.  This book is part memoir, part journalistic investigation.  It tells the story of how Kingsolver’s family changed by one year of deliberately eating food produced in the place where they live.  Barbara wrote the narrative, her husband (Stephen L Hopp) wrote about food production science and industry, and Camille (a first year students in college) wrote about the local food project and nutrition.

-.  Prodigal Summer. HarperCollins, 2000.  “Kingsolver continues to take on timely issues, here focusing on the ecological damage caused by herbicides, ethical questions about raising tobacco, and the endangered condition of subsistence farming. A corner of southern Appalachia serves as the setting for the stories of three intertwined lives, and alternating chapters with recurring names signal which of the three protagonists is taking center stage. Each character suffers because his or her way of looking at the world seems incompatible with that of loved ones. In the chapters called “Predator,” forest ranger Deanna Wolfe is a 40-plus wildlife biologist and staunch defender of coyotes, which have recently extended their range into Appalachia. Wyoming rancher Eddie Bondo also invades her territory, on a bounty hunt to kill the same nest of coyotes that Deanna is protecting. Their passionate but seemingly ill-fated affair takes place in summertime and mirrors “the eroticism of fecund woods” and “the season of extravagant procreation.” Meanwhile, in the chapters called “Moth Love,” newly married entomologist Lusa Maluf Landowski is left a widow on her husband’s farm with five envious sisters-in-law, crushing debts and a desperate and brilliant idea.  Crusty old farmer Garnett Walker (“Old Chestnuts”) learns to respect his archenemy, who crusades for organic farming and opposes Garnett’s use of pesticides.” (Publisher’s Weekly, Nov. 2000).

Klindienst, Patricia.  The Earth Knows My Name: Food Culture and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans. Boston: Beacon, 2006. I have used this book in English 21A/B at SMC.  In multiple chapters, Klindienst focuses on gardeners of diverse ethnicities.  The “Prologue” which focuses on what motivated her to write the book, is available online from Beacon Press.  One approach to teaching with this book is to assign and discuss the Prologue as a full class, followed by having students in small group read, discuss, and present the information about each chapter with a “potluck” celebration to conclude the unit.

Mann, Charles C. “Our Good Earth: The Future Rests on Soil.  Can we Protect it?”  Photographs by Jim Richardson.  National Geographic. September, 2008.  Four striking photos compare soil cuts:  Virgin Prairie in Kansas, Rice Terrace in China, a reclaimed field in Niger, and Dry Land in Syria.

Masumoto, David Mas.  Wisdom of the Last Farmer (2009). His most recent book discusses bringing his father back to farming following his stroke to teach him to farm again.  At , my web site,  I have written about discussions I had with him regarding writing and motivating our students to think about farming and writing about the farm/garden.

—.  Heirlooms:  Letters from a Peach Farmer (2007).

—.  Harvest Son:  Planting Roots in American Soil (1998). This engaging memoir frequently appears in high school classes that integrate agriculture.

—.  Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm (1995).

Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature. Special issue:  “THE GARDEN.”  Vol. 38:4, Dec. 2005.    Of particular note:  Ladrica Menson-Furr’s “Booker T. Washington, August Wilson, and the Shadows in the Garden.” (175-190).

Sarver, Stephanie L.  Uneven Land:  Nature and Agriculture in American Writing. Lincoln, Nebraska: U of Nebraska Press, 1999.  Focused on the late 19th and early 20th century, this collection of essays includes Emerson, Harland Garland, Frank Norris, Wm. Ellsworth Smithe, and Liberty Hyde Bailey.  The author addresses various views about agriculture.  She is interested in the relationship between nature and agriculture including aspects of the spiritual, material, economic and social.  Do farmers enjoy a privileged relationship to nature?  Emerson says, yes, they do,  but Garland and Bailey’s work shows that this relationship is compromised by farmers’ reliance on commerce.  In contrast, for Norris and Smythe, the land is a stage on which human dramas are enacted.

Smiley, Jane.  A Thousand Acres. This novel, which can be taught along with Shakespeare’s King Lear, is set in rural Iowa.

Smith, Jane S.  The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants. Penguin, 2009.  Early 20th century America and the history of the celebrated plant breeder.  He was the most famous gardener in the world.  Smith is a cultural historian and she explores how events in his life reveal larger trends that he creates and reveals.  The early years of bioengineering are explored.

Steinbeck, John.  The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Centennial edition.  A classic novel about the depression era and the effects of industrial farming.

Winne, Mark.  Food Rebels, Guerilla Gardeners, and Smart-Cookin’ Mamas: Fighting Back in an Age of Industrial Agriculture. Beacon, 2010.  To be released on October 12, this book reports on communities and individuals who are working to replace the industrial food system with a food democracy.  We learn about urban farming in Cleveland, buffalo restoration on Native American reservations food-education classes in diabetes and obesity-prone neighborhoods.  Winn is also the author of Closing the Food Gap.

Recommended films:

Chefs a’ Field:  Culinary Adventures that Begin on the Farm, 2009. (Two Disc Set).This KCTS series, distributed by PBS offers culinary adventures from throughout the country and from Yucatan.  Great chefs, local farmers, and fishermen help us learn about eco-friendly foods.  Each episode also includes simplified cooking demonstrations.

Nourish: Food + Community. 30 min. Hosted and narrated by Cameron Diaz.  DVD produced by the Center for Ecoliteracy and Worldlink:, 2010.  I introduced this film to SMC on opening day, fall 2010 in the Broad Theater.   Several two minutes films with Michael Pollan, Jamie Oliver, and others, make this a valuable addition to the classroom.  Trailer is available at the worldlink web site.

King Corn[i]denpedent lens trailer for King Corn.  Dir. Aaron Wolf.  New Video Group, 2008.  The story of Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, recent college graduates, who travel cross-country to find out what it really means to be corn fed.  They look at how corn has come to dominate the food industry as a sweetener, and also look at the sad state of farming in the U.S.  I recommend this film for it potential to motivate students to do research about something that can make a difference.  They use humor and creative filmmaking to keep their audience interested.

Food, Inc. (2008) Dir. Robert Kenner explores the subject from all angles, talking to authors, advocates, farmers, and CEOs, like co-producer Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), Gary Hirschberg (Stonyfield Farms), and Barbara Kowalcyk, who’s been lobbying for more rigorous standards since E. coli claimed the life of her two-year-old son.  The connection to between farming practices and the food industry will need to be discussed with students if this film is shown in the classroom.

The Future of Food (2005).  Actors: Exequiel Ezcurra and Sara Maamouri.  Dir. Deborah Koons Gardia. Virgil Films and Entertainment (DVD), 2007. This is an informative documentary about our food supply. Includes information about the Genetically Modified food industry and farmers who try to resist GMO and get sued by corporations.  I recommend watching “The Future of Food” first, and then “How to Save the World”, about what is happening in India, for a incredible real world solution. Both films are entertaining and can educate you on what is really happening to food and farmers in the USA and other countries!

The Garden (2008). Director and Writer Scott Hamilton Kennedy.  Synopsis: The 14 acre community garden in South Central Los Angeles was the largest of its kind in the United States. It was started as a form of healing after the devastating L.A. riots in 1992. Since that time, the South Central Farmers have created a miracle in one of the country’s most blighted neighborhoods. Growing their own food. Feeding their families. Creating a community. But now bulldozers threaten their oasis. The Garden is an unflinching look at the struggle between these urban farmers and the City of Los Angeles and a powerful developer who want to evict them and build warehouses.  Comments: This is a painful reminder of how undervalued farming and growing food is in this city.  The results of the eviction, acreage in Bakersfield and a very active CSA throughout Los Angeles run by South Central Farmers shows what can happen when people ban together for such an important cause.  So, though the land was lost, other opportunities were found.  The story is a lesson for our time about food and priorities and politics and the peoples of Los Angeles.


The History of Gardens:
Archives of American Gardens, Smithsonian:

Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes (Journal):

Web sites, Blogs, and Garden Groups:

ACGA (American Community Gardening Association). This group established in 1979 supports community gardens.

American Horticultural Society’s 18th Annual Symposium on National Children’s and Youth’s Garden Symposium: The Vitality of Gardens: Energizing the Learning Environment 7/22-7/24 in Pasadena, CA

California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (CFAITC).  Focused on K-12 education, they have curriculum materials that address agricultural literacy.

California School Garden Network. This site is a treasure trove of resources about school gardening including how to start, plan, and manage a school garden, grants and fundraising, curriculum and lesson plans, where to buy supplies, etc.  Though established to support K-12, the information here is excellent.

Christy Wilhelmi, who teaches Organic Gardening 101 at SMC has a very popular gardening website/ blog:

Common Ground Gardening Program. University of California Cooperative Extension.  This program helps LA residents garden, grow their own food, and healthfully prepare it.  They target limited-resource residents and those traditionally underrepresented.  They also run the master gardener volunteer program and the new Victory Garden Initiative, which began last spring.  I was a member of the first cohort taught at Venice High School.  Yvonne Savio is the Common Ground Program Manager

Dave’s Garden database One of the best resources for gardeners on the web.

Food Forward: an all volunteer group in Los Angeles that cares about reconnecting to our food system and making change around urban hunger. engage volunteers to harvest locally grown food from private homes and public  spaces which is then distributed to local food pantries and organizations serving those in need. This work builds community and is a catalyst for raising awareness and creating change around issues of urban hunger and sustainability, food justice as well as combating food waste.

Kitchen Gardeners International: A Global Community Cultivating Change.  Roger Doiron, (Maine) who was instrumental in getting a garden established on the white house lawn, is the creative force behind this  community of gardeners from over 100 countries.  Their mission is to empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve greater levels of food self-reliance through the promotion of kitchen gardening, home-cooking, and sustainable local food systems. In doing so, KGI seeks to connect, serve, and expand the global community of people who grow some of their own food.

Larner Seeds California Natives Two books by Judith Larner Lowry (Bolinas, CA since 1977) are highly recommended: Gardening with a Wild Heart, and Restoring California’s Native Landscape at Home.

LLA (Life Learning Academy) San Francisco, CA  At a high school on Treasure Island, this SFUSD Charter School has developed an inspiring curriculum. Of special interest here is their 6.5 EarthCurriculum, Organic Opportunites for a Gardening and Entrepreneurship Program.

National Gardening Association (NGA)  1100 Dorset Street, S. Burlington, VT  05403

Roots of Change Roots of Change (ROC) works to develop and support a collaborative network of leaders and institutions in California with interest in establishing a sustainable food system in our state by the year 2030. This network involves food producers, businesses, nonprofits, communities, government agencies, and foundations that share a commitment to changing our food thinking, food markets, and food policies. The resulting system will provide healthy and affordable food, benefits and wealth to workers and farmers, and will help restore the soil, water, species diversity, and climate upon which food production depends.

Slow Food, U.S.A.

Spring 2010 Sabbatical

December 11th, 2010

My sabbatical titled “What can we learn from Gardens?” completed during the spring/summer of 2010 has expanded my view of how gardens and farming are connected to so much of our lives.  In addition to opening my mind to a “garden perspective,” I’ve become a more confident garden advocate and more knowledgeable organic gardener.  I have benefitted much from having the time to work in my own home garden and to complete several gardening classes, including the one proposed with David King at The Learning Garden at Venice High School.  In addition, I completed three one-day classes: Los Angeles  Arboretum class with John Lyons (April 10), Ocean View Gardens Biointensive class with Christy Wilhelmi (4/17), and a class with Russell Ackerman at the Santa Monica Library.  I was also able to participated in the inaugural LA Victory Garden Initiative,  a four week class taught in April at Venice H.S.

During my sabbatical I visited  many types of gardens from the first community garden in Santa Monica on Main Street (guided by Russ Ackerman), established in the 1970s, to school gardens throughout the city.  Samohi and Olympic H.S. gardens were visited and I was able to talk to the students who work in these gardens.  As part of the American Horticultural Society National Children and Youth Garden Symposium in Pasadena, I was able to visit several other school gardens, including 24th Street School near USC, which was designed by Nancy Powers.  One thing led to another, and I met with people from Cornell, the Huntington, and South Coast Botanical Gardens.  One of the most beneficial unexpected events was going up to the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens on the day when Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson was speaking on “Great Botanical Gardens of the World” (March 14).

I also visited gardens in Dutchess County, New York; Shelburne Farms in Vermont; and Nuestras Raices in South Holyoke, Massachusetts.  On this exciting journey, I’ve come to see that thinking like a gardener (or farmer) is of enormous value to us as humans.  To be human is to nurture, to care for the world, and to enrich the world in some way.  There is no question why gardening metaphors, such as “planting seeds” of thought and “putting down roots” are so common.  The world culture is part of the word, cultivate.  As a gardener, I may say to you, “Come see me,” and what I really mean is “Come see my garden.”   And if you do, you will probably find me on my knees, and you will leave with a gift of a plant, or seeds, or at least the desire to make things grow.  It’s natural to us to want to cultivate, to green the earth.

The benefits from my sabbatical to the college are many, as we are currently planning the SMC Organic Garden design with architects from Meléndrez Construction, Greg Brown, and students from Club Grow.  Beyond the objectives listed on the first page of my sabbatical, I’ve especially learned patience, a quality we can all agree is important to us as educators.  Because of my sabbatical, I feel more equipped to be patience as this garden comes into being, and to know it will change and grow over time.   I’ve also learned that the garden teaches numerous skills and values that we should not dismiss for our students’ lives, including long-term thinking, planning for future generations of students.  Some additional life skills, such as how to grow food, and prepare it, is knowledge we once took for granted, but this is knowledge my students tell me they want.  Watching as seeds we have planted with our own hands  grow into delicious foods that end up on our dinner table, and observing the cycle of life season after season is invaluable.  I’ve written about what a garden is in “Our Garden: An Essay” at, and it is at my web site, where observations during my sabbatical have been posted.

Though I have completed the objectives listed in my proposal written over a year ago, I have learned much more than I expected.  The value of professional development in this area was a dream come true for me, and it’s difficult to express my gratitude.  As I continue to teach at SMC, I will continue to develop my understanding of how the garden can be integrated into the curriculum through continued practice and conversations with colleagues in various disciplines.   This work is ongoing, never finished – as is gardening.  I’ve learned that the garden can be an amazing site for community to develop through observing community gardens, the work of David King at Venice H.S., and in South Holyoke.  When people work together in a garden, sharing knowledge and food, they change in remarkable ways.

My knowledge of organic gardening practices and garden writing has grown through reading, talking to other gardeners, and applying what I have learned in my own backyard garden.  One major lesson that I will continue to apply in my classes and encourage other to undertake is seeing a garden (or farm) as a site of cross-cultural understanding.  I’ve seen this demonstrated  in the community gardens I’ve visited.  For example, at the Nuestas Raices farm, La Finca, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Puerto Rican farmers developed a connection to an Indian family as a result of the small, tasty eggplants grown.  At first, the Puerto Rican growers couldn’t understand why anyone would want to grow such small eggplants, but then they tasted them and began growing them also.  Just observing what another grower does in the field often creates a conversation and a friendship develops.  Food, of course, is culture.  Many community gardeners share seeds and recipes, as well as growing practices, building strong relationships through common human activities.

In an effort to integrate the garden within my own discipline,  English, I’ve seen the effectiveness of adding readings and writing activities about gardeners of diverse ethnicities through use of Patricia Klindienst’s book, The Earth Knows My Name:  Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans (Beacon, 2006). I’ve written more about using Klindienst’s book on my web site, in the sections titled “A Window into Culture” (8/20) and “The Earth Knows My Name: Making an Argument for this Book” (8/14).

Many types of writing can use the garden as a subject and a focus.  Besides writing about the garden, students can write for the garden in practical, real-world documents that have the power to change our culture.  The multi-page Garden Proposal submitted to SMC Human Resources during the summer is an example of such a document.  Including multiple modes of writing, a strong purpose statement, argument, instructions, and suggested management of the garden for maximizing student involvement,  this document, inspired by the Harvard Garden Guide was supervised by me, and includes the collaborative work of several SMC students, including Samia Bano (introduction) and Natasha Gorodnitski who helped edit the document.  It includes a two-year plan as requested by the college as well as suggestions for how the garden can be constructed, planted, and managed.

In meetings with my core interview subjects, David Mas Masumoto, Patricia Klindienst, Antonio Solario and Marsha Guerro, director of the Chez Panisse Foundations’s Edible Schooyard, I collected ideas about projects to integrate the garden into the curriculum.  Masumoto has visited numerous schools, including Santa Monica High School last spring.   Some highlights of their suggestions follow:

  • Masumoto suggests sensory writing in the garden to help students learn to slow down and listen, as well as time-lapse photography projects of plants growing.  His book, Harvest Son, is an excellent memoir of his experiences as a young man on the family farm near Fresno.  In it he returns to Japan to visit his relatives.  This book is often included in garden-based learning courses.
  • Klindienst suggests writing about earliest memories of gardening, oral history projects (interview a gardener/farmer), memories of celebrations involving food, and a class cookbook with essays about food and cultures.
  • Solorio suggests having everyone plant seeds to experience new life, the potential in something so seeming insignificant.   Simple and stunning, making a choice to nurture life and experience its potential might be the most important metaphor of all.
  • Marsha Guerrero, Director of the Edible Schoolyard, helps guide schools who want to establish a sustainable garden/kitchen program.  The Edible Schoolyard, now in its 15th year, sets a high standard for bringing the garden into the schoolyard.  Each 6-8th grader learns to grow and prepare food with classes in the garden and the kitchen.  The curriculum for these classes has been developed by staff of the Foundation inspired by  Alice Water’s goal to teach these students life-long lessons in nutrition.

Garden Projects suggested by the Edible Schoolyard:

§  Writing and drawing in Garden Journals,

§  Collecting insects, identifying them and researching what role they play in the garden (science),

§  Saving seeds, designing seed packets to store them in, and calculating germination rates (botany, art, math)

§  Creating a solar oven out of pizza boxes

§  Creating healthy snacks from garden produce to replace fast food snacks (nutrition)

§  Field Trips to the local farmer’s market

§  Field trip to local grocery stores:  SAFEWAY—a supermarket giant, Whole Foods, and a small family-owned market that specializes in local, organic produce (in Berkeley, Monterey Market).  Prior to the market visits, students are asked to name food products used regularly in their households.  With a list of the most commonly used items, students divide into 3 groups to visit one of the stores.  Students record prices, nutritional information, and product origin, and compare costs between organic and conventional products,  Then they regroup with staff to share their information and observations. Students compare the data they gather, and make recommendations for purchasing groceries.

§  Planting the three sisters: corn, beans, and squash.  The three sisters form a symbiotic relationship in which each plant plays an important role in the health of the other plants.   At MLK Middle School, these plants will be harvested by incoming 6th graders—the new students on campus. Begin with 6” corn seedlings, bean seeds, and squash seeds.  Corn is planted in a circle of four, each about one foot in diameter.  Between the newly-planted corn, place bean seeds in shallow holes where they will fix nitrogen and climb the stalks of the corn.  Finally, plant winter squash seeds in open spaces between the circles.  Over time the vining plants cover the open soil, preventing weeds and retaining moisture.

I was able to visit several school gardens, as I stated previously.  One of the most fruitful unplanned visits was part of the workshop I completed at the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley.  We spent all day Friday at the John Muir Elementary School in Oakland.  Their garden was built 30 years ago around a amphitheater and boasts a beautiful redwood tree.  Participants cooked strawberry jam and experienced the differences of taste in strawberry varieties.   We wrote poetry about strawberries and making jam, worked in the garden, and transplanted strawberries into pots.  At the stage level of the amphitheater an outdoor classroom was the focus of garden instruction.  The design of the space at this school was inspiring, lush with a variety of flowers, vegetables, berries, and other fruits, and four chickens (June 23-25).

My sabbatical has ended, but I feel that my work is just beginning.  As I continue to speak for the garden, encouraging faculty and students to commit to this important project, my motives for beginning this project are confirmed and I see that this garden has the potential to bring together SMC goals related to global citizenship and sustainability.  I was able to make a brief presentation about the garden on September 7, 2010, at Bill Selby’s Introduction to Environmental Studies class.   I talked about the history and progress we’ve made with the garden and introduced the Club Grow president, Johnny Torres, who is also a student in that class, as is Justine Rembac, the A.S Director of Sustainability.

Having the time to focus my attention on gardening and “the garden” during spring semester was a priceless professional gift; however, the announcement by Bob Isomoto that the college would finance the garden as part of the bond issue was the key event of my whole year.  That has changed everything, so that we now have confidence that this garden will be institutionalized and constructed as a permanent part of the campus.  We know there is much more to do as we help guide this project to engage as much of the college community as possible.  By working with Club Grow members and Associated Students for the last four years, I’ve gotten to know some very passionate students who believe in this garden as a very special place to learn to grow our own food, a place for hands-on learning outside of the four walls of the classroom.  My life was changed because of two inspiring young women, Melody Overstreet and Natasha Vokhshoori, who asked me four years ago to be the faculty leader for the garden.  Inspired by the potential of their vision,  I had no idea of how all encompassing that vision would become for me.  It has become central, and I’ve come to see that a garden, our garden, has the potential to change everyone who gets involved.