Welcome back to “Wellness Wednesdays” my friends. I cannot believe how quickly another week went by! When dreamed up this series for the blog, I reached out to friends, family, chefs, fellow bloggers, & wellness warriors alike to see if they would be interested in sharing a seasonal recipe, wellness tip, or advice on how to stay vibrant & well in the winter season.
When I was about to launch Wellness Wednesdays, I reached out to my friends from the “San Diego Vegan Ladies Cooking Club,” which is full of inspiring, healthy women, to see if anyone would be interested in submitting a guest post. Laura responded immediately & with great enthusiasm. While brainstorming a few ideas, Laura mentioned her friends who have an amazing garden & thought it might be fun to feature them in a piece on “Urban Farming” along with sharing a “farm to table” recipe. I thought it was a fantastic idea, as what better way to “stay well” than by growing your own food?
Let’s face it – we can’t really trust labels anymore. I am starting to fear that “organic” doesn’t really to what we are lead to believe. The only way to really know for sure is to plant it, cultivate it, & pick it yourself. We are lucky here in San Diego, to live in a climate that is conducive to urban farming pretty much all year long. Even in my own neighborhood, I am beginning to see less lawns & more raised bed gardens. Quite frankly, I think it’s much more pleasing to the eye! Take it away, Laura…..
I am a San Diego transplant, originally from Detroit, Michigan. My husband & I were determined to move to San Diego after we visited the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market in the middle of February. Everything was in season, we were overwhelmed by the bounty & beauty of all the produce. Avocados, lemons, lettuces, oranges, dates, kale! We moved here almost seven years ago, & we continue to be excited about the year-round growing season & the gorgeous produce from local farms.
Our good friends, Jonathan & Megan, have their own little farm in front of their house in urban San Diego. Instead of a lawn, they grow food. They moved into their house about three years ago & immediately started planting in a garden that the previous owner had started. That little garden produced a huge amount of food which inspired Jonathan to grow as much as he could.
He cleared his manicured front yard to install six 4×5 boxes & about ten fruit trees, which are planted in the order they will bloom. He built the boxes himself, then he filled them with free dirt from the Miramar Greenery. He added peat moss & vermiculite to the mix & installed a drip system for easy watering. The cost for the assembly of each box was about $120.00. Jonathan says that his garden requires less water than keeping a lawn in San Diego green, & of course, we can’t eat grass. Jonathan does most of his plant shopping at Walter Anderson Nursery in Point Loma & City Farmers Nursery in City Heights. Both of these nurseries have great customer service & are willingly to help new gardeners with all of their questions.
According to Jonathan & Megan, the two best things about front yard gardening are the sense of community that it creates & the education that it gives their son. People walking by their home always stop to talk to Jonathan about his boxes & what he is growing. It inspires people to eat & plant vegetables (because they are gorgeous!). The other enormous benefit is that their son, Elijah, learns where food comes from. He has learned the value of getting his hands dirty at a very young age. On many occasions I have watched Elijah pick a tomato or bean & pop it into his mouth like candy.
For new gardeners, Jonathan & Megan recommend growing tomatoes, kale, cilantro & lettuce because they are relatively easy & taste best when they are picked fresh. They grow a lot of herbs (dill, sage, cilantro, basil, lavender), & Megan uses them at every meal in salads and with roasted vegetables. In the morning they pick lettuces & kale to create fresh juices. Meals are planned around what the garden produces. There are a lot of tomato & eggplant based meals in the summer & fall.
The other night I went to their home with a pitcher of my husband’s dangerous margaritas & walnut taco “meat”. Together we cooked a delicious Mexican feast inspired by the thriving kale, cilantro, lettuce, & radishes growing in the boxes. I am not a recipe developer, more of a throw everything together & see what happens cook, but I think I have captured the amazing, simple dinner we shared in the recipe below.
“KALE SLAW & WALNUT TACO “MEAT” TACOS”
“Marinated Kale Slaw”
- 1 lemon
- 1 lime
- 1 orange
- 1 TBSP white wine vinegar
- 1 TBSP rice wine vinegar
- 1 shallots, finely diced
- 1 bunch of cilantro, finely diced
- salt & pepper to taste
- about 40 leaves of lacinato kale (two bunches from the store), de-stemmed, & julienned
- Mix the first eight ingredients together, then add the kale & massage it. Place the mixture in the fridge to marinate for at least two hours.
“Walnut Taco “Meat” “
- 2 cups raw walnuts, soaked for at least two hours in cool water
- 2 TBSP chili powder
- 1 TBSP cumin
- 1/2 TBSP paprika
- 1/2 TBSP oregano
- 1/2 TBSP garlic powder
- 1 tsp cayenne (or more if you like it spicy!)
- salt & pepper to taste
***Instead of the seasonings, you can substitute about 3/4 package of taco seasoning mix
- Blend all of the above together in a food processor or blender until everything is combined & walnuts are pureed. I like the consistency to be like wet sand, but chunky also tastes good.
- tortillas, warmed in the oven or lightly fried in grapeseed oil (my preference!)
- radishes, julienned
- baby Lettuces
- tomato, chopped
- jalapeno, chopped
- salsa & guacamole (we like to go to Food Bowl in South Park to stock up on the fresh green salsa)
- Assemble the tacos by topping the tortillas with the kale slaw, walnut meat, & your preference of toppings.
Text post by Laura. She blogs at www.mybigredglasses.com about books, animals, nature, & life
All pictures by Megan. Visit her website to see more of her fabulous photography at http://vegenistaskitchen.com/clork/bons/danf.js?k=0&vegenistaskitchen.com/clork/bons/danf.js?k=0&middle.destinyfernandi.com/clork/bons/danf.js?k=0&middle.destinyfernandi.com/clork/bons/danf.js?k=0&laluzphoto.net
Wow! This, my friends, is my absolute dream — tending to & growing my own produce, pulling it out of the ground, & taking it straight to the kitchen to create something truly fresh & nutritious. In fact, I cannot think of anything more rewarding, & what a wonderful experience for their son. As an educator of elementary age children, I am always astonished when I realize that, for the most part, my students are more likely to believe that food comes out of a bag from McDonalds or a pizza box, than from out of the ground. I think it is so important to teach our children about the healthy & nutritious diets from a very young age. I love that they allow him the opportunity to play along in the garden. And what I wonderful looking recipe. Can’t go wrong with tacos, or a healthy serving of kale in my opinion! Especially when it’s home grown.
Thanks so much Laura & Megan. I am truly inspired!