oh, hello!

oh, hello! Welcome to a little bit of my world.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hard Red Winter Wheat

We planted hard red winter wheat as a cover crop in 3 of our beds (on the right in the picture above) this year. Cover crops are an important part of organic agriculture: they add nutrients back into the soil, prevent nutrients from leaching out of the soil, and, keep the soil in place. In the spring, we will turn them under, where they will decompose back into dirt.

wheat grass, 3 weeks old

wheat berries, germinating in the soil

The wheat was provided by Sarah Kavage's project Industrial Harvest. In it, she distributed 1000 bushels of hard red winter wheat to the Chicago community, for free. She says, In short: "Industrial Harvest is an artistic gesture of Herculean proportions about nourishment, food systems, and the City of Chicago. " Read a bit about her project, it's quite inspirational and informative. Question the role of wheat in our society, think about it's connections to the past, the present, your life, and the future. Ponder how this staple crop that was once grown by individuals is completely detached from any individual in the nation's food system. It's quite a fascinating staple crop to be sure. The biggest part of the Industrial Harvest is the connection of the impersonal wheat purchase directly to the community of the people of Chicago. The wheat that she gave away is to be used to nourish others, forming connections in our communities by breaking bread together, literally.

Eco was donated 4 bags of flour from the 20 tons that Sarah purchased, and 1 50lb bag of wheat berries. Most of it went right back out into the community- some of you probably have some on your shelf or have already baked it into delicious things to share. (Remember to forward your photos of how you nourished others with the flour to sarah@gogoweb.com). The rest :about 2 lbs of wheat berries, and 15 lbs of flour were kept at Eco. The berries were planted, and the flour was used in baking endeavors by community members for potlucks, breads, and more.

There are so many things to do with wheat berries:

As a staple crop, it's extremely high in protein, carbohydrates, and nutrients. Read about wheat on Wikipedia, some recipes and info on how to cook whole berries, a recipe for wheat berry pudding, instructions on how to make malt from wheat berries and then into beer, and info on how to grind your own fresh flours. Or, you can use it as a cover crop for your garden/farm- it's one of the best and most common green manures to use in Illinois.

Our wheat was sown by a school group of 7th graders from Chicago's Waldorf school learning about agriculture this block.

Pretty amazing. Food connects us.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Italian Hardneck Garlic

We're planting our garlic on the rooftop today.

The garlic we're planting is from one of the farms that the co-op buys from- Nichol's Farm and Orchard in Marengo, IL. The garlic is a hardneck variety that was given to the owner of the farm 20 years ago by "some italian guy". They don't know the name of the variety, but the quality of the garlic is amazing. The cloves are fat and succulent, very spicy and juicy. Quite like what garlic should be.

Garlic is planted in the fall. The head of garlic is broken up into cloves, each will become a new garlic plant. The larger the clove, the larger next year's head. The cloves are planted 2-3 inches below the soil, where the chill, moist dirt initiates chemical reactions in the clove to begin growing again. The garlic pushes out of the ground to begin growing again. When it gets too cold, the garlic dies back and goes dormant for the frozen winter. We mulch over top of the garlic to keep it a bit more protected.

The latin name for hardneck garlic, Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon, tells you a lot about how the plant grows. Garlic is in the allium family, and is related to all onions, shallots, chives, and scallions. This family produces long, flat, lance-shaped leaves with parallel veins, usually in the spring and early summer. The results from the summer's photosynthesis are stored underground in a sulfur-rich bulb for next year's growth.

The garlic sprouts again in the early spring, sending out a false flower 'scape' in late May and early June. Growers trim off the scape to encourage larger bulb production. The scape is also known as 'green garlic', and is a delicacy of early summer that whets our appetite for the garlic to come later in the season.

If the scape isn't trimmed off, the fleshy white part will develop into a fluffy round white or purple flower. The flowers, after pollination, will develop into heavy bulbils (think very small cloves of garlic) that droop to the ground. Once in contact with the dirt, the bulbils send out roots and begin to grow next year's round of garlic.

The leaves die back mid-July, siphoning the rest of the plants nutrients down into the bulb for next year. Here the mature garlic heads are pulled from the ground for eating, as they are at their largest. They are tied or braided together for a few weeks of curing- hung in an airy and dry place to develop thick dry skins for longer storage.

Part of the harvested heads are planted again for next year, and part stored or processed for winter and spring eating.

The medicinal properties of fresh garlic are intense-anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal. It's compound allicin is reputed to have properties of a weak penicillin, yet the body does not build up a tolerance to it, so using it copiously and often is perfectly fine. It's a great body and blood tonic, keeps away mosquitoes and vampires, and meshes with other food flavors perfectly.

Yum. go plant some garlic!

Friday, September 17, 2010


Calendula is in the daisy Asteraceae family, as you can see by the arrangements of petals and overall shape of the flower. (Also in this family are echinacea, daisies, black eyed susans, chocolate flowers, and more).

Calendula officinalis is special, though. While the entire flower is edible- used in salads and on plates to add beauty and color to food- it has incredible healing properties.

The bright flower petals, which can range from yellow to orange to red, have the ability to soothe and heal irritated skin, such as with eczema, acne, and rashes. Taken as a tea, calendula can ease cramps and help move intestinal troubles along.

All this, and they're beautiful, with incredibly fascinatingly shaped seeds!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September greens

view of our greens, through the hoops

It's the season for greens again. The cool weather suits tender greens such as lettuce, kale, arugula, spinach, chard, and cabbages much better than the sweltering heat of the high summer. Our fall planting is flourishing! We have 2 beds- baby kale, lettuces, chard, and a few onions in the first, and various kales and cabbages in the next.

luscious flame marigold

Marigolds are beneficial plants to have in the garden. Besides being beautiful and attracting pollinators (such as bees, who help to increase fruit yields by disseminating pollen from plant to plant), they help to deter pests from eating your vegetables. Something in their chemical make-up makes the munchers away.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Honey: Bron's Bees at Heritage Prairie Farm

Dietrich and I, on our farm bound road-trip, visiting Bron of Bron's Bees at Heritage Prairie Farm & Market. Located in Elburn, IL, their family farm has grown to employ many people, and include honey, vegetables, micro-greens, grains, events, and more!

Bron took some good time to show us around the farm, give us some history, and really talk to us about what Edible Alchemy and the Eco Rooftop were all about. Here are some pictures from our adventures.


the entrance to the hive, which you never approach from the front.

empty supers containing beeswax and little tiny bits of honey. Set out like this, the bees gather any spare bits of honey. Quite thrifty, they are. And also really good at cleaning.

The Chef Supported Apiary Program hives, where our honey will be coming from. The empty blocks held hives that are visiting a field of sunflowers, to pollinate them. Many have restaurant names on them, showing the chefs came out to visit them as well!

Bron showing Dietrich and I a frame filled to the brim with honey. Freshest honey we've ever tasted! It practically burst out of the comb.

The farm was also wonderful, it's much larger than I initially thought it would be. 2 huge greenhouses, a hot house for micro greens, and rows upon rows of all types of vegetables. Even calaloo!

The fields and greenhouses at Heritage Prairie Farm. You can see Lacinato (or dino) kale and cabbages here at the front.

The cherry tomato greenhouse

Friday, September 3, 2010


view of the garden from the new attic windows

golden vidalia onions from the garden, delicious and juicy!

a day's harvest from our garden. So colorful!

We're finding the rooftop to produce a bunch of dwarfed vegetables and plants. Because of the limited depth of soil that we have up on the roof, the plant's roots don't get as much depth. The depth of the root structure reflects the height of the plant above ground. Less dirt=less height. I also found that I planted too many plants too close together- which will decrease each individual plant's size overall. Less plants have more room for roots, especially with a limited depth of soil.

But, the produce is still delicious.

This fall, we'll be amending the beds with our compost that we've been making for almost a year now. This will increase the nutrient content of the soil, as well as adding a good deal more for the plants to expand their roots. We'll be scouring home depots and such for ripped bags of peat moss and potting soil to add to the beds as well, as they are light-weight soil additives that hold moisture and increase volume without adding a bunch of extra weight.

Monday, August 16, 2010

So quickly, things are happening

the first heirloom tomatoes of the season.

Stepping quickly into my old life of 2 years ago this evening has made me all the more grateful for where I am and who I am today. Thank you, to all of you, who have brought, pushed, and guided me here.

here's my life, now.

the medicinal herb spiral bed, growing heartily

German Chamomile

Cayenne Peppers
the first red ones of the season. We'll dry these for use in the winter, and use fresh make spicy pickles, hot sauces, and relishes to can.

The rooftop garden is producing like mad. It's hard to imagine what the garden looked like 3 months, 6 months, or a year ago, (when there was no garden). What a change, what growth. !

Seeing all the food reminds me of how easy it is to grow your own food. It takes dedication, true, especially at the proper times (i.e. seeding early spring, weeding, and watering in dry spells)- but mostly plants take care of themselves. All we humans have to do is nurture the little seedlings until they're large enough to take care of themselves. Then voila! You have tomatoes, carrots, peppers, grains, onions, lettuces, greens, flowers, squash, beets, and more. All for the price of the seed packet (if that) and some of our precious time. In exchange for good quality food, not so bad.

Looking at the prices of food at the grocery stores and farmers markets, the effort put into a garden really isn't exorbitant. Trucking food cross country in refrigerated trucks thousands of miles to huge stores hoping they make it and are purchased in time is a rather large cost to put food in your belly. Especially when it pops up in your own backyard (or rooftop).

Dietrich, with our first two cabbages

In another vein: foraging. We have a friend and a friend who pointed us in the direction of a very large, unpruned pear tree. Owned by Holly and Ben, it's practically dripping with lucious pears.

Alyssa and I with oodles of pears- likely up to 80lbs. whoa, there will be some intense canning in the next couple of weeks when they finish ripening off the tree.

Some of them are just starting to blush, a sign of beginning ripeness. They'll blush and become soft when they are ready. Right now, they're rather hard and rocklike. Beautiful, nonetheless!

Check back for some pear recipes- soon to come!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

garden: August

eggplant blossoms

mammoth red rock cabbage

Rooftop green dent corn

Black Beauty peppers

The rooftop- post Feastival trampled.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Edible Alchemy Summer Feastival 2010

The feastival last weekend was amazing. Completely amazing.

I estimate that we had over 300 people out through the night to come and support Eco and Edible Alchemy (the co-op I help to organize)! It was quite magical to experience the rollercoaster that is preparing for an event. So much hard work; CLEANING, re-arranging, planning, contacting volunteers + performers, ordering food, prepping food, coordinating things, CLEANING, and thinking through every possible scenario to anticipate all the details. (I was exhausted). Then, the event! Photo credit: Eric Scott Baker

the event itself was magic. A continuous wave of dear friends, new faces, acquaintances, and total strangers all wanting to share their energies and excitement during the night. !! Oh, and the food! and the music :) and the fire!

Our menu:

Edible Alchemy Feastival


Summer 2010

Bruschetta with goat cheese and raspberry balsamic reduction

Polenta squares with tomato-mushroom tapenade

Quiche with rainbow chard

Collard wraps filled with cucumbers, carrots, avocados, and marinated mushrooms, dressed with peanut sauce

Indian spiced sprouted lentils in lettuce cups


Raw coconut and chocolate coconut macaroons

Vegan chai latte cake

Gluten-free raspberry cake

All produce is locally and sustainably grown, with the exception of avocados and ginger.


it was scrumptious! We're very excited to continue to do catering projects for events- our next feastival will most likely be a fancy schmancy harvest dinner party at eco, in October or early November. yum! The Edible team is currently canning like fiends to capture the delicious ripeness of the harvest season. We've been making pickles of all sorts, canning sauce, dehydrating apricots and peaches, simmering down berries, and macerating the most delicious herbs into pestos. It's good to put up food this year- I always want to and never make the time to.

On a fire-y note: spinning fire in the garden was a big part of the feastival for me. I love spinning fire in the garden... it's something about connecting two things that I love so much right now- the fire and the plants. (Though they don't mesh very when when put in tight quarters, sadly.) So many good friends from all over came out to play :)

Here, Kanyon from detroit throws down on the roof.
Photo credit: Eric Scott Baker

So, even though the Feastival was an insane amount of work- it was totally worth it. And I'd probably do it again. Probably sooner rather than later. (Look for a fundraising fancy schmancy benefit dinner, coming round harvest time. )

am I crazy? I hope so.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010


photo credit: Jen Dollface

Quite incompatible with plants: FIRE! I've been doing a lot more fire spinning lately, the summer lends itself to fire with the warm weather pleasant nights. We've been performing with Solaire a lot more, playing with choreography and group interaction. And costumes. oh, the costumes are so much fun.

photo credit: Maciej Strzelczyk

garden notes: seed saving and basil

we're saving kale seeds, which you can see in the weird pods in the front bed. There are so very many! The garlic is small (we need to plant it in deeper beds next time) and has been pulled out since this picture to dry to for 2 days.

Beyond, the lettuce is bitter and bolting- we're saving those seeds too. Dietrich and I are learning how to seed save this year. So, while we could quickly rip out the lettuce and re-plant, we're instead letting them "bolt" (flower and go to seed) so that we can replant them again, without having to buy more seeds. Hopefully the pollination went well.

And beyond, the tomatoes are huge for how late they were put in, with little babies already starting on the cherries! The peppers are starting, and the corn is looking great.

The basil is rockin' it. Here, the Tulsi Holy Basil, an Indian variety, is starting to flower. We'll be clipping off the flowers tomorrow to ensure big leaves to harvest and make into pesto. When the plant flowers, the leaves become smaller and less pungent because the plant is putting all it's energy into making flowers to become seeds. This is how it reproduces for next year's generation... we're trying to trick it to wait a while.

Here's a view of the center beds. The medicinal herb bed is amazing, it's filling out really well. And they all smell so good! Like plants should ;)