Monday, July 9, 2012


One stop shopping- acupuncture, and wild blackberries!
My hometown is generally known (ironically for me) as "The Bread Basket of California."  The Central Valley is known for its fresh produce, particularly grapes and raisins. When I got to farmer's markets in the Bay Area, many times, the produce has been ferried over from my hometown or surrounding area.

I have always been fascinated by the concept of growing my own food. It wasn't something that I ever did. All the trees in our backyard were ornamental. The only digging I ever really did was in the sandbox. I occasionally wonder if it has anything to do with how my parents were raised- Dad by a thrifty woman who was an avid gardener, and Mom grew up on a working ranch- not the cattle kind, they grew grapes and walnuts and a few other things. I heard a lot of stories about chickens, but they were gone by the time I came along. I suspect that they didn't miss stringing the beans and snapping beans- and come to think of it, I remember the story about the chickens because it had a predictably traumatic ending.

Once again, when we would go to visit Grandmas, there was always something growing. Still grapes and walnuts, etc. in the case of Grandma Marge. Grandma Ruby had a smaller space, and a more typical "Kitchen garden".  She let me plant parsley seeds, and go through the strawberry bed, and there were sugar snap peas on the trellis and tomato plants in wine barrels, every summer. I seem to recall that she had a "volunteer" avocado tree as well, so tall that climbing on the roof was part of the avocado harvesting process.

It always seemed so exotic to me. Maybe because I was obsessed with the Little House On the Prairie series?

Unfortunately, I didn't really think to try growing my own food until we were here, in the Bay Area. My "yard" is pots on a deck. So I have been experimenting with herbs, a lot of dwarf fruit trees and bushes, and occasionally, vegetables. The veggies are the most sensitive, and invariably, they die a lingering death. (One exception: green onions. I chopped up the greens from my CSA box, planted the bottom bulbs, and a month later, they are about 6 inches high!)  The herbs, berries and fruit trees seem to be more resilient. My blueberry bush has so far produced 5 berries, and they were all delicious. There are three more out there now, just waiting to be harvested. The blackberries are also ripening- it looks like my total number will be 6.

This is only the first year, but still- depressing. I admit, I am not the most patient person, but that's a lot of work for 15 berries! Particularly, when I see what Mother Nature can do on her own, with no other coddling but occasional water and sunshine.

Because, of course, food grows wild everywhere around here. I got an app a few weeks ago: Wild Edibles (Android). And since I have gotten invested in growing stuff, I have begun to recognize edible STUFF, just about everywhere.

For example, this is what I saw when I went to the acupuncturist today, and peered over the walkway adjacent to the parking lot.

For the record, that is just the top of the bush. Which I would estimate is at least 8 feet high, with thousands and thousands of blackberries on it- not to mention, bees. I wonder if anyone will pick them? Or if I am intrigued/ghetto/brave enough to go out there and pick some myself? The brave part comes in because I took a pretty close look this afternoon, and those things have (along with bees)some wicked thorns.
Anyway. it makes my sad little potted blackberry bush and its six berries look pretty pathetic.

At this point, I am pretty good at identifying standard fruit and nut trees, wild fennel, miners lettuce, dandelion...stuff like that. And I can't wait to have access to an actual yard again, so I can grow stuff!

In the meantime, I am trying to get some good ideas about how to landscape with edible plants. I know one of the "lands" in Disneyland does that, but can't for the life of me remember which one! (I had to look it up: it's Tomorrowland!!)  Closer to home, there's the Trader Joe's shopping center next door, which has date palms, citrus trees, a grape arbor, what I knew produced nuts, but just identified as a "linden tree" (Thanks, Wild Edibles!) and of course, a ubiquitous rosemary hedge. If all heck breaks loose, I guess I know which direction to head in. 6 berries and some green onions won't tie us over for long!

1 comment:

  1. Each year they will get bigger! Our Raspberry was pretty depressing it's first year too but this year we harvested about a pint! Yay. Usually little fingers get to them before I do.

    I didn't know that you could do that with onions though. I will have to give that a go.