They move to New York. She plants a garden on the fire escape. He moves into management. They move to LA. She plants a backyard garden. He trains in restaurants. After two decades in this story they get tired of the hospitality industry, of the pressure and responsibility, of never seeing time off and of working long hours.
So they put together a plan, explaining it this way: “We decided that we were done with the big-city thing. We decided to move where we would have some space and start a garden farm that’s more serious.”
“Where,” I ask, “do a waitress and a bartender get the taste for farm-fresh?”
“In the finest restaurants where we worked,” they replied. “Once you’ve tasted food that is grown in season by people who care, you can’t go back to the convenient, commercial stuff. Once you’ve tasted a tomato in season, grown in the sun, there’s no going back.”
So they started to search. They looked far and wide for their ideal small farm. California was too expensive. Emily’s parents had retired in Prescott, so they searched around Northern Arizona. In 2018 they found the perfect property on Heidi Lane in Chino Valley, with a big red barn, good old buildings, fruit trees, a well, and 2-1/2 acres adjacent to protected farmland (Chino Valley High School’s Cooper-Morgan Ag Center).
They planned on selling vegetables at the Farmer’s Market, and serving special farm dinners. Then they saw the restaurant space available on the highway, another red barn. “We liked the idea of having a smaller farm, and shifted our focus to the farm as an extension of the restaurant,” Emily explained. Working backward from Emily’s gardening to the restaurant, using Joe’s experience and excitement — that’s the definition of Farm to Restaurant. Emily sparkles with enthusiasm: “I have so many ideas, I can’t process fast enough. It’s a stretch on attention and ambitions.”
The Heidi Lane restaurant opened in December 2019 with six tables and counter service. Emily and Joe feel lucky to have opened before the pandemic took hold, establishing a small clientele. Then business got very slow. They pivoted to bring in what they could get through the restaurant purveyors and became a mini-general store. It was a tough time for restaurants, especially startups. They almost closed. They stuck it out with a very limited menu and no employees. This fall, business started rebuilding and is better than ever.
Now the restaurant is moving toward what they would like to see — more vegetable-based specials, more creative main dishes, and a special menu of small dishes. Joe bakes bread daily. All soups, sauces, pickles and desserts are made on site. Produce and eggs (“when the girls are laying”) come from the Heidi Lane Farm. Other ingredients come from local farmers, in season whenever possible.
When you go, don’t miss the buttery, feather-light biscuits and Bread Pudding with Chard, Feta, and Green Garlic. When you go, try the Carrot Torte. Here’s the description from their Facebook page: “Carrots are sexy. Yeah, I said it. Dig our Carrot Torta — A spread of black beans, a layer of coriander, pickled carrots, a grip of roasted carrots topped with a delicious carrot molé sauce. Finished with crema, cilantro, and lettuce.” Or try the Mushroom and Herb Toasted Cheese Sandwich, described here: “The mushrooms come from our pals at Sun Valley Harvest and are a mix of shiitake, oyster, king oyster and maitake. The sandwich is spread with an herb cream sauce, and then toasted in the oven with a blend of provolone, Swiss, and Oaxaqueño cheeses.” These are specials, so you might miss them, but whatever Joe has on the menu will taste unforgettably great.
You can also find Emily and Heidi Lane Cafe at the Prescott Farmer’s Market with hot soup (like Carrot Posole or Spinach Green Garlic and Potato), freshly baked bread, and local honey and vegetables.
Back at the farm, it’s all potential. They just cleared a quarter-acre of the nasty weed tree, Chinese elm, installed an irrigation system, and planted heritage apple trees. Another quarter-acre is laid out and planted in sweet and grinding corn. Emily is planting perennials and fruit. I tour the initial plantings of asparagus and artichokes, rhubarb, blackberries, raspberries, elderberries, currants, gooseberries and grapes. “The grapes are from the old vines on this property and at the cafe make delicious eating and wine.”
Emily took cuttings and is now ready to plant the vineyard. I tour the greenhouse and see all the flowers, herbs and vegetables waiting to go out into the summer warmth to the other quarter-acre of vegetables. This and everything else is grown with strictly organic practices.
Emily is ecstatic, Joe is excited. She grows, Joe cooks. We win.
You can find Emily and Joe at Heidi Lane Cafe, 838 W. Highway 89 in Chino Valley, open Tues-Sat 8am to 3pm. Also at the Prescott Farmer’s Market, Saturdays 7:30am–noon, Instagram and Facebook @heidilanecafe, and watch for farm dinners coming in the future.
This cross between a mushroom and a soybean cake originated over 1,000 years ago in Java, Indonesia. Soybeans are an excellent pantry staple because they are super-high in protein, however, like other beans, they are solidly difficult to digest. In China and Japan they are ground and soaked and cooked and strained. Then the “milk” is congealed into curds and pressed — that's tofu. It takes all this processing to make soy easy to digest.
Tempeh developed in tropical Java, where perfect conditions for fermentation exist —high heat, high humidity, native soybeans and the Rhizopus oligosporus fungus. It occurs naturally on beautiful yellow-flowered sea hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus) and on teak leaves, which are both used as traditional food wrappers. Perhaps ancient people compressed cooked soybeans into a cake, then wrapped that cake in the right leaves, and set it aside for a day to discover that cake of soybeans transformed into an appetizing delicacy, bound and encased in a fluffy white mycelium. It smelled fresh; it tasted delicious; it was filling and energizing.
A mycelium consists of the threadlike branches of fungi. They move into a food source on a microscopic level, secreting enzymes and dissolving big molecules, breaking them into simpler carbohydrates that we can use. In soybeans, mycelia digest the oligosaccharides, complex carbohydrates that are not easy for us to digest and end up causing “digestive distress.” Rhizopus works so well that the resulting tempeh digests easily with none of the dreaded gassy effect.
Tempeh is an excellent substitute for meat. It has 18 grams of protein per three-ounce serving. Unlike the plethora of meat analogs on the market today, it comes about through a totally natural process. Consuming less animal products is a powerful weapon against many environmental challenges and an effective way to improve your own health.
These are good reasons to eat tempeh. Lately, I’m excited about the Smoky Grilled Tempeh recipe in Veganomicon, The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moscowitz. She is a marvel at making vegan tasty, and she isn't afraid of punchy spicing. It's an inspirational recipe that caught me up. Now after a multitude of trials I have added my own adaptations, including more garlic, easier methods, and, best of all, using it as the heart of a great burger.
I’ve tried a lot of veggie burgers, finding them mushy, squishy and meh on flavor. The Smoky Braised Tempeh burger is firm, charred, smoky and very satisfying. This burger dances with all those traditional burger accompaniments — pickles, mustard, ketchup, red onions, tomatoes. Leftover Smoky Braised Tempeh bits just disappear from the refrigerator as nuggets of flavor on salads, in stir-fry or soups, fried into eggs, on pizza, and onward. We love this stuff.
And here's how to make it!
Start with a pound of tempeh (available at all the natural-food stores or make it yourself.) Cut the tempeh into burger-sized slabs and lay them in a wide pan, one layer deep. In a bowl mix together 1 cup water, ¼ cup each of soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and olive oil, 2 tablespoons of both liquid smoke and smoked paprika, and 1 teaspoon garlic powder. Pour this over the tempeh slices. Let marinate for 15 minutes to an hour, then turn the slices over and marinate another 15 minutes.
Pour a thin slick of olive oil into a large cast-iron skillet and heat over medium heat. Place the tempeh slices in the pan in a single layer. Let sizzle until browned, then add half the marinade. Simmer uncovered until the marinade has evaporated. Turn the pieces over and add the rest of the marinade. Simmer to evaporate, and let the slices brown a little at the very end. Remove from heat, serve on toasted buns with all the usual burger fixings.
Enjoy the delicious and satisfying experience of a high flavor, healthy and planet-supportive burger.
Adapted from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Elix Katz
You'll need some simple equipment to prepare the beans and simulate the growing conditions of Java.
Purchase the soybeans and starter online.
I could not find them at local stores, so I bought 25 pounds of organic soybeans on the internet. Order the tempeh spore online, too. I bought a pound (a lifetime supply for me) on Amazon for under $10.
Soak, cook, drain and dry the beans.
Soak 2-1/2 cups soybeans overnight. In the morning rinse and rub them well until the casings come off and the beans split in half. Rinse and rub until casings rise to the top of the pan, then skim them off with a strainer. Now cook the beans for 40 minutes, until they are firm but al dente. Skim off any more casings that have risen to the top. Drain the beans fully, let sit a few minutes in the strainer to cool. Then pour the beans onto a towel. Roll them up. Unroll and then let them sit out to air dry.
Inoculate the beans: Put the beans in a large bowl and add 1 teaspoon tempeh starter and 2 tablespoons cider vinegar. The vinegar creates an acid environment that discourages unwanted microbes. Mix well.
Form the tempeh: I use baking sheets lined with parchment paper placed so it wraps all around the beans. I compress the beans into a cake about an inch thick and secure it with tape. Alternatively you can put the mixture in a one-gallon zip bag and poke a bunch of holes in it for air circulation.
Put the tempeh in an incubator: The ideal incubation temperature is about 88F (31C) degrees. We use an old refrigerator rigged with a set-point thermostat and a pan of water for humidity. Here’s an even lower-budget solution: outfit an ice chest with a small crock pot. You'll have to fiddle around to get the right temperature. Check out this site for more instructions: thetempehlab.com.
When is the tempeh ready? The mycelium takes 24 hours, more or less. Check the temperature often. The process gives off its own heat, so you may need to adjust the temperature. You'll know it's done when the entire mass is covered in a nice white fuzz and the beans hang together. If you leave it longer, you might see some grey spots begin to form. That's the fungi sporulating. Don't worry, still good to eat.
Cut, and chill the tempeh immediately in a single layer. Then you can pack it. Refrigerate for up to five days, or freeze it for up to six months.
What I get out of my garden is pure joy. After 50 seasons of gardening, I'd like to share some helpful advice for newbie and continuing gardeners alike.
This time of year it's flat soil, a blank canvas. The garden emerges as a co-creative dance with seeds, soil, sunlight, water and the variants of nature. Every day it's a challenge and experience of discovery, wonder, frustration, and beauty, and I get to have a role in it. It is awesome. I swear, there is something in dirt, some anti-depressant, stimulating component that has a deep effect on me.
My advice for new gardeners is to plant trees. I live on the open prairie land of Yavapai County, where the wind and sun are desiccating and fierce. In 1979 we planted a windbreak of Arizona Cypress. Now they are fifty feet high. These trees changed the climate by blocking the wind, the June hair dryer blast and the winter blizzard. Now I can grow berries; my peppers don't shrivel on the plants; the seedlings don't wilt. Trees have the power to change the microclimate and affect climate change. Plant some.
For a broader perspective, I asked experienced local gardening friends for their opinions. “Why do you garden? What advice do you have for new and beginning gardeners?”
“There is much that is not in our control (weather, pests, diseases). Learn from your failures and observe them closely. Then try again with your new information. Learn to let go. Remember gardens don't have to be neat to be productive.
“The soil is everything. Start a compost pile and actively manage it. Get your neighbors to give you their food waste to build your pile faster. Consider it a resource! When I started growing food, I began to put more thought into what I was buying and where it comes from. Food grown with love tastes better.”
“I've learned countless personal and universal lessons as a gardener, but one thing I always say to my students is that gardens teach us patience. The plants in a garden show us that you cannot rush things to mature, and nurturing things patiently, over time, is the only way to fully enjoy their sweetness.
“Start small and add on, or try new things bit by bit as you are successful. Plan ahead for wildlife pests. Fencing and electrical deterrent systems are essential for success. Use an automated watering system that is water-efficient and consistent. This is smart water use for our dry climate, and the plants love it.”
“Growing a garden isn’t difficult to do, but the rewards go far beyond putting food on the table. Your garden will teach you something every day, all year long if you are out there trying new things, learning new techniques, and constantly trying to improve your skills and increase your knowledge.”
“Start small and ask questions! Gardeners love to talk about gardening. Be patient with yourself and your garden, and rejoice in your successes!”
“The big lesson I have learned is that gardening and growing food are community-builders. They help break through political views. My neighbors (of a different political persuasion) and I share our crops, our experiences, and even our compost and manure.
“My advice for beginning gardeners is to get in there and plant something. Remember it's a grand experiment. A third is for the critters, a third may just die for no reason, and one third you'll be able to eat and enjoy. I call that success.”
“Take time to look and observe, then ask yourself lots of questions, like, ‘What is that bug? Who's digging up my plants? Why do the peppers on the north side of the plant look better than the south side? Why is the corn taller on one end of the row?’ There are a ton of questions, all interesting and wonderful.
“Plant more than you think you’ll need so you can share the surplus. Accept that not everything will work out and plenty will go wrong, so take delight in solving the little problems.”
“The biggest lesson I have learned from growing food is the investment and work that it truly takes. You'll never scoff at food prices again, and you'll see for yourself how mass-produced food can only be as cheap as it is because of subsidies. The gratitude I feel for every meal is reflected in the effort I've put into gardening. You have no idea how good food can taste till you grow it yourself.”
“Growing food for me is rewarding in many ways. I like the planning, physical activity and therapy that come from cultivating something. I have learned to plant what we can consume and what we enjoy as a family, but have struggled to learn how to preserve, store, can and eat it fresh. I’m that guy with a hundred pounds of extra zucchini.”
“It seems really obvious and simple, but plant what you like to eat. Every year I plant tomatoes because they're easy to grow, but no one in our house really likes tomatoes. This year I'm focusing on the things that we actually love to eat.”
“Persistence and patience are important. Don't give up! It will get better. Growing food takes practice. Don't plant too early. Don't pick too early. Just wait.”
“I like gardening because it meshes nicely with adjusting to climate change, providing a healthy diet, and supporting the planet. For new gardeners I advise starting with something fast. Plant things now that grow in cooler weather, when there are few bug problems and it's easier to keep the seed bed damp (like leafy greens, beets, turnips and radishes). These easy-to-grow crops will be harvested and out of the ground before the scorching-hot, dehydrating days of June.”
“Be really patient and don't expect to do everything right. Farming takes a lot of trial and error. When we started we overdid it and realized that we didn't have the ability to take care of everything. Ask for advice from people you know. We thought other farmers were secretive, then we realized that they have a community mindset and are happy to give advice.”
“Grow things you like and grow lots of herbs. Having a garden you can tour with tastes and smells is a true delight. A pinch of cilantro, a whiff of tulsi, the year-round warrior that is rosemary, are all ways to pack a huge flavor punch in your food in a small footprint. You'll also visit the garden more often, making it more likely that you'll be on top of the weeds and fertilization needs. When that kale plant you've lovingly tended into a tiny tree is getting attacked by aphids, you'll notice. If you don't like beans or okra, you'll never pick them before they're woody and you'll feel like a bad gardener. You're not. You're human.
“The biggest lesson I've learned from growing food? There are so many, ranging from a profound appreciation for a perfectly grown carrot to the delicate balance between life and death, to the lessons of true wealth inspired by saving one's own seed. I look at the grocery store differently, see potential in piles of leaves, and say real prayers of gratitude before I eat. Having an inkling of what it takes to get the food to my plate, whether it comes from my own garden, farmer's market, or grocery store, has inspired deep humility and gratitude — and a hefty dose of worry for our planet and its inhabitants. Summing it up in a single lesson seems the antithesis of what gardening can be. I suppose, though, that it could be simple: we are all connected in this tangled web of life.”
Yavapai County Master Gardener's Help Desk - email@example.com
Groundhog Garden Chat via Zoom, sponsored by Slow Food Prescott, every 2nd and 4th Tuesday at 6:30 pm. Contact: prescottAZ@slowfoodusa.org
Sourdough is a yeast and bacteria colony growing in a flour and water matrix. The magic that makes it more than a flour-and-water paste are the microorganisms that hang out in the flour and in the air, waiting for the moment they can grow. The organisms are microscopic, of course, but their presence is abundantly obvious when activated by water. The flour provides food sources — complex carbohydrates and proteins — that break down to produce sugars, acetic acid, lactic acid, carbon dioxide and alcohol. Here's Wikipedia's simple explanation:
“Sourdough is a stable culture of lactic-acid bacteria and yeast in a mixture of flour and water. Broadly speaking, the yeast produces gas (carbon dioxide), which leavens the dough, and the lactic-acid bacteria produce lactic acid, which contributes flavor in the form of sourness. The lactic-acid bacteria metabolize sugars that the yeast cannot, while the yeast metabolizes the byproducts of lactic-acid fermentation. During sourdough fermentation, many cereal enzymes, particularly phytases, proteases and pentosanases, are activated through acidification and contribute to biochemical changes during sourdough fermentation.”
It's much, much more complicated than that, so check out the Wikipedia entry if you're interested in digging deeper.
Sourdough is nothing new. It's ancient. Wild fermentation of grains, what we call sourdough, started over 10,000 years ago with the origin of agriculture.
For thousands of years sourdoughs were the only leavening, and they were treasured and protected. Modern bread, made with consistent and uniform baker's yeast, dates from the 1870s. Dried granulated yeast, the kind that went so missing after the pandemic flurry of panic baking, was introduced after World War II. But we can do better without it. Wild yeasts and bacteria that you can capture yourself are everywhere, and they are much, much more flavorful, delicious and delightful.
Making your own sourdough starter is easy. It's just flour and water. But there are some important nuances.
You want a clean, glass one-quart jar with a non-metal lid. Starters need plenty of room because they expand, sometimes tripling in size. You need a lid that can be left loose so extra carbon dioxide can escape. A good wrap of plastic, secured with a rubber band, will do the trick.
1 cup water: If you are on city water, it's probably treated with mild anti-bacterials (like chlorine). In this case we want the bacteria to live, so use bottled or filtered water.
1 1/2 cups organic all-purpose flour (see note on rye flour, below):Standard commercial flour is bleached and bromated, and both processes kill naturally occurring microorganisms, so use the natural, organic stuff. I like to replace a couple of tablespoons with rye flour, it's a big booster. Look for it in natural food stores.
Mix the water and flour together in the glass jar. Cover lightly. Within hours the microscopic community starts working, and you'll start seeing bubbles. Stir twice daily. To build strength, feed it daily for three days by adding 1/2 cup of water and 3/4 cups of flour, then stir. If the jar gets too full, make some flatbread (recipe follows). After three days the mixture will start bubbling with life! It will be foaming out of the jar. (Make some more flatbread or cookies. Check out the recipes for sourdough discard.)
Keep the jar covered loosely so gases can escape. Careful! A tight lid will result in pressure buildup and a big mess when you finally let it all out, so watch out! At this stage someone doing the dishes might try to clean up your starter. Label it with warnings: “Live Active Starter, do not destroy!”
With daily feedings you'll have a good, going starter ready to use. By feeding daily you select for very active microbes that prefer a less acid environment. Now your starter can be used and “refreshed” regularly with a flour-to-water ratio of 1.5 to 1.
Sourdough starter is designed to be a source of leavening for continuous use. That's how it works best. It can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks. It will separate and turn brown, but you can revive it by pouring out most and refreshing every day until it revives. Really, if you were an ancient Jew in Egypt or a sourdough gold miner in Alaska, you would want to use it every single day. It's a commitment.
When you have too much starter to fit in the jar, you can use the “discard” for many things. For example:
1 heavy skillet (preferably cast iron)
1 teaspoon vegetable or olive oil
1/2 cup sourdough starter mixed with a pinch each of salt and baking soda
Optional: A sprinkle of powdered garlic, herbs, spices or chili powder Heat the skillet over medium heat. Add the oil. When a drop of water sizzles in the pan, pour your sourdough starter in like a pancake. Sprinkle with seasonings if used. Cook until bubbles form on the top side. Turn over and cook until browned. Eat!
I've got my starter, now what?
It’s time to use that active, bubbly, tangy anti-depressant starter for sourdough breads and anything else you bake — pancakes, biscuits, cookies, even sourdough chocolate cake. I'm feeling better, happier and younger already!
Northwest Sourdough, Teresa Greenway, is the gold standard for learning more: northwestsourdough.com
Sourdough Pancakes or Waffles by King Arthur Baking Company
Sourdough Chocolate Cake by King Arthur Baking Company
Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookies by I AM Baker
I can see the old Klondike prospectors making biscuits this way, but they probably used bear grease instead of butter. Modern baking powder is an option if you don't want to wait for the biscuits to rise. A cast-iron skillet is a necessity for best results. (See “Molly's Method of Curing and Caring for Cast Iron.”) Makes 8
9-inch cast-iron skillet
1 cup organic all-purpose flour
1 cup organic white wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder (optional)
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups active sourdough starter (freshly fed 12 hours in advance)
Additional melted butter as needed
In a large bowl, mix flours, salt, sugar and baking powder (if using). Add butter and mix in. Form a hollow in the flour mixture and pour in 2 cups sourdough starter. Using a fork, slowly mix starter around until it has picked up all the flour. You should have a soft, sticky dough. Add a couple teaspoons of water if needed. Pinch off balls about the size of an egg (2 1/2 ounces each), flour them and pat into rounds 1/2 inch thick. Butter the skillet and fill with the rounds with edges touching. Brush with melted butter.
Baking powder is an optional convenience in this recipe, but it's been around since the 1840s. If you add the baking powder you can bake the biscuits right away. For authentic sourdough biscuits, cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise for 2-1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Brush with melted butter. Let them cool a few minutes and then enjoy your hand-made, wildly fermented biscuits. Pass the butter and the peach preserves, please!
Whether a new pan or a rusty pan, the curing method is the same. If your pan is crusty from years of service, you can clean it by “burning” it in a fire or in the self-cleaning cycle of your oven. Then you have to cure it again like new.
1. Wash and dry pan completely, removing any rust.
2. Spray pan all over, front and back, with vegetable oil.
3. Using a paper towel, rub the oil into the pan, rubbing off any excess.
4. Place the pan in the oven or on the stovetop (the stovetop method will smoke some, so turn on the fan), or on the gas grill outside. Set the oven, stovetop or grill to high and let the pan get very hot. When you see it start smoking, turn off the fire and let it cool.
5. Repeat the oil treatment and heating treatment twice more.
Now your pan has a good initial cure. Whenever you wash it, and you can wash it with soap and scrubber, dry it over heat. If the pan gets rusty, wash off the rust, spray with oil, and heat-treat again.
Here's my list of the easiest-to-grow food plants for the Prescott area.
#1: Sunflowers – You can grow sunflowers from raw in-the-shell seeds that you buy to eat at the natural food store. They come up fast, easy and strong. If you don't plant anything else, plant a sunflower, because they will cheer you up and spitting sunflower-seed shells revives our childhood joy.
#2: Beans – Beans themselves are big seeds and come up quickly once frost has passed. There are bush and pole varieties. Pole beans need support and will gladly climb up the sunflower you are going to plant. Beans are a three-in-one package. They can be harvested as green pods (aka green beans), as green shell beans (when pods are stringy but the beans are fat, green and luscious), or as dry beans to be shelled and cooked or stored for next year's garden.
#3: Radishes and Salad Turnips – Radishes and their not-so-spicy cousin, the salad turnip, will give the impatient gardener the quickest reward. The seeds are small but they come up fast, like gangbusters, and then form nice crunchy roots in less than 30 days. Go for it!
#4: Summer Squash – Summer squashes include many varieties of zucchini — yellow, patty pan, crookneck, and green. They have big seeds and spring up with big leaves, powering into a hearty bush. Yellow varieties are easier to see; green squash hide among the foliage and, if you miss picking them, turn into squash monsters. Pick the summer squash when they are young and tender. These plants will continue bearing from July until frost.
#5:Winter Squash – Winter squash (including pumpkins) have hard shells that protect flavorful, nutty meat. Large seeds are easy to plant, sprout quickly, and grow vigorously. They are creepy crawlers and will spill out of your garden beds onto the paths, or climb up a trellis. By fall the squash look like gourds, but inside they are rich in nutrients, orange, and sweet. In October they are fit for pies or storage for winter eating. My all-time favorite choice for reliability, taste, and best storage is the standard heritage variety, Waltham Butternut.
#6: Swiss Chard and Kale – Get those greens on! Swiss chard and kale are in different families, but have the same cut-and-come-again habit. Get them going and they just keep giving, even after a light frost in late October or November. You'll never want to buy chard or kale again when you see how easy they are to grow.
#7: Potatoes – Nothing is more delightful than growing potatoes. Instead of seed you plant chunks with eyes that sprout with vigor. It’s important to start with "certified seed potatoes" because potatoes may carry big, nasty diseases like scab, dry rot, or black scurf. Look for them in seed catalogs, online or in garden stores. A couple of months after planting you’ll be able to explore under the roots to harvest "new" potatoes, the best ever.
#8&9: Tomatoes and Peppers –What would a garden be without tomatoes and peppers? For beginners, start with plants, which are available just about everywhere in the spring. Cherry tomatoes and small sweet or hot chilies are the easiest and fastest to grow. Put them in pots on your porch and you'll be enjoying tomato or pepper gems all summer.
#10: Garlic – Anyone who knows me knows that garlic is my middle name. At one time Gary and I harvested 12,000 pounds for wholesale markets. That was long before the Prescott Farmer's Market existed. Now we harvest only 100 pounds a year. Chino Valley Silverskin is a true Prescott-heritage variety.
We have grown it for over 40 years, and we got our start from a gentleman whose father grew it here for 35 years before us. Chino Valley Silverskin has huge, fat cloves and keeps for up to a year, perfect for garlic-crazy cuisine. You can buy this locally adapted variety from Whipstone Farm. Thanks to Cory and Shanti Rabe for making it available to the public.
Garlic is planted in the fall after the rest of the garden has retired. Early October is good. Break up the heads into individual cloves, each clove makes a plant. Your garlic garden will sprout in the fall, hibernate through the winter, and start growing again as soon as spring warms the ground. By late June it will be bulbed up and ready for harvest. Don't miss your chance to grow this easy crop while you commune with the garlic fairy.
As a beginning gardener, here's what you should avoid and why:
• Carrots take up to 21 days to emerge and then they come up the size and delicacy of an eyelash.
• Corn requires a block of at least 20 plants to properly pollinate. If you have a 10x10’ bed dedicated for corn, go for it.
• Lettuce hates heat and dryness and needs special protection to grow here without getting bitter and tough.
• Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower also hate our hot and dry climate. If you want to plant these crops, research hoop houses to shade the plants.
• Basil seed is so, so, so very tiny and so are their emerging leaves and they are so very delicate and so very sensitive. Beginners: buy a plant.
• Melons are tough. Look for a variety that will produce sweet fruits in our climate. I have grown a lot of beautiful yet flavorless melons, but I keep trying.
Are you excited or scared? Gardens are not simple and a host of problems wait to crash your dream — soil, sun, disease, insects, gophers, javelina and hail. But Prescott is gearing up this year to help.
Join the Grow Food In Your Backyard program. Slow Food Prescott and Yavapai Extension Office Master Gardeners are partnering to help beginning gardeners with one-on-one, virus-safe mentoring for real garden success. Get advice, support and monitoring. Applications are taken in February or March. Send an inquiry to prescottAZ@slowfoodusa.org.
Get free seeds at the Prescott Farmer's Market Seed Exchange on Saturday, February 20, 10am-1pm at the Farmer's Market location on the hospital annex lot at 900 Iron Springs Road. Find the best varieties for the Prescott area, meet the growers and get growing advice.
Coming in March 2021 is the Seed Library at Prescott Public Library (co-sponsored by the Prescott Farmer's Market). You'll be able to check out seeds and growing information from the card catalog and website, just like books. Call the Prescott Public Library main line for more information: 928-771-1526. Watch for free online beginner classes from The Prescott Gardener, Janet Wilson. (More information at janetwilsongardens.com.)
For weekday help the Yavapai County Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Help Desk offers free gardening advice, M-F 9am-noon and 1-4pm. 928-445-6590 x222
UofA Cooperative Extension Agent Jeff Schalau, online:
When this season is over, you’ll be eating food right out of your home garden, maybe just a radish, maybe a whole dinner. Most important is to get out there and put the seed in the soil. Start with the seed to build your pandemic-pantry connection.
I love seed catalogs and seed-company websites. You can dream over the pictures and enticing descriptions. The best parts are the detailed growing instructions, blogs and videos.
Johnny's Selected Seeds: johnnyseeds.com
Fedco Coop Seeds: fedcoseeds.com
Native Seed/Search: Tucson-based heritage seed conservation organization; nativeseeds.org
Terroir Seeds: local seeds and gardening advice from Chino Valley; underwoodgardens.com
Two years ago, when I was in a native village in the Ecuadorian Andes, I noticed pigweed planted in gardens. What? No, it was quinoa! Pigweed and quinoa are cousins, both members of the chenopodium (goosefoot) family.
Envision the Andean altiplano, the cold, 12,000-foot-high plains around Lake Titicaca, on the border between Peru and Bolivia. It’s home to the highest concentration of natural chenopodium variants, and the birthplace of quinoa. Thousands of years ago the Quecha people selected, domesticated, and cultivated these weeds, creating quinoa in hundreds of specialty cultivars, including chullpi for soups, coytos for flour, reales for grains, and dozens more.
Quinoa and potatoes were the nutritional base of the powerful Andean and Incan civilizations.
The nutritional value of quinoa is astounding. The leaves are edible and delicious, like spinach (also in the chenopodium family). But quinoa is mainly grown for seed. Quinoa seed is the only natural vegetable source of all nine essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein) necessary to support human nutrition. Quinoa is an excellent substitute for meat or dairy products and a rich source of minerals (calcium, iron, and potassium), vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. It is low in fats and naturally gluten-free. For more information check out "Quinoa 101, Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits" at healthline.com.
In all their variants these tall plants with colorful, six-foot-high plumes were the sacred Mother Grain, the chisaya mama, of the great Andean civilizations. Before the European conquest, quinoa and potatoes were the nutritional base of the powerful Andean and Incan civilizations. After the wave of plagues and conquests brought by the Europeans in the 16th century, European crops pushed out quinoa. The Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro destroyed quinoa fields as a tactic to crush indigenous power.
The Quecha protected the sacred quinoa by growing it in small plots. Five hundred years later quinoa has made a comeback. In the 1990s the UN Food and Agriculture Organization surveyed neglected crops of the Americas and identified quinoa as a potential food for development.
The United Nations General Assembly designated 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa, “… in recognition of ancestral practices of the Andean people, who have managed to preserve quinoa in its natural state as food for present and future generations, through ancestral practices of living in harmony with nature,” and encouraged worldwide dispersal and development.
Now quinoa is growing in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. You can buy it practically everywhere — Costco, Whole Foods, Safeway, Target. The internet is afloat with a gazillion recipes in publications ranging from Good Housekeeping and Martha Stewart to The New York Times and Vegan Heaven.
Quinoa is exceptionally easy to use. It comes in a variety of colors — white, red, black, mixed. The darker colors are a bit firmer and nuttier, but they all work the same. Quinoa cooks up in 15 minutes and holds well refrigerated or frozen.
In its simplest incarnation quinoa is embarrassingly easy to prepare. Basically rinse (see the note on saponin below), simmer, then steam like rice. Use two parts water to one part quinoa; yields three cups cooked for every one cup dry.
Quinoa is universally adaptable and neutral-flavored, a seamless substitute for rice or other grains, easy to add to stuffed mushrooms, work into soups, salads, breakfast cereal or cookies. It can be toasted, ground into flour or flaked. New quinoa products are steadily coming on the market — cereals, chocolate and energy bars, chips, pasta, even whiskeys!