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Archive for the ‘homegrown’ Category

Adventures in Urban Gardening: Meet Scarborough

Over the course of this blog I have detailed many experiments in urban gardening. Unfortunately my tote bag garden didn’t work out, not because the plants didn’t grow, but because some fruit flies decided to turn my tote bags into their apartment complex; so I didn’t want to keep the dirt they were thriving in inside my living space. Marvin had a successful run for over a month, but alas, he met his time a couple weeks ago (RIP). However, these adventures have only inspired me to try new things. My next endeavor? Rosemary in a can!

Meet my new rosemary plant, Scarborough (no, I am not above naming my plants after Simon and Garfunkel songs). I absolutely adore rosemary, especially the scent! Like many picked herbs though, rosemary just doesn’t keep very well when purchased from the store; and I always use a little bit for a recipe, then waste a huge batch while waiting to use it in something else. Keeping a potted rosemary plant would be best; but I have neither the garden nor porch to host a big one.

This past weekend, though, my friend and I were visiting the Apothecary Museum in Alexandria (yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds), and were perusing the gift shop when I spotted Herbs in a Can. The can claimed that you just added water to the can, and a plant would grow! I asked the (super friendly) woman behind the desk about them, and she said that they supposedly were very successful – in the case of rosemary, a small plant (in comparison to giant rosemary bushes I sometimes see around my neighborhood) would grow inside the can, without having to pot the plant in dirt. Given the ease of growing, the size, and especially the price ($7), I figured I’d give it a try!

Still chilling in an old guacamole container

So how does it work? Well, first you remove the top of the can, which has a peel-back lid with a tab (similar to canned foods that don’t require a can opener). Inside you’ll see dirt, and the seeds are already in there (though the can comes with extra seeds just in case). You pour in some water until the dirt is moist. Water fills up quickly in the can – how to drain, you may ask? Here’s the part I find brilliant – the bottom of the can is actually the top of a soda can with a pop-tab. You open this pop tab to release any excess water (do this over a small plastic tub like that pictured above, or a sink, because it will splash!), then close off the bottom of can with the included plastic lid. Water will still leak out of this plastic lid (which is good for proper aeration), so you will want to put the can on a plate or in an old tupperware to catch any excess water. According to the can, the plant should sprout in 7-10 days, with flowering occurring in 1-2 months. You can bet that over that course of time, I’ll be tracking Scarborough’s progress. Fingers crossed!


Adventures in Urban Gardening: The Tote Bag Garden

As I’ve discussed before, having a garden is a small dream of mine. I’d love to have a small backyard with a modest plot to grow greens, tomatoes, winter squashes, and the like for my culinary use. But living in an apartment (that doesn’t have a shared gardening space) can make this difficult. So far I’ve managed to keep Marvin the living basil plant alive for about three weeks. He’s grown taller and is still growing leaves, which makes him the most successful produce I’ve ever maintained on my own. Which makes me wonder, what else can I grow inside an apartment?

Enter the tote bag garden!

I got the idea specifically from this month’s Birds and Blooms, which suggested creating a portable garden by planting seeds within reusable tote bags. The light bulb sparked and refused to go off. Tote bags are cheap, big, and don’t take up a lot of space – why couldn’t I grow produce? And furthermore, why hadn’t I thought of this before?

So after deliberating about it for awhile (all of a week), I bought some seeds, reusable totes (made from recycled plastic), potting soil, a big plastic tub to hold the bags, and a watering can. In sum I paid about $43 for everything, including the watering can and the plastic tub; so your own costs may be less if you already have these materials available. The dirt only came to about halfway up the bag, so I cut off the tops for easy watering and maintenance. In lieu of proper garden markers from labels or popsicle sticks, I labeled my produce with some plastic forks I had lying around. Recycling!

I then planted my seeds: two different greens, kale and arugula, in one bag; brandywine tomatoes in another, and yellow pear tomatoes in the third. They’re hanging out in front of my window now in the living room, in the apartment below Marvin, if you will.

I am hoping this turns out at least moderately successful because it’d be a great and convenient way to grow produce that I tend to go through quickly and thus spend a lot of money on. I will of course be tracking my plants’ progress on the blog, so stay tuned! And hopefully I’ll have some recipes featuring homegrown tomatoes and greens later this summer!

Golden Pizza Hummus (aka, Marvin Gets a Haircut)

Who wants hummus?!

Golden Pizza Hummus

Lately I’ve been expanding my list of “Things I’ll Never Buy Pre-Made Again.” Seitan is on that list, and so is hummus. Really, it’s so much cheaper to make hummus at home, especially if a) you use dried chickpeas, and b) you find a recipe without tahini (though using canned beans and/or tahini barely raises the cost). The main upside is that homemade hummus recipes make SO MUCH! It costs maybe $2 to make a batch of about a cup or two at home, while a $3 container of hummus at the store is maybe half a cup. Rip-off! I’ll take mine homemade, please.

My personal preference is to use dried chickpeas, because it’s even cheaper this way, and it does make the flavor a bit better. Canned beans will do in a time crunch; however, I find that preparing the chickpeas from scratch isn’t too time-consuming, especially since they’re largely unattended and you can make them while doing other things. Multi-tasking!

I personally find dried garbanzos adorable. Look how cute and tiny they are!

If making dry beans, you must soak them! Fortunately this is the easiest step – measure out a cup of dry chickpeas, put in a bowl, cover with water, cover the bowl, and stick in the fridge for at least eight hours. You can do this overnight, or while you’re at work so you can make them at night. The latter is my preference since I can simmer the beans while I surf the web, then store them in the fridge for later use.

The Incredible Growing Garbanzos - just add water!

Onward to cooking! I use Isa Chandra Moscowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s Veganomicon as a reference for cooking beans. They recommend adding three cups of water per one cup of beans, and recommend 90 minutes of simmering time for garbanzos in particular. I usually add seven cups of water when cooking one cup of dry beans (better too much than too little), and only need to simmer them for 60 minutes. Per Moscowitz and Romero, you can also add a teaspoon of sea salt to the beans 20 minutes before they’re done. To cook, bring water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, opening the lid partially to allow steam to escape.

Before cooking the beans, I recommend saving the soaking liquid after you drain them. Some of the garbanzo goodness is now in the liquid and you can use it in recipes, particularly ones that ask for chickpea liquid reserved from canned beans. I keep my soaking liquid in a glass tea bottle in the fridge.

Now, let’s make some hummus! I used the hummus recipe found in Isa Chandra Moscowitz’s Appetite for Reduction, a must-have for anyone looking to cook more with whole foods! It’s probably the cheapest homemade recipe since it calls for minimal olive oil and no tahini, two of the priciest ingredients in hummus. The recipe calls for one 15-oz can of chickpeas and three TB of reserved chickpea liquid – I used two cups of cooked chickpeas, plus 3 TB of reserved soaking liquid as subs.

But what makes it Golden Pizza Hummus? Basil and Yellow Sun-Dried Tomatoes!


I first discovered hummus with basil and sun-dried tomatoes at Whole Foods, when I bought the variety on a whim and subsequently became addicted. It really does taste like pizza! And fortunately for me, Appetite for Reduction has a variation which calls for these additions, having you add 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes and 1 cup fresh basil leaves. Marvin got a hair cut for the basil, and I used the yellow sun-dried tomatoes from Eataly, which gave the hummus a nice golden tint (hence the title Golden Pizza Hummus).

The recipe is very simple in that it’s just chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, sun-dried tomatoes, chickpea liquid, salt, and paprika. I also added a dash of cayenne and some cumin to up the flavor a bit. The basil is added at the end and pulsed in finely. The result? Hummus that’s easy, pretty, and tasty!

Just a quick note if you’re new to making hummus – it’s never going to taste very good straight out of the food processor. It needs to chill and have a chance to let the flavors meld before it really sings. So don’t be disappointed if you try some right away and it’s not quite up-to-par!

Adventures in Hydroponic Plants: Meet Marvin

Oh, it just got real.

One of my dreams is to one day have my own garden. Some of my fondest memories involve going into our backyard garden at our old town house in Leesburg and plucking cherry tomatoes for my snacking enjoyment. I also loved my grandmother’s decidedly bigger garden in Roanoke, though I don’t have the fondest memories of snapping green beans all afternoon. However, garden = ambition … but living in an apartment makes this difficult.

Enter a hydroponic basil plant!

Welcome home!

I always see these little guys at Whole Foods but never had the cajones to buy them. What cajones, you may say? They’re hydroponic plants – easy breazy! Well, let me tell you a story about a girl named Sonora, whole loved plants but couldn’t grow them to save her life. In my brief horticultural history I’ve managed to kill three Lucky Bamboo plants and a vine plant that supposedly can’t die. Well, that plant never met me!

However, I decided to give this basil plant a try. For one, it doesn’t require potting, which takes out a key burden of an apartment garden. For another, it was $3, and grown in Shenandoah, VA (so it’s home grown AND local – too legit to quit, baby). But most of all, I love me some basil, and never use bunches quickly enough to justify buying them. I make a nice thing of pesto and then end up with a wilted mess in my fridge. If I could benefit from anything, it’d be growing my own herbs and seasonings.

Oh yeah, it's also organic. HARD CORE!

So, I now have my own little basil plant hanging out by the window sill! I will be documenting my progress on this blog. Hopefully it will be a success, and I can share some of the things I make with my brand new basil plant!

Oh, and as a custom, I tend to name my plants to help me take better care of them. That way, they’re almost like pets. So everyone, meet Marvin, the basil plant! Let’s hope this goes better than the vine that was supposed to never die.

A super-fancy vase made out of an old guacamole container. RECYCLING!