Any chef can tell you—from culinary masterminds to the well-seasoned home cook-fresh ingredients make all the difference. With the current abundance of farmers markets and the rise of organic and local produce at major grocery stores, fresh ingredients are finally becoming more readily available. But why get into your car to go get something fresh at a store?
Millions of Americans are now cutting out the middleman and going straight to the source by creating their own home gardens. According to the National Gardening ssociation, 43 million U.S. households had food gardens in 2009, a 6% increase from the prior year. Americans are growing a wide variety as well: tomatoes and cucumbers are the most popular veggie choices, but onions, hot peppers, lettuce, and herbs are in the mix too. The NGA also found that home gardens were budget friendly, with a $530 average return on a $70 gardening investment.
This trend has most notably made its way to the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama helps oversee a garden that includes spinach, kale, broccoli, fennel, raspberries,
blueberries, and an apple tree. In fact, according to the Huffington Post, two varieties
of wheat have been planted for the first time by Mrs. Obama herself. Since 2009, this 1,100 square foot vegetable garden has produced nearly 3,000 pounds of food that is
used at the White House and donated to local food kitchens.
Last year, I personally endeavored to create a home garden, and the results have been
extremely rewarding on a variety of levels. (I could not have done it without the help of
Johnny Foster, Organic Horticulturist). The outdoors can be an incredibly healing, peaceful place to be, especially after a stressful week of work. In addition, I get to enjoy the literal fruits of my labor. The small orchard in our front yard has produced pomegranates, lemons and grapefruits, and we look forward to harvesting peaches, apples, figs and nectarines. The backyard vegetable garden has a variety of tomatoes, potatoes, kale, broccoli, lettuce and herbs. The freshness of these vegetables enhances any meal, whether some spring green onions added to a salad, or sage leaves sprinkled atop sautéed kale.
When I am not blending up a fresh green drink in the kitchen, I take the extras down to Solano’s where Chef Paco adds them to our nightly specials.
Even as the temperatures rise in the Coachella Valley, there is opportunity to clear a good bounty. Many believe that “nothing but cacti grow in the desert,”when in reality, we actually have a longer growing season than most places in the country.
Plants in the fall will be ready for harvest in the spring. So try it for yourself (and use
non-GMO, organic seeds or plants of course!) I highly recommend visiting one of our four valley Certified Farmer’s Markets and taking a peek at Herbivore’s great selections.
In a pot, raised bed or garden, anyone can grow their own food. Not only will you
taste the beauty and energy of the earth in these plants, but you will feel the happiness
and contentment that the food and its nourishment came from your home.a
Alexandra Lee Wipf is co-owner of Solano’s,
located at: 78-075 Main Street #105, La Quinta.
Visit www.solanobistro.com for hours, menus
and more information. Phone: (760) 771-6655