Most of us are aware that growing our own food is the idea way to eat, but with tiny apartments, busy schedules, and the convenience of Publix, how often do we really toe the locavore line?
According to Randy Shore, author of Grow What You Eat, Eat What You Grow -- The Green Man's Guide to Living & Eating Sustainably All Year Round, sprouting at least some of your own food isn't all that hard. We spoke to Shore for his take on cilantro cultivation, making pickles and what to grow on a little baby balcony.
Clean Plate Charlie: What do you suggest for people who've never grown anything of their own before?
Randy Shore: Novice gardeners should start small, with just a few square feet of space, until they get the hang of growing food and so they can determine just how much time and effort they wish to invest. A mix of lettuce greens is a great way to start as they require little in the way of nutrients and even less maintenance. Many lettuces are "cut and come again," meaning you can pick the outside leaves and the plant will continue growing and producing more food for weeks and sometimes months.
Say you have an apartment with a small balcony. Realistically, what's doable as far as growing your own food?
Balcony space can be very useful for growing fresh herbs, which not only add a ton of flavour to food, but pack a big antioxidant punch. Plus, herbs are crazy expensive to buy. Thyme and rosemary are tough and shrubby; they grow year round in a mild climate. Basil, cilantro and parsley love to grow in pots and give your cooking a really fresh quality.
What's the deal with pickling? Can anyone do it?
Pickling vegetables and making relishes is much easier than people think, provided you make a small investment in the right equipment. A large pot fitted with a rack to hold jars and proper tongs is a good start. All you are doing when you pickle, is creating an environment where pathogens cannot grow and then making sure there aren't any bacteria left alive when you process your food. A few minutes in a boiling water bath is all it takes and the diversity of flavours created by a herb infused brine puts a tangy punctuation mark on any meal.
Is there any such thing as a "black thumb?"
In the world of gardening, sun and soil do all the heavy lifting and every seed is specially designed to do one thing: Grow into a plant. If you can remember to keep your plants watered and make sure they have access to sunshine you are 90 percent of the way there. Specific plant knowledge you can pick up as you go.
What's the best food to grow in South Florida?
South Florida is an ideal climate for starting a garden, particularly heat-lovers such as tomatoes and hot peppers, what I call a Salsa Garden. If the first few veggies you grow combine to make a great fresh dish, you'll surely be encouraged to do more.
I've heard cilantro is really hard to cultivate. Is there a trick to it?
There is a trick to growing cilantro, but there is also no downside to failure. Cilantro likes relatively cool, moist conditions, but it tolerates morning sun quite nicely. Select a location that is shady in the afternoon, maintain adequate moisture and tender, green leaves will be your prize. If cilantro gets dry or overheated, it goes to seed. The upside is that you can use the seeds to grow your next crop without a trip to the garden center or you can dry them, grind them up and use it to season Indian and Middle Eastern dishes: It's called coriander.
You can snag a copy of Grow What You Eat, Eat What You Grow online for more tips on growing your own produce.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahgetshappy.