Kirsten Akre has over twenty years of experience connecting youth and adults to food and nature through community gardening. Most recently, Kirsten managed the Chicago Park District’s Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse where she grew over 20,000 seedlings for the annual heirloom plant sale, developed the outdoor spaces into a community and children’s garden, and expanded its educational programming. She previously managed the demonstration garden and volunteer programs at the Garfield Park Conservatory and worked on the Resource Center’s Turn A Lot Around community gardening program. She developed her love of nature while exploring the mountains of Montana with her family and at her grandparents’ farm in Minnesota. Kirsten is thrilled to take her knowledge and passion to support and enhance edible landscaping and organic vegetable gardening through her position at The Kitchen Gardener.
Fall is here. Cool days and nights. My tomatoes ripened into early October which is quite a wonder to have red, sweet tomatoes so late into the year. I don’t mind harvesting green tomatoes because I’ve learned how wonderful they are to cook with and to eat. In fact, in the Middle East, green tomatoes are a cuisine staple. Tonight I’m making green tomato soup, my favorite.
Nourished Kitchen, a great site for preserving and other how-tos, has a great recipe for fermented green tomatoes and hot pepper pickles. Fermenting is an easy and tasty alternative to vinegar pickling. And a good way to use up the last of the garden’s harvest.
See the topic cloud to the right and click on green tomato to find more tasty recipes to use your green tomatoes this season. Enjoy!
Great video with Melissa Clark from the New York Times about what to do with eggplant.
The New York Times has a new recipe for my favorite eggplant dish Imam Bayildi, a Turkish delight. Enjoy!
It’s a great year for eggplant. Many large, delicious fruits. When roasted, they have a wonderful smoky flavor.
These are the garden fairs I always attend — and highly recommend — when in the market for vegetable seedlings and plants because I know I will find good, healthy, productive seedlings:
4 May, 11:00am – 4:00pm: Garfield Conservancy annual seedling sale
May 17, 9:00am – 6:00pm, and May 18, 9:00am – 4:00pm: Hyde Park Garden Fair
18-19 May, 10:00am – 2:00pm: Kilbourne Park Greenhouse two-day sale of more than 150 varieties of organically-grown vegetables, herbs and flowers (If you’ve not seen the lovely greenhouse, make sure to stop by.)
Last week, we replenished the soil at some of the kitchen gardens I plant for my clients with cow manure compost from Lake Street Landscaping Supply. (I’ve also used the Resource Center for rich compost.) As I’ve written about before, soil becomes depleted growing fruits and vegetables because the vitamins and minerals in the soil are absorbed into the foods we eat out of the garden. Depleted soil becomes sick with bacteria harmful to food-bearing plants and depleted so yields diminish greatly. In my experience, soil needs to be replenished every 3-4 years and/or when special events such as residential construction contaminate the backyard. (See my earlier rants about soil.) And keeping soil strong and healthy is how we show gratitude for the bounty we’ve received from the garden.
New zoning in Chicago is causing controversy in communities. Here I set out my own garden zoning framework.
When I design new gardens in the spring, I divide garden plots into zones. These zones are based on:
- the frequency of use/eating (based on my eating habits or those of my customer)
- maintenance demanded by the vegetables, herbs and fruits
A French permaculture technique, it sets out zones 0-6 with 0 being the home. I only use three zones in my small kitchen gardens because I’m growing a couple hundred square feet, not acres. The vegetables and herbs used most often have closest proximity to the house, making it easy to go out the kitchen door and snip dinner. Other vegetables fan out from the back door.
Here’s my personal garden “zoning” framework:
- zone 1: closest to home, most frequently harvested such as herbs, salad greens, onions, beets, kale, chard, peas, beans
- zone 2: crops more permanent and requiring less daily maintenance such as broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, summer squash
- zone 3: larger, single harvest crops such as corn, garlic, sweet potatoes and potatoes, parsnips, turnips, winter squash