The Home Growers Circle: Real people with a passion to grow real food

Ethel & Bill Robert Charmaine & Brian Brandon Nancy Lewis & Tara Malika & Donny Andy & Susanna Craig & Gary Warren & Lovejoy

Lewis & Tara / Santa Monica

Late Spring 2011 Garden Update

Lewis & Tara

Friday, May 27, 2011 at 6:00PM

Ligustrum Vulgaris

Tamarind seedlings

Caper berry flower

Mint patch

By the time you read this the world will not have ended as falsely predicted, but this post is a reminder that even in the Garden of Eden, alias the "Yard," all is not paradisiacal. Disappointment looms, as we are subject to the vicissitudes of nature. The Valencias were so mediocre this year that Chef Jason grimaced upon on their receipt. No less than 200 promising Pakistani mulberry drupes evidenced themselves beneath the crisp green leaves of April, only to be shriveled nothings upon the branches today. The coffee beans are still only protected by a worn-out bed sheet hanging from nails and wire, since our neighbor to the south took out overgrown foliage on his side of the fence. The Macadamia nut tree has new growth penetrating the relatively useless bird net with its plastic fibers that proved no avail to the sharp teeth of squirrels.

Okay, okay. There are rays of hope. The grass has never been greener and iridescent, seeded twice with various ryes and fescues. The Ligustrum bushes, commonly known as privet or white lilac, are fecund with millions of blossoms. We thought it was just aesthetic; exuding the most syrupy aromatic bouquet day and night, but it turns out every part of the plant has potential medicinal qualities. The jack fruit and tamarind, indigenous to Southeast Asia among other exceptionally hot regions, has actually emerged from seeds, both about 4 inches high. Our worry is protecting them from our cool winters with its intermittent frosts.

The chayote samples have proven themselves fast growing vines. And a garlic spray has been effective keeping caterpillars and aphids from eating the green and red leaves of the caper berry bush, where 10 blossoms are forming. On Thursdays, there is a farmer’s market at 18th and La Cienega where we scored with tomato plants including “Rainbow and Purple Cherokee Heirlooms,” “Better Boy,” and “Beefsteak.” The mint patch is filling in completely with giant leaves on the lemon balm, apple, spear and peppermints.

We are writing this while returning to Los Angeles from a weekend of palate altering-events. Saturday we began in Los Olivos for delectable Viognier and Syrah at Stolpman’s where we met the delightful Liz Fischer, and her husband Woody, who collaborate on the food blog Onions and Chocolate. Around the corner, live music emanated from Poul Palmer’s stand, aka “The Garlic Guy” in Los Olivos. Here we refurbished our supply of Texas sweet onions and a sampling of bulbs from all over the world. Next stop was Bedford Winery in Los Alamos, where Stephan was still pouring a 2001 Cabernet Franc, for their festive “Lilies in the Kitchen."

Sunday found us winding through oak tree shadows in Paso Robles. We skipped the downtown wine festival in favor of individual wineries that hosted their own special pourings and food pairings such as Ambyth Estate, Ranchita, Dubost, and of course Judith Starr, who is expecting a great stone fruit harvest this summer. This time we were sure to get a couple pounds of dark Nicaraguan and Brazilian coffee at brew master Joebella.

Lewis and Tara live and grow in Santa Monica, California, where Tara works as a family therapist and Lewis works with clients as a real estate, insurance, and securities broker. You can learn more about Tara's work at Lewis' websites are and

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