Food Artisans of the Okanagan: Your guide to the best locally crafted fare

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Entries in Sunday Garden Tour (9)


Sunday Garden Tour: July 14, 2013

First of all, it's exciting to see so many new "likes" coming in from Japan and Korea on Food and the City's Facebook Page. I have a feeling that these translated editions of Food and the City must be hitting the shelves in those two countries. So, for my urban ag friends in Korea and Japan, a huge welcome. I'd love to see what you are doing in your communities. Please send me your photos and stories and I'll be sure to post and link to your sites here. Also, I'm starting to use Google+ and I've set up a Food and the City Google+ page. How many people would prefer this to Facebook? I would love to know.

The summer weather has finally hit here in the Okanagan. That means hot days (around 30 C), and dry (it's a semi-arid zone, with a huge lake and other smaller other lakes). It's perfect for plants like lavender, grapes, tomatoes, and hopefully eggplant. I have tried to grow eggplant from seed and it never really works out. This year, I bought two healthy seedlings of Turkish orange eggplant. They seem to be producing fruit, but the plants don't look particularly healthy.

Anyway, here are some video of the lavender field, which hums with our neighbour's honeybees, wild bumblebees and other pollinators.

Sunday Garden Tour Naramata July 14 2013 - Veggie and herb beds from on Vimeo.


Lavender and honeybee tv in Naramata garden / / July 14, 2013 from on Vimeo.



Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day: Food and the City, the Maurer Art Studio and garden in Naramata, British Columbia

On May 19, 2012, it's Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day. We're all encouraged to create a local food event to keep the momentum moving forward towards more sustainable and healthy food choices. Here's what my friends and I have cooked up as a Food Revolution Day event in beautiful Naramata, British Columbia, Canada.

Erika and Florian Maurer have the most amazing permaculture and food garden and their home residence and art studio. They were putting together an artshow at their garden/studio that weekend as part of the annual self-guided Art on the Naramata Bench Studio Tour, May 19 & 20. When they asked me if I wanted to join in and do a book launch in their garden, I jumped at the chance.

What is better than local art, thumbing through a book about urban agriculture, and getting a peek at an incredible home food garden on a sunny Saturday afternoon? 

Maurer Residence courtyard garden and art studio, Naramata, British Columbia, Canada

Allen + Maurer Architects explain the two "sides" of their courtyard food garden in a post on this blog from last year.)

So come by and meet Erika Maurer, Florian Maurer, and me. Look at (or buy some) art, talk about urban agriculture and sustainable food in cities around the world (I'll have books for sale), and soak in the beauty of the Maurer's beautiful permaculture home food garden and art studio in Naramata, BC. We'll all be there from 11 am to 5 pm, Saturday, May 19. (Art Tour continues on Sunday, May 20, 11 am to 5 pm.)

If you are impressed with the house, you are not alone. Florian is an award-winning Canadian architect. Their residence won the 2006 Governor General Award for architecture. 

Allen + Maurer Architects 

Photo courtesy of Florian Maurer

Maurer Studio, Florian and Erika Maurer
2843 Arawana Pl
Site 11 Box A Comp 5
Naramata, V0H 1N0
British Columbia
Phone 250-276-4253


Sunday Garden Tour: Jasper, Alberta

Kudos to Jasper, a tiny town tucked in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, for the raging success of its new community garden. My parents alerted me to its existence, and took these photos for the blog.

According to a report in the local Jasper newspaper (where I found the background info on this garden), a 23-plot garden near the library began in 2010 as a pilot project. It proved successful enough that the town gave them a nice, new 51-plot space on some prime real estate: the grassy median on Connaught Drive, the main street in Jasper. Normally this space is covered with elk lolling around on the grass. Now with the community garden, it might be interesting to see how involved the fencing will need to be. (Elk are notorious garden shrub and food garden munchers, and the tall eight-to-nine foot fencing around the yards in the Jasper townsite is evidence of elk and deer's keen interest in raiding gardens.

Here are photos (taken by my parents) in Oct 2011. Given Jasper's northern and alpine climate, coupled with the miserably cold and wet summer we had in Alberta, I want to acknowledge how lush and lovely these gardens are looking, well past the "gardening" season in this part of Canada.

Kale and beets, so late-season crops doing well into October!

Flowers, grasses and herbs on a mound. Why not.

Cold frame to keep away pesky frostkill.


Playstation, old skool.Community supported!

Elk-high fencing is a must in Jasper.The very important compost pile.


Sunday Garden Tour: Humour, Art and the Community Garden

I tend to be very food-focussed in my garden. I overcrowd the beds hoping for the most production possible, leaving gnomes, plastic deer and umbrella-carrying frogs to other people. I don't even plant many flowers, except ones known as pest deterrents or if they are proven indispensable companion plants.

(This year, I will admit that I have had to resort to awful nylon whirlygigs to keep the quail out of my lettuce beds. But they are hardly there to beautify. In fact, I cringe when I look out into my raised beds and see these Dollar Store-wonders spinning around.)

However, there is something to be said for sticking a few ornaments in and around the basil, even though I can't really tell you why. The herbs don't grow any faster or better, and I'm convinced that bobbles in the garden do little to deter hungry birds or rabbits. The best answer I can give is that it's just fun or when done right, downright funny. There is a lot to be said for humour's place in a food or community garden, just as some gardeners are guided by an aesthetic directive.

Case in point:

Last summer, I stopped by Our Urban Eden, a community garden in downtown Edmonton. Etablished in 1999 (though it moved to its present location in 2007), this garden now has 50+ gardeners and 37 plots. (New gardeners start with a half-plot, 4 feet by 7 feet, and then graduate up to a full 4-by-14-foot plot.) The dues to belong to this community garden are $45 CDN per year plus deposit for a full plot, and $25 CDN per year for a half plot.)

Our Urban Eden Community Garden, est 1999, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

A view of the garden plots at Our Urban Eden Community Garden, Edmonton, June 30, 2010

As with any community garden, each plot appeared to be a mirror of its gardener, an alternate version of the Myers-Brigg Personality Test if you like. Some plots were messy, some were chaotic, others were utilitarian, and others were overly regimented. As we walked through the plots, the garden coordinator pointed out a couple of planters with bizarre flea-market collections of figurines, toys, shiny trophy tops, and the like. It was brilliant, like a small comic village of characters out of Toy Story just doing their thing among the broccoli and cauliflower.

Great reuse for trophy tops, multi-sport activity among the crops, Our Urban Eden Community Garden, Edmonton, June 30, 2010

The dinosaur munching on the carnations was right out of the textbooks of when dinosaurs ruled the earth.The golden age of swizzlesticks gets some respect in Our Urban Eden, June 30, 2010

The stranger, the better. Our Urban Eden, June 30, 2010.

I have come across this sort of thing in other community gardens. Just blocks from my condo, the Oliver Community Garden in Edmonton provided a nice suprise last summer as well.

Good reuse of trophy parts in Oliver Community Garden, Edmonton, June 30, 2010

OK, so out in my Okanagan garden, I do have a metal pig and a metal sheep looking out from a rock ledge. They're not fall-off-your-chair hilarious, but they amuse me none the less. Which is reason enough to include them in the garden landscape.


Sunday Garden Tour: Paris Community Garden, October 2, 2010

This could only be Paris! Man in beret sits jauntily on creperie café terrace

Last October, I spent three days in Paris looking at community gardens, urban vineyards, and visiting the impressive Potager du Roi, in Versailles, just a 45 minute train ride from central Paris. 

Perhaps the best “find” was a community garden in the 13th Arrondissement. It was just a few blocks from my friends’ house, and we wandered over to take a few photos. We were immediately welcomed by a gardener and given a complete, comprehensive tour of the whole garden.

Here’s a quick excerpt from my book manuscript:

     As in most cities in Europe and North America, interest in urban food gardening in Paris hit an all-time low in the 1990s but started to rebound just as it was threatening to become extinct. In 1999, a group of “guerilla gardeners,” activists who plant food gardens on underused or abandoned urban sites without approval of the land’s owners, planted an illegal garden on a former industrial site. The project, called The Green Hand, got an official sanction a couple of years later when Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë supported urban revitalization and urban greening initiatives like Paris’ famous Vélib’ bicycle-sharing program and the city-wide ban on pesticide use after his election in 2001. Now, La Main Verte is the city’s official community gardening resource organization, and community food gardens are making a comeback to the capital. (In the last decade, there has been a renewed interest in the protection of local culinary traditions, so heritage produce and fruits — Pontoise cabbage, Montmagny dandelion, Argenteuil asparagus, Montmorency cherry, and the Faro apple have been back in vogue.) The City of Paris’ official municipal website listed fifty-eight community gardening sites in 2011.

     After the morning market trip to Marché Auguste-Blanqui, I set out to find a community garden in her neighborhood that a friend’s husband had stumbled across just a few weeks earlier.

Marché Auguste-Blanqui: Why would you shop at a grocery store in Paris when you can shop here three days a week in your own neighbourhood?Marché Auguste-Blanqui: The Tomato Guy!Purple carrots at the Marché Auguste-Blanqui, Paris.Cheese vendor at Marché Auguste-Blanqui, Paris(OK, enough about this market, but the range of food -- cooked, cured, raw, and fermented -- was inspiring. There were fish mongers scaling fish right on the street, rotisserie chicken vendors selling hot roast, whole chicken, market gardeners, a few clothing stands, and baked goods all happily co-existing at a street market that would never, ever be allowed to exist in North America due to our extreme love of regulating direct-to-consumer food sales.)


Jardins familiaux du boulevard de l’Hôpital community garden, 13th arrondissement, Paris, France, October 2, 2010

   The Jardins familiaux du boulevard de l’Hôpital community garden is squeezed between a 1960s French government subsidized-housing apartment block on one side and high-rent apartments on the other, and is accessible only by a sidewalk that cut between the two buildings. As we approached, we noticed a wiry grey-haired man fiddling with a row of grape vines, bifocals sliding toward end of his nose and an unlit cigarette dangling from his bottom lip. His crew neck sweater, à la Jacques Cousteau, had a few pulled threads. He could only have look more French if he was wearing a beret and had a baguette tucked under his arm as he pruned his vines.

The Community Garden from a different viewpoint.


     Griffault explained that had been gardening here for five years. Before then, he’d never as much watered a houseplant, having been born and has lived in the very same Paris neighborhood his whole life. “I was born in concrete, and I will die in concrete,” he declared rather enthusiastically. He learned to garden only when he got his plot, mostly by watching the other gardeners.

     As we slowly walked his little plot, he tested our knowledge in a type of name-that-plant agricultural quiz show. The radishes, a bay leaf tree, tomatoes, leeks, artichokes, celery, and strawberries were easy enough. He then moved on to more challenging plants, like lovage and cinnamon basil. His fearlessness in his gardening was endearing. For a Parisian-born Frenchman, his sense of international culinary adventure was impressive.

     He pulled a long, white, two-pound Daikon radish, the kind that gets grated into strings and piled on sushi plates in Japanese restaurants, wiped the sticky clay from it and handed it to Jesse, who really didn’t know what to make of it. He also had shiso, a spicy, floral Japanese basil, growing on his plot. An Antillean gardener has a chayote squash vine. Another has a stand of giant cabbage on remarkably long stocks. Some plots were like a United Nations of herbs, fruits, flowers and vegetables. We spotted a pumpkin too, definitely a non-traditional French food. And very late-bearing strawberries — it was the first weekend of October.

Griffault picks a ripe "Nipple of Venus" tomato

     And of course, his row of Chasselas grapes, though the 2010 humid conditions made them impossible to grow unaffected by moldy fungus. Nearby, he pointed to a pêche de vigne tree, a late-ripening peach, on a neighboring plot. Griffault told us that these peaches were traditionally planted among the grapevines as snacks for grape-pickers during harvest.


     “Nipple of Venus!” he shouted naughtily as we approached a tomato plant with purplish red tomatoes with a slightly pointed tips was his next stop. “It’s a new one we’re trying this year.” At this point, we were clearly pillaging from other gardeners’ plots. “Don’t worry, I’m allowed,” he reassured, waving his cigarette-holding hand over his head. As we walked he picked whatever was ripe and handed it to Jesse who was happily filling her cloth market bag.


 Direct to consumer is so normal in the French food economy of many cities.



(PS: I'm on a French kick these days because my friends from Paris came to visit me in Canada.)