One good way to get involved in your Central Florida Community

Cooking, FL, Growing, Healthy activities, Healthy Food, Local Orlando Businesses, Orlando News and Events
Picnic Project Sanford Florida

Picnic Project Sanford Florida

THE PICNIC PROJECT.  Like Food Not Bombs, the Picnic Project feeds people and families in need in the Sanford area every Sunday (FYI – Picnic Project prepares conventional non-vegetarian food for the families they serve).
Mark a Dandelion Cafe team member is involved in the creation and development of the This Picnic Project and has volunteered countless hours with them over the past 5+ years.  Most weeks Mark gets involved with the SundayCommunity Meal that’s served at 1pm in Downtown Sanford area.

If any of you are interested in supporting the Picnic Project, please talk to Mark or email them at thepicnicproject@yahoo.com, or visit their Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/picnicproject/

Win a FREE Ticket to the 2016 Florida Herbal Conference!

Cooking, Growing, Healthy Food, Organic Herbs and Teas, Orlando News and Events

Mountain Rose Herbs is giving away one free ticket before January 8th

We are so excited to share this interview with Emily Ruff, the Executive Director of the Florida School of Holistic Living and a community herbalist who has practiced the art and science of plant healing for over a decade. Her studies have taken her around three continents where she has studied under healers of many traditions. Emily’s dedication to preserving bioregional medicinal plant traditions and ecosystems led her to serve as a Board Member of United Plant Savers. Inspired by a need for greater connection among her regional community, she founded the Florida Herbal Conference event in 2012, an event which continues to sell out annually. Enjoy the interview and be sure to enter for a chance to win free registration to the 2016 conference!  
Florida Herbal Conference - win a free ticket!

Want to start off the New Year Healthy?

Cooking, Growing, Healthy activities, Healthy Food, Local Orlando Businesses, Organic Herbs and Teas, Orlando News and Events

Homegrown Local Food Cooperative Orlando, FL

Homegrown Local Food Cooperative Orlando, FL

Order from:

HOMEGROWN LOCAL FOOD COOPERATIVE

Homegrown Local Food Cooperative is your resource for locally grown organic produce, pastured eggs and meats, raw dairy, honey and a variety of artisanal goods for the home and garden.

Homegrown goods are available every week through our Signature Online Farmer’s Market.  Simply log in, shop and pick-up your local goods at our boutique farm store on Orange Avenue where Ivanhoe and Health Villages connect.

Our local Farmer’s list what’s growing each week and you get to pick what farm fresh goodies you want and, they are harvested just for you!

Our local Artisans cook and prepare to order what you have requested.

Quality and transparency are important at Homegrown, and you can shop with ease, knowing that we are looking out for the best tasting, healthiest, most nutritionally packed, unadulterated, local food available.  At Homegrown our goal is to source the best quality food grown as close to home as possible.
Our produce is grown without pesticides, fungicides, or synthetic fertilizers and never from GMO seeds!  Our animal products come from animals who are treated humanely and do not receive routine hormones or antibiotics.  Our artisanal  food products are made without preservatives or artificial ingredients.  Our artisanal home products are made without parabens or sulfates.  Our garden products come from our local organic farmers.

Each product listed at our Online Farmer’s Market is identified by the farm, kitchen or craftsman who is creating the unique offering.  To learn more about our Producers, visit the Producers section.

Online Farmer’s Market Hours:Tuesday at 9am through Friday at 9am

Boutique Farm Store Hours:
Saturday and Sunday from noon until 4:00pm and Monday from 2:00pm until 7:00pm

We accept cash, check, ebt and all major credit cards. 

http://www.homegrowncoop.org/

TANGERINE SHERBET

Cooking, Growing, Healthy activities, Healthy Food, Local Orlando Businesses, Organic Herbs and Teas, Uncategorized

We came across some yummy looking tangerines and decided to make some sherbet! We adapted from this recipe here from vanillaandbean.com, which they adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe here to make it vegan. See, it’s all about making a recipe your own!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Orange Juice, fresh-squeezed tangerines. This will require 2-3 lbs of oranges. Refrigerate the oranges overnight if possible.
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 Cup Granulated Cane Sugar
  • ⅛ tsp Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1¾ C, or 13.6 oz can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
  • 2 Tbs Orange Zest, 2 small oranges

Directions:

  1. The night before making the sherbet, place the oranges and coconut milk in the refrigerator. Place the ice cream maker’s freezer bowl in the freezer.
  2. In a high speed blender (or a food processor), blend the orange juice, lemon juice, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and coconut milk until the sugar is dissolved. Strain into a large bowl. Add the orange zest. Stir.
  3. Refrigerate until mixture is 40F or less (I refrigerated mine overnight to reach appropriate temperature).
  4. Process mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. When finished, the sherbet will be like soft-serve (mine took 25 minutes).
  5. While the sherbet is processing, line a storage container with parchment paper and place in the freezer.
  6. Spoon the sherbet into the storage container making sure to redistribute the zest evenly as it tends to get stuck and clump up on the mixer attachment.
  7. Place a piece of parchment paper directly on the surface of the Sherbet and freeze until desired consistency. I freeze mine overnight, but a softer serve consistency can be enjoyed in about three hours.
  8. Serve in a bowl or cone.
  9. Store for up to two weeks in the covered container in the freezer.

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http://dandelion.kitchen/portfolio/tangerine-sherbet/

BOOKS TO LIVE BY

Cooking, Growing, Healthy Food, Inspiration, Organic Herbs and Teas

by: Chef Mark Thompson

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I love books. A lot. Real books – printed books that I can hold, flip through and put on my bookshelves. Old school. No e-books for me. But if thats your thing, don’t let me stop you.

Culinary books are a great resource – for techniques, flavor combinations, ideas and inspiration. Oh, and recipes. There are tons of tomes out there, but these are my personal favorites when it comes to plant-based cooking.

TOP THREE

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The Vegetarian Flavor Bible

The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity with Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and More, Based On the Culinary Wisdom of Leading American Chefs

by Karen Page

That’s one heck of a subtitle. But it’s true. This book has been indispensable to me. Hands down the book I use the most often. It was preceded by Culinary Artistry (I bought three copies, because friends kept ‘borrowing’!), then an updated and expanded version was released, The Flavor Bible. This vegetarian version came out in 2014. The bulk of the book is dedicated to ingredient matches and affinities. Want to know what goes with mangoes? It’s there. Really want to know? Everything from almonds to yuzu. Classic and clever pairings garnered from the input of some of the best chefs in America. As well as methods of preparation, seasonality, flavor profiles, sample dish ideas, nutritional profile, botanical relatives and tips. Also, there is a fascinating timeline of vegetarian history, great quotes, information on eating plant-based, menus from top restaurants and more. Learn about it, and buy it here.

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Ratio

The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

by Michael Ruhlman

A New York Times bestseller, Ratio, like the Flavor Bible, is another book to help break beyond recipes and find a new freedom in cooking. Recipes, of course, are helpful, especially when starting out or experimenting with new cuisines. However, knowing a basic ratio makes cooking easier and more intuitive. For example, a classic vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Where you go from there is completely up to you (and half the fun!). Oil? The standard is olive. But what about avocado or hazelnut or sesame? Instead of the traditional white wine vinegar, try sherry, raspberry or balsamic. Or go crazy and use lemon juice! It’s your world now. Add in some salt and pepper, it’s that easy. Other common additions would be shallots, dijon mustard and herbs. Just the beginning… There are 32 other ratios with countless variations. While not a vegetarian book, it is incredibly helpful nonetheless.

This book is also available as an app. Which, even given my affinity for books, I will admit is pretty handy. Ruhlman also has a very informative blog, as well as many other great books. I like them all, including the ones having nothing at all to do with cooking. Such as The Elements of Cooking, Ruhlman’s Twenty, The Making of a Chef, House, Walking on Water and Wooden Boats. You can find it all here.

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How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food

by Mark Bittman

I’ve liked Mark Bittman for some time now. Up until recently he was a columnist with the New York Times, but has since left to work with a vegan startup. He is also an outspoken commentator on our broken food system appearing often on news programs, in documentaries and writing other books like Food Matters. His column, The Minimalist, was known for straightforward, simple recipes. This volume, one of a series, carries on that theme. This is a more traditional cookbook, but a massive one. And while there are over 2,000 recipes, there are also variations and substitutions and techniques to help facilitate spontaneous and seasonal cooking. The recipes run the gamut of soups, salads, breads, desserts, grains and way more. My personal favorite is the section on spices, condiments and sauces. It’s a great way to build up your pantry with natural, homemade goodness, without all the chemicals and superfluous ingredients found in mass market convenience products. With this book, you can make your own pesto, ketchup, eggless mayo, mustard, vegan fish sauce, barbeque sauce and mix your own curry powder, chili powder, garam masala and tons more.

This book is also available as an app, which makes a convenient, searchable, portable companion. Other books I like by Bittman include the aforementioned Food Matters, as well as VB6 and Kitchen Express (not entirely plant-based, but easily customizable). For more information, visit his website here.

CHEFS & RESTAURANTS

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Crossroads

Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine

by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones and Serafina Magnussen

Just know this – Bill Clinton, Paul McCartney and Jay-Z are all fans of Ronnen. So, you don’t really need me to tell you. But I will anyway. This is vegan food taken to the highest level. Primarily Mediterranean, it is beautiful just to peruse, but there is plenty here that you could make at home. The first thing I did was make his simple, but tasty Walnut Parmesan. Some very interesting flavors and a section on basics, with recipes for almond Greek yogurt, cashew cream, vegetable stocks and a demi-glace that is next up on my hit list. He also has another book, The Conscious Cook, which is also worth checking out.

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Dirt Candy: A Cookbook

Flavor-forward Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant

by Amanda Cohen & Ryan Dunlavey with Grady Hendrix

My new favorite cookbook. Funny, clever and filled with great recipes, ideas and techniques. Written in graphic novel form, it is part memoir, a history of her NY restaurant, and a cookbook all in one. Learn the trials of opening a restaurant and how to make Smoked Corn Dumplings or Huitlacoche Cream. What I like most is ideas for components to reinforce and add extra layers of flavor. For example, her recipe for Roasted Carrot Buns also includes a carrot & cucumber salad, carrot hoisin and a carrot halvah garnish to really bring out the carrot flavor in different ways and textures.

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The Accidental Vegetarian

Delicious Food Without Meat

By Simon Rimmer

The chef at the Greens, in Manchester, England, Simon Rimmer has put together this tasty collection of dishes that could please anyone, omnivores included. Pulling inspiration from around the globe, there are dishes with Thai, Indian, Japanese, Middle Eastern and Italian influences. Most of the dishes are simple enough even for a weeknight, but there are plenty to impress at your next dinner party as well. Samples include Leek & Potato Rosti, Phyllo Strudel with Port and Eggplant Tikka Masala.

DIGGING DEEPER

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The Omnivore’s Dilemma

A Natural History of Four Meals

by Michael Pollan

Basically an exposé of what it takes to get food on your plate. An attempt to answer the question, “What should we eat?” Delves into the benefits and problems with organic production, fast food, the meat industry, and foraging. A fascinating look into a broken system. The book earned Pollan a James Beard Award. There is also a young readers version available. Also great is In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and I also enjoyed Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education.

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The China Study

Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health

by T. Colin Campbell, PHD and Thomas M. Campbell, MD

An eye-opening look at the effect our diet has on every facet of our health. The book is based on the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted. The main focus is the correlation between animal protein consumption and chronic illnesses. It can be a bit tedious, but the information is incredible. The study is featured in the film Forks Over Knives.

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Cooking

600 Recipes, 1500 Photographs, One Kitchen Education

by James Peterson

Somehow this guy seems to know everything about cooking. I mean, he did teach for seventeen years and write the advanced curriculum for The French Culinary Institute. So there’s that. He also has a degree in chemistry. He’s also written over a dozen books. This is the culmination of all of them, in one convenient package. It won a James Beard Award, as have several of his others. This is not all plant-based cooking, this is all cooking. So if you would be offended at pictures on trussing a veal roast, skip it. If you want to learn how to make concassée, Borscht, grill zucchini, and find out what the heck herbs de Provence is, then this is the book for you.

http://dandelion.kitchen/portfolio/books-to-live-by/

Flowers and berries in modern herbal medicine: Elderberry

Growing, Healthy activities, Healthy Food, Organic Herbs and Teas

Materia Medica: Elder

Common names: Elderberry

Latin name: Sambucus nigra var. canadensis

Parts used: Flowers and berries in modern herbal medicine, all parts historically.

Action: The flowers are a wonderful diaphoretic! Fevers are the body’s way of fighting off infections, so we don’t always want to lessen a fever, unless it’s either too high or has been going on too long. For a fever they’re beautiful in a tea or even in the bath, but tinctures will work well too.

Elderberry

Elderberry

Elderberries are antiviral and are an immunomodulator, which means they help the body balance to whatever level of action the immune system needs to fight infections. The berries make a lovely tincture, syrup, or elixir (combination of the two!) to prevent infections, and when taken during acute infections can lessen the infection’s severity. You can dry the berries too and add them to teas, they’re in our Heart Chakra blend, as well as the Everyday Wellness!

Elderberry plant

Elderberry plant

Once you can identify elder, and are aware of its healing properties, you’ll see it everywhere! Highway ditches, roadside creeks, your backyard! It’s a shrub and not a tree, and if you see one in the wild you’ll probably see 50! It prefers wet feet, which is easy to get in rainy Florida, and as of the last few years has taken to flowering almost year round! We’re lucky to have an elder shrub growing in the Dandelion garden and it is one of the happiest cultivated elders around! Tall, prolific flowers and berries, and keeps both its neighboring human and bird population very happy (the birds eat the berries too!).

I love to use elder daily in the wintertime, when everyone around me is full of cooties. It makes a beautiful and delicious preventative drink, and is was from inspiration from the elder that created the Everyday Wellness herbal tea blend at Dandelion!

Elder really is a pharmacy within a plant, and a tasty one too! Please enjoy these links to learn more about elder from some brilliant teachers:

Kiva Rose’s elder monograph

Rosemary Gladstar’s Garden Wisdoms: Elder Medicine

Jim McDonald’s Elder monograph

Eat The Weeds: Elderberries: Red, White, and Blue

Organic Urban Gardening In Orlando, Florida

Cooking, Growing, Healthy Food, Uncategorized

On this blog, The Dandelion Community is sharing stories from urban organic farmers to help those who want to add fresh vegetables to their daily meals at home, and those who are thinking about going even bigger by contributing to local restaurants, co-ops, and famers’ markets.

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Photo Caption: Mint growing in soil at Southern Urban Gardens. They trim often to ensure continuous growth throughout the year.

The biggest challenges associated with organic urban gardening include finding space to grow enough food to feed a family. Much like gardeners all over the world, they must also find a way to cope with local environmental conditions such as weather and access to clean water and soil.

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Photo Caption: Constantly developing seedlings is necessary to support the growth needed to grow daily vegetables for meals.

Here is a story of Ralph Holweck and Gail Tyree from Southern Urban Gardens in Orlando, Florida. They have been organic gardening seriously for several years and have found solutions for overcoming the challenges of space, heat, water, and soil, so they can produce vegetables for their own table and grow enough extra vegetables to supply two local co-ops.

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Photo Caption: Organic aeroponic “Tower Garden” used by Southern Urban Gardens supports their family and two local co-ops with leafy vegetables throughout the year.

Gail and Ralph currently combine an aeroponic growing system and soil-based gardening to get the best results. Ralph and Gail spent a lot of time researching the best methods of urban gardening and started out slowly so they would not get overwhelmed and quit. They continue to find better ways to get more vegetables within the small space of their backyard.

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Photo Caption: Ralph and Gail found suitable organic seeds to grow healthy and great tasting bell peppers in their tower garden.

They made a decision to use their tower garden for the steady production of leafy vegetables as it reduces the amount of space needed and is easy enough to manage without needing a greenhouse. Finding the right varieties of vegetables that will grow in the heat and tower garden is a challenge. However, Gail and Ralph learned that urban gardening is a lot like the rest of life. You have good days with wonderful leafy vegetables for a daily salad. Then, there are bad days in which the heat is too much for the seedlings they choose to plant that week. Or, to know how to have enough seedlings growing constantly so you will enjoy vegetables daily.

Yet, Ralph and Gail seem to thrive on these little challenges and find ways to make it work. They both agree that there is nothing better than having organic vegetables to set upon their table day in and day out.

To accommodate the heat in Orlando, Gail and Ralph have added a reflective gardening shade cloth over the towers. They found that it is worth the extra money, in comparison, to the performance of typical gardening shade covers.

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Photo Caption: Gail and Ralph invested in reflective gardening shades in order to be able to grow veggies throughout the summer.

Gail and Ralph put a lot of effort towards developing the right soil mixture to grow additional plants that are not suited for the tower gardens. Due to the unusual heat throughout October of this year, Southern Urban Gardens has just started to plant additional vegetables in the soil area of the garden. This area in their yard is finally seeing the cooler nights that are the right temperature for growing in soil. They are looking forward to digging in the soil and seeing what varieties of vegetables successfully grow this year, as compared to last year.

Photo caption for the two images below: Gail loves nothing better than walking out in the soil section of their garden, in the morning, to find the red cranberry hibiscus in full bloom. Days like this make the work seem more like a labor of love.urbanlr5urbanlr7

Ralph and Gail of Southern Urban Gardens are more than willing to share their stories of urban farming and show you how you can benefit by using a mix of aeroponic systems and soil gardening to enjoy fresh, organic vegetables almost every day of the year.  Southern Urban Gardens sell the “Tower Garden” (by Juice Plus) systems.  We (**or Dandelion**) purchased a system from them and Ralph and Gail were extremely helpful in educating and helping us get setup to have a running start.   If you’re interested in organic hydroponic gardening, contact Southern Urban Gardens through Ralph at rdholweck@gmail.com, or call at (407) 247-3843.

Tuscan Bean Soup

Cooking, Growing, Healthy Food

TUSCAN BEAN SOUP RECIPE

Serves 4-6 hearty bowls

While we were in Colorado, we went on a truly gorgeous hike to Emerald Lake in the Rockies. It was an all day excursion, and while we did bring snacks, we were ready for a hearty dinner when we got back home. Mark whipped us up this ridiculously good stew, and it really hit the spot.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • rosemary, to taste
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • salt, to taste
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans cannelini beans, drained
  • 1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and chopped
  • crushed red pepper, to taste

Directions:

Lightly simmer EVOO, salt, carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves, and rosemary until onions are soft, stirring occasionally. Then add garlic, crushed red pepper, diced tomatoes, and beans. Stir. Mix in veg broth, then kale, stir. Bring to a full boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add more veg broth if desired. Simmer at least until kale is tender, but the longer it simmers, the more the flavors come out.

Serve with some crusty bread, and enjoy!

Visit dandelion.kitchen regularly for new recipes: http://dandelion.kitchen/

Could desert crops become the new sustainable dinner?

Growing, Healthy Food

From our recent reporting on The Culinary Frontier, a look at what’s on the menu in the warmer, drier years ahead. Some of it’s pretty tasty.

By CHRISTOPHER D. COOK

Inperennially water-starved Patagonia, Arizona, just 18 miles from the Mexico border, Gary Nabhan, well known as an author and ethnobotanist, farms a worldly array of desert crops that could make any food lover salivate. The harvest, more than 120 varieties strong, includes Sonoran pomegranates, Baja California Mission guavas, Winter Banana apples, amaranth, asparagus, globe artichokes, and even an arid-friendly Texas Mission variety of the infamously thirsty almond. His 5-acre farm, which he manages with his wife Laurie Monti, a medical anthropologist and professor of indigenous studies, grows these foods on precious little water — about 17 inches of rainfall a year, a dollop compared with the US-wide average of 28 inches.

In the fall, even after a spring and summer of almost no rain, the Hopi Corn is ripe and ready for harvest — as long as Polly Goldman can get a little help from her family.

Blending thousand-year-old desert crop varieties with water-saving approaches and farming techniques inherited from Moorish Spain, Africa, and indigenous North America, Nabhan’s modest arid plot offers a glimpse of how we could sustain ourselves in an era of chronic drought and increasing climate chaos.

A drought-friendly dinner “isn’t going to be any less delicious,” says Nabhan. Shifting what we eat could, in his view, mean a scrumptious revolution. During a phone conversation, Nabhan ticked off a tasty menu of other drought-friendly options: sea beans, Mesquite carob (good for diabetes), pistachios, figs, tepary beans, pigeon peas, quinoa, and soups and stews made with prickly pear cacti instead of the more water-intensive bell peppers.

In equally arid northern New Mexico, famed chef and author Deborah Madison surveys a hardscrabble terrain and sees another lush menu of possibilities. The Greens Restaurant founder, always scouting for new sustainable recipes in the garden and the kitchen, points to foods that “we are already familiar with, but haven’t tried growing as much” in recent times: Sonoran wheat. Quinoa. Red orach. Rattlesnake beans. Zucchini in multiple varieties.

One reason Nabhan is such a fan of these obscure food plants is that they’re adaptable. Like any plant, they like water; but when water grows scarce, these plants have natural methods of storing it, or thriving without it. Not so with the miles and miles of lettuce, strawberries, and other crops such as wheat (at least the modern varieties) that dominate the Western diet.

In the Salinas Valley of California–a region known for water guzzling crops like lettuce and strawberries — Jim Leap and Polly Goldman farm a bounty of vegetables that require very little water. This row of garbanzo beans is an example.

In California, the source of a full two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts, one-third of its vegetables, and nearly 20 percent of its dairy products, growers’ response to drought has centered largely on water conservation measures such as drip irrigation.

But Craig McNamara, the President of the state’s Board of Food and Agriculture, argues, “We’re going to have to change what’s for dinner.” Bespectacled and chiseled with a straight-combed silver mane, McNamara, who farms 450 acres of organic walnuts and olives in Winters, California, bears a striking resemblance to his father Robert, the former defense secretary who steered military offensives in the Vietnam War. Today, McNamara worries that California’s drought could topple the state’s agricultural primacy. “For the first time, I’m tremendously worried about where we are…I’ve never felt we are closer to collapse than I do today.”

Despite the “beyond painful” drought crisis, McNamara says the conversation about shifting crops is still at a whisper: “I’m not sure how much this is getting to farmers.”

About 180 miles south of Davis, near the town of Madera in the gut of San Joaquin Valley, organic vegetable farmer Tom Willey sees market signals pointing farmers toward more thirsty crops, not fewer. “I don’t see a headlong rush to more water-saving crops.” Even as the drought deepens and water supplies disappear, Willey says many growers are still moving into almonds, which have been much vilified lately for their heavy water demands (roughly a gallon per nut). In fairness, it should be noted that much of today’s almond acreage used to grow cotton, which is one of the plant world’s biggest water hogs. So while almonds do use a lot of water, California at least traded T-shirts for more protein.

On his 75-acre patch of land, Willey has a little more flexibility than the average farmer. He produces a “seasonal progression” of row crops — annual vegetable varieties such as squash, leafy greens, and peppers that can be shifted depending on weather, water and market demands. “We can act and react much easier than farmers with permanent crops” such as fruit and nut orchards, Willey explains.

Jim Leap and Polly Goldman’s corn–an heirloom variety developed by the Hopi Indians, partly because of how well it tolerates dry years.

The Drought’s Opportunities

On his small homestead farm in San Juan Batista, sustainable agriculture educator Jim Leap produced a prodigious harvest this year of dry-farm beans, corn, winter squash, and tomatoes on just 10 inches of rain (and no irrigation). Leap, who for 21 years managed a research farm at the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, points out, “I can’t superimpose that on farmers who are trying to make a living.”

Prior to the 1950s, when sprawling irrigation canal projects and increasingly globalized markets took hold, the Golden State produced a very different bounty — grains, sugar beets, potatoes, beans, dry-farmed apples. With the rise of California’s massive agricultural aqueducts came access to cheap irrigation water, which, coupled with lucrative new export markets, spawned an array of thirsty specialty crops. At present, there is no fast track back toward more drought-tolerant harvests.

Absent sweeping policy changes, more and more small farmers are bucking the trends. And, in this case, “the market” is leading the way. Thomas Nelson, who analyzes sustainable food markets for the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, notices a growing interest among chefs and farmers in harvesting drought-tolerant wild greens such as miner’s lettuce, wild mustard, bristly ox tongue, and black locust flowers. They may sound obscure, but these foods are increasingly popular among professional foragers and chefs at up-market restaurants.

“The market has a really push-pull dynamic,” he says. “One reason almonds have grown so big is because there was a big marketing push behind them. It becomes a self-perpetuating system.” Well, the same could be true for drought-tolerant heirlooms and other dry-farm fruits and vegetables. As Nelson points out, the booming niche market for heirloom tomatoes and salad mixes was just a glimmer 25 years ago.

Going dry and small

Back in the eternally dry Southwest, famed sustainable-foods chef and author Deborah Madison sees progress on the margins. “Some people are definitely starting to look at [shifting to water-saving crops]. Every agriculture conference I go to ties into these issues,” she says — “but I don’t think it’s happening fast enough.”

Much of the solution, says Madison, who founded Greens Restaurant (one of the nation’s premier vegetarian venues), lies in “hyper-local” farming systems that can provide a diverse food supply with greater adaptability to climate chaos. “The solutions depend on lots of hands, and smaller farms,” she says, and smaller economies of scale that enable attention to detail. “A lot of the changes we need, I don’t think big agriculture can do it.”

From his rain-deprived vantage point near the Mexico border, Nabhan makes a compelling case for scaling up desert crop varieties and time-tested farming techniques. What’s especially compelling to Nabhan is that these are not new ideas. The challenge, he says, is to “make certain that we don’t grow these in monocultures as we’ve done with other crops.”

For more about what makes a “good farming system” — it involves a lot more than smart methods of cultivation — see “Food Shift,” Christopher D. Cook’s full story on this subject.

To keep up with our continuing coverage of sustainable agriculture and related issues, subscribe to our newsletter.

Photos by permission of Tohono O’odham Community Action and Polly Goldman.