Food for Life

Hello travelers!  In keeping with the theme of pure, unadulterated ingredients that make Chrysalis products so effective, I have been experimenting with growing my own food and herbs.  As with pure organic plant oils, there is much more vitality and nutrient density when we get direct as possible and remove the "middle man": the carrier oils that dilute most skin care products, and the commercial growers who must compromise flavor and vitamins to manage the scale, distance, and expectations between the farm operation and you.

As an urban, "front step" gardener, I can't grow all my food and medicine--I don't have the space!  But I can mirror the principles of purity and localness and enjoy the benefits where possible.  Here are some easy, satisfying, delicious things I've done with just a few square feet of dirt:

1. Corn.  My grandmother used to grow corn, and the joy of eating it makes up for its relative lack of nutrient power.  Still, it is high in fiber and antioxidants, and is fun and easy to grow.  It needs very little in terms of care, but I found that it truly needs a lot of direct sun.  I grew heirloom blue corn, but the plants that didn't receive enough sun were unable to produce full ears.  The few ears that developed, however, were adorable.  I dried them and created a little wreath.

2. Microgreens.  Now here's a front step crop that's too easy to skip.  They come up quickly and are more delicious than any salad mix I've ever purchased.  Mine are producing, but I did not create a deep-enough well for their soil, so they are not going gangbusters.  Trial and error!  If you do dig at least a 6 inch-deep bed or channel for their soil medium, you'll have a great harvest.  The seeds need only be sprinkled on top of the soil and watered in.  Any lettuce will work well, and they like cool weather.  You can keep sowing every week for an ongoing salad harvest!

3.  Sugar Snap Peas.  My best experiment so far!  Peas are a cool weather crop, so I was able to sow pea seed in November in Los Angeles.  In most other zones, sow your pea seeds shortly before the anticipated last frost in Spring.  Work the medium or amend it with sand so that it drains properly, and stick your pea seeds about an inch beneath the soil, a few inches apart.  I had room for two short rows in a cement bed, with about 16 inches between rows.  But I don't think the Pea Gods will come after you if you need to plant your rows a little closer together--this plant wants to grow.  It even produces its own nitrogen and improves the soil for future crops [edit: peas *fix* nitrogen in the soil, essentially grabbing it from the air and enriching the earth; they don't actually produce it].

Your peas will germinate in a week or two.  Don't bother soaking before sowing; just water after you sow and make sure the soil is moist but not soggy--too much water will rot the seed.  Find some thin bamboo or long sticks to use as a trellis if you have vining peas, which I do.  Expect your peas to reach skyward to about 6 feet.  After they germinate, you'll have delicious peas in about 2 months.

Harvest all the time!  The more you harvest, the more is produced.  Take cuttings of the beautiful pea blossoms frequently, too.  And eat those veggies within a few hours if possible--the sugars turn to starch after that, which is why you'll never have a snap pea as good as the ones you grow yourself and crunch on right away.  Every minute after harvest is a minute when nutrients and sweetness are lost.

4.  Poblano Peppers.  These guys love sun, like corn and tomatoes.  They are the large, mild variety you'll find in Chile Rellenos, or called Ancho when they are dried, and make wonderful salsa, burger toppers, tortilla soup, and more.  Roast them!  I have been growing all my crops from seed, but I will tell you right now that next year, I might get seedlings instead of germinating my own.  Same with tomatoes.  The seeds are fragile and finicky and although I spent three weeks nurturing them with low heat in a turned-off gas oven while sponging their paper towel abode twice daily to keep them moist, a few-minute heat surge killed all but one seed. (I was preheating for some biscuits and forgot they were in there!  But only for five minutes!  Sigh, you see what I mean.)

However!  That one seed did sprout; I transplanted it to a pot, and it is now producing peppers.  It's an incredibly healthy-looking plant that required nothing but some decent soil and frequent water.  Without fertilizer or special conditions (it's chilly December right now and they prefer heat), the single plant currently has twelve peppers in production.  I staked it with some bamboo because there's no way this guy can carry that much fabulous weight.

Other cool weather crops include cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, and garlic.  I will be planting all these next year because my first year's experiments went so well.  The root veggies will need deeper soil for obvious reasons, and garlic shouldn't be planted with your peas, as it reduces their output.


 Nothing compares to the thrill of watching Nature do its thing, or to the reward of seeing the (literal) fruits of your creation.  And nothing compares to the nutrients, flavor, and purity you get from your own crops.  You *know* they're organic, because you grew them.  You *know* they weren't sprayed with anything weird to keep them bright and colorful.  And you get the incredibly beneficial treat of being able to munch when nutrient density is highest and taste is best!  Don't be daunted.  There's nothing to lose and much to gain.

Next post:  Recipes from the Chrysalis Cookbook, or, How to Survive an Apocalypse Winter