food babies

Eat local? How much more local can you get than your own living room?

I try to buy organic when I can (remember, at the store, the number on the sticker begins with “9”), but I do so with the knowledge that there’s no guarantee behind the “organic” sticker. We all know how lax the food safety inspection process is. If they can’t keep E. coli out of our spinach, how can we be certain they’re not going to let pesticides in? And what about the imported “organic” foods? What are the “organic” laws in Argentina? If only about 1% of all imported food is inspected, you know they’re not going to bother with garlic when there’s all that shrimp to look at.

This isn’t meant to be a prime-time news scare, “What you don’t know is in your fridge can kill you.” But it’s the plain truth. And it’s always made me want to have my own garden.

As an apartment dweller, I don’t have one of those…what do you call it…backyards, so I’ve never done anything more than the failed window-sill herb garden. Rosemary is the only herb I’ve been able to maintain. Oddly enough, whenever we’ve had rosemary growing in our place, Mädchen’s breath is much better-smelling. Hmmm.

A friend of ours recently set up an indoor shelf garden in his apartment, and I had to shamelessly steal his idea. His is 3 feet wide and he’s got a fluorescent fixture hanging from the ceiling. We can’t install anything like that, and I wanted to keep the shelf small, so I found a 2-foot-wide, 30-inch-tall, stackable shelving unit ($20 each) and some worklights and plant bulbs ($25 total). We’ve got a regular halogen desk lamp in there too, since plants seem to love it. I’ll probably take the clamp part off the worklights once we’re sure about the placement and just affix them to the shelf so it’s less clunky. And as our little sprouts need more legroom, the shelves will fill in and we’ll have to get a couple more lights for the guys on the bottom.

I did some searching online and got some pretty good indoor gardening information. You have to be careful with the soil—we used a mixture of potting soil, peat (and coconut), and perlite. You do need to fertilize and help pollenation along with a paintbrush, since you probably don’t have a bunch of critters flying around inside. Sounds doable.

We’ve got rosemary, catnip, cherry tomatoes, cayenne peppers, avocados, scallions (pictured up top), basil, and cilantro. All organic, some from seeds and some already started.

So here are some obligatory baby pictures! (Like any new parent, I promise more—we still haven’t seen any cilantro sprout action.)


These avocado babies came with us from L.A. I found a couple of the biggest Reed avocados ever. They were delicious and organic and locally grown, so I did the toothpick-truss-in-water trick with the pits and they both sprouted. They won’t be foodworthy for quite some time, but if the world doesn’t end too soon, maybe one day I’ll get my own Reed avocado from one of these guys.


Here’s one of the shortcut plants: long red cayenne. You can already see the little buds on it. Obviously, we wanted plants that we could use the vegetables from—we could probably have all our cayenne needs met by this fella.


This one is a Tiny Tim tomato. According to the little info stick, it’s a miniature plant (up to 2 feet tall) that produces 1-inch tomatoes. The stick also mentioned container growing and a window sill, so it sounds perfect. I don’t see a ton of tomatoes coming off this one, but it’s something. And I just think it’ll be terribly exciting to see little orange-red fruits in my periphery when I’m sitting on the couch. I wonder if Mädchen will want to bat at them. I would.

 
And finally, here’s a bunch of future basil plants. I think we’ll try to keep two of them. It won’t be enough to have pesto all the time, but for normal pizza- and pasta-topping purposes, this should do.

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