Why Does Our Produce Suck?

If you had asked me that question 15 years ago I would have said, who cares. I didn’t eat much in the way of vegetables. You’d be lucky to see me eat a potato or have a salad. Most of that changed when I met my wife who was practically a vegan when we met and today I have to ask what happened to the quality of our produce.

I used to be proud when my in-laws came to visit. Going to a grocery store here was like walking into Saks Fifth Avenue. Their eyes would widen at all the fresh produce that was available and how nice it looked. I didn’t realize what it was like for them until I took my first trip back east to see them. The produce sections were scrawny and lettuce meant iceberg lettuce only. Iceberg is to lettuce like spam is to prime rib. It crunches, but has no flavor of its own and should be relegated to being a garnish rather than the base of a dish. I’d need another hand to count the types of lettuce we have available to us out here, but suddenly we’ve discovered a problem…it’s all turning to crap.

We’ve gone to the local grocery stores and produce markets lately and the cucumbers feel like they need a viagra to firm them up. The lettuce is wilted with brown spots inside near the heart. The tomatoes are mushy, the apples aren’t as crisp, etc, etc.

What happened? We’ve even gone to farmer’s markets where we’ve bought organic produce only to come home and find upon closer inspection that most of it is dirty and starting to rot and has to be thrown out. While California is the Golden State, it’s really packed with lots of farmers in the central valley and they grow a lot of what we consume, so why are our fruits and vegetables getting so bad? I talked with one friend of mine who has her own garden in her backyard where she grows her own produce which comes out quite well. She suggested that it’s the travel time from farm to store, but I don’t think that’s as much of a problem when it’s California grown. It could be due to the odd weather we’ve been having that’s throwing off the crops or it could be that we don’t have enough farm workers to do the job properly because the farmers don’t have the money to pay them. All I know is that the quality is getting worse.

Good thing I don’t live in a place where it has to be shipped in. I think I’ll feel sorry for my in-laws now.

Urban Garden: week 4


week 4
week 4

Well this week was kind of interesting because of the heat wave that hit us. I had to water a lot more because of it, but the tomato in the background there wasn’t doing so well and has perked up a bit now that it’s hotter.

The mesclun on the left we did a small harvest on last night and it had a nice spicey taste to it. We’ll have to see how well it comes back and for how long we can keep cutting it and having it grow back. I’ve never heard that before, but I’m willing to give it a try.

The oldest planted peas have only one pod so far, but I haven’t seen much in the way of growth and they don’t like hot weather too much. Because of all the concrete in our backyard the temperature actually hit 109° two days ago which is the highest I’ve seen in a long time. Luckily it’s started to cool off a bit so things are going back to normal.

My Urban Garden, Week 3

Week 3

So I’ve decided that every Sunday I’m going to take a picture of how my garden grows and share it with all of you. Last weekend we harvested some of the lettuce for my hamburgers and while good, I still think the shoots were a little young as they were well, kind of tasteless. Since then though the salad has grown back with a fury.

The best news is that on the heirloom peas growing on the far left we have our first pod forming so all will be good. I expect more over the next few weeks, but it seems like we won’t be getting enough to actually cook, but we should at least have some that we can all eat fresh off the vine.

You’ll also note that the other later trays have the green onions taking hold finally and the new lettuce that has sprouted up is starting to grow well. The new lettuce was planted much thinner than the first so it will be interesting to see who this fares. These were also a somewhat different mix of seeds so I’ll make sure to keep you updated on their flavor.

My Urban Garden, week 2


Week 2
Week 2

So I’ve decided to keep the urban garden an ongoing thing. Here’s todays shot and you can see how the peas and lettuce have really grown in the last week.

The green onions have finally taken hold and we have new sprouts of mesclun lettuce coming up on the far right. We also have blooms starting on the peas and tomato so it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

Currently SF is having some warm weather and our backyard is up to 85°. This is mostly because of the fact that the backs of the houses in the Sunset have shingled concrete that absorbs the heat and radiates it back so it’s getting warm out there. 

Not sure yet, but we’re thinking of harvesting some of the lettuce to go with my SF gourmet hamburgers I’m making tonight. Stay tuned for details.

My Urban Garden

My Urban Garden
My Urban Garden

Well we all know the economy sucks at the moment so my wife and I decided to take on a new thing to help us out. We’ve become urban gardeners.

Living in the Sunset district poses an interesting problem. We’re supposed be living in fog all the time. Well thanks to Al Gore and global warming we aren’t so foggy anymore so we started a little test.

The pot on the far left was originally planted with Parsely and was sitting on our deck, but for some reason, probably the wind it was attacked with weeds. Now we’ve moved all the planting trays off the deck and tried again. The far left was cleaned out and planted with heirloom peas. As you can see they’re doing good, but the tray was too small so we went to home depot and  purchased the longest trays they had and next to the far left are more of the same peas. Apparently peas grow well here. Next to that we planted some mesclun lettuce because we go through a lot of that when we make my famous San Francisco style burgers™.

Next to that are some green onions that had a bit of a rough start, but are starting to set in. The two blank trays have more mesclun planted since we’ll be using that a lot. I just planted them today so it’ll be about a week before we see something pop up. Oh and the second set of peas and mesclun have been growing for only about 3 weeks and are doing great.

The big pot over in the back has an early girl™ tomato planted in it. They’re supposed to do well out here which is surprising so we’ll see what happens. I’ll keep you all updated on how it goes. We’re planning on also adding more parsely and garlic next so we’ll see what happens. The nice part about all of this is that peas actually enrich the soil they grow in so when we rotate the crops we’ll start planting peas in the other trays  and moving things around. 

The upside of this is our little girl is now trying to help out, just like I did when my dad used to grow swiss chard, rhubarb and lettuce in the back yard. Only this time we’re growing vegetables we like. It used to be that all of our neighbors grew fruits and vegetables in their backyards. I guess it was just a working class thing for the Sunset, and since I’ve  been born and raised here I’m proud to be a Sunset redneck. 🙂