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Rare Urban Edibles

Looking for inspiration to start raising and preserving backyard produce?  Karen Veitch and Steve Friedman have spent the past 13 years transforming their 11,000 square foot urban lot into a lush backyard farm.  What began as a family pastime when their children were young has turned into a passion.  “If I hear about an obscure thing, I must grow it,” says Karen, referring to her penchant for unusual varieties such as Chinese Red Noodle Bean, boasting 18” long deep red beans and Okra Jing Orange, which promises to be a show stopper.  An unexpected summertime favorite are melt-in-your-mouth padrón peppers that the Veitch/Friedmans serve as a simple, addictive appetizer by blistering the peppers in olive oil and serving them with coarse salt.

When I visited, cool season crops including fava beans, chard, beets, kale, English peas, collards, blueberries (yes, we can grow them in Southern California) and alpine strawberries were at their peak.   Warm season tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and beans were already planted.  Two summers ago, the garden produced 225 pounds of tomatoes alone.  The couple extends their garden’s bounty by making sauerkraut, kimchi, Japanese pickles, salsa, jams and jellies. One of their favorite sources for unique varieties is Baker Creek.

Though they describe themselves as novice homesteaders, Karen and Steve are constantly seeking new ways to use their garden space.  What’s next?  “Hops,” replies Karen.  Eyeing the space between the home’s window and eaves, “I want to put that space to use, and we’ll make our own beer.”  Sounds like the perfect accompaniment to those padróns.

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