loc-a-vore: someone who eats food grown or produced locally or within a certain radius such as 50, 100, or 150 miles; one who seeks out locally produced food; New Oxford American Dictionary 2007 word of the year.
Eating locally is all the rage these days. And why not? Fresh, local products are more nutritious, taste better, and are a more environmentally friendly means of obtaining food. A year and a half ago, the editors at Sunset magazine decided that if eating within a 100-mile radius was good, then eating within a one-block radius would be even better.
They dreamed up a menu for a late-summer feast and raised everything at the Sunset headquarters in a backyard-sized plot. Thus the birth of Team Garden (for the fruits and vegetables), along with Team Olive Oil, Team Bee, Team Cheese, and Team Chicken, as well as Teams Beer, Vinegar, and, of course, Kitchen.
According to the Sunset staff, they began the project knowing how to garden and cook, but as for winemaking, beekeeping, salt-making and the rest of it, they were completely untrained. They tackled these time-honored crafts with beginner's gusto, and learned that they really could do it all. And so can you.
Here's how to take the first steps for growing food in your own backyard.
1) Make compost.
2) Start a container garden.
3) Build the perfect raised bed.
4) Plant now (August-October) for the cool season.
5) Start with these fool-proof backyard crops:
Cucumber (Diva): Sweet, crunchy; very productive; disease-resistant
Basil: Clean-tasting Genovese basil
Pattypan Squash: Disk-shaped, scalloped-edged Benning's Green Tint (lime green) and Sunburst (brilliant yellow); tender skins and few seeds; small, pretty, and ideal for stuffing
Tomatoes: Prolific, super-sweet, deep yellow cherry tomato Sun Gold and red cherry; Sweet 1000 are dependable and rich-tasting; red Early Girl; lemony, jade-striped Green Zebra; tender, yellow-and-red Marvel Stripe; thin-skinned, magenta-purple Brandywine
Zucchini (Trombetta di Albenga): Climbing vine with big, fan-shaped leaves and pale green zucchini often curved like trombones; sweet, mild, and stays crunchy when cooked
And if you want to move on to raising chickens and bees or making cheese, wine, vinegar, salt, or olive oil, learn from the experiences of the Sunset staff and their daily updates.