Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Urban Farming & Gardening

Foundation grants first fellowships in organic plant breeding in U.S.

Tomatoes 600

Clif Bar Family Foundation has recently awarded the first fellowships in organic plant breeding in the United States.

The fellowships are funded through the foundation's initiative Seed Matters, which advocates the development and protection of organic seed systems. Those awarded fellowships will work to breed seeds that thrive in environments with greater variability and different ecological-agronomic conditions so farmers don't have to retreat to pesticides and other non-organic solutions for farming.

Professors and leaders in organic seed research overseeing the program include Stephen Jones at Washington State University, a plant breeder and the director of the Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center; Kevin Murphy at Washington State University, assistant professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences as well as a barley and alternative crops breeder; and William Tracy at University of Wisconsin-Madison, professor of agronomy and interim dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

So far $375,000 in grants have been issued to fund three PhD fellowship students for five years in organic plant breeding at two land grant universities — Washington State University and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kevin murphy 600

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Test Kitchen tips: How to truss a chicken

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— Caitlin Keller

Top photo: Heirloom tomatoes. Credit: David Karp / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Dr. Kevin Murphy, right. Credit: Micaela Colley / Organic Seed Alliance

Quinces: A tribute to the ancient fruit at the Los Angeles Public Library

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On Oct. 8, the Culinary Historians of Southern California will present "Simply Quince: From Breakfast to Dinner for 3,000 Years" at the Central Library. Barbara Ghazarian will address the long history of the lumpy, golden fruit known as the quince. The lecture will trace the fruit's migration from its origins in the Caucasus and discuss dishes related to ancient recipes, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.

Central Library, 630 W. 5th Street, L.A., (213) 228-7000, lapl.org.

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--Caitlin Keller

Photo credit: David Karp / Los Angeles Times

'Food Justice': A look at the future of food

Food Justice Final "Food Justice" reveals the inequities in the current food production system, farm workers' rights, food's overall impact on and connection to the environment, as well as a way to re-create our connection to eating.

In their new book from MIT Press, Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi show how lack of access to fresh food and obesity are linked, how the small family farm has changed in the last century, and what groups across the nation are starting to do to transform America's current eating habits.

For the full review of the book, see our environment blog Greenspace.

-- Lori Kozlowski
twitter.com/lorikozlowski

Urban farmer: 'There's another way to live'

A_farm_in_the_middle_of_LA 

David Kahn built Edendale Farm five years ago on a sloping half-acre smack in the middle of a swanky Silver Lake neighborhood. He wanted to show that a slower pace is possible, even in a metropolis like Los Angeles.

Kahn, who was born in Egypt, says he hopes the farm will teach people "there's another way to live."

Local residents were understandably skeptical when he started out. When he added chickens to the mix, one woman worried the entire block might catch avian flu. Five years later, the neighborhood has embraced the farm.

Read on.

Photo: David Kahn feeds his hens at Edendale Farm. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Central Asian melons adding new flair to the marketplace

Hami_melon_harvest
Here's a sneak peek at one of the stories in Thursday's Food section:

When you think of melons, do you think cantaloupe and watermelon? Then you are in for a treat. David Karp, our resident expert on all things fruits and veggies, examines a most unusual melon harvest: Immigrants from such places as Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and China's Xinjiang region yearn for the melons of home. Some grow the varieties here, which has led to some delicious cross-pollination. Read on here.

Plus, check out David's photo gallery look at melon harvest, and look over his weekly farmers market report, which gives you the inside track on what's arriving at local stands.

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter.com / renelynch

Photo: The Hami melon harvest at Sandstone Marketing's fields in Huron, on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Credit: David Karp / For The Times

Local artisan eats at the Food Rendezvous

L.A.'s ascendent food artisans emerge from their incubator kitchens this Saturday to gather at the Food Rendezvous in Venice. The event represents the collected efforts of Laurie Dill and Dominique Leveuf, two former San Franciscans who were inspired by the underground farmers market movement there. With the Food Rendezvous, the two hope to connect L.A.'s vast food community: a jam-maker who uses heirloom fruits from her grandmother's farm; a blue ribbon-winning baker; an architect moonlighting as a barista. Plus, try bites from established luminaries like Susan Feniger's Street and Altadena's Bulgarini Gelato. Also scheduled are presentations from non-profit organizations, cooking demos, a movie screening, cookbook swap and more. 

The Food Rendezvous, inside SPARC, 685 Venice Blvd., Venice; thefoodrendezvous.com. Sat. Aug. 28, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. $10.

-- Miles Clements

Photo credit: The Food Rendezvous

It's a wild, wild strawberry

Wild
Strawberry school is back in session. Our Market Watch columnist David Karp returns with Part Two of his berry primer.

And this time, it's just wild.

Last week, Karp gave us a buying guide to farmers market strawberries, focusing on standard varieties. Let us now consider specialty and exotic strawberry varieties, both from farmers markets and further afield. And click here to check out his photo gallery of some of the most unusual strawberries you'll ever see.

PLUS: Cooking through the seasons -- your guide to choosing, storing and preparing the season's freshest produce.

--Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Photo credit: Wild strawberries grown by Pudwill Berry Farms in Nipomo at the Santa Monica farmers market.

What we're reading now: iron chefs, paint chips, edible mysteries and the New Yorker

Quiz 

Wake up sleepy heads! Here are your morning must-reads, should-reads and wanna-reads:

-- Is "Pirates Cove Peach" a Ben & Jerry's flavor? Or a Pottery Barn paint chip? The cool kids over at Mental Floss.com put together this quiz that will challenge you to tell the difference. (I barely passed. I am taking it as a sign that I need to buy more ice cream. You know, to study the flavors.) 

-- Why cast iron is a "green" choice for cookware. I was especially intrigued by the detailed seasoning tips. Now, where did I put that lard ...

-- It's only Tuesday, but I'm already calling this my food blog find of the week: Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. Come for the foodie-ness of it all, stay for the books. Who knew there were so many food-related mysteries? (A few that caught my eye include author Cleo Coyle's coffeehouse mystery series or the White House chef series by Julie Hyzy, which has such catchy titles as "Eggsecutive Orders," "State of the Onion" and ... wait for it...."Hail to the Chef.")

-- The New Yorker' has a colorful and intriguing profile of John Mackey, the co-founder and chief executive of Whole Foods Market who defied the critics who said he'd never make it selling "hippie food to hippies." Or, as the current issue of the magazine puts it:

The man who has perhaps done as much as anyone to bring the natural-foods movement from the crunchy fringe into the mainstream is also a vocal libertarian, an orthodox free-marketer, an admirer of Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, and Ayn Rand. In the 2008 Presidential election, he voted for Bob Barr -- Ron Paul wasn’t on the ballot.

Save this one for breakfast. It will take you awhile -- but it's worth it.

-- Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Illustration credit: Mental Floss.com

President Obama teaches Bobby Flay a thing or two about grilling

Michelle Obama and Iron Chef team

We knew President Obama was a foodie, who at one point in his life even reviewed restaurants.


But who knew the prez has mad grilling skilz?


Chef Bobby Flay was speaking to the news media recently about Sunday night's special two-hour episode of "Iron Chef America," which goes to the White House for the first time. First Lady Michelle Obama will issue the challenge: Competitors are invited to pluck whatever they like from America's most famous garden and prepare five dishes that epitomize the ultimate American meal. Back in Kitchen Stadium, Flay and White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford will go up against Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse. Judges include celebuchef Nigella Lawson, actress Jane Seymour and Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin. (Read more about Sunday night's show here.) 


During the media call, Flay noted that he had been to the White House before, invited to take part in an Obama initiative to mentor young men. While there, he struck up a conversation with the White House pastry chef who revealed that President Obama is quite at home in the kitchen and "can talk about banana cream pie for a really long time." At one point during the cookout portion of the mentoring event, Flay found himself -- where else? -- manning the barbecue. And out of the corner of his eye he saw the president walking toward him.


What was Flay thinking? "OK, here is the leader of the free world about to grab a pair of tongs with me. What am I supposed to do?"


As an icebreaker, Flay told Obama that he'd heard through the grapevine that the president was quite knowledgeable about food and cooking. The president struck a modest reply, "'Oh, no, I don't know much about it, but I'm interested,'" Flay recalled.


A moment later, Flay started to offer the president some gentle suggestions about what to do next at the barbecue. The president, Flay recalled, told him he needn't bother: "Hey, I know what I'm doing."


-- Rene Lynch


Photo: Check out chef Mario Batali's orange Crocs. Do you think he and Michelle Obama coordinated colors? From left, chefs Bobby Flay and Cristeta Comerford, "Iron Chef America" MC Alton Brown, the first lady, Batali and chef Emeril Lagasse. Credit: Food Network

Why we love L.A.: fresh strawberries in December

Strawberries
Elsewhere in the country, it's frosty and freezing. After all, it's December.

But in L.A.? We're still reaching for our sunscreen and enjoying freshly grown Gaviota strawberries, above, courtesy of Harry's Berries in Oxnard.

Admittedly, strawberries are unusual this time of year. Just chalk it up to one more reason we put up with the traffic to live here. Check out this photo gallery of the luscious fruits and vegetables on sale recently at the Hollywood farmer's market.

If you're lucky, you can also find them at your local market.

If you live in L.A., that is.

--Rene Lynch

On Twitter @renelynch

RECENT & RELATED

Market Watch: David Karp's weekly report on the farmers markets

MAP: Explore your local farmers market

Seasonal Cooking: We show you what to buy now -- and how to cook it. Recipes included

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.