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Los Angeles

Caltech Olive Festival

Every year, Caltech harvests the olives from 130 olive trees on campus in Pasadena, CA.  They send most of the harvest to a local company to press and bottle, but there are some dedicated students who press olives immediately, creating a gorgeous purple goo from which the freshest olive oil can be skimmed.

Many California vendors, including Trader Joe’s, sell olive oil produced here in California.


Myths about good food

Organic doesn’t mean what you think.

The term “organic” used to refer to the grassroots, locally-produced market for farm products grown with care – the opposite of the industrial food complex of today’s multinational agribusinesses. Today, “organic” is a term that can only be used by those certified by the USDA. Consequently, it doesn’t have the same inherent meaning as before. In general, if your food has packaging to display terms at you, chances are you can get it fresher from the farmer’s market. Ask your local farmers at the market (or local butcher or fishmonger) where their products come from – if you can’t have a discussion about location and freshness, maybe look for another place to shop. (check our local food map search)

Organic doesn’t mean healthy.

A packaged frozen dinner could be labeled “organic”. On the other hand, produce from a local farmer might not be labeled (no packaging!) or the farmer might not be able to afford USDA certification. Just ask – if you’re not convinced you’re buying something that should be more fresh and healthy, go elsewhere. Chances are that the freshest produce is likely the healthiest – lots of nutrients and vitamins start to break down as food ages, even just by a few days. That’s why corn, for example, tastes sweetest when it’s just been picked.

Organic doesn’t mean local or sustainable.

Organic does mean, at least in the US, that food hasn’t been irradiated (this might change soon!), and hasn’t been genetically modified. It also means that no chemical means of ripening were used. It has no bearing on locality or sustainability used in producing that food – organic produce could be grown halfway around the world, with techniques that aren’t necessarily sustainable.

Los Angeles

Growing in LA

Certainly, periods of different temperatures affect what will thrive.. here’s what we’ve had success with:

Fall / Early Winter – this is when you should be planting your beans and peas and anything else that is cold-hardy, as the nightly lows can get into the 30s and 40s.  Many herbs will be good here as well, especially cilantro which will definitely not like the hotter weather coming.  Likely, you will have success with leafy veggies as well – lettuce, chard, beets, kale, etc.  Fall is a great time to plant alliums like onions and garlic, as well as tubers (although potatoes can be rather finicky).

Late Winter / Early Spring – plant your hot-weather lovers, like tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, eggplant early!  You’ll be glad you did – they’ll be producing early, and will love all the full sunshine once they’ve established a good root system.  It’s also a good idea to continually sow any herbs like cilantro and basil from which you’d like an ongoing harvest.

Late Spring / Summer – you can continue to sow summer plants if you like, but know that there will be a shorter growing season for them.