100 Mile Diet: I Never Promised You a Tomato Garden

When I joined the 100-mile diet, I felt psyched, energized, inspired. I felt greener than green.

For a second.

Then all those serious, life-altering questions began to cloud my green mind. You know – the really important ones, like, "Will I have to give up vodka?" Clearly, this is the question that makes most would-be 100-mile dieters give up. But let me back up a bit. What's a 100-mile diet, you ask? The premise is simple: Only eat things produced within 100 miles from you.The execution, however, is far from simple, in this globalized, mechanized world, even for a gal who already buys only organic produce from ParadiseO, doesn't eat red meat or poultry, and gets organic whole wheat bread from Trader Joe's. I mean, where does that organic whole wheat flour come from, let alone the organic soybean oil?

Even for a SoCal girl, with lots of farms all around and temperate weather all year, the 100-mile diet's no easy task. For those in less sunny areas, it's a Herculean feat. For proof, just read the story of J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, the two people who started the whole 100-mile diet hoopla. They tried to do this in Vancouver, Canada, -- and lost about 15 pounds in six weeks before they decided to loosen the rules a bit.

I'm all for the loosening of rules. For practical purposes, of course. Like vodka.

Luckily, the 100 Mile Diet guide's quite forgiving. The first rule: Start small. The second rule: There are no rules.

So – I decided to modify things a bit. I'm starting small by dealing with produce first. And instead of the 100-mile rule, I'm going with an in-state rule. I'm gonna make sure my produce is California grown, without worrying about whether the carrots came from just south (within 100 miles) or just north (outside 100 miles) of Bakersfield.

Theoretically, these are pretty simple rules. But considering the fact that there's no CSA program that delivers to my city, and that my closest farmers market opens at a tortuous hour (9:30 am) and close ridiculously early (1 pm), I need to undergo an entire lifestyle change to meet even my definition of the 100-mile diet.

Fortuitously, I managed to leave my camera in my friend Melissa's place, and had to drop by to pick it up. Melissa lives in Venice (just south of Santa Monica, where I live) and has a lemon tree! There she is, comparing a particularly large lemon to the size of her head –

I picked a lemon, got my camera, and headed home. And I stared at the lemon for a while, for inspiration.

What I really, need, I decided, is a garden of my own.

So imagine my excitement when I got an email from Slow Food LA, asking: "Interested in growing your own produce? Find out how you can safely grow food for yourself and your family in your own back yard."

Never mind that I don't actually have a backyard; at least I have an apartment balcony! I signed myself up, then went to hear James Birch an organic farmer who used to help urban homeowners in LA convert their gardens and landscapes into organic food gardens – from Flora Bella Farms in Three Rivers, Calif.

I got a lot of inspiration, but very little actual practical advice for balcony gardening. Which made me realize: If I want to garden urban style, I gotta talk to current, real-life urban gardeners.

Luckily, my friend Summer has her own backyard garden – complete with LA-style caterpillars with shades and black gloves.

So I'll be posing this question to her: What I really, really want is to grow my own tomatoes – but is October too late in the year to plant these, even for SoCal?

Tags: Agriculture | Los Angeles

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