Local delicacies you can grow

Natural Perspectives

June 10, 2010|Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray

Vic and I were thrilled when Dave and Margaret Carlberg invited us to their house last week to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the installation of the California native, drought-tolerant landscaping.

The design of their front yard was the work of Kim Kolpin of Sage Landscape Designs. Kim selected a lovely plant palette of lavender, purple, blue and yellow, with some large plants interspersed with low ground cover. It was all in bloom and spectacular when we arrived. I recognized only a few plants from the wild, among them an interesting bladderpod bush.

Dave and Margaret retained a few of their established plants, like their decades-old weeping rosemary bush. I don't think I'd recognize their house without that venerable giant. It looks like a bonsai tree at this stage of its life, and is a focal point of their yard.


Their front yard now provides forage and a safe haven for birds, butterflies, honeybees, solitary bees and other wildlife. But it is their backyard that holds the most interest for me. It is one big vegetable garden. That area provides forage for humans.

Dave and Margaret had also invited us over for a locavore dinner that featured food that they had grown in their backyard. Locavores are people who eat locally grown foods; a locavore dinner can be all or mostly locally obtained.

After admiring the front, we moved on to the back to see what was growing in their yard. Like us, the Carlbergs have converted most of their backyard to food production. Margaret is a weaver and dyes her own fibers, so she also grows some plants for dye. The dye plants are interspersed with food plants.

A full-sized guava tree occupies one corner. Next to the guava tree, a beautiful row of ollalieberries grew along the back fence.

We had some of their huge, black berries for dessert. And next to berries grew a spectacular 40-year-old muscat grapevine.

In addition to being an author of several books, including one on Bolsa Chica, Dave is a microbiologist and likes playing with microbes, especially yeast. Dave uses yeast to make wine. He showed us his current project, a carboy of fermenting Merlot. We're hoping for another invitation when it has aged.

For dinner, we had some of Margaret's homemade bread, another great way to use yeast. On the bread, we had some of her delicious homemade guava-lemon and kumquat preserves.

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