Cooking with Shiso and Kuri


LAGG Founder and Master Gardener Florence Nishida shares how shiso, a Japanese herb (perilla in English) can be dried and then crumpled and used to make furikake. Furikake (furi means scatter and kake means put on in Japanese) is a condiment commonly used on top of rice and cold tofu. Florence made hers with the shiso, salt, sesame seeds, cayenne pepper and a little dash of sugar. Seaweed is a commonly included ingredient. Florence shows the rice balls she made, topped with a sprinkle of the furikake


Florence also shared kuri and how she cooked it. Kuri is an orange-fleshed, meaty squash. It can be used in any dish that other squash and potatoes are used.


The most difficult part in preparing kuri is cutting it open. The skin is very hard, but once cooked it is soft and edible.

  1. Cut the kuri into chunks.
  2. Saute in sesame oil until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  3. Make 2 cups dashi (a fish and seawood stock) broth: boil water and add a package of dashi and mix. 
  4. Add broth to kuri, along with 1 Tbs. of soy sauce, a little mirin, and 1 tsp of sugar.
  5. Cover pot with lid and simmer over low heat for about 10-15 minutes.


Video credit: Chad Cole

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Quick Pickles

cucumbers grown in LA Green Grounds garden

Maybe those cucumber vines in your garden are growing heavy with fruit these days, though it’s not always easy to find the cucumbers amid the leaves and stems. At LA Green Grounds, we’ve got some productive plants trained to grow up a trellis, and we’ve been harvesting for a few weeks.

Many kinds of cucumbers are out there, for salads and snacks -- and of course for pickles. These could hardly be easier to make. Florence (Nishida) brought some homemade pickles to the garden recently, made from a Rachael Ray recipe. It’s below, tweaked just a bit. Try it, or find one that suits you; there are hundreds out there.

Remember, these pickles must be refrigerated, because they have not been processed to be shelf-stable. That’s why they are called “quick.” Feel free to change the spices, or to use other sorts of cucumbers, or other vegetables such as turnips, radishes or okra.

Quick Pickles (Rachael Ray)

Makes 4 servings

½ cup white vinegar
2 rounded tsp sugar
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, cracked
2 T. fresh dill
1 bay leaf
4 pickling (or other) cucumbers, cut into 1-inch slices on an angle

In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, put vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, salt and garlic. Cook until the sugar dissolves, and bring the liquid to a simmer.
In a glass jar just big enough to hold them, add the cucumber pieces and the dill. Pour the simmering liquid into the jar, cover tightly and shake to spread the ingredients.

Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate after one day. You can eat these the next day, or a leave a few days -- your preference.

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Earwig "Soup"

Success! Earwigs trapped.

An easy recipe for keeping insects away from plants

We imagine there can't be many gardens that haven't been invaded by snails or slugs, earwigs or roly polys. Many gardeners just turn away in annoyance, and sacrifice some of their harvest. But there are easy ways to fight back.

At LA Green Grounds, founder Florence Nishida made bait that appealed to the bugs' natural attraction to the smell of fermentation: a bit of vegetable oil and a bit of vinegar or soy sauce in an open-top shallow can, such as cat food or tuna. The oil keeps the insects from swimming on the top of the liquid and climbing out of the can.

If you water, watch for the traps, so you don't spill the contents out onto your plant beds. And move the can to various locations, best near the base of a chewed-up plant, or in the corners, or under the shade of large leaves.

Most of these invertebrates stay sheltered during sunny days, and come out and feed in the evenings.

When your trap is full, discard and refill it with the bait if necessary.

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Church Garden Dig-In

I became a volunteer at LA Green Grounds after the lockdowns of Covid-19 had changed everything. That meant I could work at the garden, but either alone or with one or two very distanced and masked people. It meant our meetings were on Zoom. And most important, it meant that a hallmark of the organization – Dig Ins – were off the table.

On Tuesday, June 8, I am so happy to say, I went to my first Dig In. And it was every bit as meaningful as promised by Florence Nishida, LA Green Grounds founder.

At a Dig-In, a resident in South Los Angeles invites family and friends. And LA Green Grounds brings volunteers. Together, they install a front-yard edible garden that offers the neighborhood fresh produce, a sense of community, and the knowledge of how wonderful it is to grow your own food.

“Dig-Ins are real work, but a heap of fun, too,” Florence says.

“It was hard work as always but just great what can be accomplished with many hands (and arms, backs and legs!),” said LA Green Grounds volunteer Grace Yamamura.

Dozens of Dig-In gardens have been installed around South LA, and on June 8, volunteers gathered to reboot the garden at the home of Sarah and Scott Yetter, just south of Pico Boulevard in the Pico Union neighborhood.

The garden was put in about six years ago, but needed some love – in the form of weeding and new plantings, including a hallmark of summer: tomatoes. It’s a garden that’s an integral part of the community. Sarah runs a preschool program at the First Free Evangelical Church that using the garden. They hold community dinners twice a month.

When the volunteers showed up, it was clearly a hub of activity. A teenager in the house was taking his AP calculus test. Kids came in and out of the house. Interns from next door were part of the work crew.

The LA Green Grounds team included Florence’s 16-year-old grandson, Kai Ogawa who was visiting and said he felt the experience made him a “real Angeleno.”

It may be a while still before we can schedule new Dig-Ins, but if you are interested in turning your front yard into an organic edible garden, complete a garden application.

Contributor: Mary MacVean


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Cabbage and Visitors

It was a very long May day at the garden - Gordon and I left at 8 pm (he was painstakingly cutting up all his prunings to fit in the trash can).  But it was worth staying late because I had the most splendid visitors! 

A mother and her two young children wandered into the garden, probably the children leading.  They were very spirited and sweet - a fine combination. The boy declared -"Are there vegetables here? I like vegetables!"  Of course I was delighted.  So, the children got a tour and taste of almost everything. I also gave a stern warning that they were never to eat anything unless it was given to them by a teacher (maybe that's not the best advice) or their mother - because some things are not safe to eat.  "You mean they're poisonous?" he asked. Yes! I said, and showed them the flowering pea, and showed them how to see the difference between them and edible peas. I hope they remember. 

The boy asked such good questions, and both were a real delight with their enthusiasm and good cheer and open nature.  I spoke to the mother, who is from Guatemala, in Spanish when I realized she wasn't catching everything - and she immediately relaxed and began to ask questions. She was interested in the compost.  All three were interested in the Pigeon pea.  

His first taste of loquat.  "A little sweet, like an apricot, but also a little sour like lemon".  He liked the sour.

A young couple wandered in at almost the same time.  She had been in the garden before, and was drawn to it because she was delighted in and taken a course about California native plants. But she also loved vegetables. So they also got tastes and surprises in the garden.  The two groups were totally unrelated - wandered in on their own - and live within 2-3 blocks away.  

I was so happy!

~ Florence

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Ozone Beans


LA Green Gounds is joining a science project organized by the science writer at KPCC, Jacob Margolis. It’s called the Ozone Project, and will have LAGG and other volunteer growers all over the city growing beans to study the impact of ozone stress on plant health.

As Margolis wrote recently, the air above our city is among the country’s worst, specifically for ground-level ozone, which is an unhealthful byproduct “of the sun and heat baking all of the toxic emissions we pump into the sky.”

Margolis decided to set up a citizen science project in which people would receive beans to plant – one variety that shows ozone damage and one that does not. Of course, the growers won’t know which is which.

LAGG took beans to plant in our garden but also to distribute to growers in the adjacent community garden and to our volunteers.

“When plants take up carbon dioxide through tiny little holes in their leaves called stomata, they end up taking in the air pollution around them as well. Once the ozone enters the plant, it acts as if it’s being attacked by some sort of pathogen and works to drop the impacted leaves (usually the oldest), to stop the problem from spreading,” Margolis wrote.

He wants us citizen scientists to post updates every week – including photos on social media with hashtag #ozonebeans and @jacobmargolis. Margolis can be reached at [email protected].

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Weed Out "Party"!

The weeds at LA Green Grounds may have thought they had us beat, but the weeding party on a recent Saturday let them know they were wrong.

Weeds had proliferated on the berm at the south edge of the farm and all around our orchard. And plenty of other spots, too. For a few weeks now, Garden Keepers have been pulling them whenever they could. But a whole group took them on and dug out heaps of weeds, which Chad crammed into two trash containers and several bags.

Many thanks to Veronica, Gordon, Suzanne, Chad, Naba, Catherine and Florence. A special "Shout Out" to Mr. Forte, a 93 year-old long-time Good Earth Community Garden member who grubbed out those weeds with a hand mattock, and had previously weed-whacked a bunch of unsightly and vigorous weeds in "No Man's Land" near our LAGG teaching garden. Also, thanks to Jay, whose guitar playing helped keep everyone in tune. And finally to the ice cream vendor whose paletas de Michoacan eased the effort for everyone, with flavors including coconut, walnut, jamaica, guanabana, strawberry, coffee and mango.

See photos in the “April 2021 The Great Weed Out!” gallery.

Next: covering the ground with mulch to keep the weeds from returning.



Contributor: Garden Keeper Mary M.

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A Blanket of Nutrition and Taste

New Zealand spinach


It’s easy to take for granted the plants that grow in abundance without much human work, but a new set of eyes often can see those plants in a new way. So it went with the LA Green Grounds patches of New Zealand spinach.

New Zealand spinach is not native to this continent, but comes from New Zealand and Australia, South America and some Pacific islands. It’s drought-tolerant and often used as an edible landscape plant because it forms a lush green carpet.

One of our LAGG Garden Keepers, Veronica Anderson, took some home from LA Green Grounds to try. She found this website that's full of New Zealand spinach recipes: Thanks, Veronica! It’s also good steamed or stir-fried with a bit of olive oil, garlic and salt; and on pasta or pizza. Some people eat it raw.

While it’s not actually a spinach, the taste is similar, especially when cooked. It’s high in vitamins A and C and a good source of calcium.

The famous Capt. Cook took New Zealand spinach onto one of his ships, where people ate it to prevent scurvy; and Sir Joseph Banks, an explorer and botanist, introduced it to England in 1772.

The plant is a halophyte, meaning it is salt-tolerant. It likes heat, and seems unaffected by most pests. If you plant it, give it room to spread.

~ Contributed by LAGG Garden Keeper Mary M.

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Spring Grow LA Victory Garden Class


In three Victory Garden classes on Zoom, Florence Nishida brought LA Green Grounds to life with pictures and descriptions. But with just days before the final class, we got word that classes could be held outdoors, in person. Limit 10 people. Distanced, with masks. Time to reshuffle the plans and welcome students in two groups to the garden.

Everyone knew how much better the experience would be for the students, who were split into two groups to abide by the rules. Kevin Ridley, Mary MacVean and Florence’s husband, Gordon, helped shepherd the students around the garden on a hot Sunday for demonstrations and chances to try weeding, watering, harvesting and more.

If you are interested in taking a Victory Garden class, offered through the Master Gardener program, watch this space or other gardening blogs for the fall dates.

Kevin Ridley brought a worm farm to class and explained how he feeds his wriggling castings creators.

One great aspect of growing fava beans or other legumes is that they are nitrogen powerhouses, fixing it in the soil with their roots and adding it when the stalks are chopped and “forked” into the soil, as these will be.


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Nasturtium Stir-fry


These lovely orange flowers have become a not uncommon sight in salads, in part because they're a beautiful contrast to lettuces and in part because they're delicious -- a little sweet and peppery. They're Nasturtium flowers, and they grow freely in gardens and in uncultivated places, bringing color and liveliness as they climb the sides of buildings, fences, slopes and in many spots at LA Green Grounds. But many people don't know that the rest of the plant is edible, too. The stems and leaves can go in a stir-fry, and the seed pods can be pickled like capers or tossed into salads. LA Green Grounds volunteer Kat shows various ways she cooked the plant in these pictures.


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