Never Heard of Sunchokes, Much Less Cooked Them?

Chad harvesting sunchokes in LA Green Grounds Teaching Garden

There's more to eat than seeds from some of those tall yellow sunflowers you may have seen at LA green Grounds over the summer.

After the flowers bloom, when the stem is dry and looks ready for the compost pile, a gentle pull will yield a bunch of sunchokes -- a delicious vegetable rarely seen even at farmers' markets.

Obviously a root vegetable, sunchokes also are called Jerusalem artichokes and earth apples. They are native to central North America and were widely grown for food before the arrival of Europeans.

Sunchokes are distantly related to artichokes. But it's distant, and there's no connection to the city of Jerusalem. But Los Angeles has a role in the sunchoke name: Frieda Caplan, an L.A. produce wholesaler, invented it in the 1960s when she was trying to revive the plant's appeal.

Two reasons come to mind when wondering why sunchokes are not more popular. They're rather ugly and misshapen. And they are rather expert at producing gas.

But they are so delicious, with a delicate, sweet flavor a little reminiscent of potatoes. And they could not be easier to cook.



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Kabocha Squash

Kabocha is a delicious, easy to cook winter squash. While roasting* some last night, I asked LAGG Founder Florence Nishida if I could save the seeds for planting. I thought I'd share her response with all our LA Green Ground followers!

cut open kabocha

"Yes! But not now.  It's a summer crop, so you'll plant the seeds in April or May. They will grow for about 3 months before you can harvest.  Usually it's harvested at the end of summer - it needs plenty of sunshine.

"Wash off the fibers and pulpy stuff, then dry the seeds on a clean plate or pie pan.  Make sure it's really dry before you store them - in a moisture-proof container like a glass jar with lid.  Label and date.



"You'll have a lot of extra seeds - you only need about 12 or 15 seeds - you'll plant a hill with 3 seeds in each.  Or you can plant in rows, with 3 seeds planted about 3 feet away from the next group of seeds," shared Florence.


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Growing Asia Vegetables Video

LAGG Founder and Master Gardener Florence Nishida Gives Talk on Growing Asian Vegetables in Los Angeles

Webinar sponsored by Southern California Horticulture Society
October 9, 2020

Florence presented a program on growing Asian vegetables in Los Angeles. She will show us how gardeners and lovers of good food can expand their palette of home-grown vegetables beyond “peas and carrots” by growing Asian vegetables, which have a wide range of unusual shapes, textures, scents, and colors.


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Recipe: Pui Shak

Pui Shak

(mamata pramnik)


300 gm (10.5 oz) Malabar spinach chopped
2 T. green chili paste
1 tsp. Nigella seeds
½ tsp. turmeric powder
To taste salt and sugar
As needed oil


1. Heat oil and brown nigella seeds and green chilies.
2. Add chopped Malabar spinach and saute, adding salt and turmeric powder and cover till it is soft (no longer than 3 min.)
3. As it gets soft, add sugar and mix well
4. Serve.

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Recipe: Chinese Stir-Fried Malabar Spinach

Chinese Stir-Fried Malabar Spinach

(tsuru murasaki)


14 stems Malabar spinach
175 gm (ca. 6 oz) Maitake mushrooms
150 gm (5.29 oz) thinly sliced beef
1 large garlic clove
2 T. sesame oil
100 ml (0.42 cups) water
50 ml (0.21 cups) cooking sake
1 T. chicken soup stock granules
1 T. oyster sauce
½ tsp. sugar
1 T. potato starch with 3 T. water


1. Mince the garlic, shred the mushrooms, cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Combine.
2. Separate the leaves from the stems of the Malabar spinach.
3. Diagonally slice the stems.
4. Put sesame oil and garlic in frying pan, heat at med high until aroma has released. Add the meat. When the meat is halfway cooked, add the mushrooms and spinach stems, saute.
5. Once the sautéed ingredients have cooked through, add the leaves, saute until tender (about 2 min.) then pour the seasonings in a circular motion and toss.
6. Push the sautéed ingredients to the side of the pan, add the potato starch dissolved in water, briskly mixing until the sauce thickens, even coating the ingredients, then serve.
The method and seasonings can be used with different vegetables, e.g. cauliflower, yard long beans.

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Recipe: Malabar Spinach Prawn Curry

(Sabitri pramanik, Bengal)


500 grams (1 lb) Malabar spinach
300 grams (10.5 oz.) prawn
1 onion chopped
4-5 cloves garlic chopped
1 tsp. red chili powder
½ tsp. turmeric powder
½ tsp. ginger paste
1 tsp. five spices
2-3 green chilies chopped
To taste – salt and sugar
Oil as needed.


1. Heat oil and lightly brown five spices and green chilies.
2. Add prawns and lightly fry, adding onions and garlic.
3. Add chopped Malabar spinach leaves and stems.
4. Saute well, adding salt and turmeric powder.
5. Cover it till it becomes salt (less than 5 min.)
6. Add red chili powder, stir well.
7. Add sugar, mix well.
8. Serve the dish with rice.

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Recipe: Malabar Spinach Stir Fry

Malabar Spinach Stir Fry 
(Trisha pramanik, Bengal)

malabar spinachINGREDIENTS:

2 big bowls of Malabar spinach chopped
1 onion chopped
2-3 garlic chopped
4-5 green chilies chopped (or less)
1 tsp 5 spices
½ tsp turmeric powder
Oil as needed
Salt and sugar to taste


1. Heat oil and lightly brown 5 spices and green chilies.
2. Add garlic (crushed or chopped) and saute well, adding onion.
3. Add chopped vegetables and saute well, adding salt and turmeric powder.
4. Add spinach and saute well.
5. Cover and let it cook well. (I would skip this step. Longer cooking makes the spinach slimy).
6. Add sugar, stir, turn off heat.

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Legless Lizard Found in Teaching Garden

legless lizard



When Gordon and I were at the garden on Monday, June 8th, Gordon made a great find - a Brahimy Blindsnake.  Wish you all could have seen it, quite lovely.  

I applied for and got the designation of "Wildlife Habitat" for our garden, from the Wildlife Federation, because we fit most of the criteria for that. For example: native plants, shrubs which can provide nesting material and hiding/dening places, plants providing nectar, berries, leaves for insects and birds, water (we have a bird bath dish in the orchard - we need to remember to rinse it out and refill with fresh water each time we're there). 

I'm really interested in documenting the wildlife we have residing or visiting our garden.  So speak up when you spot an interesting insect or reptile.  Two years ago, I spotted out of the corner of my eye, an Alligator Lizard, and have been looking for it since, to photograph.  I am surprised we don't have the common Western Fence Lizard yet. 

- Florence


*Greg Pauly is the herpetology curator at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. What he said:

That is the non-native Brahminy Blindsnake. This is actually a species I am studying, tracking its rapid expansion across Southern California. They were first observed in California in 2000 near Ballona Wetlands, and they are now found in Ventura, L.A., San Diego, Riverside, and Kern Counties. They are moved around in the soil of nursery plants as well as in bags of soil. 

If you come across another (dead or alive) please save it for me, and I'll add it to the collection.

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Fava Bean Dip Recipe

New LAGG Teaching Garden Volunteer Sarah F. shared the fava bean dip recipe she used for the beans she harvested from last week's garden tending.


"The purple mustard is incredible. I’ve been adding it to everything. The fava beans I made into a wonderful dip! And the artichoke was very sweet and delicious," said Sarah. 

fava bean dip


Check out the recipe here:

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Making Urban Food Gardens

On April 16, 2020, LAGG Founder and Master Gardener Florence Nishida gave a presentatin to UCLA's class "COM HLT 131: Healthy Food Access in Los Angeles: History and Practice of Urban Agriculture", taught by Professior James Bassett.

Florence spoke about Healthy Food Access. This is a topic dear to her heart.

"I was instrumental in getting the changes in codified restrictions on front yard plantings -- in order to allow people to plant even food crops on their parkway spaces. I am a stout supporter of urban agriculture, in small spaces, when necessary, and I strongly support the use of vacant land for urban agriculture, rather than simply allowing it to be idle.

"With my organization LA Green Grounds, I have started the LA Green Grounds Teaching Garden, with the intention of enlarging the audience for residential, front yard growing of healthy edibles. We are strongly in support of people becoming empowered to create a greater food security. And we are also providing workshops to a larger audience on other garden related subjects, e.g. fermentation, stress reduction with herbs, etc."

This topic was especially timely with the challenges COVID-19 presented.

Florence presentation and hand out is linked below. We hope you find them useful.

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