Gifts from Very Close to Home
Homemade gifts come with an extra dose of love.
Source your ingredients locally and you’ll be loving the planet too!
Custom Teas from Homestead Apothecary
Amble down near the end of Oakland’s charming Temescal Alley, open the door to Homestead Apothecary, and you may find you are walking back in time to a world when health and wellbeing were enhanced by age-old herbal knowledge. Colorful jars of fragrant medicinal herbs and herbal tea mixtures line the walls here as soft light pours in through the skylight above, illuminating shelves of tinctures, lotions, soaps, and other body-care products. Proprietor Nicholas Weinstein seeks out local organic and artisanal products for his customers. He makes his own tea mixtures, tinctures, and eye pillows. On your way out, you can stop at Cro Café and get a hot cup of tea brewed from one of Nic’s herbal tea blends, good for keeping that herbal warmth with you on your way to your next stop.
Here are a couple of herb tea mixes that Nic feels are appropriate for a time of year when we might require a boost to help us make it through all the work and love of the season’s get-togethers with sustained good health. As gifts, these mixtures will help nurture your loved ones throughout the winter.
Pick up your herbs at Homestead Apothecary or get them when you participate in the UC Botanical Garden Shop Holiday Fête herbal tea tasting adventure (see below for details).
For each ounce of this mixture,
add 2 slices dried reishi mushroom,
which can be broken up or powdered.
Nerve Ease Herbal Tea
3 parts lemon balm
1 part skullcap
1 part milky oat tops
1 part nettle
1 part chamomile
½ part rose
¼ part lavender
Wrap it up ~
Use a glass jar or bottle to show off the beauty of the herbs in these mixes. You can wrap the lid with recycled paper or old wrapping paper. A cellophane bag or used tin would work well, too. Keep herbs in a dark and cool place.
You can download PDFs for the labels and hang tags at the end of this article for printing at home or at your local copy shop. Use standard letter-weight paper if labels are to be glued on the jars and card stock for hangtags. Punch a hole in the tag and tie it on with repurposed ribbon, string, or raffia.
486 49th St #C
Gifts that Grow from Kitazawa Seed Company
When the tender greens of spring and summer are long gone, I find myself craving something delicate and tasty. Being a gardener, I decided to pay a visit to our local Asian seed purveyor, Kitazawa Seed Co., to discuss my longing.
I stood with Maya Shiroyama in her well-organized seed packing room as she told me how to put together a mix that would fulfill my desire. Winter is a great time of year to plant brassicas (cabbage-family plants) such as kale, broccoli, mustard, collards, and other hearty winter greens. While I had often thought of these as tough, cold weather survivors, they can provide that spring-like taste when harvested as microgreens.
Maya suggested the microgreen mix recipe below. Grown out just to their cotyledons or seed leaves, these are the delicate garnishes you’ll find on your plate in restaurants. I love them in salads and especially on sandwiches or lettuce wraps. Turns out they are super easy to grow at home. Maya picked the varieties based on flavor, texture, and color.
Baby leaf greens are the big sister of microgreens. You harvest them when they have a couple of true leaves (usually 4–6 inches tall), so the seeds are sown farther apart to allow a bit more room to grow. While microgreens are a one-time crop, baby leaf is considered a cut-and-come-again crop, which means that you can cut a second time. This mix has a zippy flavor as well as beautiful eye appeal, and it is still delicate enough to turn my winter blues a lovely, happy green.
Order seeds from Kitazawa Seed Co. or pick up packets at the UC Botanical Garden Shop Holiday Fête (see below for details). Also find the seeds at: Berkeley Horticulture and Tokyo Fish in Berkeley, Pollinate in Oakland, Dale’s Hardware and Regan Nursery in Fremont. If you like the idea of giving these as gifts to all your family and friends, you might want to order the seeds in bulk.
Asian Baby Leaf Mix
1 part ‘Early’ mizuna
1 part ‘Red Streak’ mizuna
1 part tatsoi
½ part ‘Beka Santoh’ Chinese cabbage
Mix seeds and fill your envelopes. You can ensure the best seed viability by keeping the seeds cool, dark, and dry. An airtight glass or plastic container is best for long-term storage. You can download PDFs for the labels and hang tags at the end of this article for printing at home or at your local copy shop. The planting instructions are on the back of the seed packet.
Wrap it up ~
Download seed packet PDFs as described above. Print at home or send the PDFs to your local copy shop and have them do the printing. Follow the instructions to fold and glue the packets together and fill with seed.
Kitazawa Seed Co.
Gifts for the Gardener’s Ground at Pollinate Farm & Garden
On a recent visit to Pollinate Farm & Garden in Oakland, two hens and a rooster were strutting around the big, barn-like store loudly demanding their afternoon snack of mealworms. Co-owner Birgitt Evans, a master gardener with broad knowledge of all things urban garden, responded with equal insistence that the chickens had already been given their yummy worms. Everyone in the shop was amused by the exchange, especially the children.
The space at Pollinate has the feel of a rural feed barn and quickly transports a visitor from the Fruitvale district hustle and bustle outside. The open layout with easy access to an outdoor space invites slow and relaxed perusal of so many interesting items on shelves and in bins. Food preservation tools, irrigation materials, and seeds from reputable companies are a few of the many things one finds here. Shoppers come in to pick up chicks and all the materials and feed they’ll need to keep the growing birds healthy and happy.
Co-owner Yolanda Burrell, who is experienced with bees, chickens, permaculture, and is active with 4H and the East Bay Urban Agriculture Alliance, shows off the fertilizer bar, where gardeners can custom mix a blend that will address the deficiencies in their soil. A mix for your gardening friend would make a great holiday gift!
Check the website for Pollinate’s full inventory, and don’t miss the list of classes good for expanding your knowledge of the homesteading arts.
Generally, California soils are deficient in nitrogen and phosphorus, the first two of the three macronutrients listed on fertilizer labels (e.g. 7-7-2), so gardeners need to add them back before planting in order for their gardens to thrive. Nitrogen generally comes from animal sources, such as guano or blood, while phosphorus can come from animal sources, such as bone, or from mineral sources, such as rock phosphate. Additionally, people growing in raised beds or containers need to add back the third macronutrient, potassium, as well as micronutrients, such as calcium and iron, since nutrients are flushed from the soil mix with every watering.
Sprinkle the fertilizer on the bed and then work it into the top 8 inches or so of soil with a fork before planting. If the plants are already in the ground, put the fertilizer around the plant (not too close to the base) and work it gently into the top 2 inches of soil and then water. —Birgitt Evans
All Purpose Fertilizer Mix
2 parts blood meal (nitrogen)
2 parts bone meal (phosphorus)
1 part azomite (trace minerals)
Apply at approximately 8 pounds to 100 square feet.
Container & Raised Bed Fertilizer Mix
3 parts blood meal (nitrogen)
3 parts bone meal (phosphorus)
1 parts langbeinite (potassium)
2 parts azomite (trace minerals)
Apply at approximately 1 pound to 10 square feet.
Gardeners always need to be thinking about how to rebuild the fertility of their soil, which can be done through the addition of organic matter and fertilizers. Compost and mulch work well for this, but another approach is to use a living mulch or cover crop. These can prevent erosion, add organic matter back to the soil, and also break up hard soils.
Leguminous cover crop plants such as beans, peas, or vetches will fix nitrogen from the air and transfer it to nodules on their roots. When the plants are turned into the soil while blooming, the nitrogen is released into the soil as the plants decompose.
Other cover crop plants do not fix nitrogen, but are chosen to add carbon to the soil or to provide support for peas and other nitrogen fixers. It is important to balance the nitrogen fixers with carbon producers, because soil organisms consume many times more carbon than they do nitrogen.
There are a variety of cover crop plants that thrive in our winters, including peas, clover, bell or fava beans, mustard, radishes, and grain crops.
Will plant 50 square feet.
Clod-Buster Cover Crop Mix
½ pound bell beans
½ pound Austrian winter peas
½ pound mustard seeds
Will plant 75 square feet.
Wrap it up~
Cover Crop Seeds: Mason jars work well for the seeds and look especially nice if you wrap the lids with recycled fabric or paper. You can download PDFs for the labels and hang tags at the end of this article for printing at home or at your local copy shop. Use standard letter-weight paper if labels are to be glued onto jars and card stock for hang tags. Punch a hole in the tag and tie it on with repurposed ribbon, string, or raffia.
Fertilizer mixes: Since these mixes are very heavy, it makes sense to package them in double used paper bags. Or a paper bag lined with a plastic bag. Tie a bit of string or ribbon through the label and tape or tie it to the bag. Or glue the label to the bag.
Warning: Be sure to keep the container out of the reach of indoor and outdoor animals, since the blood and bone meal smells pretty exciting to carnivores. Once it has been turned into the soil, it won’t be a problem.
Links to instructions and printable labels and seed packets:
UC Botanical Garden Shop Holiday Fête
Friday, December 6 • 2 to 5pm
Join Edible East Bay at the UC Botanical Garden gift shop for a special holiday shopping party. You’ll find a large array of unusual gift items, plus fun botanical wrappings. Admission is free, and you’ll get a special 10% discount off your holiday purchases along with the satisfaction of knowing that your holiday shopping dollars directly benefit the Garden!
Special features include:
• Live music
• Tastings by: Rachel Saunders of Blue Chair Fruit Company, Steve Gentry of Steve’s Bees, and others
• Vegetable prints by artist Rigel Stuhmiller
• Help from Kitazawa Seed Company in creating your Asian Microgreen and Baby Leaf seed mixes with special seed packets created by Edible East Bay
Herbal Tea Workshop
At 3pm Edible East Bay features a fun and informative hour-long tea-tasting adventure with Nicholas Weinstein, community herbalist and owner of Oakland’s Homestead Apothecary. Learn about the medicinal uses of herbs and how to combine ingredients to make self-care tea blends that make great gifts for friends and family. Gift labels created by Edible East Bay will be available.
(There’s a $15 materials fee and registration is required. Call the Garden at 510.664.9841 or visit botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu to reserve your space.)