From the Institute of Urban Homesteading

ruby with chard

Ruby tending kale and chard in her garden
Below: One of a series of garden-themed ceramic tiles designed and manufactured by K. Ruby Bloom.

tileThere’s a common challenge for backyard vegetable gardeners at this time of year: what to do with all that produce! K. Ruby Blume, an avid home gardener with a large and thoroughly planted yard in North Oakland, knows the problem well, but as director of the Institute of Urban Homesteading, she also has created opportunities for people to share their best ideas about when and how much to plant, when to harvest, and how to use the crops in diverse ways. On September 14, 2–5pm she’ll be offering a class called Urban Garden Kitchen: Managing, Storing, Preserving, and Cooking Your Bay Area Harvest. You’ll get tips on freezing, drying, pickling, storing, and canning, and a dozen or more recipes for crops that just don’t stop giving, with a focus on simple, quick dishes that put fresh flavors forward. The class costs $35–65 (sliding scale). Register at iuhoakland.com.

Classes at the Institute of Urban Homesteading cover a vast array of subjects throughout the year. Late summer and fall offer chances to learn about urban animal husbandry, DIY medicine, orchard care, beekeeping, preserving, fiber arts, brewing and fermenting, foraging, aquaponics, seed saving, and cheesemaking, plus a fun new class on carob harvest and preparation. Classes are held in Oakland and other locations. Sliding-scale tuition, hands-on learning, and expert teachers. Full calendar with class descriptions, prices, and registration at iuhoakland.com

Here are a few of the recipes she’ll be sharing at the class.


This salad always gets a big “YUM!” when Ruby brings it to a potluck. It is gluten-free as long as you use wheat-free tamari. Make a vegan version by leaving out the feta.

1 cup quinoa
2–3 red beets
1–2 scallions (or spring onions, when they are in season), minced
1–4 tablespoons minced fresh dill (to taste)
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (or to taste)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar (or to taste)
1–4 tablespoons tamari (or to taste)

Place the quinoa in a large saucepan with 1½–2 cups water. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. (Use less water, adding a little more if needed to get quinoa that is perfectly cooked but not mushy.)

Place beets in a large saucepan with water to cover. Boil until tender (30–45 minutes, depending on the size of the beets). Drain, then add cold water to the pan to help cool the beets. When they are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and then slice the beets into bite-size chunks, placing in a large serving bowl. Add the cooked quinoa and the minced scallions and dill. Toss until combined. Add the feta (if using) and then dress with even parts olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and tamari.


Let the flavors of your garden speak for themselves with this simple rough-cut salsa made from the summer’s end bounty. Make plenty and fresh-freeze (in zipper bags with all the air pressed out) so you can enjoy the late-summer flavors right through the winter season.

1 pound tomatoes, cut in ½-inch dicesalsa
1 lemon cucumber, cut in ½-inch dice
½ bell pepper or other sweet pepper, cut in ½-inch dice
1 small hot pepper (optional), finely minced
Kernels cut from 1 ear of fresh corn
Cilantro to taste, minced
1 lemon or 2 limes
Sea salt to taste

Place first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and squeeze the lemon (or lime) over top. Toss and add salt to taste. Serve with chips or use as a garnish on your favorite Mexican dish.


This recipe is a great way to enjoy the season’s copious zucchini as well as other favorites from your East Bay garden. Ruby uses her homemade stock, which she makes from leftover vegetable ends and/or bones and freezes in 1-cup portions for use in recipes like this one. She starts this recipe by rendering some tasty animal fat into the sauté pan, but a vegan version using olive oil is just as good.

Your choice of fat: either 2 pieces bacon, 1 tablespoon bacon fat, 1 sausage (I like to use lamb merguez), or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
1–3 garden peppers (Italian sweet or spicy hot, as you prefer), diced
½ cup stock
1–2 medium zucchini or other summer squash, grated or shredded
Kernels from 1–2 ears of corn
A few springs of basil or thyme, minced
Salt and pepper

If using bacon, slice into small 1-inch pieces and cook until grease starts to pool in the pan. If using sausage, remove from the casing and crumble the meat as you cook it over medium heat until the grease starts to render. For bacon fat or olive oil, simply heat in the pan.

Add the onions and peppers to the pan and sauté until they begin to soften. Add stock and zucchini. Cover and simmer until the zucchini starts to soften. Add corn kernels and fresh herbs and cook 12 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.