Category Archives: mission district

San Francisco + food movement + tomorrow

Hoping to spend tomorrow discussing sustainable & safe food systems? Well, you have *two* intriguing events to choose from December 1st 2009.

The first promises some controversy. Our friends at Slow Food SF are organizing a panel discussion featuring panelists from both sides of the food movement aisle.

The Slow Food SF Eat In, September 2009

Starting at 6:45pm at the S.F. Public Library’s Koret Auditorium (100 Larkin & Grove) the panel will feature Douglas Gayeton (author of the book Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town),  Sarah Rich, Sam Mogannam from Bi-Rite, farmer Casey Havre, chef Michelle Fuerst, and Slow Food SF’s very own  Dava Guthmiller. After this spirited debate Slow Food will be hosting a book signing/exception/reception at 18 Reasons in the Mission. (Via Mary Ladd & SFoodie)

Looking to learn more about Permaculture in the Mission tomorrow? Look no further! December 1st 7-9pm Movie Night @ The Red Poppy Art House (2698 Folsom Street @ 23rd Street) will be showing the Geoff Lawton  film, Introduction to Permaculture Design (What I’m sure will be)  a spirited Q & A will follow the screening with Kevin Bayuk and David Cody answering your questions.  Given David Stockhausen’s recent and very positive experience with Permaculture this event is too tempting for us to pass up. Hope to see you there!

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My lunch was so delicious and aesthetically interesting today I just had to share.
Kale from my backyard, chicken (not from my backyard), olive oil, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, and lemon. It’s redundant to mention salt as an ingredient right?


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Food for Thought comes to the Mission!


The first ever Food for Thought is coming to the Mission next Wednesday, November 11th. Participating Mission restaurants will donate 25-100% of their profits to Mission Graduates, a community group dedicated to empowering local youths by preparing them for college.

Food for Thought is the bright idea of Art Avitia, the new Development Director at Mission Graduates, who was nice enough to discuss this event with me on the phone today. Because the organization primarily works with Mission youths, they decided to reach out specifically to Mission restaurants.  “We are lucky to be supported by some great restaurants here in the Mission,” he commented. Art came onboard at Mission Graduates after successfully organizing Dining out For Life San Francisco. Having always valued education, Art was drawn to their ideals.  Mission Graduates works with students from Kindergarten through High School to support their education and provide them with the necessary tools to attend college.

Art is very enthused about this inaugural event, and believes it will be the first of many. He also feels that the local focus of this event will be a big contributor to its success.

Food, the Mission District AND empowering the community? Sign us up! Team Amyitis will be out in full force. And with the stellar line up of restaurants, how could this event really go wrong?

Participating Restaurants:

  • Andalu
  • Bar Bambino
  • Bissap Baobab
  • Coda
  • Conduit
  • Destino
  • Dolores Park Cafe
  • Farina
  • Foreign Cinema
  • Front Porch
  • La Provence
  • Little Baobab
  • Little Star Pizza Valencia
  • Maverick
  • Mission Beach Cafe
  • Panchitas #2
  • Pisco
  • Ramblas Tapas
  • Range
  • Regalito Rosticeria
  • Slow Club
  • Specchio
  • Spork
  • Sun Rise Restaurant
  • Usulutan Restaurant

Picking a restaurant is going to be a difficult decision. Good thing we have all week.

Best of luck deciding!


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IMG_0663Though the San Francisco summer fog has slowed down plant production at Amyitis, we not letting it slow us down!  It is true; we’ve noticed a marked stunt in growth and production across the board since the 2nd week in July.  The fog brings 50* temperatures with it each day when it arrives at around 4:30pm.  Like an old friend who’s overstayed his welcome, I was happy with the fog at first but then things turned sour.  What once provided cool relief from the intense heat of a California summer has become a nearly icy relationship.  Generally speaking, if the fog decides to burn off at all, most days it won’t do that until at least 10:30am.  That leaves very little time for our plants to take full advantage of the sun’s offerings.  Even though we are relatively shielded here in the Mission, this July the fog has been pervasive.  We’ve taken advantage of the time off from harvesting and weeding to get to some projects.  

IMG_0664At Amyitis’ central location we’ve lacked the time and resources to deal with our compost situation appropriately.  Until now we’ve had an open-air compost pile.  Frankly, it is a heap.  And while some of our organic waste IS composting, most of it is not.  After some thought around the matter and a little research, Eben and I decided that Vermaculture (composting with live worms) was what we really wanted to do.  Vermaculture, or worm composting, is a fast, clean, efficient and relatively orderless way to produce compost from food and yard scraps.  The worms can consume about half of their body weight per day.  What they leave behind is called “worm castings” and is literally some of the best fertilizer money can buy.  Click on the link above to learn a but more about how to do it at home.  

My good friend Matt Wickland came to lend us a hand in building the beds.  While there are many designs for worm bins, we took what we knew about worm behavior and took a stab at our own design.  We built two bins 12″ deep by about 2.5′ square that are made to rest on top of one another.  As the worms eat the vegetable matter, one can rotate the bins to keep the worms eating and take full advantage of their castings at the same time.  For so many reasons, vermaculture composting seems like the perfect compost system for the urban garden.  We’re hoping that our experiment will prove us right.  IMG_0661I guess that I kind of goofed.  Sometime last month I realized that our lettuce crop (which had been providing for us nicely since early April) was quite literally at the bitter end.  We plant the seeds very close together and cut them often.  This gives us a baby variety of many types of lettuce.  Since the plant is never allowed to fully mature it continues to sprout, giving us ample harvests.  Our lettuce had been going strong for a while.  In a panic a few weeks ago, I planted more lettuce in spaces I had availablele; they didn’t germinate properly.  It wasn’t until my third attempt at seeding new lettuce that the seedlings finally took.  We finally pulled up the remaining lettuce beds that had sustained us for so long and started anew.  In order to really have  super-productive gardens, it appears as though managing planting schedules is more important than I had ever realized.  I waited too long relying too heavily on a single planting.  As hard as it is to turn over a bed that is still productive, sometimes you have to in order to keep things healthy. Lesson learned.  More lettuce in late August.  

happy gardening, 



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First of the Season

IMG_0585I saw it dangling there one hot Wednesday afternoon.  Like a sign from a radio beacon, my internal transmitter picked up on the hum of a ripe tomato ready to be swallowed.  I instinctively looked and found, to my ultimate satisfaction, a perfectly ready, perfectly ripe, perfectly plump little tomato, a “Black Prince” tomato to be exact. Before I could say “YUM” it was in my mouth.  It’s acidy sweet finish danced on my tongue.  I’d forgotten how good a freshly picked black prince was.  Like a giant sungold, they have just the right balance of high sugar on top with an acidic end; they’re simply tomato perfection.  I looked around for more to no avail; there were just green clusters hanging in the heat.  My little specimen was like a sneak preview for the producer.  It was as if I were alone in a darkened theater watching a clip of the finale.  And if this little tender treat is any indication of what is to come, The Corner and Weird Fish are about to have the best tomatoes in town.  Just a couple more weeks and they’ll be good to go.  

IMG_0584The new crops that are in full force this week are at The Corner ready for consumption. Chard and baby squash are really in full gear.  I had a salad there just last week just to see how the greens were looking on the plate.  My bias is natural of course, but the salad was superb and dressed to perfection.  But don’t take my word for it.  Go on in and try it out.  

Happy Eating, 


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Summer in the City

This week’s harvest: Baby salad mix, Red Russian Kale, Flying Saucer baby squash, Calendula.

Hot Blooded

So I turned around and they grew.  I mean literally.  I came into the tomato garden one night to check on things and then again the next morning I went into the garden and they had grown.  It felt like I turned my back for one split second and they grew an inch.  In my head,  hazy childhood memories of “A Little Shop of Horrors” were starting to get clearer.  I started to hear “FEEEEEEEEED MEEEEEEEE Seymour!!! Good thing my name isn’t Seymour.  I just kept on weeding and ignoring the cry.  
But seriously, I am thrilled amazed amused and enchanted by the growth of our amazing tomatoes.  My grandfather would be proud.  And if there is a realm where the wise spirits dwell and look down upon us mortals, I am sure that he’s sporting an ear to ear grin.  In my family my late grandfather was the tomato guru.  He (an urban farmer himself in Pittsburgh, PA) was probably the most notable figure in my developing interest in food and gardening.  His tomatoes were some of the best I have ever had.  Now our Amyitis beauties are some of the best I have ever grown.  It seems like maybe he is sending me good graces from the ether.  
But beyond my grandfather’s Midas touch for nightshades, I guess we do have to take some credit for their success too.  Temperature and food make all of the difference with plants like tomatoes and squash.  It should go without saying that a plants will perform best in with optimal support.  Success in our case is being created by numerous insurances of those supports.  The first step to success was in transplanting.  These tomatoes were transplanted into raised beds filled with pure compost.  Compost is like a a plant super food.  For those unfamiliar with the hubbub around compost, compost is literally decomposing organic matter.  Plants, food scraps, yard waste can be (when treated properly) turned into nutrient rich soil through a number of methods.  While not everything can handle the nutrient blast of being planted in pure compost, tomatoes seem to love it.  Decomposing material also produces heat.  And because compost is still on its way to becoming soil it is producing a large amount of heat.  In combination with a sheltered and sunny Mission District back yard and nutrient rich warm soil, we’ve repaired and added to an old irrigation system to insure that these plants are getting the perfect amount of water.  All of these factors seem to be helping.  Just look at the pictures below.  Notice how the tomatoes in black pots are almost twice the size. The black plastic retains the suns heat better than the boxes.  These plants were all planted in the same soil on the same day.  

Eat your Kale

About a week ago I stumbled into The Corner to hold a meeting with Chef and Kitchen Manager Devon Newby.  As we chatted about greens and food she had to take a call and went outside.  My eyes scanned the restaurant and came to a table of patrons gleefully enjoying and Amyitis Salad.  My eyes widened like Gollum around the ring.  “THIS is why I do this!” I thought.  Feeding people is the fuel in my tank.  Even their toddler child was munching away on baby chard and arugula. I almost shed a tear.  They were graceful enough after learning that we had grown their salad to let me take their photo.  
Link of the week…… err Month.  

When I moved to SF in 2006 I was hunting for people doing interesting gardening projects that I could get involved with.  A friend of mine led me to the doorstep of a woman named Novella Carpenter in 2007.  Novella was in the process of writing a book about her urban garden.  However, “Urban garden”  is an understatement.  Novella is an urban homesteader.  She had livestock, fruit trees and veggies all grown in an abandoned plot of land in West Oakland.  For about a month and a half I visited her once a week to tinker in the garden and shoot the breeze.  Now her book has hit the shelves and I am urging everyone to read it.  Simply from the title “Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer” I know I am going to love it.  Because urban farming really is about education.  There are few if any road maps to how it should all work and I learn something new every time do anything.  All of us urban farmers are drawing the maps as we go.  With Novella’s book hopefully she’ll inspire some more map makers.  It is at the top of my reading pile.  I hope it makes it to the top of yours soon.  

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Hang on little tomato


Has it really been a month since the last entry?  My deepest apologies to our loyal readers and fans for the delay.  Evidently, the pressing needs and demands of a growing garden trump the documentation of it.  As the sun shines longer and hotter, the “to do” list grows along with the veggies and weeds.  With so many developments and so much growth, I find myself now confounded with how to explain it all.  Nevertheless I will do my best to recap the developments at Amyitis that continue to make this such a great and interesting season.  
Brand New.
 I am excited to announce the addition of a new member to the Amyitis team.  Eben Bell, a permaculture landscape artist, has joined up with us to help see Amyitis along its path.  Until now Amyitis has been taking baby steps to success.  Creating a restaurant CSA while holding down another job has thus far dictated the pace of our expansion.  Now with the addition of Eben we hope that Amyitis will enter toddler hood and begin running and jumping its way into new spaces.  We are happy to  have Eben.  His background and help will undoubtedly give solid momentum to our growing project.  
Micro-climate change.
It goes without saying that San Francisco has interesting weather. But for the sake of this blog and its widespread readership (ha!) I will explain it anyway.  While my friends back east are enjoying the heat of May, San Francisco is like a petulant child in the throes of indecision.  She’s hot one day and cold the next.  She’s 90 degrees in the sun and 65 in the shade on any given day.  Above all, she goes to bed early pulling the icy sheets of fog over her everyday at 5pm.  Each backyard garden too has its own wild ways.  Two of our gardens lie on opposite sides of the same street no more than 100 yds. apart.  On the same day I have experienced up to a 15 degree temperature difference between them.  In some ways this is ideal.  We’ve found that the warmer garden is well suited for tomatoes while the other is best for greens.  I suspect that after this season we will be able to make expert choices as to crop and variety locations.  Having a variety of spaces and micro-climates has allowed us to think about product diversity in a new way.  Due to Eben’s influence, I’ve begun letting certain prolific plants go to seed in hopes that we can save them.  The idea being that, plants who’ve done well in a certain climate and location will produce seeds that will produce the same results in the next generation.  Since this is all really one big experiment anyway, it doesn’t hurt to try to produce “indigenous” seeds to help us out.  Eben’s ideas also make me excited for the rainy season here in the city.  As it turns out, his interests in mushroom cultivation have carried him a bit further than myself.  With his ideas and planning, Amyitis might become the gourmet fungi producer I’d once hoped.  
In the restaurant.
As we continue to grow food, the Corner and Weird Fish continue to find ways to serve it up.  We are grateful to the innovative staff there that are helping us streamline the way we serve them.  While we eventually aim to serve a wide variety of restaurants in the city with our produce, we have had the great pleasure of having a direct relationship with the kitchens there who keep us informed about our product and how they can use it.  It is clear that we will need many more spaces here in the city before we can serve anyone else.  It has been a great education and a fortunate union to pair our fledgling project with a burgeoning restaurant.  Go down to the Corner and Weird Fish and give them (and us) your feedback.  
Its a girl?
We’ve got our first tomato!  One hot day this past week Eben and I and a couple of hardworking volunteers got the tomatoes into the planter boxes we’d built for them so long ago.  They are happy as…. well… tomatoes.  When you’ve nurtured such a fickle plant from seed in an even more fickle environment, sign of the first fruit is worthy cause for a celebration.  We hope this means that they are happy.  And now our mouths and stomachs look eagerly to the future when the first taste of a Green Zebra tomato passes our lips.  
For other San Francisco gardeners (or just gardeners in general) SF Grow is a great organization providing tons of resources to people like us and you.  From compost giveaways to free weekly tips, they are a vital source of info on all things garden related.  Be sure to give ’em a click.

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