We live in a Mediterranean climate. (For now, anyway. Check back in a few years for a possible update.)
A Mediterranean climate is characterized by wet winters, dry summers, long growing seasons, and the choice of almost any landscape option barring arctic tundra. In the past, many homes opted for roses, lawn, and other thirsty plants that required human intervention to nurse them through the dry periods. Increasingly, we’re experimenting with ecologically kinder, gentler solutions, such as California natives and succulents.
But one big change in our landscaping aesthetic is food. As in growing your own. As in growing your own fruits and vegetables right there in the front yard, rather than relegating the activity to a hidden corner out back.
Around here, growing your own food is a competitive sport, second only to hiking. We challenge each other. But those who race ahead, pass the baton.
That’s where RIPE (Residential In-season Produce Exchange) Altadena comes in.
RIPE Altadena is a community of organic gardeners in Altadena and Pasadena, with members as far afield as Pomona and San Dimas. Group members are generous, fun, and, dare I say, incredible show-offs.
A little background. RIPE Altadena (formerly COFE) was started by local resident Gail Murphy in 2007 as a way for Altadena gardeners to swap their excess bounty.
It didn’t take long for the concept to take hold. And it didn’t take long for the concept to morph from sharing community produce to sharing a sense of community. RIPE Altadena has around 200 members, a website, a Facebook page, and a really vital email exchange (members only).
To date, RIPE has sponsored and organized classes in cheese-making, garlic growing, grafting, canning, raw milk, square foot gardening, and grinding acorn flour. Future classes include saving and storing your own seeds and making your own non-toxic household cleaning supplies.
But the cornerstone of the group remains the monthly produce swap, held the fourth Sunday of every month.
So back to the show-offs. The primary qualification for RIPE membership is growing and sharing something from your own yard. And as I member, I do, but in very modest quantities. Not that I’m stingy, just a very mediocre gardener. So I join the park swap with my little box of whatever I’ve been lucky enough not to kill, plus kale. Always kale. Because kale grows like a weed for me. Personally, I think kale is a weed, but whatever.
And then along comes the other members, not with a similar box of wizened offerings, but with wagons – I kid you not – wagons full of garlic, onions, seedlings, lettuce, peas, beans, apples; and then processed foods – jams, breads, relishes, pickles, juices, cheeses.
But to their credit, RIPE Altadena is a nice and generous group of show-offs. Every time, someone will push a bag of goodness my way saying, “Gee Karin, more kale? Just what I wanted.”
I love these guys.
To visit the website and for membership information: http://www.ripealtadena.com/
Take a test drive: The next park swap is at Farnsworth Park, March 27th, from 5 p.m. All you have to do is bring edibles you’ve grown, as an exchange. (You never know what will be on offer, but I'll just bet there's some kale.)