Greetings everyone, my name is Giavanna Accurso and I have recently joined the 29 Palms Inn family as their Farm Director and Food Coordinator. I am a Horticulturist who has worked, volunteered, and taught agricultural projects all over the World. I have spent years managing gardens and growing crops in a variety of spaces for chefs in Los Angeles and Chicago. I look forward to blending my scientific background, hands on approach, and restaurant experience to expand upon the Faultline Farm’s growing program.
I am extremely fortunate to walk into such a strong foundation for growth and community in the food and plant world. Some of you may have read previous entries and writings by the extremely knowledgeable naturalist Pat Flanagan. Her scope breathes life into much of the geologic and native plant history of the property and area. The family’s agricultural past spans generations of growers at the farm that have been using the site as their own sustainable testing ground.
Pat’s documentation spotlights some of the rare specialties about the property like how “the garden is located on the Pinto Mountain Fault” and the crops are grown in an ancient lake bed resulting in a unique rich soil with a high mineral content. Our records show that people have been growing food here for nearly 200 years. Originally the “… Serrano Indians gardened here and later the Chemehuevi (now the 29 Palms Band of Mission Indians) grew their corn, beans, squash, and melons. During WWII Robert “Doc” Van Lahr grew a victory garden on this spot.”
There are many more stories to tell that have come before me and it is an honor to be a part of such rich history, land preservation, and growing food for the Inn’s restaurant. I look forward to elaborating on this foundation by incorporating new culinary adventures, interesting ingredients, and more native plant awareness into the next phase of this unique project.
Agriculture in the high desert has its challenges, but one of the exciting possibilities in this region is the ability to grow year round. The farm gives us a platform to experiment with ingredients that aren’t readily available in much of the area. At the moment we are focusing on cool weather crops at the Farm such as butter crunch salad greens, watermelon radishes, and candy striped chioggia beets. One of the fun varieties that we have been experimenting with is Azur Star Kohlrabi.
Kohlrabi is a great option for a cool weather crop. It is a versatile fast growing vegetable that stands alone even though it has many associations with a turnip and cabbage. It is in the Brassicaceae family, which is the same family as cauliflower, broccoli, and radish. It grows very fast in comparison to most of its relatives and its plump orbed stem is what is harvested and eaten along with its leafy greens. Common varieties are pale green in color but we have chosen the Azur Star, which is a deep purple that reminds me of royalty.
One of our gardeners, Colby, calls them the citrus of the sand. I love this because it is a helpful way of distinguishing their flavor. They have a higher water content giving them more of a crunch like a radish but a bright and subtle tart flavor that makes your mouth salivate a bit like a lemon. Guests dining with us this week will likely see this plump majestic delicacy in our vegetable sides on our dinner menu.
All of these varieties we are growing are fun to experiment with in roasting, frying, grilling, and sautéing. But is also a good reminder that many can also be chopped and served as crudité or added as a hearty textural component to a salad.
The writing side of this journey will be a fun resource for sharing as we explore more in the soil and sand. Some of our future blog entries will include recipes from our kitchen, informative history of food, upcoming events, unusual and fun ways to use basic ingredients, and inspiration in how to grow more food in the high desert. The farm is always available for visitors to stroll through so please come say hello if you are in the neighborhood. I look forward to exploring all of these culinary possibilities with this new community.