Indian Chai

Indian chai for many is part of a daily ritual to be enjoyed in the morning with breakfast.  It is also a warm treat enjoyed with friends.  Served with fresh snacks in the afternoon, it is refreshing and a lovely way to relax.  

The traditional drink is made with black tea, milk, ginger and spices (like black pepper, cardamom, and clove).   It is good for digestion and tea has a lower caffeine content than coffee.  It is easy to grow herbs in your garden that make fantastic combinations for chai.  In fact, at the Soil&Water garden in Heritage Park, we have planted many herbs that are great for tea.  Make sure you harvest some of these herbs next time you join a workday.  

Basic chai recipe (ginger): Add fresh grated ginger to 1 cup water and boil until you smell an aroma.  Add 1-2 teaspoon loose black tea to boiling water.  Add 1 cup milk, chai masala (mix of spices) and sugar (optional) to taste.  Continue to heat until the milk causes the mixture to rise. Allow the mixture to rise but not overflow the pan 2-3 times and then take off the heat.  Strain and enjoy.  Makes 2 cups.    If you don't drink milk, you can add a milk alternative of choice.  Almond milk or soy milk work well.

Here are a few other chai favorites from gardeners at Soil&Water:

Mint chai:  Use fresh grated ginger.  Use same method as above.  Add mint and chai masala (optional) at the same time you add your milk.  

Cardamom chai:   Use same basic chai method as above.  Add cardamom (to taste) instead of chai masala at the very end after removing from heat.   I like mine with a lot of cardamom!

Lemongrass chai:  Add fresh lemongrass and grated ginger to 1 cup water and boil until you smell an aroma.  Add 1 teaspoon loose black tea to boiling water and 1 cup milk (or milk alternative), and chai masala and continue to heat until the milk causes the mixture to rise.   Add sugar to taste.  Enjoy!  Adds a lemony flavor. 

 Fresh lemongrass and fresh grated ginger added to 1 cup water. Boil until you smell a nice aroma

Fresh lemongrass and fresh grated ginger added to 1 cup water. Boil until you smell a nice aroma

 Add 1-2 teaspoon loose black tea to boiling water and 1 cup milk (or milk alternative), and chai masala and continue to heat until the milk causes the mixture to rise.   Add sugar to taste.

Add 1-2 teaspoon loose black tea to boiling water and 1 cup milk (or milk alternative), and chai masala and continue to heat until the milk causes the mixture to rise.   Add sugar to taste.

 Strain tea

Strain tea




At the garden we are also growing chocolate mint,  this herb added to black tea makes a really nice chocolat-y-mint black tea.  I personally add this alone without any other flavors since it is a strong flavor alone.   Works well as a simple black tea bag steeped in a mug and add the mint to it. 

What is your favorite chai recipe?  Please share so others can try it  too.  Leave it as a comment below!  If you decide to experiment with a flavor combination, I'd love to hear about it.





Curry Leaf Plant

On this past Wednesday workday we planted a small curry leaf plant along with a hops, rhubarb, and a kids bean teepee.   Things at the garden are starting to take shape for this planting season.  We'll post something soon about our planting design for this year's summer garden.

Gardener Minati shared the following story about the curry leaf plant she donated to the garden. 

Curry leaf plant

I have had this plant for over about 2 years in my patio, in a pot and would love to share some history about it!

I was always interested in adding a few Indian plants to my patio and was looking for some leads to buy these. I stumbled upon 'The Curry Leaf Man' on craigslist! The Curry Leaf Man is a San Francisco native married to an Indian woman. He was introduced to curry leaf by his wife's family. He decided to cultivate a few Indian starter plants like Curry leaf, jasmine, drumsticks etc from seeds / cuttings and donate all the money from plant sale to charity for kids education in villages in India. This was a win/win for me! I get to buy some cool plants and also get to donate! Apart from curry leaf, I also bought a couple other plants like lemongrass and jasmine.

I was pretty thrilled to find someone growing starter plants so close to home in Palo Alto! And I am happy that this plant now has a home at Soil & Water.


Feb 21, 2018 workday- Biochar/IMO-1

We have been busy at the garden planting during our first few work days this year.  We have planted potatoes, onions, and blueberries so far.  It is so nice to come back to the garden and have stuff ready to harvest.  Our first week back, we harvested loads of kale and chard, carrots, and way more parsley than we know what to do with.  We donated this to the Community Services Agency in Mountain View.   We also cut calendula flowers to dry and will be using this later.

 Our friend Peter, the Biochar guy, came to the workday with a very curious Biochar-IMO experiment.  He brought with him a mesh bag full of a mixture of wood chips, grains (oats, wheat, barley) soaked in worm tea, biochar and an added IMO-1.  The idea is that you bury this in your native soil for 2 weeks and then dig it up and see what you get.  If it works, you will proliferate the indigenous microorganisms in your soil that help break down organic matter.  The method is taken from a methodology called Korean Natural Farming.  

Stay tuned to see what happens.    

DIY Peppermint Chapstick

We thought it would be really cool if we could use beeswax from our resident bees. The beekeeper, Todd Waltz, helped us out and donated beeswax that the little workers made.  We grew calendula flowers and made an infused oil.  Calendula oil is known for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.  We purified the wax, melted it down and combined it with our calendula oil and some peppermint oil to make chapstick.

Here is the recipe: 1/4 cup beeswax, 1 cup calendula infused oil, 20-25 drops peppermint oil

Melt the beeswax using a double boiler (or some form of).  Strain calendula oil to remove flowers.  Combine.  Adding the room temperature oil may re-solidify the wax.  If this happens, dissolve it again to get a homogenous liquid.  Add peppermint oil.  Mix and pour into tubes or containers of choice.  It will harden quickly as it cools.  



 Dried calendula flowers grown in the Soil&Water garden.

Dried calendula flowers grown in the Soil&Water garden.

 Calendula oil: Strained the oil using a coffee pour over and filter

Calendula oil: Strained the oil using a coffee pour over and filter

 Room temperature oil added to melted wax.  It solidified immediately so we had to melt it again.  

Room temperature oil added to melted wax.  It solidified immediately so we had to melt it again.  

 The mixture stayed liquid long enough to fill the containers but then hardened quickly.

The mixture stayed liquid long enough to fill the containers but then hardened quickly.


Garden to plate Cooking Demonstration

Soil&Water Symbol.jpg

Soil and Water is excited to host it's first 'Cooking Demonstration' at the Garden this Wednesday.

When:   September 13th, 2017
Time:    10am-12pm
Where:  Heritage Park
             771 Rengstorff Ave, Mountain View, CA 94043

Please come to the Garden and watch few gardeners use fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden to create a delicious meal.

Come and have fun and taste the food.
This is a free event. All are Welcome!.



As you can probably tell from our harvest pictures, the summer squashes are definitely coming in. Pounds and pounds of them. As problems go, “too much squash” is thankfully not terribly dire. I’ve heard the rule of thumb is one plant per family, unless you really like squash. If you’re not drowning in squash, try pollinating your plants by hand, because from what I can tell it has been paying off in our garden!

Why are they so prolific?! Well, it’s to do with plants trying to make seeds - if you remove the part of the plant making seeds before it gets all the way there, the plant… tries again! This is why deadheading a flower makes more flowers. Nutritionally, it’s the reason a summer squash (mostly water) is so different than a winter squash (lots of carbohydrates) - very similar plants, very different stages of development.


How I cook thee, let me count the way! You can braise, roast, saute, fry, grill, boil, or steam these guys to great success. Many people like to turn them into long noodles, by spiralizing or slicing, for a veggie-sort-of-pasta. You can pickle them, too, if you like pickles. 

Grating them is also a great way to cook with them! You can use them in fritters, or in a fritatta. Putting them in baked goods (muffins, quick breads, or even brownies) is a very popular way of adding moisture and fiber, but more importantly, using them up. 

You can also eat the blossoms, if you want to shake it up. They’re often served stuff with cheese, or breaded and fried.

Honestly, I’m a fan of sauteing them as a side with dinner, because it keeps my house cool in the summer. But, you don’t have to be as lazy as me - see the bottom of this post for a bunch of links to recipes for inspiration!


I decided to cook the main 4 types of squash that have been coming in, and compare them! All of these squash belong to the same species (Cucurbita pepo) but all all slightly different subspecies or cultivars! Cultivars meaning a plant variety that has been cultivated for human consumption, which I did not know before today.

 From Left to right:  Green Patty Pan, Yellow Crookneck, Zucchini (marrow, courgette), Yellow Patty Pan

From Left to right:

Green Patty Pan, Yellow Crookneck, Zucchini (marrow, courgette), Yellow Patty Pan

I sauteed slices of all 4 in a pan, with olive oil, salt, and pepper. They were all tasty, and the friends I roped into my experiment ate all of their squash, and could detect very minimal differences. We agreed the zucchini was a little more watery, the crookneck the sweetest, and the green patty pan having a lovely texture and vaguely green bean taste. The yellow patty pan seemed the most mature of all of them, and the most texture. 

They were definitely more similar than different in terms of flavour, so I say go ahead and pick based on shape or nostalgia! The zucchini offered the best shape for spiralizing into pasta. The patty pans could be hollowed out and stuffed fancily. One of my friends grew up with crookneck, I grew up with more patty pans, and we both found we slightly preferred them.



Here are a few recipes I’ve tried, and enjoyed! 
Quick Zucchini Saute - Smitten Kitchen


Zucchini and Parmesan Topped Chicken - Hello Fresh


James Beard’s Zucchini Bread


Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Anchovy Butter, but with zucchini substituted for noodles


Zucchini chocolate chip muffins

Kavita makes the following modifications to this recipe: 

-reduce the honey to ~2 Tbsp (Use either honey or substitute maple syrup) and reduce the brown sugar; since the banana and chocolate chips already add sweetness.   

-1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour + 3/4 cup mix of flours (whatever I feel like: amaranth, teff, flax, oat, almond)  

Summer Harvest 2017

Here are few pictures of the Summer Harvest from our Garden. and more to come..

Create-your-own garden tote bag event

Soil&Water hosted a fun create-your-own garden tote event on June 24, 2017 in the community garden at Heritage Park. We supplied blank canvas bags, rubber stamps, paint, markers and stencils and you did the rest! It was a fun event for all ages – so much so that we repeated it on Wednesday! A great time was had by all and everyone got to pick some farm-fresh produce and bring it home in their personalized garden tote bag. Special thanks to Eva Reutinger from the Google Community Garden for the stamps!

Some photos: 

We have a new Soil&Water sign


Check out our new Soil&Water Sign.  Andra McFarlane was the awesome artist that designed this sign.  Jason Kihl, a metal artist, cut this sign out of metal for us and drove it out from Arizona to hand deliver it to the garden.  Thank you both for all your work on this.  It looks pretty amazing in the space!  

Amaranth: an ancient grain worth planting 


Ever grown amaranth in your garden?  It turns out it is pretty easy to grow and is fairly drought tolerant.  It is a hardy, high yield producing grain.  The leaves and the seeds are edible. Young tender leaves are best for flavor and can be used as you would spinach or kale. The seeds can be soaked overnight and cooked as additions to cereals or with other grains.  I personally like to grind it into a flour and add some to anything I am baking.  It adds a nice nutty flavor. The grain is high in protein, B-6, and some key minerals like iron and magnesium.    

I thought this would be a great addition to the Soil&Water garden to see it growing and participate in harvesting it too.  

During our workdays last week we threshed and winnowed some amaranth to plant in the garden. This particular variety, rainbow amaranth, was originally shared with us by Common Ground Garden in Palo Alto. Soil&Water grew it at Viola's garden (a former backyard garden) and had held on to it for just such an opportunity.  


Last Wednesday, we took the dried stalks and threshed it using a hardware cloth mesh.  Threshing simply means to separate the seed from the stalk.  That was as straightforward as rubbing your hands across it.  









To winnow (separate the seed from the chaff), we used a couple of bowls and allowed air to assist in the process.  We didn't need it to be too clean since we were just going to plant it.  
Seeds can stay viable for quite awhile so fingers crossed this seed grows because the seeds have been sitting around for some time.   





We broadcast the seed across one of the beds to plant it during Saturday's workday.  

This was a fun activity at the garden.  There was some debate about whether all varieties of amaranth are edible but after some Google searching it appears that most varieties are edible.  So consider including amaranth in your garden this summer and try it out.  At the very least, it makes an interesting looking flower!

Soil&Water Tomato planting workday

S&W had planned for a Tomato planting workday last week. We purchased different variety of Tomatoes like Cluster, many varieties of Heriloom, cherry tomatoes, Sun Gold and many more. We had many volunteers come to the garden to plant. 

 Row of Tomato plants

Row of Tomato plants

Our plan is to try out the 'Florida Tomato Weaving' technique. It is supposed to be a effective way of trellising tomatoes in a row. It is fast, easy and simple to setup, maintain and use the space efficiently during the growing season.

With the Florida Weave, the idea is to “sandwich” your plants between lengths of twine. The twine gently holds up the plants without the need for additional stakes and clips.

 Volunteers planting on the ground

Volunteers planting on the ground

For this year, we are planning on trying this method and see how successful it is instead of tomato cages. We will keep you updated on the progress with bunch of pictures in few weeks.

Keep following us and we will keep posting more pictures. 

The philosophy behind small-scale garden rows

If you've visited the Soil&Water garden, you might be wondering why we created a layout with mixed edibles in small rows.

"What's the philosophy behind small-scale garden rows, anyway?"

I thought it would be a nice way for people visiting the garden to consider ideas for planting edibles mixed together in a small space. If you have limited planting space at home – and who doesn't?! – how would you plant it? There are a ton of cool ideas out there for small garden plots, container gardening, even vertical gardens. (Check out this article on 16 cool raised bed designs from 

Our small-scale garden layout is based on an article from Sunset Gardens that plants mixed edibles in a 16' x 16' plot which came down to two main beds 11' x 3' approximately with beans and sunflowers along a back fence.

In the Soil&Water garden, our garden rows are 3' wide already so where two rows come to an apex was perfect to mimic the same idea. Thus I used their model for planting our small scale garden 'plot' with mixed edibles. 

Another reason this is a nice method is because you can consider companion plants, natural pest deterrents, even pollinator attractants in the plantings. I modified the design slightly based on veggies that made it on our planting list.  

The small scale garden was planted pretty early in the season (for stuff like tomatoes, squash, and eggplant) so another thing this will provide is a comparison of how these crops do with an early planting vs. regular suggested time.  

 small-scale garden planting of mixed edibles

small-scale garden planting of mixed edibles

Soil&Water Garden update: We're making lots of progress!

A quick update on what's been happening at the garden...

  • We planted a small-scale garden a couple weeks ago.

  • We finished building the raised beds, coated them with an eco-friendly stain, and filled them with dirt. So they're ready for planting! 

  • We planted the 2-tier raised bed in the center of the garden over the past two weeks.

  • The children planted one raised bed with sunflowers (so far).  

  • We moved the dirt pile. 

  • Irrigation is nearly complete as we connect to the city water system.  

Please come join in the progress, gardening is fun!


What do egg hunts have to do with beans?


A lot if you hold a garden egg hunt.  Yesterday, April 12, kids hunted for eggs around Heritage park and found seeds hidden in some of them (and candy too!, of course).  One of the main seeds they found were Petaluma Gold Rush beans.  A variety that Soil&Water has been asked to grow for the Silicon Valley Grows seed bank.  
Silicon Valley Grows has an annual project where gardeners in the community all grow the same seed.  The 2018 project is the Petaluma Gold Rush bean and we are excited to participate in growing some this season.  We'll get to try them out and save seeds for the seed bank.  In fact, they may be available next year through the Mountain View public library's free seed library.  If you don't know about this great resource, the public library has a seed library where you can go and take seeds for your personal use for free.  

 This is what the beans look like: photo borrowed from  Seed to Table blog

This is what the beans look like: photo borrowed from Seed to Table blog

 The kids planted gold rush beans, asian long beans, sunflowers and are experimenting with direct seeding some melons this early in the season.  

The kids planted gold rush beans, asian long beans, sunflowers and are experimenting with direct seeding some melons this early in the season.  

Sustainable Grains and Wheat Planting

On March 25th 2017, Monica Spiller from the Whole Grain Connection shared her knowledge of ancient varieties that grow well in California and we planted Sonora wheat @ Soil&Water Garden.  We also planted a few other varieties for comparison sake.  The kids will get to see the difference between wheat, barley and rye.

We all learnt a lot about grains. Kids really enjoyed planting a row of Sonora wheat. We will watch them grow everyday. 

Lets wait and watch them grow. We will keep you updated on the progress of the growth. We look forward to harvest and process the seeds and make flour.

S&W @ City of Mountain View Volunteer Fair

 April 1st 2017 was a volunteer fair held at the MV Community Center. Archana, Ronit, and Rita set up a booth at the fair which received a lot of interest.  You may meet some new members at upcoming volunteer workdays so please be sure and welcome them to the group. 

We received lot of interest from people. S&W setup the table with Garden progress pictures, Vounteer signup sheet, Sun flower seed planting to give away and scallions transplants to give away.

Kids were really excited to plant sunflower seeds in a little pot.

Based on the response, we are hoping to have more volunteers to the garden. 


First Planting @Heritage Park

On Wednesday few of the S&W volunteers started planting on the ground. We had seeded Beans and Sugar snap peas earlier in February. Last week (on Wednesday),  we transplanted them on the ground.


We are planning to build a Trellis for the Sugar snap peas in the corner of two beds. We have planted row full of three varieties of beans. All of the S&W volunteers were excited to transplant them. It's so beautiful to watch them grow. Two days of rain covered the water to the baby plants.

 Sugar Snap peas

Sugar Snap peas

We had put bunch of carrot seeds on the ground few weeks and they have started sprouting slowly. 

Even enjoy the garden space and love to play in the dirt while we work.

More and more planting is on the way in the next few weeks. Keep following us.

Saturday at S&W: Sustainable grains & Wheat planting

Join us tomorrow, Saturday, March 25, 2017 at Soil&Water Garden in Mountain View to learn about sustainable grains and wheat planting. 

Monica Spiller from Whole Grain Connection will be giving a talk about sustainable grains and then we'll plant some wheat.  

We look forward to seeing you at the garden!



Bed building is done!

All the structure for the garden is nearly complete. This means things are right on schedule and we'll be able to start planting the garden as early as this coming Saturday.  Thanks to everyone for your hard work and especially to Eva from the Google Community Gardens for her help! 

This past Saturday was bed building day. To prepare for this day, I ordered all the redwood pre-cut from the Home Depot. They were so helpful by pre-cutting the wood and delivering it to Heritage park.  The list of wood I ordered with all the requested cuts was asking a lot of them but they made it easy with very few errors so thank you Home Depot.  Having it delivered was especially a good choice too.

We also ordered soil (the CK mix) from Ciaradella's, which is organic and contains mushroom and organic compost.  This particular one came highly recommended from Eva.

Then we had several people bring drills, tools, and wheelbarrows to build day.  On Saturday, we got to work.  Some people shoveling dirt into wheelbarrows and bringing it over to the garden, some assembling the wood and drilling, and some with the important job of keeping an eye on the kids.  Even the kids got to work filling buckets with dirt and what fun they had playing on a huge mound of dirt.   By the end of two hours, we successfully assembled all the beds with some adjustments to the specs to decrease the potential for wood rot.  Thanks to Tod, Jose and Eva for all their advice and expertise in the process. The rest of us learned a lot.  Check out a few pictures from the workday.

Saturday at Soil&Water: Raised bed building day! 

The community garden space is coming together and we'll be ready to plant soon. This weekend, we'll be building the raised beds for the garden space at Soil&Water Garden and could use your help. No experience is necessary, we'll guide you through it.

Our friends at Google will be bringing their expertise in raised bed building bringing lots of volunteers to help. We'll provide all the materials and some snacks too. We hope that you'll join us!