Eat Local, Eat Fresh

Eat Local, Eat Fresh

Article by Steve Bender and Shannon Sliter Satterwhite, M.S., R.D.

Oklahoma City chef and organic gardener Kamala Gamble takes a fresh approach to food and shares her tips for healthy eating.

Slow Food

Cofounder of Slow Food Oklahoma City, Kamala believes that meals made from naturally produced local vegetables, fruits, meats, and dairy products are good for your health, good for the local economy, and good for your taste buds.

Starting a Garden

Kamala (rhymes with “Pamela”) bought into the movement while cooking at Chicago’s famed Frontera Grill, where nearly every ingredient is locally produced. When she and husband Lance moved back to Oklahoma in 2001 and bought a house with a big backyard, the next step seemed obvious. “I said, ‘Oh, I’ll just start a garden,’ ” she recalls incredulously. “That’s like saying, ‘Oh, I’ll just have a root canal without anesthesia.’ ”

Her soil, unfortunately, was “horrid, black clay.” She learned to loosen and enrich the soil by tilling in copious amounts of composted cow and horse manure, green manure cover crops like clover and alfalfa, and even worm castings. Mulching with hay each year also adds organic matter as it breaks down.

Guilford Gardens

Today, the 1½-acre plot, called Guilford Gardens, is a highly productive Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm that sells fresh, organic produce to approximately 80 local subscribers. Each week for 8 to 12 weeks, subscribers pick up a basket of vegetables. The contents change every time. Kamala grows more than 15 kinds of tomatoes, 20 kinds of peppers, 4 varieties of potatoes, 4 kinds of onions, and 6 kinds of eggplant.

Tip: Kamala grows cucumbers on wire frames leaning against a fence for easy picking.

Easy Starter Plants

Kamala says the following are great for beginners embarking on a first vegetable garden. She starts her garden with both transplants and seeds. Favorite sources include Seed Savers ExchangeJohnny’s Selected Seeds, and Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply.

Basil

When to plant: Plant in spring for summer harvest.
Why she loves it: Very productive; essential for pesto; "ridiculously pricey in the store."

Cucumber

When to plant: Plant in spring for summer harvest.

Why Kamala loves it: Loves the flavor of 'Lemon' and 'National Pickling' varieties; "[they] give you phenomenal production."

Sweet Pepper

When to plant: Plant in spring for summer and fall harvest.

Why Kamala loves it: Let a green pepper turn red for sweeter flavor and more vitamins; "'Giant Marconi' produces like nobody's business."

Leaf Lettuce

When to plant: Plant in early spring for spring harvest or late summer for fall harvest.

Why Kamala loves it: "At the store, baby greens cost an arm and a leg, but if you sprinkle a packet of lettuce seeds over the soil, in two weeks you'll have baby greens and save $10 a pound."

Spinach

When to plant: Plant in early spring for spring harvest or early fall for fall harvest.

Why Kamala loves it: Great in salads; very nutritious; a quick grower that builds confidence.

Tomato

When to plant: Plant in spring for summer harvest or midsummer for fall harvest.

Why Kamala loves it: Tremendous number of types; "they give you the most flavor 'pow' from your garden."

Tomato-Cucumber Bread Salad

Recipe: Tomato-Cucumber Bread Salad  

Variation: Marinated Tomato-Cucumber Bread Salad

You’ll love this favorite recipe she fixed for us during our visit. It’s quick, easy, delicious, and packed with nutrients.

How to Chiffinade

Here, Kamala teaches a simple technique for creating thin shreds of herbs and lettuces. Use the tiny pieces as pretty garnishes for soups, salads, and desserts.

Step 1: Stack several basil leaves together; roll the stacked leaves lengthwise.

Step 2: Slice the roll into thin strips

Find Locally Grown Produce Near You

Want that you-pick flavor without gardening? Consider these options.

Join Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)―These programs connect farmers directly with the public. CSA members buy subscriptions and in return receive weekly or monthly boxes of harvested goods. 

Kamala Gamble