Hydroponic (wink wink) Gardening

Help me out here. I grew up before “weed” was everywhere and (well…almost) universally accepted. The only weed I knew was what I was instructed by my mother to pull out of our big Colorado vegetable garden.

My kind of weed: spotted spurge (BTW it’s a euphorbia and its sap can irritate your skin)

Well, that’s not quite true. It may have taken me a while, but I did figure out at some point that John Denver may have been singing about more than just happiness or getting high on booze when he croons “friends around the campfire and everybody’s high.” It’s not surprising that LoDo in Denver has a dispensary called Rocky Mountain High. How apropos. And what a way to remember John Denver! (Fact Checker: John reportedly denied that he referenced pot-smoking in his lyrics.)

Andy, who despises garden weeding, is focusing on weed in today’s Andy’s Corner. He wants this to be a “joint” effort.

My problem is this: I’m kind of intrigued with hydroponic gardening, but when I search for information about it, I wonder if the search results refer (wink wink) to growing marijuana. How can I learn more about hydroponic gardening and be sure I’m learning about something that’s intended for plants like tomatoes and cucumbers – and not weed?

For example, couldn’t a naive researcher (like me) mistake GreenEntrepreneur.com, WayofLeaf.com, HighTimes.com, PotGuide.com, GrowersSupply.com, or TheWeedScene.com for references to the thrill and challenges of gardening? 🙂

My interest in this all was piqued by an article in the NYTimes (we’ve downloaded it here for you, in case you can’t see it at the website) – “No Soil. No Growing Seasons. Just Add Water and Technology.” It’s a look at hydroponic gardening and all of the benefits it may have, as climate-change becomes reality. It’s definitely worth a read.

Hydroponic tomato-growing

What especially caught my attention were these two sentences in the Times’ article: the CEO of Bowery, the largest hydroponic company in the U.S., said “his farms are 100 times as productive as traditional ones and use 95 percent less water. Other companies claim they can grow as much food on a single acre as a traditional farm can grow on 390.”

No chemicals, pesticides, or GMOs; vine-ripened, Appalachia grown. Sounds good? That’s from App Harvest’s web page about their vegetables raised by large-scale hydroponic “gardening.”
AppHarvest’s enormous plant – in Appalachia. One of the appeals is that hydroponically-grown produce can be produced anywhere and so does not have to travel long distances to the market.

I don’t think I’ll be growing my tomatoes hydroponically next summer. Until I have the opportunity to taste and compare hydroponically-grown produce with “earth-grown” produce, I’ll remain skeptical. Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the chichi restaurant and farm in New York’s Hudson Valley, states that “truly delicious food can only come from the earth.” That may be true, but what if? What if hydroponics is our only viable choice?

I’ve learned to be accepting of weed. Now maybe I need to be accepting of hydroponics.

Produce from our earthy Glen Ellen garden

No matter where your tomatoes are coming from – your backyard or the farmers’ market – here are links to some of our favorite recipes for those tomatoes. For our most favorite lunch ever – try the bacon and tomato taco. It’s SO good! Or use your fresh, earth-grown tomatoes in soups, on toast, in a puff pastry tart, on a burger, and, of course, in salads. Enjoy them while you can.

Pan Con Tomate (Toast with Tomatoes)

Corn and Tomato Salsa – with Sopa de Lima

Diane and Grandma’s Tomato Tart

Greek Chopped Salad

Sara’s Spicy Boozy Turkey Burgers

B&T Tacos

B&T Tacos

Sure you can put lettuce on them, but why?  They’re more deliciously, intensely flavored without.  Halving this recipe is perfect for the two of us.  Recipe adapted from Melissa Clark and the NYTimes

  • 1 lb bacon, cut into 1/2″ slices
  •  about 2 c diced tomatoes (definitely not canned) – maybe 2-3 medium ones?
  • 1/2 tsp or less seeded, minced jalapeño
  • 2 T cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
  • Diamond kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cholula or other hot sauce, or to taste
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas (or 12 4″ tortillas – which we prefer)

Add the bacon slices to a cold skillet; turn the heat to medium and fry until crisp, stirring frequently.  Remove from the skillet and place the bacon pieces on a paper towel to absorb extra grease.

Mix together tomatoes, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice and a large pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Taste and add more lime juice and salt, if needed.

In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise and hot sauce. Using the open flame from a stovetop gas burner (or in a skillet placed on an electric burner), warm and lightly char tortillas. Transfer warmed tortillas to a towel-lined bowl, and cover with towel to keep warm while you finish remaining tortillas.

Serve, letting people make their own tacos by layering first mayo, then bacon, and salsa on tortillas.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.



    We enjoyed a John Denver concert when living in Terre Haute, Indiana. We also enjoyed The Mills Brothers and Frank Sinatra in Terre Haute. Regarding Hydroponics, I read somewhere something about them missing out on phytochemicals or micronutrients that are not found in any place but the soil. We are wondering to what degree the Hydroponics growing food would match the nutritional needs of humans. Very warm here with very smoky air. Guess where the smoke originates! We really feel bad for the West Coast. Bob and Gayle V

    Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device


    • theRaggedys says:

      Andy here – Sounds like Terre Haute was quite a hopping musical center.
      You raise a good question about whether hydroponics products would be optimal for human nutritional needs. I’m not sure about that but I do recall hearing that in the Imperial Valley (one of the most productive agricultural areas in the U.S.) the soil functions only to prop up the plants. The nutrition for the plants is from the chemicals added to the soil.


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