Friday, Jan. 22, 2016 | 2 a.m.
You can’t grow vegetables in Las Vegas — period. Let me say that, for the record, this is a challenge more than a fact. I mean, come on, have you seen the “The Martian” with Golden Globe winner Matt Damon? He grows hundreds of potato plants on Mars, for God’s sake!
If he can grow hundreds of potato plants on Mars, then this challenge should be pretty straightforward with the sandy dunes of Las Vegas. (Coincidencally, Damon might not be growing potato plants this very moment, but he is in Las Vegas right now filming a “Bourne Identity” sequel.)
Back to vegetables in Las Vegas, here’s an interesting fact: There are more than 30 varieties and more than 200 edibles you can plant in Las Vegas between spring and fall. By edible and varieties, I’m not referencing the surge of medical marijuana distribution outlets.
Growing fruit and vegetables is strictly all about timing and following the time-tested Farmer’s Almanac for when to prepare soil and sow seeds. Believe it or not, right now Las Vegas is primed to grow celery, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, eggplant, lettuce, onion, potatoes, peppers and chard. And dozens more as the season progresses.
Maybe not easy, but it’s certainly attainable. If, by chance, your New Year’s resolution included one of the following — eating healthier, sustainable local foods, learning something new, or cleaning out the garage and/or backyard to do something cool with the extra space — then I’m speaking to you.
I don’t have a healthy soapbox bone in my body to be the poster boy for healthy eating, although more recently I’ve tried to incorporate more vegetables, less fat and remove the empty hollow calories like breads and high-fat dairy items.
It’s helped, although I’m still unfortunately about the same size, still shaped semi-round; however, the pounds are slowly melting away, and pants I wore two years ago are fitting again. (Like plastic wrap, but they fit).
I’m not a New Year’s resolution type of guy. I’m just too busy, and I never maintain holding myself accountable, more often feeing like a failure for setting the bar too high on the changes I intended to implement.
I have no clue how many people read this column on a regular basis other than my wife, Mom and editor — I’m guessing three or four. But let’s assume several hundred or even thousands of people read this weekly column and find my lists for best burgers, unbelievable food-and-beverage experience off the beaten path in Las Vegas and popular year-end-best eats.
This experiment in writing maybe is not my typical column. However, I’d enjoy seeing how many people are willing to join me in a movement to grow their own herbs, fruits and/or vegetables. I’m choosing Twitter as our medium for contact for daily or weekly updates on the progress of your garden. Follow @BenVaughn.
Starting Monday — so you have three entire days! — let’s measure how many of my readers are interested in home gardening. I know it’s a time commitment, a small cost of start-up material, and there will likely be more failures than successes as we go through the growing process together.
But here is the plan: The collective “we” start small, we also start inside, and we attempt to see if we have the ability to create a viral home-garden campaign. We share images, we tweet tips, and we create a community that is founded on home-grown gardened fruits, vegetables and herbs. Our own garden–to-plate movement.
You can even begin with a small basil starter plant, or if you are adventurous like me, I will start with seeds, soil pods and tons of patience. I can’t include in the length of this column how to garden effectively for beginners. There just isn’t the room, and, frankly, my editor will strangle me.
For starters, I’m going to share links where you can find resources that will guide you in your garden experiment. Second, but most importantly, to measure the success of our experiment, you need a Twitter account. Super easy to sign up, and it only works if you use it.
First follow me, and we can chat through the growing process and share pictures for our garden movement. Be patient: I can be rather busy at times, but I promise to always respond. Here is the link for your Twitter signup page.
I know, I know, it seems like you have read the wrong column and now are inspired, but, geez, all the freakin’ homework. It will be well worth your efforts, and once your see that first sprout bloom, there is no turning back — you will be hooked.
It’s all about small changes. Can we make a few small changes together? That is a question I can’t answer as I write this column. However, I’m hopeful that a few will participate, then a few more, then a homegrown revolution will sweep the sandy dune of Las Vegas.
Or even ride back with a few visitors across the country. OK, the hippie soap box is over, but check out the resources below to get your green thumb on, and let’s find out what really can bloom in the desert.
Ben Vaughn is a chef, author and TV personality known as a host for the Food Network. Ben’s latest book, “Southern Routes,” chronicles his journey to find the best-kept food secrets in the South from the Carolinas to Texas. “Southern Routes” is published by HarperCollins.
Ben resides in Tennessee and serves as CEO and culinary director for his restaurant group Fork Knife Spoon. Ben’s new brand of Southern Kitchen food trucks hit the streets in Las Vegas. Follow all the action from the mobile kitchen @SoKitchenLV. @BenVaughn also is host of “The Breakfast Show,” a TV series that premiered in the fall.