Author R. J. Ruppenthal explains how he got on the path that led him to write Fresh Food from Small Spaces—his sustainable growing, fermenting, and sprouting guide for urban dwellers—in this podcast from Crop to Cuisine.
RJR: I was living in smaller homes—apartments and condos in urban areas—like a lot of people do. And somewhere along the line I got the idea that I wanted to grow a plant or two, and so I tried it in a sunny windowsill in an apartment, and, uh, wasn’t too successful at first. But I started reading up on growing vegetables, and I thought, well, that would be neat to have, you know, a few handfuls of something I could eat out of my own plants.
And then the next place that we lived had a bit of a balcony. And so I got some containers and filled them with good soil, and I started to grow some various vegetable plants on the balcony—including tomatoes, snap peas, beans, chard—and pretty soon the whole balcony was full and it was extending over into my neighbor’s area, so, uh, sort of ran out of space there.
But I realized along the way that I had sort of improvised some ways to make the most of the light that was pretty limited in that growing space, and that also there may be other possibilities for using urban spaces. And so next I got into sprouting—which is growing sprouts from seeds and eating them as salad or sandwich or stir-fry sprouts—and then fermentation, and some other things.
So I realized that people who are in my situation, having limited space, didn’t really have access to a lot of information about that. I had, you know, a whole bookshelf worth of gardening books and sustainable living guides and all this stuff, but it wasn’t really geared towards people in smaller homes. So that’s what I aimed to do with this book, was put together what I’d learned and what I could glean from other folks.