Welcome! I’m Amber, a 30-something gal living in Playa del Rey- a small, beachfront neighborhood in West Los Angeles. By day I’m a medical device sales rep for a neurosurgery company, and the rest of the time I’m an avid gardener, gut-friendly kitchen experimenter, kimchi aficionado, and borderline obsessive dogmom (read: stagemom).
I’ve been plagued with gut issues my whole life. I’ll spare you the details, but in summary it’s a lot of painful stomachaches. About 2 years ago, a stubborn skin rash prompted me to go gluten free for a while. After some research and experimentation, I discovered Einkorn ancient wheat and it changed my life. Gluten free morphed into “Frankenwheat free”, which is the lifestyle I’ve happily adopted. Of course when I eat out I eat strictly gluten free, but I’m totally at peace with that. My tummy is happy and so am I because I know I can eat bread again at home. It’s become one of my missions to replace virtually all of my favorite gluten dishes with delicious gluten free or Einkorn alternatives.
My desire to source clean, nutrient dense food for myself is one of the many reasons why I strive to grow my own food and eat seasonally. This, in addition to removing ingredients made with modern wheat, has challenged me in the kitchen. However, what was once something I lamented is now something I find joy in. I’m now a weekly breadmaker and I am constantly searching for creative ways to use my harvests all while keeping flavors interesting.
A lifetime of tummy trouble has also fostered a love for fermented foods, most specifically, kimchi. Kimchi has played a massive role in reducing my symptoms and keeping my delicate gut balanced. For a long time I would go through a jar of kimchi every few days. I would actually sit and chow down on kimchi in front of the TV after work as if it were popcorn. That got expensive really fast and the more I got into gardening and the importance of quality food sourcing, I knew I had to start making my own. Fortunately, living in Los Angeles allowed me to be able to purchase an authentic, imported onggi from a wholesale food supply store in Koreatown. I began fermenting my own kimchi regularly using traditional Korean earthenware. Today, onggi of various sizes decorate my kitchen counter and they are my most cherished kitchen tools.
My first memories of gardening date back to when I was a little girl playing in my grandparents’ backyard in the Chicago suburbs. I could never resist picking the green tomatoes off their plants and my Halmoni (grandma in Korean) would always scold me for doing so. I don’t blame her! They grew pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes…every fruit and vegetable imaginable. I can still taste that garden fresh cucumber from their backyard. As I grew older, I fell away from the garden and got busy with other things in my life.
A couple of years ago, gardening came back to me. It began one summer afternoon at my friend Peter’s apartment. I stepped out onto his sunny Venice balcony and was awestruck by the most beautiful, lush container garden. In about a 7×10 space, he and his roommates were growing citrus trees, peppers, tomatoes, countless varieties of salad greens, herbs and much more. I was in awe that such a small space could produce so much delicious, organic food…and so my obsession began. Later that night we went to a nursery to pick up materials and plant starts for my very first container garden.
After posting a few pictures of my harvests on social media, I stumbled upon the amazing gardening world on Instagram. I fell in love with the community and its positivity, encouragement, and support for gardeners whether they be master or novice. I started my own gardening account as a platform to engage with gardeners around the world, share tips, and educate myself on my new favorite hobby. From there the account grew and ultimately became @kimchigardens: a celebration of my Korean heritage, love for gardening, and the enjoyment of cooking with my homegrown produce.
Kimchi Gardens is a collection of gardening content and gut conscious recipes I’ve developed. Catalogued in this blog is a collection of my successes and failures as a “learn as you grow” gardener and a former gluten glutton in a gluten free kitchen. Here you will find everything from building my first set of raised beds, to epic rookie failures like trying to grow peppers in full shade (facepalm), and the aha moment discoveries that soil health is legitimately the cure to everything in the garden. This is my place to organize everything I’ve learned over the years and hopefully encourage more small space urbanites to try their hand at growing some of their own food.
In January 2017, my Halmoni passed away. I can think of no better way to honor her memory than growing food in my garden, fixing up traditional Korean dishes, and sharing them with others. Enjoy and I hope you will grow along with me!