Compost, Kale and Kombucha: Growing Your Own

“The worm compost bin is getting delivered next week, we can finally get the worms going again!”


This is what we call a romantic Foodie Underground conversation.

Let me take a few steps back. No wait, let me start from the beginning.

As an only child that lived in the country, I spent a lot of time outside plotting my own adventures. One of my favorite summer activities was to dig through the dirt in the garden and collect earthworms in recycled yogurt containers that my mother used to plant seedlings. I would put a few in the yogurt container, and walk around with them, taking great care to look after my little soil dwellers. I called it worm babysitting. Yeah, country girl, I know.

Fast forward a couple of decades.

Earlier this year I moved into a small, no, wait… tiny apartment in a huge city (it’s Paris in case you were wondering). Funny how in some of the world’s most expansive metropolises the housing is quite the opposite. It has been an adventure in accommodating my favorite activities to fit the space. Cooking and baking is a careful dance between slicing, chopping and mixing and doing dishes in between so as to keep enough counter space open. Dinner parties are capped at six people, because more would be hard to fit around the table. But somehow, with enough effort and desire, it all works.

It was into this space that the worms would work and the resulting compost would be put to good use.

If you get excited about food, it’s easy to get excited about growing it yourself, no matter where you live. This is not backyard homesteadingwith raised beds and a chicken coop, this is working around obstacles like space and creating an urban sanctuary that includes some greenery and fresh herbs to cook with. I’ll be damned if I let minimal square footage get in the way of gardening and cooking.

The worms had been on hiatus and were waiting for a new home, hence the need for a new bin. When the first round of vermicompostwas ready, we pulled terracotta planters into the tiny dining room and sat on the floor, mixing compost and fresh dirt and replanted basil, mint, parsley and chives. I prepped two containers for kale seeds that would be arriving the following week (kale is, after all, quite difficult to find in Paris).

There is something about putting your hands in the dirt. There is something even better about putting your hands in compost. Call me a dirty hippie – you won’t be the first – but to be able to create your own fertilizer to grow plants from your own food waste is in fact an incredible thing. Don’t believe me? Try it.

The compost bins sit under the kitchen sink. When you open up the top one, you can feel the warmth that the breakdown of organic material (or in our case, 97 percent coffee grounds) generates. A reminder that you don’t need to live in the country to take part in the natural cycle of things.

The kale arrived and it was planted immediately; we’ll see which one of the two varieties do best. Some baby basil and cilantro seeds are doing well in the kitchen, and all of the terracotta pots hang off of the window guard rail, creating our own little Hanging Gardens of Babylon, four floors up in the Parisian courtyard.

It’s not just about eating good food, it’s about being part of the process, no matter where you are. It’s not a farm, or a raised bed with seven varieties of heirloom tomatoes, but it’s something; a mini-contribution to being a part of growing what we eat. To top it all off, next week a friend is passing on a kombucha baby. Compost, kale and kombucha… and you thought Paris was only for croissants and fromage.

At least you know that those tiny six-person dinner parties will consist of kale appetizers and kombucha cocktails, and we’ll be composting the leftovers of course. I promise not to show off the worms.

Originally published on EcoSalon

Comments 4

  1. Dunia

    Hi Anna,

    Thank you for writing this article, I felt like someone was able to read my mind!
    I moved to Paris about three months ago; I’m living in a small apartment with no balcony and a tiny kitchen. Yet, I did not let this affect my love for food. Actually, since I arrived here, I’ve become more and more inspired.
    Unfortunately, I am a city girl, and until last month I had never put my hands in soil. I have long been interested in food and healthy eating; in fact, I am currently studying for a diploma in naturopathic nutrition. Yet, learning about food, exploring new local markets and cooking seemed enough to satisfy me. That’s until I experienced the pleasure that can derive from sticking your hands in soil when I planted my first pot of basil last month. Since then, growing food has become an addiction. In the last four weeks, I planted 6 pots of aromatic herbs and cherry tomatoes. I also started sprouting, making kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut. I always considered myself a foodie, but I admit that only growing food has enabled me to truly, deeply appreciate it. I am just a beginner though; I still have a lot to learn on growing food, so please continue sharing your experiences with us!

    Kindest Regards,


    • Anna Brones


      Thanks so much for reading and for your comment!

      Putting hands in the soil is good for anyone, especially city girls! Sounds like you are off to a good start.


    • Anna Brones

      This is horrendous!!!

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