Pickling, bee keeping, vegetable gardening among spring classes at Tucson J

Attracting pollinators is important for garden yields. (Andreas Ganter/Pixabay.com)

Experts in the garden and the kitchen are presenting programs at the Tucson Jewish Community Center this spring that celebrate the season’s bounty. Michael Ismail, the owner of Thrive and Grow Gardens, leads weekly gardening classes, now through June, on Fridays, which start indoors and move outside to the Shay Shay Community Garden. On Sunday, April 15, DIY kitchen expert and cookbook author Emily Paster will delve into the world of pickling, preserves, and canning methods in the J’s Spivak Demonstration Kitchen.

Ismail, a Tucson-born expert gardener, teaches participants how to create life in the desert.

“It is my passion to teach and help people find success in the garden and since growing vegetables in the desert can be a challenge for a lot people, my goal is to demystify the process, providing answers to questions — some you didn’t even know you needed to ask,” he says. “A large component of vegetable gardening here is timing. So, ‘Happy New Year!’ is synonymous with ‘Let’s start tomato transplants!’”

Ismail will teach a workshop on “Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden.” Not having enough pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, in your garden will lead to poor crop yields. Ismail will detail the best methods to attract these beneficial insects. He will discuss plant selection and also demonstrate how to build a Mason bee box. Mason bee is the name commonly used for several species of bees found in North America that are easy to raise, gentle, and excellent pollinators. The name comes from their habit of using mud or other “masonry” products to construct their nests.

Do you have a Mason jar (named for inventor John Landis Mason) at home begging for a purpose? Have you always wanted to create your own pickles to share with friends? Have you been eager to enjoy a New York City bagel in Tucson? In celebration of her cookbook, “The Joys of Jewish Preserving: Modern Recipes with Traditional Roots, for Jams, Pickles, Fruit Butters, and More — For Holidays and Every Day,” Paster will share her knowledge with hands-on cooking lessons, a book signing and brunch.

Through the J’s membership, shared with the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, to The Jewish Book Council, Paster will host “Books, Bagels, & Brunch with Cookbook Author Emily Paster” in the J’s demonstration kitchen. She will lead a discussion and cooking demonstration on Jewish preserving techniques. Kosher bagels from Zabar’s in New York City will be served and participants will be able to try innovative pickles and chat about all things preserving. Tickets for the event include a signed copy of “The Joys of Jewish Preserving.”

“The bagel brunch will have lots of delicious food as well as a lively discussion of the role of preservation in Jewish cuisine and I will demonstrate safe canning techniques right on the spot,” says Paster.

The J also will host a cooking class where participants will learn exactly how to preserve the best of the local harvest. The J has teamed up with Pivot Produce, a local farm-to-table produce distributor, to showcase the season’s harvest. Paster will teach methods for preserving the season’s plenty in this hands-on class, which will enable participants to be creative with produce from the farmers’ market, prevent food waste, and capture nature at its best.


Thrive & Grow Vegetable Gardening Workshops with Michael Ismail

Fridays,  through June 15, 2-3:30 p.m. $10 per class. (No class April 6.)

Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden with Michael Ismail

Sunday, March 11, 10 a.m. $10.

Books, Bagels, & Brunch: Jewish Preserving Techniques with Cookbook Author Emily Paster

Sunday, April 15, 10- 11:30 a.m. Tucson J members, $95; nonmembers, $100. Includes cookbook.

The Joys of Jewish Preserving: A Cooking Class with Cookbook Author Emily Paster

Sunday, April 15, 1- 3:30 p.m. Tucson J members, $65; nonmembers, $70.

To register, visit tucsonjcc.org or call 299-3000.