Growing Up in the City Doesn’t Mean You Have to Miss Out on the Farm

Nico and DogThis week, our Orchard Gardens Farm apprentice, Nicolas Matallana (or Nico for short), has recorded a bit about his experience this summer. We are grateful to the Missoula Federal Credit Union for funding his position, enabling him to learn about farming and nonprofit operations. It also helps us grow Orchard Gardens as place where those of any income can eat fresh—whether that means bringing a prescription, a few bags to fill, or a few seeds and a caring hand. Nico originally came to Missoula to explore the mountains and learn about the ecology while pursuing a degree in Ecological Restoration, but little did he know that local food would strike his passion. Nico has been gardening and volunteering on farms since his first semester in Missoula. 

I’m going to tell you about a youngster that I got to know this summer. He lived in the Homeword housing complex, next to the Orchard Gardens Community Farm. Let’s call him Carrot.

As a five year old, he was too old for the resident play structure, but still too young for Kindergarten, so he would spend his days looking for something, anything, to let him let out his creative energy. From the field, I would often see him speed by on his bike, yelling unintelligibly, as he lapped and lapped the housing complex. It reminded me of the endless summer days of my childhood, biking or skateboarding back and forth on the curb, trying to spend an unlimited amount of energy.

Orchard Gardens Farm
Orchard Gardens Farm. Photo by Chad Harder.

He wasn’t usually allowed to come into the farm, so he would often swoop on us while we hauled our harvest across the parking lot to the barn.

“What are you doing?”

“We’re getting ready for the CSA.” One of us would respond.


“Because we have to get these vegetables ready” One of us would say patiently


And so on, he would hang around and ask questions and linger and pick up things he shouldn’t and we’d sometimes have to kick him out. But he would always be back, laughing and goofing off the next day.

My co-worker, Michelle, was the true wizard at keeping him busy. She’d see him coming towards us and immediately find something to entertain and occupy him.

“Do you want some kale?” She’d ask.

“Mmmmm… No!”

“How about some cucumber?”

“Mmmmmmmm……. Okay!”

And off he’d go munching on his cucumber to chase around the other neighborhood kids. He ate most things that came out of the field, which impressed me for his age – I certainly didn’t eat so many vegetables when I was that young. When good things were being offered, like apricots or cherries, the entire neighborhood kiddo-herd would come, flocking around us impatiently.

“What do you say first?” Michelle would remind them all.

The chorus would respond, “PLEASE!”

We knew this was a special place for Carrot. While the other kids came and went, Carrot came by consistently. When Dave was out running errands, he would ask where he was every couple minutes. If we were busy in the field, he would always ask us when CSA was, which he knew was when he could get our attention. At first, entertaining him felt like another job, but over the summer I grew to appreciate his persistence.

Nico and Campers
Nico and some summer campers at Orchard Gardens.

I wish I had grown up with a farm next door, with a Dave and Michelle to put a cucumber in my hand when I needed something to do. My neighborhood friends and I would get so bored that we would eventually end up in trouble, and over the years it just got worse. Carrot sometimes got in trouble, but handing him a vegetable would usually do the trick.

Next year he will be in Kindergarten. I’m sure he’ll come around every summer, looking for a snack or a human to talk with. And it will be the farm employees, the vegetables, and the community gardeners that will welcome him. I’m glad the farm can keep him out of trouble. Maybe he’ll even be a farm apprentice one day.


Apples from Heaven

One of the joys of fall cooking is the abundance of apples. Local apples abound in Missoula for the next month or two:  Macintosh, Transparents, Ruby Reds, Sweet Sixteens, Pink Ladys, and Honey Crisp to name a few. Apples, of course, are well suited for sauce, cider, and pie. One of my favorite apple dishes is the tart recipe below. Simple and tasty, the tart makes a wonderful finish to any autumn dinner or the perfect breakfast treat.

Apple Tart

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Ingredients for crust:

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon sugar

½ cup butter

1 egg, beaten

Ingredients for apple filling:

2 lbs (4-5 larges) apples – any variety will do and a mix of varieties works well

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons sugar

½ cup raisins, dried cherries, or dried cranberries

2 tablespoons corn syrup

2 tablespoons butter, chilled and diced

Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter. Once the flour and butter resembles fine crumbs, add the beaten egg. Mix only until the dough begins to stick together. If the dough is too dry, add drops of water until it holds together. Place in a sheet of wax paper, press together lightly, and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, remove from the wax paper and use your hands to press into a 9-inch tart or pie pan.crust

While the tart crust dough is chilling, make the apple filling. Quarter and core the apples. You may leave the peel on the apples. Coarsely grate the apples then mix with the cinnamon, sugar, and dried fruit.ingredients-1

Place in the tart shell and smooth out.fill

pitter-patterSpoon the corn syrup over the filling, and then dot the filling with the diced butter.prebake

Bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and eat warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Serves 6 – 8.done-tartplated-1


Save It For Later: Winter Veggie Storage

Don’t forget! The annual Garden City Harvest Fire Sale is quickly approaching – next Wednesday and Thursday, 10/19 & 10/20, from 2:00 to 6:30 PM, at the River Road Farm (1657 River Rd). What is the Fire Sale you ask? Sounds spicy… It’s your chance to stock up on storage quantities of cured onions, squash, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and much more. It’s set up market style, so you can select your favorite summer tastes to last you the winter through. With pretty amazing prices, I might add.

Which brings us to another point: storing said veggies. As post-modern neo-pioneers, most of us in the community garden world don’t have the nostalgic root cellar to store our goods. Well worry not, one can wax poetic for winter veggie storage in a multitude, and quite innovative, of ways. Apartment and alley-house dwellers, this is your time to shine; let the creativity commence like it once did in the time pre-shipping containers and electric air-conditioning.

Winter squash keep well in a cool bedroom. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.
Winter squash keep well in a cool bedroom. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.

Things to consider –

Curing – Most storage crops need to be cured to enhance their storage potential. “During the curing process, potatoes and sweet potatoes heal over small wounds to the skin, garlic and onions form a dry seal over the openings at their necks, and dry beans and grain corn let go of excess moisture that could otherwise cause them to rot.” [1]  Harvesting, curing and storage requirements vary with each crop. Luckily, if you’re buying your veduras de fuego, ie, Fire Sale veggies, then the crops have already been cured and are ready for storage.

First thing’s first – you need a cool (but not freezing) location for storing your bounty over the winter. This has to do with slowing the release rate of xylene gases which accelerates ripening and thus, spoiling; 34F and 50F (1 to 10C) is best.[2]

Uproot leeks, cabbage and Brussels sprouts and place in damp sand. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.
Uproot leeks, cabbage and Brussels sprouts and place in damp sand (more on sand storage here). Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.

Ventilation – Although you’re purposely slowing the release rate of xylene gases, your veggies will naturally still emit them. Keep your goods in a ventilated area to allow wafting of the gases – somewhere with natural openings and airflow. Closets which are regularly opened and mudrooms are good examples.

Humidity – Another thing to consider when choosing a place to store your winter goods is relative humidity. “Providing moisture lets crisp root vegetables sense they are still in the ground. Some staple storage crops, such as garlic, onions and shallots, need dry conditions to support prolonged dormancy…”  so be aware as to which vegetables you are grouping together and where you’re putting them.[3]  Barbara Pleasant’s article (below) has a thorough chart on which veggies need what for optimum storage.

A spare dresser in a cool room can provide convenient storage space. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.
A spare dresser in a cool room can provide convenient storage space. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.

Lastly, be creative (like this trash can root cellar idea)! Don’t think that because you live in a small space, don’t have a garage, basement, or extra freezer, you can’t store fruits and vegetables through the winter. Read garden writer Barbara Pleasant’s article (with such lovely illustrations) for brilliant vegetable storage ideas.

[1] Pleasant, Barbara. “Food Storage: 20 Crops That Keep and How to Store Them.” Mother Earth News. Last modified September 2012. Accessed October 10, 2016.

[2] Bourque, Danny. “Root Cellars and Me (Tips for Cold Storage).” Simple Bites. Last modified October 12, 2012. Accessed October 10, 2016.

[3] Pleasant, Barbara.


Tales of Pigweed

This week Kaya Juda Nelson writes about her work as an apprentice at Garden City Harvest’s Youth Farm, run in partnership with Youth Homes. After spending her freshman year at Boston University, a semester of her sophomore year in South America, and a semester of her senior year campaigning with a climate action organization in Denver, Kaya graduated from the University of Montana with high honors in Environmental Studies and a minor in Climate Change Studies. For the past year and a half, Kaya has also been part of a bluegrass band, Local Yokel, in which she plays the fiddle, banjo, writes, and sings. Here’s Kaya: 

We choose to farm because it connects us with our environment and offers a relationship to the cycles of the seasons. Farming feels great as we work our bodies and work the earth under the sun, in the rain, feeling the wind against our faces.  But even more than the connection to place and weather, this season working at the Youth Farm has affirmed my favorite relationship brought about by farming: the relationship with food.

After a morning of weeding and thinning the carrots or harvesting salad mix (a sometimes tedious and time-consuming task), a trio of young adults from various Missoula youth homes and an adult staff member (often myself) break to make the lunch for our 10-20 person crew.

We learn how to properly cook rice and lentils, what you can do with the abundance of radishes, how delicious raw kohlrabi can be, and the fact that cucumbers should never, ever, ever, under any circumstance be cooked. The first days we cook lunch I hear:

“I hate veggies”

“there’s no meat?!?”

“are we seriously eating this for lunch?”

By the end of the first meal, we have converted most of the youth into veggie lovers. I remember getting excited about having agency in the food I ate when I was in high school. Now, watching that agency develop in these adolescent faces as we make lunches each day, I relive it myself. Carrots and onions are chopped with confidence and chard is discovered to shrink when you cook it and sometimes the stir fries are too salty and sometimes the beets are horribly crunchy but the food education is palpable.

Zayne arranging CSA boxesAs you all may have read in Genevieve’s post, Zayne, one of our youth employees tells the story of discovering kale at a mobile market stand while living at the Council Groves apartments. He proudly declares himself as the kale kid, and always asks for an extra bunch to take back to the Tom Roy youth home where he lives, located adjacent to the farm. When his mother or grandmother is in town for a visit, he begs to take them a bouquet of the hearty leafy green. I see part of this as a simple fact that kale is delicious and has become nutritionally notorious both in the local and the mainstream food world, but you can also see Zayne’s pride in his cultivation of his favorite crop and his desire to share a tangible fruit of his labor.

The CSA is the other venue in which the Youth Farm employees have a chance to shine and pass along their thoughts and opinions on produce to the roughly 60 CSA members that come to collect their share each week. For a few weeks in late June, we offered pigweed in our CSA share. Yes, this is a weed that we harvest for our customers. We constantly battle pigweed as it grows rampant through the farm. When we learned from a visting Greek that it is delicious cooked in olive oil and lemon, we made lemons out of lemonade and added it to our CSA offerings.

Pigweed is amazingAs Zayne greeted the CSA customers that week with a giant box of pigweed, he spun the story of the Greek farmer into a personal tale of meeting this man and together sharing the delights of pigweed. This pitch was mostly fabricated, but Zayne encouraged our CSA customers to try this leafy weed with an unappetizing name in such a spirited and hilarious way, it didn’t matter whether it was factual. It was about a connection with this crop and with the CSA members.

We work with groups of young adults that have come from wide-ranging and diverse backgrounds, but who are all living in the Missoula Youth Homes. These teenagers are navigating the difficulties of adolescence, while living in homes that are not their own, and while I wish I could say that the farm provides a fairy tale solution, but I can’t. But when the rusty steel triangle that serves as a lunch bell is rung and the giant cast-iron pan of bok-choy is brought to the table, it is evident that change and connection are happening in ways I’m not always aware of, and the effort, joy, and learning put into the meals we share out here in the sun and rain and wind provides a sense of ownership and accomplishment for the employees of the Youth Farm.

Zayne and the Greek Farmer’s Pigweed


  • 1/2 lb fresh pigweed
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 T olive oil  salt to taste


Heat olive oil in a pan and add pigweed (whole, not chopped).  Add lemon juice and stir until all the pigweed is covered with oil and lemon juice. Cover the pigweed until it has wilted slightly, then uncover and cook off any liquid that has accumulated. Add salt to taste. Enjoy!


This Survey Got Style

Hey Community Gardeners!

Do you want to look good in your garden ‘hood?

Rock it while diggin’ in the dirt in a fresh Farm Party t-shirt?

Please take a min out of your day, and fill out the ’16 Comm Garden Survey.

Your opinion matters, don’t just flatter,

it helps us grow, improve, enhance, refresh and progress.

By writing your thoughts, professing your perils, you’re granted the chance to win;

not a fake timeshare or dinner at Dennys,

but the ability to wear with care, to make people stare,

because filling out this survey isn’t for not,

when you can win a free T, and look oh so very hot.

In other words, please fill out the 2016 Year-End Community Gardens Survey, and should you choose, you’ll be entered in a chance to win a 2016 Farm Party T-Shirt.

fullsizerender-1fullsizerender-2So fresh and so clean, you’ll look like a boss, like the cream of the crop.

PS – For inspiration and to see what others are doing, check out this incredible community garden in London…


Tomato Pie: your savory savior for a quick fresh meal

Claire Vergobbi Clare Vergobbi is one of our apprentices this season, working at River Road Neighborhood Farm for the summer. She is an essential part of what we do there, each day, and in turn, we are teaching her many skills for her future. Simultaneously, she is studying at the University of Montana. Thanks to Missoula Federal Credit Union for making two of our apprenticeships possible. Here’s Clare on tomato pie:

There’s nothing quite like hand feeding a chicken, pulling up a handful of carrots you seeded, weeded, and hand-watered for two months, or watching the sun set over mountains while the farm is full of families picking up their vegetables for the week.

These are the simple lessons good soil, clean water, hard work, and fresh food can teach. I’ve spent the last two summers as an apprentice at River Road Neighborhood Farm, one of Garden City Harvest’s four farms, where I’ve been learning by doing. River Road grows food for over 80 households who are members of the farm, and helps stock the kitchen at the Poverello with food each week of the season.

That brings me to tomato season. At long last, it arrived—albeit about a month later than usual and much lighter than the motherlode that blessed gardens and farms around Missoula last year.

That brings me to tomato season.  At long last, it’s here—albeit a month later than usual and much lighter than the motherlode that blessed gardens and farms around Missoula last year.  I spent most of the winter and spring eating the tomato soup, sauce, salsa, and frozen fruits I preserved last fall, and most of the summer waiting for tomatoes to come back into season. Desperate for tomatoes, I  started making a list of everything I wanted to make out of them this year at the first hint of red on the vines at the beginning of August.


I work as an apprentice at River Road Neighborhood Farm. Working alongside Greg Price and

Unfortunately, it’s hard to outsmart the whims of nature and August and September have been colder and rainier than anyone would have liked—less than ideal weather for tomatoes.  Harvests of tomatoes, peppers, and other hot weather crops have been exercises in frustration at River Road for the past few months. However, harvests are finally topping out above 100 pounds and I have faith that we’ll all end up with enough tomatoes to have more than enough for preservation. The fleeting inconsistencies of this season reminded me that the best tomatoes are those enjoyed fresh off the vine, standing in the field with juice running down my fingers or starring as a primary flavor in a light dish.

sliced heirloomOne of the dishes on my tomato wish list this year is tomato pie, a recipe I came across in a few southern cooking websites last winter.  The version I made was also heavily inspired by an onion pie that my lovely coworker Samantha brought to work one day.  Tomato pie is an amazing way to showcase the deep flavors and beautiful colors of heirloom tomatoes—my favorites for this dish were Cherokee Purples and Golden Kings, but any large heirloom would be a good choice.  I opted for a slightly healthier version (minus the sour cream and mayonnaise) than the original recipes I came across; a combination of the onion pie recipe and a fantastic recipe for heirloom tomato pie I found on Dig This Chick, a local Missoula blog.

With a sunny week ahead of us, there’s still a chance to take advantage of the fresh tomatoes ripening in your gardens and on our farms.  Grab a bunch of romas for your soups and sauces and a few lumpy, beautiful heirlooms for this pie.

Heirloom Tomato Pie   tomato pie


  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3-4 sliced heirloom tomatoes
  • 4 cups shredded cheese—I liked parmesan, white cheddar, and gouda
  • 1 cup milk or plain yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced or sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • ¼ cup diced fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, take a cup or so of breadcrumbs and mix with 3 tablespoons of melted butter, then press mixture firmly around the pie pan.

Caramelize onions and garlic.

Mix milk/yogurt, egg, cheese, garlic, onions, and herbs.  Pour mixture into pie crust.   Layer tomato slices to fill up remainder of pie pan, sprinkling with salt and pepper to taste as you go.

Bake for about an hour, or until the cheesy stuff is nice and bubbly and the tomatoes are juicy and squishy, but not dehydrated or burned.

When it comes out of the oven, it will still be pretty watery.  Let it sit for an hour at room temperature so it can set up, but it’ll probably taste just as good if you can’t wait that long.

Throw some extra fresh basil on top before eating to make it extra tasty.

Enjoy the remainder of glorious tomato season.  Who knows? If the frost holds off maybe we’ll have a fire sale after all.



Nurturing for Next Season – With a Winter Intermission, It’s All Cyclical

Well folks, as I sit here writing this, it’s a balmy mid-50s outside with a forecasted rise to 79 by this afternoon. We’re in the throes of transitional temperatures. In three days it’ll be October and all of a sudden, it’s fall. In an effort to avoid the usual autumnal rhetoric of reflection and nostalgia, I’ll keep my melancholy to a minimum. However I will say this; I’ve learned and experienced many new things during my first year as a community gardens coordinator, but witnessing the seasonal change through the lens of our ten community gardens has been the most radical of experiences. Missoula’s short growing season lends itself to vicious seasonal transformations, and with the quickly dying leaves and decrease in production comes a marked shift in energy.

Although it seems like our plants are asking to be excused from the dinner table, and if you’re anything like me, you’re also falling victim to the sleepiness in the air, fall does bring an element of new life. One aspect of this is soil. 2298564117_b9ba35d18c_o

Nurturing for Next Season

Like candy for your garden.
Like candy for your garden.

As you begin clearing your garden of tired plants, be sure to turn them back into the soil – despite a slowdown in harvestable goods, they still have much to offer. Fall is ideal for building soil health; it’s now that we’re surrounded with decomposing leaves, veggies, plants, and matter – you can smell it in the air!  Adding this naturally occurring organic material reintroduces nutrients to your soil, plus it’s cheaper than buying compost, and easier than hauling it to the compost bin or EKO. Be sure to chop up large matter before turning it in, as that will aid in decomposition. Read specific directions and tips, the benefits of fall soil propagation, as well as the science behind organic matter and soil health, here.


Closing Day & Cold Temp Prep

With all this said, Closing Day is officially just around the corner: Saturday, October 22nd. Closing Day isn’t entirely what it sounds, it’s simply a deadline for you to prepare your plot for winter, and to have it clean and tidy. You’re welcome to continue gardening through the winter, so long as you’ve taken the steps to winterize. It is also a time for us to assess whether you’ve properly put your plot to sleep, and thus whether you will be receiving your $15 deposit. Follow these guidelines to ensure you properly prep your plot and receive your deposit. Every garden has Closing Day Guidelines posted, so be sure to check your garden’s blackboard/shed.  If you have any questions at all, please reach out to your Leadership Committee or Garden City Harvest Staff! We’re all here to help.

As we all know, and as I slipped into above, fall begs for reflection … which can be so useful for all of us. Please take a few minutes to complete our Year-End Community Garden Survey. This helps us prep for next season, helps us grow as coordinators, and mostly, it helps us nurture this program. Thank you all!

“Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower” – Albert Camus

Earlier this week Patrick and Northside Leader Brian, delivered straw to all the gardens. Use straw to help prep your plot for the cold temps ahead.
Earlier this week Patrick and Northside Leader Brian delivered straw to all the gardens. Use straw to help your plot retain moisture over the winter.

The Kale Kid

Working hard at the Youth Farm.

We’ve talked a lot about how to cook the food you get from one of our gardens or farms. I wanted to talk a little about a few of the people who grow the food, starting with Cori Ash.

In the first year of the Youth Farm, farm director Cori Ash was sitting at her Mobile Market stand. Most of our Mobile Markets take food from the farm to senior housing. But this market was set up at an affordable housing complex for families.

A 10 year old boy came biking up to Cori, asking for kale. He had his allowance with him, and wanted to spend it on the kale. She was impressed, and sold him two bunches. He teetered off on his bike, a bunch under each arm.

The next week he was back, and he brought a friend. They each bought kale again, and again went away.

Mobile Market
Mobile Market in full swing.

The third week, he came alone. He suggested that maybe he could trade his labor for kale. He’d help her at the market, and take home kale in return. She was thrilled. It was often just her at the stand because of school scheduling with the teens that worked at the Youth Farm, so she really did need help unloading the boxes, making change, and talking to customers.

We stopped serving that apartment complex the next year, and lost touch with the boy.

A word about the Youth Farm. Most all of the workers save Cori, the farm assistant, Mark, and farm apprentice, Kaya, are teens living in a group home. There are anywhere from 3 to 10 youth that work 20 – 40 hours a week at the farm, plus many of the other teens at Youth Homes come by to volunteer at the farm once a week.

When one of the Youth Homes volunteer groups came, there was a familiar face in the crowd. It was this boy. Cori couldn’t place him at first, and neither could the boy. So they both took shy glances at each other until they figured it out. “You’re Captain Kale!,” Cori said.

She offered the boy a job by mid-season. He said yes.  Zayne has proven to be a hard worker — one of the teens she depends on to get things done on the farm. Because they raise food for a CSA and market stand, there are high standards and strict deadlines. These teens have to get things done efficiently and beautifully.

Zayne is still working at the farm today, as the days get cooler and the weather wetter. And he still loves kale. He makes sure the harvest doesn’t go to waste at in his group home’s kitchen.

Zayne and Kaya will be writing about their favorite times and recipes in the next few weeks. The kale only gets sweeter as the weather cools, so it is a great time to cook it up.

Youth Farm Barn
The red barn at the Youth Farm.




Savory Bread Pudding for Dinner

Savory bread pudding is a special occasion dish I use for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The prep is time-consuming and the cooking time a tad long, 90 minutes, but the results are worth the effort. This is a dish my children ask for again and again. It’s also a great centerpiece to a brunch buffet for friends and family.

I typically use fresh garden vegetables, but, in the winter, frozen vegetables work fine too. Be sure to thaw and drain frozen veggies before using. Be creative and combine meats and vegetables you like. The recipe is forgiving as long as you don’t add too much liquid to the ingredients.

Savory Bread Pudding

Ingredients and instructions:

1 loaf crusty French bread (baguette), cubed

12 eggs

2 cups milk (Skim, 2%, Whole, or even Soy Milk will work)

Beat the eggs and milk together. Set aside.

The three ingredients above are essential. The list below can vary and I’ve offered suggestions.

1 lb Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled into small bits (or ham, chopped small or other sausage)

1 medium onion, chopped and cooked (cook with the meat)

4 cloves garlic, chopped fine and cooked with the meat and onion

1 bunch of Swiss Chard (or kale, or collard greens, or 3-4 cups of spinach) roughly chopped. If using kale or collard greens, remove the stems. With the Swiss chard, you can include the stems. Thinly slice the Swiss chard stem that extends below the leaf.

1 bunch asparagus, chopped (or 2 cups chopped fresh green beans)

1 zucchini (small to medium, the size usually in stores) seeded and chopped

Optional:  1-2 cups sliced Japanese eggplants, salted, rinsed, and drained

2 cups grated cheese (Swiss, cheddar, parmesan, or whatever you have on-hand)

Place Swiss chard, asparagus, and zucchini (and eggplant if using) in a large bowl and microwave for 2-3 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften but are not cooked all the way through.chard

1 cup fresh mixed herbs: sage, basil, dill, marjoram, oregano (or whatever you can find). Mince herbs together. Dill and sage will be strong flavors so only use a little of each. If you can’t find fresh herbs, just add 1 tablespoon of Italian herb mix or even a tablespoon of Mrs. Dash no-salt spice mix.ingredients

Add the minced herbs and 1 cup of the grated cheese to the microwaved vegetables and stir.ingredients-2

Mix vegetables, cheese and herbs with the meat and onions and the cubed bread and put in a large, buttered, baking dish (a lasagna pan is perfect). Pour the egg and milk mixture over the bread mixture. The ingredients should be just covered by the eggs and milk. You may need to add more or even not use all the eggs and milk you mixed up.

Bake at 350 degrees for an hour and thirty minutes. Set your timer for 60 minutes. When the timer goes off, add the remaining 1 cup of cheese to the top of the pudding. Cook for another thirty minutes. The pudding is done when a knife stuck in the center comes out “clean” (meaning no wet egg/milk on the knife when you remove it). Depending on the size of your pan, the pudding may take longer to cook. If you don’t have a lasagna or a 9×12 cake pan, you can split the pudding into several smaller pans. If you bake in smaller pans or ramekins, your cooking time will decrease. The cooked pudding freezes and reheats well.finished-dishThis is a bountiful recipe that easily feeds 6 to 8 people.plated


Garden Realities

This week The Real Dirt is featuring a guest blog from Patrick, Community Gardens Operations Coordinator. Patrick grew up in Wisconsin, and from day one wanted to be outside whenever possible. While earning his degree from the University of Montana, Patrick enrolled in the PEAS Farm class, and couldn’t give it up – staying for two semesters and a summer session. Through the PEAS Farm and his Environmental Studies Program classes, he’s decided he wants to keep working on local food efforts now that he has earned his degree. When he’s not digging in the dirt, he is hiking, biking or fishing with his dog, Lola.


For many of us, gardening can offer a deeper and more tangible relationship with our surroundings.  Weather it is mingling with fellow gardeners, spending some time outside, or appreciating your hard work and dedication after taking a bite into a delicious garden meal; gardening can offer a much needed dose of connection with our place.

5340212542_470cff8820_oBut with this delve into our very real and unpredictable surroundings, comes certain realities that we must accept.  These may come in the form of an early fall frost, as many of us saw this week, or countless other instances that we may or may not expect.  We may get a strangely warm April and be coaxed into giving our peppers and tomatoes an early start, just to have an unexpected late frost take them out.  Our spring greens may go to seed seemingly immediately due to an abnormally hot stint. We may lose track of time and put off watering just a bit too long, returning to a sad, dry patch wilting on a hot, dry day.  Or it could be a band of hail that obliterates every leaf in your garden, just when it was really starting to take off.  All of these happenings, though extremely disheartening and frustrating, can also be a powerful reminder that many things are simply out of our hands.

7342926264_b2eb56fd29_oSome things are just plain unfortunate, such as a sudden hail storm.  Not much we can do against that. Yet, other battles we can learn from.  We may reconsider putting our warm weather crops out for an early start after losing a crop a few years back.  Covering susceptible plants as the weather cools in the fall may come more natural next year.  We may construct some form of shade to help our spring greens though a hot streak, or grow them in the shade of a tall or climbing crop in an attempt to help them survive in the summer’s heat.

5502993383_0668ed1127_oThese days, we are lucky to have things like floating row cover, shade cloth, and weather forecast that help us prepare and get through some of the uncertainties.  Yet, despite our best efforts, one of the greatest aspects of gardening is the reminder of uncertainty, that while participating in the natural world, somethings are just what they are. All we can do is try our best from year to year, and learn from our experiances.