All posts by Genevieve

Red Rooster painting

Window shopping takes on a vegetable flare

In the spirit of local food and local business, we collaborated with over 20 downtown businesses to celebrate vegetables in May and June. I tell you, the downtown business community is pretty cool. They were doing the vegetable themed displays in support of our Room to Grow at River Road Farmstead campaign to raise funds, and two roofs, for a big old barn/community center/offices for our staff. Just in case you missed these creative displays, I have some photos. This was just about the most fun I have had with marketing ever!

Note: I don’t have all the businesses yet, but will update with more photos when I do!

NOTEWORTHY lead the charge, Amy wrote the downtown businesses and walked door to door with me to ask for their support. Which is a lot of time and energy, let me tell you.

Noteworthy's display

Plus, they did a lot of paper mache and creative thinking!  And some worm painting, too. . .

Worm

Red Rooster was one of the first to create their display, and it was a beautiful one. The photos have some glare, since you know, glass does that, but here’s my best attempt. . .

Red Rooster (2)_small_cropped

Many of the shops employed an artist to paint these beautiful vegetables on their windows, as the Red Rooster did. . .

Red Rooster painting

Another early adopter was One Eleven, which had some cute potted starts. . .

One Eleven Display

4 Ravens Gallery had an assortment of hand crafted tools, antiques, and even a floral scarf!

4 Ravens Gallery display

Bitterroot Flower Shop made a combination of paper mache and balloon creations. . .

Bitterroot Flower Shop display

Copperopolis really filled their display with fun elements of gardening and vegetables. . . Copperopolis display

Copperopolis (2)_web

Copperopolis display with flower

The Crystal Limit declared “we dig crystals and veggies!”

Crystal Limit display

Though my picture does it little justice, Fact and Fiction had a playful display of books including one of our favorite, Growing a Garden City by Jeremy Smith, and a new favorite, Vegetables in Underwear (best way I can think of for teaching the concept of potty training!).

Fact & Fiction display

 

Frame of Mind might not be downtown, but they went all out with a display including live plants like strawberries and tomatoes and salad greens. The owner told me that she even made some lunch salads from the window! The plants have now been transferred to a outdoor garden space, to continue growing and producing food.

 

 

Frame of Mind display

The Green Light had similar glare issues, but lots of great creativity there, including a wheelbarrow!

Green Light display

Laurel Creek had beautiful seed packets along with some very flower-filled comfy looking PJ’s

Laurel Creek (2)_web Laurel Creek (1)_web

La Stella Blu nailed it with wooden veggies, cute kid’s outfits ready to dig in the dirt, and a book all about the Farmers’ Market (its good to start them young!).

Le Stella Blu display Le Stella Blu (4)_web

The Olive Branch combined efforts with Mom’s Demand Action’s work and ours for their display:

Olive Branch display

Shakespeare and Co picked an excellent selection of garden books to consider . . . I think I might have to check out Will Travel for Food.

Shakespeare display

Sweet Peaks got into some radish and carrot sculpture too, even though they don’t typically do window displays! Sweet!

Sweet Peaks display

And finally, Upcycled did both a window display (with live plants!) and a sandwich board, which was really very kind. Again, the photographer (me) does not do the window justice!

Upcycled Display

 

Attack! The top 4 pests in Missoula right now and what you can do about them

Here’s our Community Garden Operations Coordinator on some pests that have been plaguing our gardens in the last week or two:

I have been getting a lot of questions regarding garden pests, particularly flea beetles! I wanted to share a couple of tips to help control these critters. With a little bit of time and persistence, hopefully we can keep our plants, ourselves, and our garden neighbors happy!

flea beetle damage
Here’s some flea beetle damage.

Flea Beetles:

Symptoms:

Tiny “shotgun” holes on leaves of plants, especially tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, and early brassicas. Very small black beetles that are very quick and jumpy.

Treatment options:

  • Hand squish any beetles that you see and can get your hands on.
  • Place trays of soapy water below your plants and shake them. Many of the beetles should fall off and get stuck in the water.
  • Pyrethrin spray is a common treatment. It should be used sparingly as needed to kill flea beetles. This is an insecticide that should be used carefully, but is acceptable by Organic standards. Spray tops and bottoms of leaves on affected plants.
  • Many people also mix organic biodegradable dish soap with water into a spray bottle. I generally use about 1 tablespoon of soap in a liter spray bottle. This should be applies the same as the pyrethrin sprays.
  • I have also seen a lot of folks use sticky bug traps around their affected plants. These bugs do jump around and move a lot and many of them can be caught in a sticky trap. They are a bit slower in the cool mornings and evenings and can also be caught by hand individually in the sticky traps.
Leaf miner eggs
The white flecks are the eggs of leaf miners. To remove, run your thumb or finger over the eggs.

Leaf Miners:

Symptoms:

Large blotches and tunnels within the leaves, most common on chard, beets, spinach. If you inspect the underside of the leaves, you will see linear patterns of small white eggs.

Treatment:

Regularly inspect the underside of leaves and squish any eggs that you find.

cabbage moth
This is a cabbage moth.

Cabbage Worms:

Symptoms: Large, jagged tears and holes in leaves. Common on cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Treatment: Inspect plants for green caterpillars and squish. Catch and kill any white cabbage moths that you can.

aphids
Aphids eating away on a
kale leaf.

Aphids:

Symptoms: Curled and Distorted leaves. Commonly found on kale, cabbage, broccoli and the like. You will see clusters of little grey bugs.

Treatment: Promote or introduce predatory insects like ladybugs and lacewings that will help to keep the aphids at bay. Spraying a biodegradable soap and water mixture will also suffocate many of the aphids. If you end up with any plants that are totally infested, remove them from the garden completely.

Young plants are especially susceptible to being infested, which can lead to severity stunted and unhealthy plants. It is best to address these issues as soon as you become aware, as your plants become more established they will be more resilient to infestation.

Have you seen these pests in your garden? Do you have other pests? Let us know what questions you have!

Roasted veggies up close

Roasting Radishes: the best way to win over a radish hater

Radishes and Turnips
Some of the ingredients: salad turnips and chopped radishes.

This is the raddest radish recipe. Or should we call it a technique? Either way, roasting radishes is a fresh take on these spicy beauties.

Flavor sweetens: Roasting the radish takes some of the spice out of the radish, and some of the flavor that many radish haters hate fades. They become a little sweeter and don’t bite back as much.

Super quick: Roasting radishes takes maybe 10 – 15 minutes. So quick!

Beautiful: Mix these in with any of your favorites (last night I chose cauliflower, carrots, and salad turnips) and they will make your dish look fabulous.

The Recipe: Roasted Radishes

Roasted veggies
Just out of the oven! Gave them lots of room to crisp and cook quickly.

Ingredients:

1 bunch radishes (or more!)

Mix of other veggies, enough to fill two baking sheets (that way you have leftovers). I used 1 head of cauliflower, 5 carrots, and a bunch of salad turnips

2 tablespoons fat of your choice, I used duck fat. Make sure it is something that will cook at high heat (coconut oil, animal fat, BUTTER)

How to:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Chop your vegetables to equal sizes, about 1 – 2 inch chunks. Toss them together with melted oil, salt and pepper. Feel free to add in some spices or herbs or even a bit of lemon.

I roasted my veggies for around 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. I added the radishes and turnips in after the rest had been roasting for about 5 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

greens

Love Your Greens & Your Farmer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! When many greens are growing, hearts are glowing (with health and wellness that comes with eating your greens!) and loved ones are near. I know making food certainly brings more people to the table. Everyone eats, after all.

One of those people who you will be getting to know and love over the coming months is your farmer. Here at Garden City Harvest we don’t deliver your CSA for one very good reason. We want people to come to the farm, we want to see you, we want your kids to come see where their carrots and cukes are grown. We want to cultivate community in and between our shareholders. We really like you. Farming is better when you are around (and yes, I totally stole that line from Annie of the Pea Green Boat).

Farmer Greg
Photo by Erika Peterman

That said, I wanted to talk a little about Greg, who is the head farmer at River Road Farm. If you ask Greg to describe himself in 3 words, he’ll tell you: committed, organized, hardworking. He might roll his eyes at you, cause really, how can you boil someone down to 4 words?

He told me, “I try to stick with the simple things. Otherwise, you lose track of the important things.” For Greg, the simple things are food, wild places, and basketball.

When he was growing up, it was mostly him, his mom, and his brother. They moved around quite a bit, but the place Greg identifies with the most was Maryland. That’s where his grandparents lived, where he learned to fish and to hunt. He’s had a diversity of experiences throughout his life. Early in life, he joined the Air Force and was stationed in Germany. Later, he got a degree in philosophy. He started working for Garden City Harvest in 1997, and learned the art of farming as the organization grew. He has used his strong commitment and wondering mind to guide him in his life choices, “My studies in philosophy set me up especially for a kind of concentrated wondering.”

He has spent a great deal of time in the wild places of Montana. He worked for the Great Bear Foundation, alongside his work in the farm fields. I’ve seen him off to gather dandelion greens and other wild edibles for a Great Bear feast from the forest. He dreams of bringing more wild to the farm in the form of native plants, better animal and insect habitat and the like.

Greg fixes tool
Photo by Erika Peterman

He keeps stacks of wood for animals and insects to live in, he gets to know the many spiders on the farm. He’s planning to put a osprey nesting platform up at the farm in the coming year.

He has worked with the Poverello Center since he started with River Road, and grows about 5,000 annually for their soup kitchen. He also helps the chef at the Poverello understand how to use all of this food. I’ve always loved a story he told me about one of the first seasons he grew food for the Poverello. It was the fall, and Greg dropped off a load of winter squash. When he returned the next week, there was all the beautiful squash decorating the tables. Greg suggested that the squash was great decoration, but that the chef might want to cook with it, too. And they made a simple squash soup. Soon after, the soup became a staple on the fall menu. It takes more than growing the food to get it on the table. It is the simple things that make translating that squash into soup that fills your belly. The human connection.

In that spirit, I want to share some greens recipes with you. For this is a time to cherish, rather than feel overwhelmed. Also, in the spirit of knowing your farmer, ask yours what he or she likes to do with the greens. Our farmers have inspired me to try something knew so very many times.

In the coming weeks, greens are the thing. And take heart, they cook down to almost nothing. They are pretty interchangeable. And they are great for breakfast with eggs, lunch with toppings, and dinner as a side or a cooked bed for whatever else you are making. Here’s a great recipe for greens from a past blog :

Welcome, and welcome back! See you next week.

 

Spring is here!

This week The Real Dirt features a guest post from Kaitlin McCafferty, our wonderful Community Gardens Intern.  Originally from Ohio, Kaitlin is a current graduate student at the University of Montana pursuing her M.S. in Environmental Studies and has a B.S. in Marketing from Fordham University. She can be reached at kaitlin@gardencityharvest.org.

Hello Community Gardeners!

I am so excited to join the GCH team as this season’s Community Gardens Intern. I cannot wait to get digging and to get to know all of you! But first, a bit about me:

I am a current graduate student at the University of Montana, enrolled in the Environmental Studies program focusing on Sustainable Food and Farming. I am new to Missoula’s agriculture scene, but I did spend the last seven years living, learning, working and gardening in New York City.

St. Rose's Garden

My journey with gardening began when I joined the community garden pictured above on Fordham University’s campus in the Bronx, Saint Rose’s Garden.  The garden introduced me to the world of local food systems, including urban agriculture, food pantries, community-run farmers markets and community supported agriculture programs. What I found most impactful was the sense of belonging and personal improvement I felt as a member of the garden, and I instantly connected with the welcoming and nourishing environment.

Suffolk Garden
That’s me in front of Suffolk Garden.

After college I moved to Manhattan and joined my new neighborhood’s garden, Suffolk Street Community Garden. At Suffolk Street, along with maintaining my own plot, I participated in garden-wide projects like building tree-guards for all the newly planted trees in our neighborhood.  I also began to take courses in Urban Agriculture from Farm School NYC, an organization with the mission to build self-reliant communities and inspire positive local action around food access and social, economic, and racial justice issues. I took courses in food justice, botany, carpentry, propagation, and growing soils. I was immersed in how local food systems can take a multi-faceted approach to strengthening communities.

All of these experiences contributed to my love and connection to community gardens, which led me to apply to the Environmental Studies program at the University of Montana, and soon after, an internship with Garden City Harvest. During my short time here, I have already been inspired and energized by the community gardeners in Missoula. This truly is a special place.

The Brooklyn Grange
Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm in Queens, NY. The site of one of my Farm School classes

Now enough about me, let’s get digging! Here are a few gardening tips I’ve learned over the years to help you all get started:

Sun: Check out your garden and note how many hours of sun it gets and if any sections are particularly shady. Pick your crops based on the amount of sun your plot gets, and the amount the crops need. (P.S. don’t be discouraged if your plot is shady. Leafy greens are a shady plot’s best friends. Think kale, arugula, chard, spinach; these crops will do great in partial sun. So will many herbs!)

Soil: Once you’ve got your plants it’s time to turn your soil and add compost! Compost adds nutrients and turning the soil mixes all those nutrients in and breaks up soil clumps to make room for roots. Not sure where to get your hands on compost? Never fear, Garden City Harvest supplies some compost for all its gardens! Just ask a fellow gardener or staffer and they will point you to the pile. Not a community gardener? Most of the nurseries around town should have both bagged and loose compost (you’ll need a pickup truck for the loose compost). It is important to know where your compost comes from and that it is food safe. The Organic Material Review Institute (OMRI) has a list of approved suppliers, but the nursery should be able to help you locate a good brand as well.

Water: The younger the crop, the more water it needs, especially if you are direct-seeding. Also, I’d recommend watering in the morning, especially once hot summer temperature kicks in. This way, you can avoid water evaporation caused by mid-day heat.

Friends: Meet your fellow gardeners! First, they are the biggest resource for garden-specific knowledge.  Second, forming a relationship with fellow gardeners is half the fun of (and my #1 reason for) joining a community garden. Gardens are a unique space for fostering relationships between neighbors who otherwise would not mingle. They are welcoming space to exchange resources and support the ideas of all its community members, a powerful combination to make for a fantastic, and maybe even life changing, experience!

I hope these tips help. Thanks for tuning into my story, and I can’t wait to see you all outside!

Building tree guards
My old garden crew and I proudly showing off the tree guards we built.
IMG_5077

Broth: not just for the tummy troubles

It is the dead of winter. There’s no more figgy pudding, the stored vegetable stores are starting to run low, and the light is still in short supply. I got fed up with my snow boots the last week and braved the snow in clogs. Winter be damned! Somehow, this was my rebellion against the endless layers and tense muscles that old man winter demands.

All I got was wet feet.

It’s times like this that require a little broth. There are many benefits to a cup of bone broth, including some protein,  gelatin, and glycine (the last two are good for your gut!). It’s a great thing to drink daily. Even if you don’t care a fig about the nutritional benefits, bone broth is a building block for so many recipes, that having it on hand is so handy. Buying it is expensive, and it is easy and quick to make at home. Plus, it saves you some bones! It will certainly make your day a little warmer, and that’s really saying something.

The difference between stock, broth and bone broth:

Broth — Broth cooks 45 minutes to two hours and usually uses meat, and perhaps some bones. The flavor is light, and it is generally not drunk on its own but instead used as a building block.

Stock — Stock and bone broth are similar in their ingredient lists, but differ greatly in the time they are cooked. They both always include bones, according to the definition, however a stock is typically cooked three to four hours and bone broth typically 12 – 24 hours. A note on vegetable stock: essentially, vegetable stock and vegetable broth are the same. The difference is how you use them in the end. (Will it be an ingredient of a larger dish? Stock. Will it be drunk on its own? Broth. )

Bone broth — Bone broth is always cooked with bones, and cooked for a long time (12 – 24+ hours). Some add vegetables, some do not.

Where to get bones:

Direct from the farmer (Lifeline Farm, Jamie’s Naturally Raised Grass Finished Beef, Oxbow Cattle Company, Manix Family Grass Finished Beef. . . Check out AERO’s Abundant Montana directory) — try the winter and summer farmers’ markets in Missoula, too. You can get a large amount and freeze them. You’ll need around 2 lbs of bones per 64 oz batch.

At a local natural food store –if you don’t see them on display, ask the meat department if they have any soup bones you could purchase. They’re usually very cost-effective.

You can keep a bone bag in the freezer, and put your chicken carcasses, ham hocks and other pork bones, and beef bones in there until you are ready to make some stock. A mixture of bones gives a wider flavor profile.

Make it without wasting all those veggies!

You can make bone broth without any vegetables (well, you always use the garlic). However, if you want the flavor vegetables offer, just start collecting your vegetable scraps. I’ve recently started keeping a bag in my freezer for my vegetable scraps. Any time I prepare a meal, I put the discarded ends and peelings, etc. in the bag for my next broth making venture.

Vegetables to keep — the basic aromatics are what I typically use (carrots, onions, celery) — they give a good base to work from. However, once I started staving scraps, root vegetables, stalks, leaves, tops, ends, peelings. Kale and chard stems, bell pepper cores, green beans/string beans, mushroom stems, herb stems. I put the garlic and onion skins in, though I’ve read that onions skins, along with beets, will turn your broth dark brown, so it’s more of a cosmetic thing. If you have some veggies that are about to turn (but haven’t yet) or are a bit dehydrated, this is a great use for them!

Vegetables to send packing — cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, (all from the brassica family, which has a certain odor you don’t want in your stock/broth), turnips and rutabagas (those are two roots to avoid). And of course, rotten spots and moldy veggies are also not a good idea.

How to make it

I prefer to make bone broth in my slow cooker. It is an Instant Pot so it can hold up to 64 oz, which is key for this recipe. If you are in the market, I can’t say enough about this one, it’s made of safe, stainless steel, it’s big, and can pressure cook, make yogurt, and rice. Anyway.

This makes 4 full quart sized mason jars.

Mason Jars

I got the bones (I used beef bones this time) and vegetables scraps out of the freezer, and dumped them in.

my ingredients

On top, I poured the apple cider vinegar and salt. I added a whole head of garlic, just smashing each clove between my knife and the cutting board before adding. I poured water to the max fill line in the slow cooker.

bone broth ready to boil

 

After that, all I had to do was stick the lid on, and put it on high until it came to a boil. Then, I turned it to low, and cooked it for 12 hours.

Here’s the beautiful elixir:

IMG_5077

Other notes:

set your slow cooker for 12 hours

Cooking time: Some say the vegetables will become bitter if you cook them longer than 12 hours. The longer you cook the broth, however, the better for you it gets. I often cook it for 24 hours without a problem, but if you are concerned about bitter broth, just scoop out the vegetables at the 12 hour mark and keep on cooking. Or skip the vegetables and just use water, vinegar, bones, salt and garlic (that doesn’t get bitter). You can also check doneness by taste and smell. This batch tasted perfect at 12 hours, so I didn’t have to worry. You know you’ve gotten all the nutrients out of the bones when they are starting to crumble at the edges.

Stovetop or oven: You can also do this on the stove top or in the oven. You want to bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat so that it is simmering in such a way that a tiny bubble trickles up every few seconds. Same cooking time (12 – 24 hours). For the oven, bring to a boil on the stove, then place in a 200 degree oven.

Storage: You can keep it in the fridge for 4-5 days, then it’s time to freeze. I like to either freeze in an ice cube tray or small baggies. Remember to label the baggies so you know how many cups are enclosed, and when you made it.

Roasting the bones for flavor: This is a great idea if you have time and want to bring out a richness in the bone broth, but easily skipped for simplicity. Coat the bones in a high heat oil (I usually use a solid fat like lard, bacon grease, or duck fat) and distribute them in a roasting pan. Roast at 400 degrees for around an hour.

To drink on its own: add your favorite herbs (fresh or dried), or just a little garlic and salt.

Recipe

This recipe is designed to make 64 oz of broth. Make sure your soup pot or slow cooker has the capacity. 

Ingredients:
  • Whole head of garlic, broken apart and each clove smashed (leave skin on)
  • 1.5 – 2 lbs stock bones (can use chicken, beef, or pork bones)
  • Vegetable scraps (optional)
  • Bay leaf (optional)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Water
How to:

Combine the bones, vegetable scraps, and bay leaf. Pour the salt and apple cider vinegar over the top. Add water until you reach the max fill line in your slow cooker or soup pot.

Bring the water to a boil, then cook it for 12 – 24 hours. The longer the better. Remove or skip the vegetable scraps if you cook it longer than 12 hours. Let cool and refrigerate or freeze.

If this bone broth doesn’t do it for you, then try this quick video. There are places in Alaska where they only get minutes or an hour of sunlight some parts of the year. And start garden dreaming: sign up for a community garden plot or CSA share!

 

 

Home Made Gifts: Holiday Hot Cocoa

Hot cocoa
Hot cocoa. Photo by Slice of Chic.

During the holiday season, I’m always grateful to receive homemade gifts. The hot cocoa mix recipe listed below is a perfect family activity and makes a tasty gift for friends and neighbors. Of course, it’s also perfect for placing in your own cupboard and enjoying during Missoula’s winter!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Directions:

Combine ¼ cup of the powdered milk with the cornstarch and cocoa powder in a small bowl. Pour into a pint jar or into two half pint jars. Pour sugar into the jar (or jars if making two). Combine the remaining ¼ cup of powdered milk and the cinnamon. Pour into the jar or jars. Add ½ cup of chocolate chips to the top of two jars or the entire cup if using one pint jar.

That’s all! This recipe doubles and triples very easily and is perfect for children to make as gifts.

To Serve: Pour contents of jar into a bowl and mix. When evenly blended, add back into jar. For a single serving, place 4 Tablespoons cocoa mix and 1 cup milk or water in a small pan. Stovetop: Heat milk and mix on medium until the chocolate chips melt, stirring occasionally. Whisk for 30 seconds or until smooth, pour into a cup and serve with whipped cream or marshmallows.

Mix and milk can be heated in a microwave. Place cup on a plate in case of the milk/water boils over. Heat for a minute and stir. Heat for another minute or two if needed, whisk and serve.

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.

“Why?”

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

“Why?”

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.

kayajudanelson-4

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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!

tomatoes

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.

tomato

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

Need:

  • 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.