Fermentation!

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One of the many benefits of a community garden is…community! The most interesting people can become friends, and relationships that help facilitate learning and growth can enter into the everyday things that make life wonderfully abundant.

An example of this is: the other day, when I was visiting one of my new found friends, she suggested that we try one of her pickles from a jar she had been fermenting on her kitchen counter for a couple of days. Now, I have been curious about fermentation, and tried my hand with some kefir curds but those soon became so plentiful I had to stop for lack of people to share them with. Anyone who has harvested kefir curds knows this dilemma. I have also heard about the digestive benefits of fermented foods for years, but the only thing that came to mind was Kim Chi, which was not at all interesting to me-so I  just never investigated any further than that.

But, I had tried this friend’s fermented string beans a few months back, and enjoyed it, so I thought it would be safe and possibly satisfying. Lo and behold the fermented cucumber I tried was the single best pickle I have ever eaten in my life! It was unmistakably a dill pickle, but it had a flavor that rocketed beyond mere dill. Being a novice at spice experimentation I wasn’t sure what was in the brine, but my palette had never been happier.

Needless to say I got the recipe, and have a jar fermenting on my counter as we speak. If this works for me I will have an answer to the many cucumbers that are waiting for my attention.

A word about fermentation and its history: Fermenting happens naturally and pre-dates humanity, however humans took control of the fermentation process and have been using this method from as far back as 7000 BCE . In short, fermentation is the process of converting carbohydrates or sugars into alcohols and carbon dioxides using yeasts and/or bacteria under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions.

This process is employed in the making of wine and beer, or for foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. The science of fermentation is known as zymology. Fermentation is also what happens during the pickling process however, with the common techniques of canning the fermentation process is ceased when the jars are boiled and sealed. With straight fermentation the process is halted when the jar is places below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The jars are not subjected to heat or pressure, which allows the lactobacilli to remain in tact and give our digestive systems the some of the healthy enzymes it needs to function properly.

I am sharing my friend’s recipe with you, I am sure you can use whatever spices you like.

A note of caution: there is always a risk of botulism with the consumption of canned foods, so take care to not use plastic containers when making fermented foods and follow all directions carefully. Glass canning jars are nice and greatly reduce the risk of illness.

Fermented Cucumber Pickles

1 t. coriander seeds

 ½ t. ground black pepper

1 t. yellow mustard seeds

1 t. dill seeds

1 t. caraway seeds

1 t. celery seeds

9 cloves fresh garlic

6 dry bay leaves

6 T. Kosher salt

1/2 t. dried red pepper flakes

Dry dill heads & stalks

Take 1 quart boiling water; add salt & dissolve. Place 2 bay leaves, 3 garlic cloves & cucumbers in quart jars. Add 1 1/3 c. salted water to each of 3 quart jars, add 1/3 of combined spice mix, top off with fresh filtered water, leaving 1” head space.  Cover jars and shake to distribute salty water within jar, & make sure all veggies are still submerged. Place glass cup or custard cup into jar as needed to make sure all garlic and cucumbers are completely submerged.  Leave in dark, cool place for up to 2 weeks, checking and tasting as needed till pickles are as tangy as you like. When taste is right, cap tightly and store in refer or root cellar for 6 months or more, or till pickles are tangier than you like.

Happy Fermenting everyone!

Japanese students help build a NEW school garden!

554894_566877722012_1982012613_nRecently, Sustainable Renton board member Elizabeth Zwicker was approached by a friend about opportunities in the area for a group of Japanese exchange students. Well, immediately she thought of the Sustainable Renton Community Farm-and all of the different projects that need help there. So we said YES, we’d love to have them for a 2-hour work party at the farm.

So, today, the students came to the farm to help us prepare garden beds for a school garden for the Apollo Elementary School (Issaquah School District), which is located immediately behind Celebration Church and the Community Farm. This Fall, we’ll be having a program to engage students at the school with gardening and growing fresh produce.

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The exchange students are part of the States 4H International Exchange Program. Their mission is: “Enhancing world understanding and global citizenship through high-quality 4-H international cultural immersion and exchange programs for 4-H aged youth.”

Their volunteer time with us was part of the student’s orientation week before they head off to live with their host families for the year. They wanted to learn about volunteerism in American culture-they sure did work hard, and never complained. We really accomplished a LOT! All that hard work will ensure that local elementary students will have access to an organic garden, where they can learn about biology, cooperation, patience, healthy eating habits, and so much more.

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To learn more about States 4H exchange, visit their website.

We are so blessed to be able to collaborate and partner with so many different groups, people, and organizations in our community.

And here are some photos of what is growing at the garden right now.

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Our Healing Garden

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Hello farming enthusiasts!

Things are busy at the farm! We originally had set aside space for 20 plots-those have all sold! So, in the interest of getting more gardeners we have sacrificed the pumpkin patch space to make two more plots-one of which is gone already and the 2nd is being looked at this week. How amazing! If you haven’t had the time or made the time to come and take a gander at the garden it would be well worth the time to take a trip up there and see the magnificence that is happening. Someone described it as a healing garden. I just think it is pure magic. The gardeners are so kind and have a real sense of community spirit. One of our gardeners that just came on board is also a beekeeper and has made his delicious honey available for sale to us-yum.

On another super positive note we made our first official delivery to the Salvation Army on Monday morning. They have such a wonderful program there at the space off of Tobin. They provide a hot meal to the hungry every night of the week thanks to a combined effort from the local churches and other local organizations. There is no higher calling than to be of service to those in need and The Salvation Army really has their hand on the pulse of what is happening with those in need in the Renton area.

Sometimes it’s easy to indulge in less than ideal thinking; worrying about the future, the bills, the kids, etc. but when I visit a sacred place of service like The Salvation Army I am quickly reminded just how abundant my life is and how grateful I am to be a part of the solution that is taking place. Thank you.

Lara Randolph

Farm Manager

Larar35@comcast.net

 

Community Farm Happenings: A Deer Fence?

Hey everyone! There is a lot going on up at the farm!

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First, one of our fearless gardeners noticed that there were some signs of deer having a presence in our garden. When I first heard about the deer my mind imagined the worst. The carnage was awful in my imagination, but, when I was finally able to bring myself to go and see what actually happened at the beloved garden, I saw that the deer were merely grazing. They had taken a top of a sunflower here and a couple of beans plants there-nothing really to be too upset about. However, the deer now knew how delicious our bounty was and they would be back. Personally, I prefer to have a more laid back reaction to sharing with the deer and other critters. My idea is to just plant 20% more than you want and it won’t be an issue. If you happen to share some of what you’ve planted with the creatures that were here long before we were, so be it, however, I must succumb to the fact that we are in a community garden and not everyone is a food socialist, or should I say, not quite as naïve as I am. Some of our more experienced gardeners have paid “deerly” when dealing with these beasts before. So, to make a long story even longer, we have begun to construct an inexpensive deer fence. Thanks to an anonymous donation we were able to procure an abundance of cedar fence posts, most of which were 8’-10’ long. We were then able to find a ½ mile of electric fence wire on Craigslist, for a screamin’ deal, which we will space approximately 12” apart and run horizontally around the perimeter of the garden 4 or 5 times. This combined with some twine or nylon rope tied from the top wire dangling and swaying vertically, will create enough of a barrier in the not-so-great eyesight of the deer-seeming impenetrable. Deer problem solved, or at least greatly reduced.

A big thank you to Neal Poland, Ric Beard, Steve Randolph, Jim Doty, Niki Samek, Iver and Bonnie Poole for making this happen.

Also, on Sunday I was able to begin our Three Sisters Garden. This is an old Native American planting ideology that incorporates basic permaculture principles that nourish the soil. The idea is to plant corn first-we opted for Tom Thumb Popcorn, then, when the corn is 4” high, we will plant pole beans that will grow up the corn stalks and squash that will grow beneath to keep the moisture and nourish the soil. Here is a link to a planting guide if anyone would like to try it at home: http://www.reneesgarden.com/articles/3sisters.html

If you are interested in working at the farm we have work parties every Sunday at 4 pm. This Sunday we will be working on planting a pumpkin patch-little sugar pumpkins and Jack-be-little pumpkins. You don’t have to have a garden plot to come and get your hands dirty!

We will also be able to harvest some lettuce for the REACH program pretty soon. Fresh, organic salads for people makes me smile really big!

A really big Thank You to Celebration Church for making this sacred property available to us. As a visitor called it the other day a “healing garden”, and it truly is.

There are a couple of plots left; if you hurry you can plant yourself an abundant fall/winter garden. We have year round gardening!

Contact larar35@comcast.net for more info or sustainablerenton@gmail.com

Sustainable Renton Community Farm

Hello from Sustainable Renton Community Farm!

We have been busy up here in the East Renton Highlands neighborhood! CelebrationChurch has been kind enough to give us access to about 3 acres of land to start a community effort towards growing food.

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So, we have capitalized on the opportunity and we are off to an amazing start. We have 20 plots all sized 10’x 20’ with the plan of expanding the number of plots next season. What is different about our plots from other community gardens is that these plots are encouraged to be gardened year around with the same plot being assigned year after year. This concept lends itself to winter harvests which can be abundant here in the Pacific Northwest as well as perennial planting. There are only 3 plots left so if you or anyone you know might be interested in gardening here please let us know.

We are committed to organic practices and using only seeds from companies that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge.

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We are also interested in exploring a variety of growing practices. Besides individual gardeners and the various growing methods displayed within each plot, we also have some Hugelkultur beds displayed as well. There is a demonstration of how companion planting can be the wonderful equation of 1+1=3 in our popcorn field, with beans and squash being planted in the same bed. This combination is known in the gardening world as the three sisters. The primary goal is to give back to the soil as it gives to us. It is an amazing adventure to learn to listen to the earth and work with it rather than dominate it and force it to do what we want it to.

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If you are not interested in gardening but just want to come and get your hands dirty there is plenty of opportunity for that as well. We have planted 2 plots for the local REACH effort that has dedicated itself to feeding the hungry in our community every night of the week. They were so excited to hear that they will be receiving fresh produce from our farm.

Celebration Church has been a very gracious host and we are thankful for their giving spirit and their tireless dedication to helping our community.

Also, if you have any expertise that you would like to share with us and the community please contact us and we can put together a workshop for you.

If you would like to know more please contact:

Elizabeth Zwicker, Community Farm Liaison at linguisticnurse@gmail.com

Lara Randolph, Farm Manager at larar35@comcast.net

Chris Conkling, Sustainable Renton/President at sustainablerenton@gmail.com

We would love to have you.

Cascade Neighborhood-a Local Food System in action?

Today, I took a walk around the Cascade neighborhood of Renton with my kids. We spotted a couple of signs of healthy local food system developments-a school garden, and fresh homegrown produce for sale.

The gardens are at Renton Park Elementary. They are bursting with color.

Each classroom has their own raised bed.
The kids are going to have a great time in the Fall exploring what they planted.

And the produce is being sold from someone’s home-but I wasn’t able to find it today. I’ll have to go exploring further another day.

Seen on SE 168th St.

It’s nice to see these simple ways to reconnect with our sources of food. What have you spotted in your neighborhood?

Sun + rain = lots of yummy veggies?!

Between all this warm, sunny weather and some rain, gardens are bursting w/ veggies right now. See the harvest of Kim, a gardener at the Sunset Community Garden.

The tomatoes, though, might not be faring so well. What do you do to keep your tomatoes from splitting and growing healthy with this sort of weather?

Fresh from the Sunset Community Garden

How is Your Garden Growing Potluck!

Sustainable Renton is hosting a potluck dinner event for you to gather up with fellow gardening residents of the Renton area.  We will eat and get to know one another while we share learning and success on our garden adventures.
 
This is a great way to learn from a friendly group and find out about other events in the area.  Questions?  Contact Michelle at michelle.salima@gmail.com or 425-518-9692 (text or voice).
 
Feel free to bring kids, we have an area for them to hang out.
 
Thursday, July 26, 6:30-8PM
970 Harrington Ave NE; Renton WA.

What’s growing in your garden?

We would love to share pictures from your garden here on our website. What are you growing this year? Any surprises? Any spectacular results from a new crop? Leafy lettuces, vibrant-colored strawberries, 7-foot tall pea vines-we want to see them!

Send us an email with the pic, or share them over on our Facebook page!

A surprise in our garden this year was the chamomile that was supposed to be carrots! Oops. Certainly a pretty accident. Now to figure out how to harvest and store them for tea.

Chamomile-*not* carrots!

Intensive Urban Gardening Concepts and Baby Greens Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Here is the winning blog entry for our Mother Earth News Fair contest. Thank you for your submission Amanda-it is insightful and looks delicious! Enjoy everyone.

This spring I have home grown vegetables in spades. I planted my first squares of sugar snap peas, beets, carrots, greens, and radishes on March 21st, the first day of spring. Nine weeks and a couple plantings later, I have lots of short plants, and am already harvesting my first baby greens for salads.

Since I am gardening in a community garden, and only have a 5’x8’ plot, I am maximizing my space by gardening intensively. I have gleaned concepts from many helpful sources. Here are a few:

Square Foot Gardening 

One of the concepts taught by square foot gardening is eliminating the space wasted between rows of plants. Instead you make a grid of square feet in your garden, and each square foot can be planted with a certain number of plants. You can see the influence of square foot gardening in my patchwork blocks of greens.

On the left side of this photo you can see alternated squares of spinach and mesclun greens. To the right of the greens there are squares of kales and chard. This picture was taken six weeks after planting.

Dick Raymond’s Gardening Year

This out-of-print gardening classic was my ever-present companion in my teens. I read it over and over, learning about planting in wide rows. The advantages of planting in wide rows include: it keeps roots cool, discourages weeds, and makes the most of limited garden space. Basically you plant as closely as the seeds allow in blocks or rows up to four feet wide. At the bottom of this photo you can see my blocks of peas.

And here are my blocks of bush beans. They’re just coming up now.

Another reason I love planting this way is that I am addicted to seed catalogs. The descriptions sound so delicious and the pictures are so lovely that I want them ALL. All the seeds. The end.

This picture is of one of the blocks of greens. Rather than spacing them evenly, like they recommend in square foot gardening, I scattered the seeds in a wide row sort of way. This makes for a really full and fluffy square of Mesclun for salads. I’m drooling just looking at this mix of red lettuce, arugula, kale, dandelion greens, and who knows what else.

Companion planting

This is so romantic: the idea that by planting vegetables together makes each of them better. Awwwwww!! I am experimenting with a few combinations that I have learned:

Carrots and Radishes

Carrots and Beets

Tomatoes and Basil

Behind the row of mixed onions you can see baby radishes companion planted along with carrots. The basic idea is that the radishes will mature quickly, and will be removed just as the carrots need the space. Meanwhile, there are few weeds, and no wasted space at all.

Succession planting

Succession planting is a relatively new concept to me. Basically it means planting an area several times during a growing season. As one crop matures, you replace it in the same year with something else that will grow to maturity before the end of the growing season. This seems to require a degree of planning and thought. Some plants do better in cool weather. These are better planted in the early spring, and then again at the end of the hot summer, before the frost sets in. These types of vegetables include peas, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and fava beans. Other vegetables, like potatoes, tomatoes, squash, carrots, green and shelling beans, and corn need the heat to grow well. By scheduling your plantings, you can make a tiny gardening space work overtime.

Everything is growing so quickly now that the weather has warmed up. This picture was taken a couple days ago. You can see how much everything has grown in just a couple weeks since the first garden picture was taken. Particularly the blocks of greens have really filled in and are starting to look pretty crowded. You know what that means…Dinner time!

Baby Greens with Raspberry vinaigrette

Thinnings from veggie plants

Some good ideas include:

Lettuce, spinach, kale, pea shoots, green onions, baby radishes, ½” diameter or smaller, with greens on, sunflower sprouts (with no more than 2 leaves), arugula, tiny dandelion greens (yes, the ones that are weeds, as long as they are first year plants, and they haven’t been sprayed), beet greens, radicchio, fennel with bulbs less than 1/4”

Do not use:

Tomato greens, potato greens, pepper leaves, carrot tops

Pinch off the roots and wash the veggies well. A good soak will help to loosen stubborn soil. Drain and dry your greens. You can chill them at this point and they will make an extra crunchy salad. Just wrap them in a paper towel and put them in an airtight container or zipper bag in the fridge.

Meanwhile, you can make the simple dressing.

¼ cup frozen raspberries, thawed, with juice

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Honey or brown sugar to taste

Whisk all ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Keeps in the refrigerator for a long time.

Arrange the greens on a plate. Drizzle the dressing ever so lightly over the greens. Serve to your friends, or anyone you want to impress. Expect ooohs and aaaaahs.

– Amanda Feldman Liddle

Season’s Eatings