Peak of Summer?

I wonder if we in San Francisco have reached the peak of summer harvest season yet. Certainly the Treat Commons Community Garden is looking pretty green and lush right now. We are getting a lot of scarlet runner beans and the yellow zucchini are producing some squash. Some tomatoes are just starting to turn red. My backyard garden, having been neglected for two weeks looks pathetic in terms of what is growing and needs to be replanted. The Secret Garden is look pretty good now with a lot of kale growing and in maybe two weeks it will be ready to harvest. And of course the plum trees and loquats there have masses of fruit (though the plums are mostly bland and tiny and the trees need a lot of pruning and thinning).

I know when you go to the farmers markets now they are overflowing with summer produce and I am starting to feel a little frustrated being an urban farmer and not having rows and rows of foods that I am growing at this time of year. Quite frankly it is embarrassing. I was thinking I should be an apprentice at some farm. I am really attracted to the work of John Jeavons who started a project called Ecology Action in Willits that has a mini-farm. He is famous for popularizing double digging and the biodynamic French intensive method of growing food. It is truly inspiring to me. His most known book is How to Grow More Vegetables. When I visited his place years ago I was impressed how seriously he takes food growing and also making his knowledge available worldwide, especially in poor countries.

The table looked good though despite all my grumbling. We had scarlet runner beans from Treat Commons and purple and green beans from my backyard. There was a ton of salad mix from my backyard and the Secret Garden, and some from Treat Commons too. There were beets from the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market (I am pretty happy that beets are so popular!). From Treat Commons we also had a couple of yellow zucchini, some carrots (also some from my backyard), white sage (for incense), African Blue basil, a couple of cucumbers, some flowers, a few artichokes. I also harvested a lot of loquats and plums, and I brought some Cape Gooseberries from my backyard (see below). Also, Ariel (who put together the youtube video for the Bay Guardian) and her friend whose name I have forgotten brought by some herbs and some shiso seedlings that were a great contribution.

Kale from the Jail

I got a huge donation of organic kale from the County Jail Garden Project. Rita who runs the Mission Reading Program on 24th Street was looking for someone to give a lot of zucchini and tomato plants away to and I was alerted by a neighbor about this. So I picked up at least 20 plants in gallon pots and I found out they were grown by the Garden Project at the San Bruno jail. I have wanted to contact them for a long time and mentioned it to Rita. Then she called me on Friday and she had two big boxes of fresh delicious kale (my favorite vegetable) for our program. I managed miraculously to put it all in my refrigerator (plus giving away some to friends and neighbors) and brought it to the stand Sunday. I may be on the lookout for a free or cheap working and energy efficient refrigerator if this keeps up. I still had a lot of kale left over despite having given away a lot. So I cooked up a bunch of kale the way I like it best. Chop up the washed kale small. Chop up about two or three big cloves of garlic. Heat some olive oil in a wok and when the oil is hot throw in the garlic. The oil will soak up the flavor. Toss in the kale and stir fry for about five -8 minutes until the greensare soft. I add a dash of tamari and serve. Anyone know the name for kale in Spanish?

Cape Gooseberries

I brought a basket full of a fruit I like a lot that I have always called ground cherries or husk tomatoes. I learned they have other names like Cape Goose Berry (Physalis peruviana).
They seemed to have roused a lot of interest among farm stand attendees. One thing about the free farm stand is I realize how much I have to learn because people ask so many darn questions about things. I know that these fruits are easy to grow and that they are delicious, that they are related to the tomatillo, that they seem to be perennial around here and they reseed easily, and are in the Chinese lantern family, because of the lantern look of the fruit with it’s papery lantern like shell around the fruit. I looked up the fruit online and learned so much more.

The article mentions different cultivars that sound wonderful. I want to get seeds for them and try them out.

Good Neighbors

I really appreciate the opportunity to meet my neighbors and friends at the Free Farm Stand. It is hard to put it in words what community is and the value of it. But it certainly is a lot of fun and makes one feel good to get to know those people you live near and to have a chance to see friends in such a busy world. I liked getting the chance to hold Valentino yesterday, a tiny baby that is so cute, as cute as a cucumber. And it really is needed to feel positive in the city these days. For example, last week could have been a total bummer. Reading about some guy that was blasted away by a shotgun blast on Mission and 20th St. and then my slum landlord neighbor for some unknown reason hiring a nice guy to chainsaw our beautiful stand of rare bamboo down in front of our building (plus he did in the bougainvillea, jasmine and trumpet vine tree). It may not be on his property (I now have to research the property line). It makes one angry and sad and if it wasn’t for all the great neighbors who I meet over the years and my friends that I sometime get a chance to connect with, I would want to climb out of my clay shell and go somewhere else.

I also was so happy to work with Corinne again who opened the stand last week. I am really a guy who likes to work with others and not be a one man show, so it is great to slowly build a team to run this project. She is moving to the city and I think she may be looking for some great non-profit job. I would recommend her for sure. Hopefully her new job will give her time to continue working with the farm stand.

Here is a picture of two sisters that I have met relatively recently. Fillipa on the left works as the director of the clubhouse at the park and does such great work with the kids who go there for her programs. Andrea is her sister whom I am getting to know. Siblings like plant relatives are so much fun to be familiar with.


Fillipa suggested I put up a sign in the neighborhood saying that I am available to pick people’s fruit trees. She knows of two neighbors with fruit trees that don’t get picked. I think I will do that and let people know that the farm stand will take any fruit as well as pick it. I decided to wait on the berry picking on Bernal Hill until the berries get more ripe. Anyone want to join my fruit gleaning team?

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