Boundless Bounty, Love and Bitter Melons

This is what it is all about on Sundays at the Free Farm Stand. Though sometimes it seems it may be tough love when I am trying to keep some people in line who are being too grabby or greedy when reaching for free vegetables.

It is really about boundless love everyday as far as I am concerned, despite the sad or bitter news mixed in with the joy in our lives. Last week we heard about the senseless attack on bees at the Hayes Valley Farm, a seemingly small tragedy when considering the tragedies happening all around the planet these days, but it really hits home when  you consider that we are living in the city of St. Francis, a city of love for all species, and a certain tolerance and acceptance for those creatures in our midst who may be different or who may even sting once in a while. I balance out this unfortunate digression from peace and harmony by thinking about our friend, comrade, and fellow farmer Pancho who is in Arizona helping lead a battle against racism and unjust immigration law. Courage grows everywhere like the wild poppies that come up in our gardens. Yesterday our own Pastor Megan whom we work with at the Free Farm got welcomed back into her church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, along with six other openly gay pastors, at a ceremony down the street from the Free Farm at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church ( I was inspired by the words of one of the reinstated pastors “all people are loved unconditionally by God”.

The harvest was small from the Free Farm this week and a lot of it was given away there to neighbors. Fortunately we had a good harvest of zucchini from 18th and Rhode Island and a number of people dropped by with produce.  A woman from Bernal Heights dropped off plums from her tree to share and another woman came by with a few apples (the rest are not ready to harvest yet). Pam sent by some folks with 17 lbs of favas from City College. We also had some surplus produce from Treat Commons Community Garden. Produce to the People and Lauren showed up with her high school summer students to help out and they also brought a lot of plums they gleaned the day before. I brought by two gallons of organic fruit compote I made to share and to teach people about how to use soft and very ripe fruit. Clara brought some apricot jam to share. Mike has become a star at the bread table. He brought some homemade hummus and then at the end of the stand put on a fabulous cooking demonstration of how to use bitter melon. For some reason we have been getting a lot of bitter melon left over from the Farmer’s Market and I think we only have a small percentage of our crowd that is familiar with cooking and eating it.

Mike brought a wok and also some cooked rice and showed us all how to prepare the melons by scraping out the inside and the seeds and stir frying it with onions, garlic, and ginger and his secret ingredient preserved black beans. He brought ornamental ginger leaves from his garden and made these beautiful wraps of rice and vegetables (later he made some with other vegetables like carrots and the yard long beans we had gotten from the market too). It was so elegant and simple, and I must admit though I haven’t been converted to bitter melon love, I overcame my fear of that vegetable. Though it tasted bitter it was ok. Knowing it must have healing properties made me feel even better eating it.

The Free Farm keeps on growing. We are still learning to be urban farmers and are trying to figure out how to have a continuous harvest every week. We just got a couple of loads of manure and some rock minerals, so the best thing we are doing now is making soil. out of barren land.  Also, Griff  is making some great compost and with the new signs that Hannah made,  our composting area looks terrific. Whenever I think we are almost finished creating the infrastructure I see new areas that can be worked on. It really helps having three summer interns not only for the Farm but the Stand and I have been thinking we should be lining up some replacements for them when they leave sometime in August. We also are continuing to explore the idea of making the farm not only a place that grows food for the poor and hungry, but a place to connect with the divine and the power of creation.

The Free Farm Stand got in the news several times last week. I posted the links on our right hand sidebar under Free Farm Stand in the Media. I haven’t included a link to Edible San Francisco magazine just because that publication somewhat turns me off with their focus on beautiful food that is priced so high that some people can’t afford it ( In this recent issue they write about our friends Produce to the People and the Free Farm Stand gets mentioned as a “free food program”. I would only like to be known as that by a foundation that would want to give me money. We are a simple start-up group promoting the business of love and transformation through community sharing and caring. Or something hippy dippy and unpractical like that.

2 Replies to “Boundless Bounty, Love and Bitter Melons

  1. Tree, you and your group of volunteers are truly inspring! I have been to the stand twice and picked up some veggies that I would never have thought to use. I have learned to use with what little I have and make it into an awesome meal. By the way, I have a few recipes using bittermelon! After visiting your stand, my family has changed how and what we eat. I have started my own garden; apples (coming soon), lemons(coming soon), tomatoes, sage, strawberries and can't wait for them to ripen and share with the community. Not only are you teaching others how to grow their own food, but you have also taught my kids. I brought them with me, and even though they are both young, they are learning to share, be compassionate, and are learning where food comes from. They enjoy helping me in the garden and it makes me happy that people like yourselves are helping others, something that seems to be lacking nowadays. THANK YOU!

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