I’ve been neglecting my blog, but not the garden. I’ll get back to updates on that, but first I’d like to share some of my new food related volunteer activities this summer. Fruit, veg, food waste, nutrition.
I can’t garden enough or cook enough to satisfy my own enjoyment, so these activities have allowed me to still participate and have someone else benefit. Everyone wins!
This post is a little bit long.
Gleaning with DC Central Kitchen
DC Central Kitchen makes 5,000 meals a day for homeless shelters, transitional homes, non profits, and some schools in DC. They offer culinary training programs for unemployed people, giving them much needed job skills and setting them up for a better future. Much of DCCK’s food is donated, including produce during the spring, summer, and fall.
The concept of gleaning goes back to biblical days. Farmers allow those in need to pick the edges of their fields. Today, when small, local farmers can’t pick all of the fruit and veg they grow throughout the season, mostly due to staff and time constraints, they allow others to do it for them. Unless it is picked and sold, much of it will be wasted. Solution! DCCK volunteers pick that excess produce to make those 5,000 meals a day. Fruit and veg might look a little strange, be too big, or otherwise unsaleable on the general market. The farm location could change every week, as produce is picked when it is ready. Volunteers often don’t know where they will be until a few days before, but usually about an hour or so from DC. The farmers get a tax donation in the retail value of their donation, fields get picked, volunteers enjoy a morning out in the country, and lots of healthy, ripe, delicious produce makes its way into the kitchen for those in need.
In June, I picked strawberries in Aldie, Virginia. There were only about 6 or 7 volunteers, but we picked two solid rows of perfect, red, ripe, sweet berries. Filled up the DCCK van.
Also picked some funky shapes. @UglyFruitAndVeg reposted the “hand” shaped fruit!
There were still several more rows that we were not able to pick. Even with all of our work, berries went to waste. Later, I picked some for myself in the U-pick rows, and even picked some white strawberries and pickled them. Very interesting. Apple cider vinegar, peppercorns, sugar, salt, caraway seeds, mustard powder (because I didn’t have mustard seeds left, oops.) and I think that was it. They’re still crisp. Taste like…an unripe pickled strawberry, but really I’m not describing them well…they taste better than you’re imagining.
I went out again this past Thursday morning to a farm in Delaplane, Virginia. Much larger group, maybe 15-18 people. There was a corporate group of 5 people, a friend group of about 6, a few stragglers like me. We made quick work of the GIGANTIC zucchinis and yellow squash out in the fields. How does a zucchini get to be over two feet long? A combination of hiding under leaves and avoiding being picked, hot weather, and the right amount of rain. Same for the 10 inch long okra! Our zucchinis weighed over 1,060 pounds! We also picked cucumbers, kale, and swiss chard.
All of that food was cooked and enjoyed within hours. Without volunteers to help pick it, it would have gone to waste in the field, hurting the farmer. I’m signed up for a few more dates in the future. They pick into early November. See the volunteer page for more info.
Common Good City Farm
A true urban farm in DC, Common Good City Farm aims to help low income DC residents meet food needs. They provide veggies to the community, and teach about nutrition and growing veggies through workshops and hands-on training on the farm. They operate a small CSA and farm stand where produce grown on the small farm are sold. Volunteers may water, weed, harvest, or help turn compost, something I enjoy doing, as you may remember from posts of years back!
I’ve visited a few times so far, including once in July and just yesterday. Here’s July’s visit. See the odd water delivery device I’m using? I believe it is called a hose. Wish I had something like that upstairs on the roof…
And here are some fun farm shots! Check out that eggplant!
So far I’ve visited Common Good City Farm with a group from the DCJCC and with the Jewish Food Experience.
N Street Village
N Street Village serves women who are homeless or in transition. They provide food, job services, addiction recovery, and any other needs that underserved women in DC might need. I volunteered here with the Jewish Food Experience for the first time last month. They’ve come on a pretty regular schedule, but I haven’t been able to attend until now. I’m really going to try to come again. The early shift prepared and served breakfast for 70 people, the middle shift prepared lunch, and the later shift served lunch. I sliced up some beautiful tomatoes, a donation from a local farmer who also sells at a local farmer’s market, and layered them with mozzarella, basil, and balsamic vinegar. Tasty, tasty! I didn’t get a photo of the rest of the foods we made, but there were chicken strips with dipping sauces, a variety of salads, and some rugelach, fresh out of the oven. I left before the lunch serving shift started, but I heard that everything was well received.