Thursday, June 19, 2008

garden to table: growing greens

nearly a year ago, USF professors melinda stone (media studies) and seth wachtel (art + architecture) and eleven first-year female farmers set out to plan and plant an organic garden on campus. the organic garden was (and is) part of a USF living-learning community called, fittingly, the garden project.

the organic garden is on the lone mountain campus. it's a quarter-acre plot, located on the south-east side, sweetly sandwiched between the education and ROTC buildings.

when they began, the land looked like this:

and then like this:

by spring (after a semester of testing the soil, treating the soil, cover crops, and a thousand other things to do and consider and research and learn and examine and experiment), it looked like this:

by spring, the garden was a garden. but it was also a lab. for garden project students, it was a green lab to grow food and community. for art + architecture students, it was a public space lab to design and build a beautiful toolshed, benches, and a community board. for my digital journalism students, it was a green media lab to investigate, interview, photograph, videotape, and blog garden stories.

(see jacob marx's "More than Plants," brigid moore's "Garden Vs. Garden," laura plantholt's "Freshmen Female Farmers," and miles simcox's "USF Organic Garden Project.")

the "problem" with the campus garden is that by the time the plants have soaked in enough california sunlight and drunk enough water and taken in enough nourishment from the soil to produce food, the eleven first-year farmers and their profs have bolted for the summer. who will water?! who will weed?! who will harvest all the delicious food?!

enter the summer garden crew.

a group of between 25-30 USF staff, students, librarians, and faculty has been tending the garden seven days a week and have been, by all accounts, learning a lot and having a blast. with organizational help from christin anderson at wellness, we've established a daily watering and weeding schedule, have cleared off new plots, and have planted new crops.

in return for labor, we get to harvest food. good food. real food. earlier this week, i brought home a bag full of green goodness.

last night, with a little help from mollie katzen's moosewood cookbook, i stir fried a good portion of it, laid it over some soba noodles, and had a delicious dinner with sarah.

coming soon: zukes! please, please share your favorite zucchini recipes!


kq said...

we are getting our first zucchinis here in the heartland. tonight, after visiting the market in hamilton! today, i sauteed some chopped garlic, onions in olive oil. i added some deer tongue kale and a zucchini. and had it over pasta with a dressing with some olive oil, lemon, sea salt and black pepper and red pepper flakes. aside from the olive oil, it was all super local and super fresh. yum.

i am also looking forward to coating zucchini in a batter of bread crumbs and spelt and salt and pepper and egg and have them with some spicy chipotle creamy sauce. yum yum.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Kale, my friend, stir-fried in a cast-iron wok. Heaven.

Jonathan said...

When we used to live in Pittsburgh, we would get piles of (sometime giant) zucchini, which was a problem because every recipe we came across called for "1 zucchini." For small ones (the smaller the better), lightly stir-fried with garlic is heaven. For bigger ones or larger sized ones, here's an option (works best with a food processor, though it would work with a cheese grater). It's slightly fussy but uses zucchini at a rate of no other recipe I know.

--coarse grate 4-6 zucchini
--get two non-fuzzy kitchen towels
--lay out the grated zuchs on the towel then close and squeeze to wring out the water
--move them to the second towel. Sprinkle with kosher salt and let sit for a little while. Wring out again.
--stir-fry with garlic and herbs (like thyme and tarragon). Cook (first on high heat, then on slightly lower heat) until there are bits of brown and there is no water. The can take a awhile.


Note: the de-watering and long cooking time is very important or the dish gets mushy and watery and is less appealing. Hence the fussiness rating above.

adrienne said...

My favorite zucchini recipe is Pisto Manchego - a Spanish ratatouille, typically served as a tapa with yummy bread.

The best recipe I know comes from Penelope Casas' Tapas cookbook, but the basic gist is this: saute a bunch of onions and lots of garlic in some good Spanish olive oil, add a bunch of zucchini, green peppers, and tomatoes (fresh if you have them, but canned also work great), and cook (with salt and fresh ground pepper) for a while (like an hour or more), until it becomes a thick stew. Serve with crusty bread. Goat cheese on the bread makes for a yummy, non-traditional addition.

If you need a recipe, there's one on Epicurious, but I'd personally leave out the chorizo, sugar, and vinegar.

david silver said...

yum, thanks! hopefully next week i'll try all three. keep 'em coming.

Brittany Rowles said...

Thank you so much, Prof. Silver for all that you have done for the garden. I am so excited to return in August and see what has been accomplished and maintained.

Words cannot express my gratitude; without you the garden would not survive.

david silver said...

hey brittany - thanks for leaving a comment!

you and the rest of the garden project folks are going to be amazed when you return in august - the garden is full of life, growing in every direction. some of the plants you'll recognize - you planted them - and some of them have grown beyond recognition. hopefully there will be plenty of food, including delicious tomatoes, when you return in august.

Blake said...

Nice Before & After shots. Well done garden crew!

Anonymous said...

i've meant to come to your blog since attending the orientation day way back in april or may, but it's been slipping my mind, what with graduation, traveling around europe (i'm the little asian girl who won the "who came the farthest" contest by flying in from germany) and starting my summer job.

i just wanted to say your mock lecture was pretty awesome. seeing what a class with you is like makes me even more excited that i have a course with you this coming semester.

and finally, i think the garden story is phenomenal. the pictures and story go together really well... hopefully you can teach me a little something about putting something together like that come the fall, yes?

- izzy

david silver said...

hello izzy!

thanks for the kind words and positive feedback. i'm psyched you'll be attending USF in the fall and double-psyched that you'll be enrolled in one of my courses (intro to media studies, right?). excellent news.

i'm glad you liked the garden blog post and i predict that you'll like the physical garden even more. the garden has been growing like crazy over the summer! regarding putting together words + text, or blogging, you'll have plenty of opportunities to learn more about this at USF.

have an excellent rest of the summer and i'll see you in the fall. thanks for commenting.