The basil plants have grown about a foot in the past three weeks which means one thing to me: PESTO.
So last night I grabbed some basil leaves and headed for my less-than-ideal blender to whip some up.
I know the picture gives a murky green seaweed-like representation, but really, it was delicious. I substituted out the pine nuts that most recipes call for, in favor of the more budget friendly sunflower seeds (you could also use walnuts).
Paired with freshly picked cauliflower and green beans, this has definitely been one of my favorite meals from the garden this summer.
The basil plants have grown about a foot in the past three weeks which means one thing to me: PESTO.
I’ve been back at Haverford for about the past 3 weeks now, and the garden is so alive! It’s in that wonderful summer stage, when the heat forces inches of daily growth. To understand my love of gardening, I should first explain my past with it.
My first experience on a farm came fall semester of my sophomore year. I took dean’s leave and went WWOOFing on a small organic farm in northern Ecuador. Then, after returning to the Ford for one semester, I applied for CPGC funding to intern with the farm educator at Weaver’s Way Farm in Northwestern Philadelphia. Along with the production farming, farmers markets, and lessons with school-groups, one of my fellow farmers started a “farmer book club.” These potluck style meetings, held once every other week, were used as a means for all of the Weaver’s Way farmers to get together and discuss some societal or political issue relevant to farming (such as seed saving and intellectual property rights, the politics of definition (organic versus conventional), urban hunger and food deserts, squatting rights and urban institutionalization of community gardens). This furthered my interest in the academic side of food production.
Now I’m knee deep in agrifood texts, trying to hone into a specific research question. I’m currently reading about our dominant system of agriculture, and its effects on poor neighborhoods in the US. (and learning the different roles for civil society and government). My research thus far has been a little circular and somewhat frustrating, as much of this literature is currently emerging.
Never in my life has a summer seemed to flash by so quickly. It feels like just yesterday that we were moving into our summer residences, and the garden consisted of a few seedlings poking their green heads out into a vast world. In reality, roughly three months have passed, the majority of us gardeners have gone home for August, and this blog’s time has run out.
And yet, what a sizable amount of growth fit into such a little span! In a physical sense, our garden transitioned from a barren patch of compost, woodchips, and stones into a flourishing oasis complete with shoulder-high tomatoes and many a rambunctious weed. In a not so physical sense, the students who worked in the garden grew as well. The lot of us, who began as true garden novices, evolved into an efficient team. Stepping lightly between rows and surveying weeds with a critical eye, the members of the Garden Initiative truly became gardeners in the fullest sense of the word: people who tend the garden with skill and devotion.
For such an opportunity—to raise a garden from seed and to work with such a brilliantly enthusiastic team of volunteers—I feel incredibly lucky. Financially, the project would not have been a possibility without the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. And, pragmatically, all of the gardening could never have been accomplished by one man. Thank you, therefore, to all who were involved.
So, where do we go from here? At the current moment, three members of the Initiative who live in the area are tending to the garden and will continue to do so through August. When the semester arrives, we will start recruiting freshmen in an effort to increase our organization’s chances of long-term success.
At the same time, I am working on the final copy of “Generative Gardening: A Proposal for an Expanded Garden Program at Haverford College,” which will be presented to the Office of the President of the College and the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. With their support, we hope to expand our garden and to increase its efficiency in the next growing season.
Thus, this summer has proven to be exactly what the internship was titled: Generative Gardening. In such a short span of time, we generated a vast quantity of food and, much more importantly, a wealth of interest in the student body. I hope that this blog has stirred the slightest of gardening interests in your own soul, for we are all united by our simplest need: food. Thank you ever so much for reading
As I mentioned in the brief post yesterday, a large group of students met in the garden last night to harvest some of the vegetables that have been maturing since late April. As I walked to the garden at 7:05pm, thinking I would be the very first to arrive, I was stunned to find a huge group of eager students waiting for me.
Throughout the summer, I have often made the same walk to the garden to find very few people ready to help. Of course, there is the regular cast of characters that have remained dedicated to the garden since day one. These HGI-affiliated few have had the pleasure of seeing the garden growing from the day we planted our seeds – and they deserve many thanks for all their help.
Thus, when I walked into the garden yesterday to find not one, not four, but twelve people ready to help, I was floored. Here were roughly eight new faces, people who I had seen around but with whom I had never spoken. How exciting! It truly seemed as if the word was getting out about the joys of gardening…or maybe just about the copious amounts of produce we were about to harvest. Either way, I was delighted to have so many volunteers.
Right off the bat, we divided into two action teams. One of the HGI regulars took the first group off to begin harvesting the green beans. The six of them quickly learned to lift the delicate leaves of the short plants to reveal a wealth of dangling treasures beneath. With the other six, I waged war on the weeds – our most dastardly foe. Invasive plant after invasive plant fell before our indefatigable attack and, before we knew it, the rows were as clear as they had ever been.
After the preliminary tasks were complete, the first group dove into the pepper picking process. With eyes newly adjusted to differentiate between the vegetables and the leaves, they ripped through four rows of peppers, amassing a pepper pile worthy of a farm stand. Meanwhile, my group forayed into the herb patch where we plucked the heads off of the basil to encourage more plant growth and to concentrate the herb’s essential oils.
Yet, perhaps the most moving moment of the evening was when the entire group came together to harvest three rows of potatoes. Kneeling on either side of the rows and digging vigorously into the loose soil, the volunteers extracted golden and ruddy tubers with glee. A competition soon arose to see who could harvest the most, and the potatoes veritably leapt from the ground. Smiles abounded at the simple joys of the harvest.
In the end, we twelve found ourselves standing around the largest pile of green beans, peppers, and potatoes we had ever seen. Soon, shirts were filled with produce and small talk arose as people were amazed by the quantity of vegetables we had harvested. For me, however, the purest joy lay in a different type of cultivation: the fostering of agricultural interests in other students. Put simply, twelve previously unacquainted students gardened together and learned about real food – to me, that is the best thing the garden has yet produced.
As it has been about a week since the last post, I wanted to give you a brief update about life at Haverford. In a word, it is HOT! While cool, morning breezes occasionally refresh us, the burning sun never fails to heat the day, leaving us sweating in 90+ degree heat and extreme humidity. It is as if the saturated air is trying to smother the life out of us…
We humans are not the only ones suffering, however. Our tender garden plants — the green shoots that once vied for the sun’s attention — now crumple beneath oppressive heat of the day. Several bean plants have wilted, the lettuce plants have bolted (i.e., gone to seed), and the tomatoes are suffering from blossom-end rot, a disease that stems (no pun intended) from a lack of both water and calcium in the soil.
So, since the heat is threatening some of our crops and next week marks the end of students’ time on campus, we have decided to make an extensive foray into the garden tonight. Our goals are simple: (1) weed all of the rows to reduce competition for water in the soil and (2) harvest everything possible. Hopefully, we will come away with a large crop of potatoes, green beans, beats, basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and brussel sprouts.
Pictures and a post on that adventure soon to come.
After the craziness of the past weekend with the rain storms and the Garden Party, the Garden Initiative Crew and I have been taking things easy. Last night, we finally summoned the strength to do a little work in the garden and were stunned by how much we harvested. The ground was literally covered with bell peppers, onions, and potatoes — so much that we had to work hard to give all the produce away. It turns out that even a small plot of land, when nurtured well, can produce A LOT of food.
Anyway, in keeping with our collective low-energy level (we can blame it on the July heat), I am going to keep this post short. Here is a montage of photos that show how much growth has occurred in the garden over the past few months. It is a testament the vivacity of our short-lived friends, the annuals.
I wish you all a relaxing weekend.
As promised, here is my re-cap of the Garden Party — our major community outreach event of the summer…
This past Sunday, a group of dedicated Haverford Garden Initiative students teamed up with Dining Services (headed by the indomitable John Francone) to throw the largest event of the summer at HCA. With the Saturday date rained out by an incredibly ferocious and persistent rainstorm, my partners and I gathered bright and early (10 AM on a Sunday!) to prepare the event.
In the span of just one hour, we turned our humble garden plot into the epicenter of a huge barbecue cookout. Tables and trashcans were arrayed in a loose, concave semi-circle in front of the garden. Two huge grills were stationed just behind the line of the tables. And the garden, in all of its July glory with leafy green shoots and tomato reds, shone out behind.
To offer up the food, we formed a powerful food service line. Our cool and refreshing salads were displayed on the right flank. Potato/Green Bean salad joined forces with a crisp, Green Salad and Watermelon slices to form the side-dish company. To their left, our first grilling squadron briskly prepared corn cobs, eggplant, and summer squash over the gold-vermillion coals of the charcoal grill. To their left, a few friends and I manned the meat outpost. Delicate baby back ribs and spicy turkey sausage sizzled away relentlessly, grilled on one side by the heat of the coals and on the other by that of the sun. Last but not least, my fellow co-head spearheaded the publicity campaign by organizing a vegetable raffle and garden tours.
And then the swarm of hungry students arrived. Flowing from all directions, students converged in strength, eager to sample our garden feast and to learn about our organization. For a full three hours, we indefatigably refilled the warming dishes with our wares, all the while enjoying the hot summer day.
As the 2 o’clock mark crept forward, however, the crowd thinned and thinned until it was just us, the HGI crew. In a flash, we cleaned up the HCA Green, took a few group photos, and ran off to watch the World Cup Final – and the heart-wrenching defeat of my favorite team: the Oranje (who else could do this and walk away with a yellow yard???).
All in all, the party was a huge success and the crowd left full (of information and good food). Take a look at some of the following pictures – they tell the story far better than I ever could.
P.S. A HUGE thanks to the Dining Center and the Committee on Environmental Responsibility, both of whom made this event a reality!
Just a quick note for those of you who are planning on attending the Garden Party. Due to the expected rainfall tomorrow, we have rescheduled the Party to Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm. It could now be considered a combined Garden and Pre-World Cup Final party…
Hope to see you there!
Whether you are a locavore or not, you have to admit that food tastes better in the summer. Farm-fresh tomatoes pack an acidic punch. Gigantic white peaches send juice running down your chin. And, local butter-and-sugar corn kernels seem to melt on the tongue. The food is fresh, abundant, and celebrated.
This summer in the garden, however, we are discovering that food grown in one’s backyard tastes even better. Our SWEET PEAS had such crunch that we could hardly keep ourselves from snacking as we harvested. The RADISHES were so spicy, we seemed capable of eating just one or two at a time. Even the CAULIFLOWER, our weakest performing crop, had a smooth, buttery texture not found in the supermarket.
What’s so exciting about this discovery is that the garden is really starting to perform now that the “dog days” of July have arrived. Though all of us living at Haverford are suffering in the 90-100 degree weather, which seems to be intensified by the stagnant air flow in our apartments, we are eating quite well. Just yesterday, a friend and I harvested this beautiful cornucopia of veggies. As you can see, the BEETS, ONIONS, and CUCUMBERS are still producing well. More importantly, the GREEN BEANS and POTATOES are in! Indeed, these backyard veggies are unlike any I have ever had…
More to come on the Garden Party this weekend. I hope everyone else is managing to stay cool.
As I mentioned in my quick post yesterday, the members of the Haverford Garden Initiative met last night to do some garden advertising, which has been one of our most difficult and important tasks. Over the past few months, one of our major challenges has been getting the word out about the garden. You would think that a garden on a suburban campus would jump out at people, but the contrary is the case. Though we have a flourishing plot, quite a few people still seem to be in the dark about its origin and purpose.
Like most of our technologically savvy peers, our first step in the advertising campaign was to post some information on Haverford’s GO! Boards, an online discussion forum for Haverford Students. From there, we met with John Francone, Haverford’s Director of Dining Services, to plan a huge barbecue for all the kids on campus—if you are around, mark down next Saturday, the 10th at 2pm on your calendar: Garden Party! But, since both of those advertising attempts take time and reach only the student population, we decided to advertise the simple way: painting a sign.
With a pile of wood scraps from Facilities and some cheap paint from Mapes (the local hardware store), a group of us set about creating the signs that will bring the garden message to everyone who walks by. Some of us jumped off to a fast start, making a sign with the HGI hyperlink that looks slightly rustic to say the least. Others of us (the artistically talented few) took our time and painted a gorgeous sign stating “Haverford Student Garden – A Product of the Haverford Garden Initiative.” In the end, both signs looked excellent when hammered into the ground next to our proud plants.
Yet, what struck me the most about the sign painting experience was not the advertising progress we made. Rather, it was the ease with which the HGI students worked together to accomplish a task. Unlike the highly individualized work we do in school, the garden has taught us to function well as a team, planting seedlings, harvesting produce, and even painting signs. In that sense, the garden truly seems to be fulfilling its role as the space where people can think creatively and act decisively about food and its importance. The garden has become as much about the people involved as it is about the food. At least to me, these friendships (in addition to the food) make the garden seem like a very good thing.
Keep your eyes peeled for more to come on the Garden Party next week. Happy Fourth of July to you all.