Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Plot of Community Food Security: one patron’s story

Here at the Hub we’re always encouraging folks to grow food at home, or in community gardens. We provide education and tools for gardening in our workshops and tool share program. We also promote the benefits of home food preservation, to extend the harvest beyond the growing season and into the winter months. One of MHC’s patrons, Pearl Patton, is doing just that.

Pearl and Carl in front of the giant bed of beans in Pearl's garden.

A few of the jars of beans Pearl has already pressure canned this summer.
With the help of friends, family and neighbors, Pearl, age 72, planted the plot next to her house with corn, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, two varieties of bush beans, and cabbage.  Last week she called on her community to help with the snap bean harvest, and has already canned thirty-five quarts with several pairs of hands picking and prepping.

“People are good to me,” Pearl admits.

She shares the food with her helpers and has donated beans to the MHC Food Pantry through the Plant a Row for the Hungry program.

Pearl is retired from 24 years at the Westinghouse plant in Bloomington.
“Those capacitors weigh a hundred pounds. I only weighed one-fifteen,” Pearl reminisces.

She says this is the first year she has planted the whole length of the plot since she gardened with her husband and children many years ago.  She says the high food prices last winter inspired her to expand from the quarter-plot she had been tending in recent years. Her housemate Gordon helped plant the garden and is keeping up with the weeds. Carl, who proxy-shops at the Hub for Pearl each week, spent the day picking beans with her last Saturday. “I’d say we picked twenty gallons, and there’s still more coming,” Carl remarked, shaking his head, “that’s a lot of beans!”

While home gardening and canning may be growing in popularity with a younger crowd, it’s nothing new for Pearl.
“I grew up on a 321 acre farm near Harrodsburg. You had to work or go hungry,” she remembers.

“One time I got the measles and had to stay home from school. My dad said ‘oh good, we got three hundred pounds of taters to plant.’“  Pearl recalls that being out in the early May sun made her measles itch more, but her dad told her, “don’t stop to scratch, keep droppin’ taters.”  The next day she still itched, but decided she’d rather go to school.

Pearl expects to harvest “a truckload” of cucumbers, and plans to donate a portion of those to MHC, as well as any other excess produce she doesn’t put up or give away. Pearl’s garden is a good reminder that building community food security isn’t rocket science, it’s just good ol’ fashioned common sense.

Monday, July 13, 2015

For the Love of Beets

Ahhh, Summer at The Hub...garden produce abounds in the food pantry, and the black pop-up crates filled with lovely vegetables from the Hoosier Hills Food Bank Garden begin rolling in. In recent weeks the featured veggie has been beets! Those deep purple globes inspire responses on both extremes; you either love 'em or you hate 'em. I happen to be on the positive end of the spectrum, especially this season. I just can't get enough of that that rich, earthy taste. Beets are one vegetable best enjoyed fresh from the garden. I have been told this is because as soon as they are harvested, their sugars begin to convert to starches, so the closer you are to the moment of harvest, the sweeter the beet. I can't find verification for this, other than my own taste buds. A freshly pulled beet, steamed or roasted within hours of harvest, is like nothing else on this earth.

In our newest weekly drop-in cooking
demonstration, Kids Cook, we had a chance to sample this garden fresh sweetness in a colorful Beet Hummus dip. We oven-roasted the beets beforehand, covered with foil. Once they are fork-tender, the peels slip off easily. The kids helped pile all the ingredients into the bowl of the food processor, and we whirred away until the dip became smooth and creamy. Most exciting was the color! Several of our helpers were wearing some shade of pink on their clothes, and we had fun comparing, looking for the best match to the beet hummus. The lemon zest brightens the flavor, to match the color.