July 28, 2017

What to do with all of those zucchini? Fritters!

It's July and the summer squash is coming in like gangbusters! Zucchini the size of nuclear submarines will soon be gracing our gardens. The most common question we face as gardeners is what should we do with all those boat-sized zucchini?

One of my favorite things to make, and eat, for supper is vegetable fritters. This paleo version of zucchini fritters brings in other midsummer favorites from your garden. Because this is paleo, the recipe avoids grains but if your diet is grain-friendly, feel free to substitute wheat flour in place of the coconut flour.





Paleo Zucchini Fritters
Adapted from a recipe by Steph Gaudreau

Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 2 medium zucchini, shredded (about 5 cups)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 scallion or very small leek, diced
  • A few sprigs of dill, chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional
  • Coconut oil or ghee for cooking
  • Sliced fresh tomatoes or salsa for topping

    1. Shred the zucchini into in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and toss well. Leave it alone for 10-15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly under water and drain.  
    2. Squeeze all the moisture out of the zucchini. Scoop up a generous handful of it and squeeze it like crazy. Get the shredded zucchini as dry as possible then place the dry, shredded zucchini in a different bowl. Repeat until you've worked your way through all of it.
    3. Add the coconut flour, egg, diced scallions, dill, and pepper. Stir to combine.
    4. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Melt a large spoonful of ghee or coconut oil in the pan. Pack a ¼ cup measuring cup with the zucchini mixture, pressing it down inside the cup. Turn the cup out onto the pan and flatten the zucchini until you get a patty. Fit about 4 or 5 in a large skillet at one time.
    5. Cook each side for 3 to 5 minutes or until nicely browned. Repeat until you‘ve used up all the zucchini mixture. Be sure to add more ghee or coconut oil to the pan each time you start a new batch.
    6. Cool on a cooling rack or cloth towel so they don’t get soggy.
    7. Serve with fresh tomatoes or salsa (or my favorite way, with catsup).

    The zucchini, after squeezing the water out.




    The fritters in the pan.


    Ready to eat!

July 10, 2017

Why is Gardening So Good for Us?

For those of us who spend time gardening, we don't need anyone to tell us that digging in the dirt feels good. We know from our own experience that gardening seems to lower our stress levels, can help us get a full-body workout, and allows us to grow our own healthy food.


Science is now starting to verify what we've known all along:

But what exactly is it about gardening that helps us in so many ways? It may not just be the fact that we're outdoors, getting vitamin D and exercise, and reaping the benefits of the better nutrition we get from growing our own food.

It may be the microbes in the soil itself. 

Each teaspoon of healthy, organic garden soil contains billions of micro-organisms. Many of them exist in symbiosis with plants, meaning that the microbes help the plants absorb water and nutrients from the environment, and the plants in turn provide a healthy home for the microbes. But those soil microbes aren't just beneficial to the plants we grow, they may also help us as well.

Scarlet Runner Beans growing in the garden
It's obvious that when we garden, we get dirty. Dirt cakes under our fingernails, in our clothing, we breathe it in, and we even swallow it. Yep, even the neatest of us swallows a little dirt when we're pulling weeds or planting those carrots. With each little bit of dirt we ingest, we also swallow some of those soil micro-organisms. A few of those little critters make it to our guts. This isn't a bad thing if we're relatively healthy and the dirt is from an organic garden (like the DuPont Community Garden).

If you've been paying attention to the news for the past few years, you've probably seen the reports about our gut microbes and how they contribute to our mood. Well, one neuroscientist at the University of Bristol, Christopher Lowry, is showing that at least one common soil micro-organism can alleviate depression and anxiety. This common soil organism is called Mycobacterium vaccae or "M. vaccae" for short. Dr. Lowry has demonstrated that when given to mice, M. vaccae increases the mice's production of serotonin. Serotonin is a "feel-good" neurotransmitter (a brain "chemical") that helps increase feelings of happiness, improves sleep quality, and decreases anxiety. Human trials haven't been conducted yet, but many researchers think we'll find similar results with M. vaccae in our species. 

An oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London has demonstrated that giving chemotherapy patients this same soil microbe helped them achieve a better quality of life during their treatments. Her patients were happier, had more energy, and experienced less "brain fog" after being treated with M. vaccae. These early findings are tantalizing evidence that M. vaccae might have similar effects on us, but scientists need to do additional studies.

What does this mean for the average organic gardener? 

It means that if we're relatively healthy and using proper organic techniques, a little bit of dirt might be good for us. Definitely wash your produce and clean up after digging in the garden (wash hands, shower, and launder your clothing), but remember that researchers are beginning to show us that a little dirt isn't all bad. According to health experts like Drs. Mercola, Axe, and Perlmutter, with every weeding session you might just be helping both your mental and physical health.*



For more information about how gardening can be good for you:   


June 23, 2017

New Season, New Garden!

Welcome to the 2017 season of the DuPont Community Garden!

After a spring of very hard work, we're excited to announce our new location in DuPont, WA, on the Power Line Road just north of Center Drive. Stop by and see what's going on, or stay tuned to this blog for a season of fun and sharing.

In this season's blog, we'll: 

  • talk about current happenings in the garden 
  • share lessons we've learned about growing in the challenging climate near the Puget Sound
  • learn about garden critters such as bees and chickens
  • find out why digging in the dirt is good for us (and fun, too!)
  • explore the "growing" culture of community gardening
  • figure out what to do about slugs (yuk!)
  • and much more.


Stop by and see what's new in the garden, or take a little virtual tour, below:


Yum...blueberries!


Basil growing in the greenhouse


Inside Greenhouse #1 at the DuPont Community Garden

Some of our outdoor garden beds

Each garden should have at least one gnome!


December 31, 2014

A Look Back At 2014

This has truly been a banner year for our garden.  We started the year with a lot of uncertainty about our future but have ended on a high note, thanks to all of you and others that have supported our efforts. 

This year we expanded our focus into new areas.  Thanks to Liz for starting the children’s program and to Bill for introducing us to bee keeping.  We now have our very own beehive that will help pollination in the garden. 

We held more work days and other events at the garden this year than before.  Thanks to all the gardeners who participated and made these days really useful and fun.

We set several new records this year.  A key highlight is that we increased our membership to 55.  Most importantly gardeners and gardening families from the Dupont community make up 70 percent of our membership – a new high.  We have 81 plots in cultivation this year and harvested 5951 pounds of produce – also a new record.  4800 pounds was donated to the two food banks we support (Lakes FISH: 1900 pounds and Thurston County FB: 2900 pounds).

 
Here are some of the other facts and figures for this year.   We grew over 1000 pounds of tomatoes – our highest grossing crop.  This is followed by zucchini, cucumbers and lettuce.  I have included a table with detailed breakdown by crop types.


The six top producing gardeners grew 1875 pounds of produce between them, making up 32% of the output of the garden.  The harvest output for the year from each bed in the garden is presented at the end of the article.

While thinking about our beehive and vegetables I am reminded of Ogden Nash’s words:

I eat my peas with honey
I’ve done it all my life
It makes the peas taste funny
But it keeps them on the knife

Happy New Year everyone.  Here is to 2015 - an even better year!!! 



Harvest (lbs.) by crops:


Crop
Harvest

Crop
Harvest
Arugula
2.3

Parsnips
12.3
Basil
66.6

Peas
140.5
Beets
146.7

Peppers
158.9
Bokchoi
26.1

Potato
163.7
Broccoli
65.3

Pumpkin
81.7
Cabbage
108.5

Radish
126.8
Carrots
320.4

Raspberries
1.2
Cauliflower
17.6

Rhubarb
14.1
Chive
10.8

Rutabaga
1
Collards
62.1

Salad greens
52.5
Corn
10.4

Spinach
51.6
Cucumber
421.1

Squash
587
Garlic
38.5

Strawberries
47.5
Grapes
0.3

Swiss chard
67.5
Green beans
329.3

Tomato
1083.6
Herbs
41.9

Turnip
41.7
Kale
326.3

Various
88.6
Kohlrabi
65.9

Zucchini
447.1
Leeks
11.1

Okra
0.7
Lettuce
399.6

Plums
125
Melon
25.4

Eggplant
3
Onion
110.4

Pears
24
Parsley
3.3

Tomatillo
1.7

 

Harvest (lbs.) from outdoor beds, by bed numbers:


Bed
Harvest

Bed
Harvest

Bed
Harvest

Bed
Harvest
A00
157.5

B01
190.9

C01
48.3

D01e
32.5
A01
159.2

B02


C02
24

D01w
22.8
A02
44.7

B03
15.9

C03
65.6

D02
5.7
A03c
144.5

B04
16.9

C04
9.9

D03
50.1
A03e
14.3

B05
145.2

C05
10.5

D04
42
A04
113

B06
20.8

C06
100

D05
49.8
A05
60.9

B07
5.3

C07
109.7

D06
87.4
A06
100

B08
22.2

C08
91.3

D07
15.7
A07
69.3

B09
74.4

C09
336.3

D08
15
A08
58.8

B10
5.2

C10
144.3

D09
9.8
A09
72

B11
176.1

C11
53

D10
50
A10
60.1







D11
57.4
A11
91.1







D12
160
A12
2









A13
37









A14
23.3









A15
92.8









A16
91.9









A17
166.9









A-gate
154.7










Harvest (lbs.) from greenhouse beds and other sources:


Bed
Harvest

Bed
Harvest

Source
Harvest
G101
41

G201
157.1

Home
43.7
G102
106.3

G202
94.7

Planter
31.5
G103
68.5

G203
125.4

Tires
11.5
G104
32.5

G204
40

Untagged
375
G105
30.1

G205
63.7



G106
58.3

G211
75



G107
35.8

G212
84.3



G108
4.4

G213
51.3



G109
62.2

G215
33.4



G110
18.9

G216
67



G111
14.9

G217
63.5



G112
1.9

G218
10.8



G113
5.7

G219
99.7



G114
4.5






G115
13.7






G116
3.2






G117
30.5






G118
13.4