Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Giving food away

One of my favorite activities of The Peterson Garden Project is our Farm2Give beds. These are seven 6x4' raised plots planted and tended by volunteers, with all of the produce going to local food pantries.

We've been harvesting upwards of 10 pounds of produce a week for about 3 weeks now-- tomatoes, corn, melons, beans, summer squash, cucumbers, chard, peppers. We have two nearby food pantries eager to take the produce, and a couple more near various volunteers' homes or businesses.

The difficulty comes with delivery. Some pantries take food only in narrow windows, generally on weekdays during the day. Others have more flexible delivery times, but less reliable staffing. One volunteer had 30 pounds of produce fall off the back of his scooter on his way to deliver it, and he didn't notice until he got there.

It's cumbersome and haphazard, and food gets wasted through spoilage and loss. I don't have room to store 30 extra pounds of produce that I pick on a Sunday (when I'm off work), but can't deliver until Thursday.

I've been trying to contact the Greater Chicago Food Depository to see if we can deliver stuff there. Presumably, they are staffed for more hours. Problem is, I don't know where "there" is-- there doesn't seem to be an address on the website-- and no one is returning my calls.

Kinda gives new meaning to the old gardener's joke, that I've got so much food that I can't even give it away.

Sweet and Spicy Corn Relish

8 ears sweet corn
, husked and nibletted
large yellow onion
3 bell peppers
4 cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1 pint cherry tomatoes
2-3 small hot peppers (poblano, shishito, or jalapeno)
2 cups cider vinegar
cup sugar
teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix the vinegar and sugar, stir thoroughly and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Place the spices in a cheesecloth bag and soak it in this mixture. Set aside, but keep it hot. Dice the cucumbers, tomatoes, and hot peppers, dredge with salt and about a tablespoon of sugar, mix well and set aside. Dice the onions and peppers, and blanch with the corn (place in boiling water, bring to a boil again, leave on full boil for 5 minutes). Mix all the vegetables together in a large ceramic bowl (or other non-reactive) bowl, and mix with the hot liquid and spices. The liquid should cover the vegetables (if it doesn't, add hot water until all the veggies are just submerged). Place in the fridge overnight. Next day, drain off the liquid into a large saucepan and bring to a full boil. Put the vegetables into a room temperature bowl. Pour the back over the vegetables then place in Ball jars and heat process to preserve.

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