Monday, February 1, 2010

Sukuma Wiki

Yesterday was a Sunday that was a beautiful cool and cloudy winter day at the Free Farm Stand, with the sun poking out once in a while. It was one of those seasonal days where we didn't have a ton of produce (like the week before) and the most we are getting from our gardens are greens, a little broccoli, and some lettuce. I was able to pick a few more rocoto peppers (they are our winter heroes, like our white sapotes, lemons, greens, and chayotes, though our chayote plants haven't stepped up to the plate yet). It was a skimpy day produce wise and we had a huge crowd. Though we ran out of produce early we did seem to give everyone some good stuff. The thing I felt most positive about is that now the Free Farm Stand has a Free Farm. So it feels like we are doing the best we can to grow our own food and to encourage others to do the same and to share the surplus.

Fruit gleaning is going ahead and Stanford Glean and Page brought by approximately 20lbs of citrus from students who gleaned the trees at Stanford and the fruit that he picked from Holy Innocents. I got some lemons from our neighbor's tree. Lyn grew some more of her wonderful black lentil sprouts. We got a bag full of greens from some kids gardens connected to Urban Sprouts. Treat Commons contributed about two pounds of greens and the majority of greens came from 18th and Rhode Island. Right towards the end when we ran out of most everything, Clara brought by some greens from the Secret Garden.

Last week someone had left a bucket full of tree collard branches in the garden. This week Mike potted them up and we gave some of them out. I really appreciate these plants and I think all gardens should grow them. Last year Pam Pierce turned me onto growing collards which she prefers over tree collards. I actually like them both a lot. A beautiful traveling farmer from Nebraska wound up at the stand this week who saw the tree collards and got very excited according to Pancho. This young farmer who was taking a break from the cold winter in Nebraska said that he was in Kenya (or somewhere in East Africa) and saw this vegetable. ""Sukama Wiki is the Swahili for "pushing out the week". Most households grow it (especially in Kenya) if they have the space, and it is also cheap to buy, highly nutritious and delicious. If there is no other food in the house, sukuma will be there until the next payment comes in. This is awesome! I was looking for a sukuma wiki for a long time (it can only grow from propagation) and now that I'm going back to Nebraska it would be perfect of our gardens!". I looked this up on the web and one place ( had a recipe and said the same thing about the name "sukuma wiki means 'to push the week' implying sukuma wiki is a food used to stretch the meals to last for the week." Us poor folks on tight budgets need foods like these. Pancho also had the impression " that it was an "up lifter", I guess it is a synonym of "pushing out the week". That is what is going on here in San Francisco in a spiritual sense…a green uplifter.

The news that is most exciting is that on Saturday we had the greatest work day at the Free Farm. Some of our core team started early by picking up some compost and bringing it to the site. We decided to start each work day with having a huddle and talking about what we planned to do that day. Since this was our first really highly organized day we came up with a list of responsibilities that needed taking care of on a regular basis and people volunteered to help. One neighbor who has lived near this empty lot for ten years offered to keep his eye on the property and be a security person. He expressed how grateful he was that we were putting the lot to good use finally. Then we went to work and the entire lot got totally cleaned up. A number of people moved all the stray bricks and rubble into a neat pile, compost piles were started, garbage bagged up, and construction materials put together in neat piles. I was impressed with how many syringes and needles that were found especially along the edges. I had two flats of strawberries that got planted and our first rows for vegetables were staked and laid out. At previous meetings we decided we wanted to serve lunch to our volunteers so every week a different person cooks and brings it to the farm. I really believe that besides growing a farm together, we are growing community, and taking a break together and sharing a meal is one way that helps with that process. At the end of the day we put away our tools away and held one last ceremony. We walked around and checked out what we accomplished and thanked ourselves. I think we all felt pretty high when we left. We don't have a website just for this farm yet but check out Welcome's blog on this project

I also had a wonderful workday on Friday at the 18th and Rhode Island garden. We planted more fruit trees and it looks like we are going to eventually have a food forest there. 

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