P-Patch Party People

"We're gonna go see my friend Deb at the P-Patch," announced Leslie, my Seattle houseboat host. "Tuesday is work-party night."

Translation: We were headed to one of Seattle's 70-plus community gardens, which grows thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables expressly for area food banks. Deb Rock, who's been a food-bank garden coordinator at Interbay Community Garden since 1999, oversees a group of volunteer gardeners who join her every Tuesday night during growing season, between April and October.

The "party" portion of the evening comes after the weekly chores of harvesting are completed, and that's when we first-timers showed up on the scene.

"Kim, can you go to my plot and pick a container's worth of sun gold tomatoes for the panzanella?" Deb asked me. "And don't worry if the tomatoes are splitting; they're still tasty," she added.

Leslie and Trine were on raspberry duty, then moved onto lettuces and herbs. The work was welcome, as it was part of preparing a feast for the volunteers and a few extra folks, like ourselves.

We brought our bounty to the makeshift kitchen in the middle of the garden. We began tearing stale bread for Deb, who planned to cook it in olive oil and garlic. The sweet and juicy sun golds were added, and then Deb asked Trine to quickly harvest some lacinato kale to add to the mix.

In the meantime, green beans were thrown into a pot of boiling water (the secret is to boil, not steam them, says Deb; recipe below), and an herbal vinaigrette was underway. Kate lit a fire in a steel drum to keep us warm, and she brought a blackberry pie made from blackberries picked at the local park. Thinly sliced cucumbers were so pristine and cucumber-y tasting they needed only salt. There was wine, cheese and bread to fill in the gaps.

As dusk turned to night, we gathered around the table and piled our plates with the goodies. Everything we ate was loaded with meaning. Who planted the seeds for the green beans, I wondered. And those raspberries, sitting in an egg carton so as not to get squished, tasted like candy. I imagined the sun beaming down, like a magic sweetening machine.

I could see the pride in the faces of the eight volunteers who join Deb every Tuesday night, as they grow an average of 4,500 pounds of fruits and vegetables, between April and October, for those with a less certain food supply.

"Everybody shares, you have this deeper relationship and you go home feeling all tingly," said Rock. On the way home, my hands remained full of tomato-vine perfume, and I hoped it would stay with me for a little while longer. I smelled smoke in my hair and noticed that my fingernails were filled with soil. No wine could have me feel this inebriated.

"Greg's Green Beans"
(named after a late Seattle community gardener named Greg who loved green beans)

Bring a pot of water to a boil, and add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add 1 pound of green beans, trimmed, and boil 8-10 minutes, or until tender.
Drain. Toss with olive oil and sea salt to taste.

P.S. Deb Rock and her merry band of volunteer gardeners are featured in the August/September issue of Organic Gardening magazine.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 1, 2006; 1:45 PM ET  | Category:  Community Gardening
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You are truly blessed to have an experience like this... I live vicariously though you.

Posted by: Momma Daria | September 1, 2006 02:24 PM

Please tell hello to Debbie Rock.Today Sept the 5th is her birthday and I want to wish her the best birthday ever... I am her aunt Maria from Houston Texas.
She is such a talented person and I enjoy hearing about her wonderful garden work.

Posted by: Maria D. Ramirez | September 5, 2006 08:26 AM

What a cool idea! Do you know if there are any food bank gardens like that in the DC area?

Posted by: happy vegan | September 5, 2006 12:54 PM

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