A feast from a church garden's leftovers

Guest post by Lindsay, who's still in Tallahassee, still growing food

About 5 months ago, I took a bus down to Tallahassee just in time to plant a fall garden with the kids from Nathan's church. I learned how to plant collards, mustards, turnips, lettuce, and shallots, and then turned right around and taught kids--from preschoolers who were barely speaking right up to sweet, awkward 5th graders--how to do the same. We planted five 4'x10' raised beds; a year before, the beds had been built and the students decided that they wanted the food they grew in "God's Giving Garden" to get donated to the food pantry that their church (Faith Presbyterian) ran along with other Meridian Rd. churches.

Since then, any month when there's produce ready to be harvested, some students and other volunteers pick the vegetables, wash them, and walk the across the parking lot where they get added to the bags of food. In addition to the canned and boxed staples, folks get to take home healthy produce that's fresher than anything you can get at the store.

The turnips and lettuce we planted in September have long since been picked, the collards and mustards have gone to seed, and the shallots have grown tall and thick. It's time for warm-weather crops: tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, watermelons, zucchini, green beans. And so tonight we found ourselves, once again, in a flurry of children ready to try their hand at gardening.

Of course, before any of those new plants could go in, we needed to clear out the old. Some kids pulled up the greens, and others got to do the treasure-hunt for shallots bulbing under the soil. We set what they pulled aside and started explaining how deep to plant green beans and how much space a watermelon plant needs.

When we were cleaning up, though, we realized just how much food we had: 4 paper grocery bags full of greens and two armloads of shallots. We didn't set out tonight to harvest; we were just cleaning up. And still, we ended up with more food than we could cook ourselves.

The collards will be passed out at the weekend's "Manna on Meridian" food pantry; we took the mustards and some of the shallots to Haven of Rest men's shelter; tomorrow we'll drop off another armload of shallots at Grace Mission Episcopal Church for use in their regular free meals. On our way back home, we stopped in at New Leaf Market to see how much green onions were going for ($2 for a bundle of 6). A little bit of quick math told us that we'd harvested $100 worth of shallots which cost $5 to plant; the greens easily would have cost the same.

Not too bad of a return, especially considering it's just what needed to be pulled out to make room for a fresh planting.

Here's a few extra photos of Nathan, seeds and young hands: