Friday, August 24, 2007

Food Bloggers on the Farm in San Francisco

The surroundings of Alemany Farm in San Francisco do not bring forth feelings of pastoral tranquility. On one side is 12 lanes of high speed traffic (Interstate 280 and Alemany Blvd), which showers the area with waves of noise. On another side, a large housing complex---a vast space of buildings, cars and concrete. Layers of litter from inconsiderate drivers cover the fence at the edge of the farm.

photo of the edge of Alemany Farm in San Francisco


But walk through the gate and you enter an oasis. Rows of tomatoes, zucchini, beans, lettuce. A herb garden. Bee hives. Apple trees, heavy with fruit. Bugs, plants, and birds doing their thing.

photo of Alemany Farm in San Francisco

Alemany Farm is an experiment in organic urban agriculture, environmental education, food security and people power. It was a more or less abandoned community garden a few years ago, overgrown with weeds. In the last two years, it has been turned into a wonderful farm, thanks to numerous volunteers and a few paid staff. The fruits, vegetables and herbs grown by the farm are either sold at discount prices at the Bayview/Hunters Point Farmers Market or given to farm volunteers at the end of each work day.

Last Sunday, a handful of food bloggers from the San Francisco Bay Area spent a sunny afternoon at Alemany Farm, helping with various tasks like weeding, spreading mulch and more. Joining me were Amy of Cooking with Amy; Bonnie of Ethicurean; Brett of In Praise of Sardines; Jen of Bay Area Bites, Eat Local Challenge, and Life Begins at Thirty; Michael of Word Eater and Bay Area Bites; Sam (and Fred) of Becks and Posh; and Stephanie (and Mark) of The Grub Report and Bay Area Bites.

On the day we worked, the harvest included carrots, tomatoes, apples, beets, herbs (tarragon, oregano, basil, lemon verbena), cucumbers (lemon and regular), green beans and sweet peppers. I used my portion of the harvest to make long-cooked Greek-style green beans (recipe here) and a cucumber, herb and tomato salad. It seems almost blasphemous to cook fresh green beans for 1 hour, but the flavor of the finished dish is incredible.

Working among the crops can be a nature lesson, bringing you close to some interesting spiders and insects, including plenty of ladybugs and ladybug larvae (mean looking creatures that are aphid eating machines). Two of Sunday's discoveries are shown below. The spider on the left climbed onto my pant leg as I was harvesting lemon cucumbers. Knowing that it was not a black widow or brown recluse, I didn't freak out. (arachnologist readers: what kind of spider is this? Should I have worried?). The extremely pale praying mantis on the right was found by one of the children who help out at the farm.

photo of a spider, photo of a praying mantis

After the day's work list was complete, we sat down in the shade of a willow tree to do what food bloggers love to do: eat (and take photos of what we're eating). Some of the offerings are pictured below. Starting at the top, and moving clockwise: a bean, cherry tomato, and tuna salad from Brett; a fig-olive spread from Amy; brownies with dried cherries from Bonnie; bittersweet chocolate with caramel-coated cacao nibs and hazelnuts from me; spicy peanuts from Jen; eggplant-Thai basil dip from me. (visit the photo at Flickr for an annotated view.)


photo of picnic foods


Other perspectives on the day from the Grub Report, and Cooking with Amy.

Numerous cameras were snapping during the afternoon, with some great photos posted at Flickr: Brett's photos, Stephanie's photos, Amy's photos, Jen's photos, my photos, and other Flickr pictures with the alemanyfarm tag.

Want to Join In?

Alemany Farm has several volunteer work days each month. Check out their calendar to find out when the next work day is.

If you live in the Bay Area and would like to be informed of other food blogger events, send me your e-mail address and the name of your blog via e-mail (my address is on my profile page).


(Cross posted at The Ethicurean)



Random link from the archive: Bengali Pumpkin
Technorati tags: Blogging : Farms : San Francisco : Food

4 comments:

Mansi Desai said...

Sounds like fun. I've requested to be added to this list. WIll try to participate in the next event! It'll be great to meet fellow bay area foodies:)

-Mansi

Bettina Stern said...

Browsing the Eat Local Challenge, I found your blog. I thought that you might be interested in our website Loulies which has two features: (1) "e-bites" which are sent out , on average, twice a week via email. The are short musings on anything and everything inspired by food and always include a great recipe, must-have tip, menu idea, new ingredient discovered etc. You must sign-up to receive the e-bites. (2) A Cook the Book club for those who want to learn to cook better with us (like a traditional book club, but we cook instead of read - this is how Suzanne and I met over 10 years ago and have learned to cook better with friends - it is really a great concept).

Please go to our website and sign-up to gain a better sense of who we are and how our site works. Everything we have written so far is archived on our home page.

Bettina
http://loulies.com/local_foods

Anonymous said...

this is the spider you found, not harmful

Black-and-Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia)

They are known as the garden spider (since they're very common in gardens) or writing spider (for the patterns in their webs). They catch large insects in their sturdy webs, including grasshoppers and butterflies. They are harmless to humans

Marc said...

anonymous -- thanks for the ID on the spider.