Team Dances With Legumes, based on the San Francisco Peninsula, came together long before this One-Block Party contest ever began—back in the fall of 2008. Inspired by Sunset’s August 2008 story about our magazine’s efforts to grow an end-of-summer dinner, team leader Maryanne Welton and her friends and neighbors decided they’d launch their own series of grown-from-scratch dinners. For years now, this group of about two dozen people (kids included) has been getting together for regular seasonal feasts, using mainly what they’ve raised or made. This is the team's July update.
The team's namesake, dancing into the sky in the Weltons' yard.
All of us Bay Area gardeners are in the midst of this weird summer weather, wondering—will we ever get tomatoes? The cool, wet, spring has lingered too long into summer, interspersed with a few days of heat that make everything droop. We are starting to harvest regularly from the garden, which is always rewarding: beans, squash, cukes, onions, garlic, peppers, cabbages, lettuce, and berries. But these are just the harbingers to the ultimate summer treat—a sun-warmed tomato fresh off the vine.
Part of our planning potluck at Gwyn's.
We shared a potluck dinner in Gwyn’s garden a few weeks back. She was readying it for an edible garden tour so it was at its full glory. She has over 50 fruit trees—and everything from elderberries to cactus to cardoons. Her ducks, geese, rabbit, and chickens provided entertainment as we enjoyed quiche dotted with cherry tomatoes; sautéed squash; coleslaw; an incredible mixture of squash, onions and pesto; crackers with herbed ricotta; and a stew of potatoes, dried fava beans, and sausage. A Dancing With Legumes salad featured fresh green beans as the prima ballerina performing a pas de trois with olive oil, lemon juice, and spring onions. We retreated from the cool, windy evening to gather inside for berry crisp with three kinds of homemade ice cream (lemon, blueberry and lavender honey).
Gwyn's colorful chicken coop.
After dinner, we talked about our plans for our final harvest dinner. Some of the dishes we’d just eaten were tests for the dinner and received big thumbs up. I had made two different recipes for the lavender honey ice cream and one was a clear winner.
Thinking Ahead to the One-Block Party: What's Ripening?
Mostly, we wonder what will be ready at the end of August. We will fine-tune our menu as the date draws closer, depending on what’s ready for harvest at that time. Many people are heading out for vacations now, so we’re lining up garden care. Gwyn and her children spend several weeks at a cabin in Maine every summer and will bring back dried mushrooms.
Tay’s garden is happily producing squash and beans, and orange cherry tomatoes are just starting to ripen. She also has watermelon, edamame, cucumber, onions, and tomatillos in the wings. Brilliant zinnias are brightening up the foggy mornings.
Lisa has lots growing right now—green beans, bell peppers (green, red and purple), two types of cucumbers, too many varieties of tomatoes, strawberries, lemons, plums, Little Gem romaine, the remnants of fava beans, and grapes. Her herb pots are bursting with basil, parsley, chives, rosemary, marjoram, sage, thyme, and many kinds of mint.
Cow and Beer Update
The Jensens’ animals have been keeping them busy (Lucy the cow, plus geese, ducks, chickens, and dozens of beehives) and their daughter and son-in-law have been brewing beer.
Mark with Lucy, due to have her calf around August 21st
The Wheat Report (and Sunflowers vs. Squirrels)
Here at Welton Flats, we harvested our wheat. We started by ripping out a handful of stalks, trimming them with garden clippers to a uniform length, and then stood them up in a bucket. The wheat on the stalks will dry for a couple of weeks before we begin the process of separating the wheat from the chaff—something everyone should experience at least once so they know the true meaning of that oft-used phrase.
Kirk harvesting our wheat, with the as-yet-unscathed sunflowers in the background.
Kirk has been battling the squirrels. They started grabbing the sunflower heads before the seeds were formed—seeds we’ve been hoping to press into oil. The first attempt to fight them was bird netting arranged on stakes around the plants, with a layer of chicken wire at ground level to keep the squirrels from crawling in. They easily breached that barrier by jumping onto the netting from a nearby tree and chewing their way through. This weekend Kirk wrapped the entire sunflower bed in chicken wire, a Christo-like, freeform enclosure stitched together with wire ties and a certain measure of hope. Take that, squirrels—we’ll see if you can chew through wire!
The quinoa is producing beautiful flowers. We haven’t yet figured out how to harvest them, but we are looking forward to our first quinoa dish. The bees love these flowers and the sunflowers, too (they can easily fly through the chicken wire).
To sum up, summer is now in full swing, slightly delayed and cooler than normal—but still, our food is growing. We’re grateful to be members of the Dances with Legumes team, sharing, gardening, eating, and dancing together.
By Maryanne Welton, Team Leader
Posted and edited by Margo True, Sunset Food Editor