Organic Donors, so named because the team's dream was to grow enough food to donate to food banks, is based in Aurora, near Denver. At 5,680 feet above sea level, its elevation poses challenges not faced by any of the other teams in this One-Block Party contest—including subzero weather this summer! Among its many members are cheesemakers, beekeepers, vinegar-brewers and chicken-raisers. What follows is the team's final account, from late September, of the culmination of a summer's worth of efforts—their One-Block Party.
The Organic Donors did it. We created a homemade, homegrown, home-produced meal that was delicious, interesting, and inspiring. We overcame hurdles such as a summer-long kitchen renovation that continues and crazy (although not that unusual) Colorado weather. We enjoyed a feast of vegetable dishes, trout from Colorado lakes, home-fermented dairy products, and an egg dish that crossed over from frittata to pizza. Our whole feast was consumed outdoors on an unseasonably warm Colorado fall evening.
The dishes we made were inspired by garden successes and failures, favorite pastimes, our families’ heritages, and plain good taste. The meal highlighted the ultra-fresh food we produced, all grown in our backyards. Everyone agreed that the dinner was excellent.
Among the highlights: heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad, roasted greens(broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage), a slice of "frittizza", an all-vegetable "pasta," grill-roasted trout, and a bowl of fresh beet soup. Photo: Elizabeth Staton
The path to the table was not always smooth, though.
Beer making turned out to be a lot more difficult than we expected. We have renewed respect for small craft breweries and home brewers. Suffice it to say that for the dinner, we bought a few growlers from our local Dry Dock Brewery in Aurora, CO.
Our first beer-making attempts.
As for our apples, they just dropped from the trees in midsummer. Those that remained were diseased or fed the local squirrels. The raspberry bushes produced about five miniscule berries that couldn’t provide more than garnish. And the elderberries we harvested simply intimidated us after we read about the dangers of poisoning from the stems that we’d included in our harvest. Our broccoli and cauliflower (planted by brand-new gardeners the Votodian family) didn’t produce heads, but they inspired one of our favorite dishes of the feast—roasted broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage greens.
From the beginning of the One-Block Party contest, we set out to donate extra produce to food pantries. As the produce rolled in, we gave to Catholic Charities Denver emergency assistance centers. Our efforts were also part of a nationwide garden produce donation effort run by Plant a Row for the Hungry. I’m proud to count our donations as part of the 579 pounds that all “Plant a Row Colorado” participants donated (as of September 21) to food banks. We will be adding carrots pulled by our team on Feast night to that total.
Part of the fun of producing this meal was the collaboration. My one large red watermelon produced two great drinks: the agua de sandia (watermelon water – reason enough to grow watermelon) and the watermelon-infused vodka.
Claire Staton pointing out the watermelon, soon to be turned into drinks.Photo: Elizabeth Staton.
Freda Staton enjoying a hibiscus watermelon cosmopolitan; a glass of agua de sandia(watermelon water). Photos: Elizabeth Statonand John Kukic
Similarly, the vegetable pasta dish came from two households’ gardens and kitchens. One of our team members dried enough hibiscus flowers to give all households enough to make hibiscus cream to top fish or chicken, accompanied by a decorated recipe card. (We used the hibiscus in the cocktails, too.)
Some of my favorite highlights of the evening included the discussion between Mark and Katie Votodian, who spent part of the party planning the expansion of their brand-new vegetable garden. They plan to double the size and add extra compost to loosen their soil. Looks like we have some committed home gardeners, thanks to the One-Block Party!
It was also fun to see what dishes the kids liked best (trout, until they discovered the beet soup), and how much they enjoyed harvesting the carrots. I asked them before dinner if they wanted to harvest carrots, and they did. But the ground was dry and the carrots tops were pulling off, so I explained that we needed to add some water and wait until after dinner. I promptly forgot the whole plan until after dinner, when a contingent of under-five-year-olds asked me if they could pick carrots now. Who could say no to that? Armed with trowels, we hit the bed that they had seeded at our kick-off party, and they picked pounds and pounds of carrots. Apparently trampling newly sown seed produces happy carrots.
Many conversations from our feast included the words “What we should do next year?” So contest or no contest, hosting a one-block party is so interesting, challenging, and fun, that I expect we’ll do it for years to come.