|Ellis Community Garden, here in Denver, CO|
It has been a beautiful, bountiful, and rewarding summer so far. As we are nearing the fall season, the vegetables, herbs, and fruit are in full production. I have had a lot of fun learning more about preserving and extending the flavors and shelf-lives of the food that I grow. As you can see from the photo above, things are really growing well, despite all of the mid-summer heat. One of our community garden members, Bill, has organized a weekly pick-up by a local charity, Produce for Pantries, which belongs to Grow Local Colorado (GLC). GLC is a group of volunteers dedicated to promoting local food, local community, and local economy. So far, our garden, along with many others around town, have donated well over 1,000 pounds of produce to shelters and food pantries. How exciting and rewarding!
|“Plant a Row for the Hungry,” Ellis Community Garden’s dedication to donating our produce to families in need.|
I am always so amazed by the amount “waste” we humans routinely trash. We toss our remains into landfills and trashcans, when we could reuse, recycle, or remake many of those items. An onion spoils. A leafy carrot top is trashed. Our pulp from juicing is crunched down the disposal. All of these items can be composted or transformed into, say, vegetable stock with a little time or research.
I have two zucchini plants that are doing amazingly well: I pick about two every three days! One or two people cannot consume that much, unless they either compost, preserve, or donate the rest. Our garden plot has a great composting system, as shown below. Compost bins are easy to construct and can be as simple as a can beside your sink or a large, constructed bin in your backyard. You can read more about building one in your space here.
|Our three-bin turning unit at Ellis.|
Composting is not necessarily the most desirable route to deal with excess produce or waste. It seems like I have one serious month, where everything in the garden proliferates and is ready to be harvested. Learning how to preserve over the past few years has really stretched the time I have to enjoy my garden. This past week, I have successfully dried zucchini, shredded and frozen zucchini, sliced and made lasagne with zucchini, and most recently, baked a delicious cake with my surplus amount of this tasty vegetable. After donating three zucchinis to Produce for Pantries, I left my plot with four tasty specimens and a mind ticking away with possibilities… I think that I have typed the word, zucchini, over five times in this paragraph!
|Selecting the goods!|
|Baby zucchini and blossom coming along…|
|This past Tuesday’s harvest from the plot.|
|The zucchini plant at my house. It has taken over the pathway!|
It might sound a little odd, but the flavor of zucchini cake is very similar to that of carrot cake. My sister has been in town the past few days, and I had the joy of meeting her boyfriend for the first time on Wednesday. We all sat down to tea and cake on the back porch and reveled in the cool, drizzly afternoon. Sharing a homemade treat was a great way to welcome him to the family, so-to-speak, and give him a little glimpse into my world.
I will type out the recipe for the zucchini cake, which you can easily substitute carrot, if you do not have any zucchini. I am completely biased on the deliciousness factor of this recipe. My boyfriend and I baked about ten of these cakes in the fall of 2008, and we had the excess ten pounds to prove it! If you bake one, let me know what you think…
|From the vine to the cake!|
1 1/2 Cups raw sugar
2 Cups whole wheat pastry flour (sometimes I do 1 C whole wheat pastry flour and 1 C brown rice flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon (I like it “cinnamony”!)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 Cups zucchini (or 2 ½ Cups zucchini and ½ Cup coconut)
1 Cup toasted, chopped pecans (toasting is the secret!)
2 sticks butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 box (one pound) powdered sugar (buy a little extra, and add more sugar to taste, if you like a sweeter frosting)
1 1/2 Cups toasted, chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper cut to fit the bottoms. Butter the sides of the pans. Cream the oil or butter, adding sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Add the flour mix, alternately with the eggs, blending well after each addition. Add the zucchini (or coconut, if added) and beat on a lower speed for about two minutes. Stir in the toasted nuts.
Divide the cake mix among the three pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for ten minutes and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
To make the frosting, cream the cheese, butter, and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar to taste. Usually, one box is sufficient, but I like a less sweet frosting with a more tart, pronounced cream cheese flavor. Stir in the toasted pecans.
|Frosting the cake.|
|The finished cake, with a zucchini blossom, as a garnish. As of tonight’s posting, there is only about one slice left!|