Gardens, Gleaning, and Feeding the Hungry

Guest blog post by Jason Silverman

A Plot Against Hunger gardenWalk past the corner of Barton and 10th Street in Arlington, VA and you’ll see an assortment of vegetables growing just outside the fence of a sprawling community garden. These vegetables are part of an area-wide program called Plot Against Hunger, which gathers fresh produce from area farmers, farmer’s markets, and private and community gardens to help feed the area’s hungry.

Inspiration for the idea came to Lisa Crye when she saw the approach a church in California took to feeding the hungry: sell produce from members’ gardens and donate the proceeds to a local food pantry.  At around the same time, the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) was looking for a way to offer more fresh vegetables to the approximately 1,400 needy families it serves in the County.  So in a brainstorming session in 2007, Crye and Puwen Lee, AFAC’s volunteer service coordinator, hatched a plan that would grow into AFAC’s Plot Against Hunger program.

Plot Against Hunger now provides AFAC with fresh produce from area farmers, farmer’s markets, and private and community gardens.  In its first year, it contributed 10,000 pounds of fresh produce to AFAC’s warehouses.  Since then, the number has grown dramatically, with Crye estimating that all the sources combined have yielded 200,000 pounds of produce each year.

The program’s largest source of produce comes from harvesting excess vegetables from commercial farms in the area, a practice called “gleaning.”  Plot Against Hunger coordinates gleaning events through the Mid-Atlantic Gleaning Network (MAGNET), which has relationships with area farms. The organization also gleans excess produce from the USDA’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland.

Its second-largest source is unsold produce donated by vendors after the weekly Crystal City, Courthouse, and Columbia Pike farmer’s markets that otherwise might go to waste.

Plot Against Hunger also receives donations of vegetables grown in gardens across Arlington. Many county community gardens, such as the one at Barton and North 10th St. have plots dedicated to AFAC, as do gardens at faith-based institutions, schools, and private residences.

Sowing the Seeds of Sustainability

But Plot Against Hunger does more than provide fresh produce to AFAC and, in turn, to the tables of its clients. It also educates Arlington residents on how they can grow their own vegetables.  The food-producing garden at Arlington Central Library, for example, employs techniques that can be used to grow food in a wide range of conditions, such as raised beds, square-foot gardening (using small, densely-planted plots), and roof gardening. The garden at Clarendon Presbyterian Church employs straw-bale gardening, and alone yielded 125 pounds of produce for AFAC last year.

Plot Against Hunger also has a school program.  Several area elementary schools have gardens that contribute to AFAC while also giving students a hands-on learning experience in gardening.  In Crye’s experience, kids who have been exposed to gardening and seen vegetables being grown are more likely to, well, eat their vegetables.  Crye reported an anecdote of a child with a long history of broccoli-hating being mesmerized by an actual broccoli plant.

AFAC and Plot Against Hunger don’t get to choose what vegetables are gleaned or donated. But AFAC operates on a “choice model” – its clients can select the food they wish to receive.  Foods grown through local gardens or commercial farms don’t always line up completely with the food preferences of AFAC’s clients, who hail from a wide variety of backgrounds.  So what to do when trying to place Swiss Chard, or blue hubbard squash – a massive, grayish relative of the pumpkin – with families who have no idea what to do with them? AFAC teaches its clients about these vegetables and how they can be prepared.  Twice a week, AFAC holds cooking demonstrations and offers samples to clients.

Want to get involved? AFAC and Plot Against Hunger are always looking for more volunteers, so whether you’re interested in gleaning, growing, cooking, or just donating produce, you can learn more here.

3 New FRESHFARM Market Locations

Finding local products and produce just got more convenient for DC-area residents. FRESHFARM Markets is opening three new markets: Crystal City, VA; Bethesda, MD; and at the U.S. Department of Health & Human  Services (HHS) in Southwest DC.

The Crystal City FRESHFARM Market will  open on Tuesday May 18 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM, the Bethesda FRESHFARM  Market will open on Saturday, June 19 from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and the HHS FRESHFARM Market will open on Wednesday June 2 from 2:30 PM to 6:30 PM.  All of the markets will be open weekly through the end of October.

“FRESHFARM Markets is delighted to bring more  farmers and artisan producers to neighborhoods in our greater metro DC  area,” said Bernadine Prince, co-director of FRESHFARM Markets.  “This is a win-win for consumers who want to eat seasonally and locally and for our farmers who bring the freshest farm-raised foods to our producer-only farmers’ markets.”

The new markets will showcase the best seasonal products that local farms in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Pasture-raised meats, eggs, artisan cheeses, yogurt, fresh fruits and vegetables, breads  and baked goods, fresh flowers and plants will be available.

Each week the markets will also host chef demonstrations using products from the market. The demos will illustrate the health benefits of eating fresh, locally grown foods and will inform shoppers on how to make simple recipes using seasonal ingredients.


Crystal City FRESHFARM  Market
Dates: Tuesdays,  May 18 – October 26
Time: 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Crystal Drive between 18th and 20th  Streets
Opening Day Chef at Market: TBD

Foggy Bottom FRESHFARM Market
Dates: Wednesdays,  April 7 – November 24
Time: 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Location: I Street, NW between New Hampshire  Avenue and 24th Street, NW
Opening Day Chef at Market: Steve Badt,  Miriam’s Kitchen, 4:00 PM

Health & Human Services FRESHFARM  Market
Dates: Wednesdays, June 2 – October  27
Time: 2:30 PM –  6:30 PM
Location: 200 Independence Avenue, SW
Opening Day Chef at Market: TBD

Penn Quarter FRESHFARM Market
Dates: Thursdays,  April 1 – December 23
Time: 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM
8th Street, NW between D and E  Streets
Opening  Day Chef at Market: Bryan Moscatello, Zola Wine & Kitchen, 4:00 PM

FRESHFARM  Market, By the White House
Dates: Thursdays, May 6 – November  18
Time: 3:00 PM –  7:00 PM
Location: Vermont Avenue, NW between H and I Streets, NW
Opening Day Chef at Market: Jaleo/Think Food Group GIANT PAELLA, 4:30 PM

H Street  NE FRESHFARM Market
Dates: Saturdays, May 1 – October 30
Time: 9:00 AM – 12:00  PM
Location: 625 H Street, NE (parking lot across from H Street Self Storage)
Opening Day Chef at Market: TBD

Silver Spring FRESHFARM Market
Dates: Saturdays,  April 3 – December 18
Time: 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Location: Ellsworth Drive between Fenton Street and Georgia Avenue
Opening Day Chef at Market: Pedro Matamoros, 8407 Kitchen & Bar, 11:00 AM
The April 3 market will be held in Gateway Plaza at the corner of Colesville and Georgia Avenue due to an event at the regular location.

St. Michaels FRESHFARM Market
Dates: Saturdays,  April 17 – October 9
Time: 8:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Location: Muskrat Park in the  harbor
Opening Day Chef at Market: TBD

Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market
Dates: Sundays,  April 4 – December 26
Time: 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Location: 1500 block of 20th Street, NW between  Massachusetts Avenue and Q Street and in the adjacent PNC Bank parking lot.
Opening Day  Chef at Market: David Varley, Bourbon Steak, 11:00  AM

Annapolis  FRESHFARM Market
Dates: Sundays, May 2 – November 21
Time: 8:30 AM – 12:00  PM
Location: Donner  Parking Lot in downtown Annapolis
Opening Day Chef at Market: TBD

Winter Farmer’s Market Pizza

Guest post by Jenna Huntsberger of the Modern Domestic

Photo courtesy of Jenna Huntsberger

March can be difficult time at the farmers market if you’re a baker. You’re already sick of the apples and pears of winter, but it’s too soon for rhubarb season. After this particularly snowy winter, most of us are thinking wistfully of the peaches, cherries, and berries that flooded the markets this summer.

But bakers, take note, there’s more at the farmer’s market than just fresh produce — you can also use the excellent local cheeses in a number of sweet and savory baked goods. If you’re not too tired of apples just yet, you can use a local cheddar cheese in a cheddar pie crust, which is always a great option to spice up apple pie. You can use a local blue cheese in scones, biscuits, or a quickbread. Or, if you’re feeling like dinner, use a local cheese on your pizza, which is what I did.

This pizza recipe uses a feta cheese with tomato and basil from Keswick Creamery, a Pennsylvania farm that sells at the Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market. All their cheese is made from raw Jersey milk, and their cows are exclusively grass-fed.

Unlike grocery store feta cheese, which can be dry and harsh, this is creamy and tangy, with just a hint of tomato and basil. Because I wanted the flavor of the cheese to stand out, this pizza is simple — topped with just the cheese, fresh basil, and a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Feel free to adapt this recipe to your tastes and whims. Pizza with very thinly sliced apples and Havarti would be lovely, as would a cheddar pizza topped with crumbled bacon. A good pizza crust is the perfect vehicle for whatever is in season, making it an excellent recipe to have on hand for the local shopper.

Farmer’s Market Pizza with Feta and Basil
Pizza dough recipe from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Serves two

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour (4 ounces), preferably unbleached all-purpose or Italian-style
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 liquid cup water at room temperature (70 to 90 degrees)
4 tsp. olive oil
3 oz feta cheese with basil and tomato
Handful fresh basil leaves
Olive oil to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, instant yeast, and sugar. Whisk in the salt (this keeps the yeast from coming into direct contact with the salt, which would kill it).

2. Make a well in the center and pour in the water. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gradually stir the flour into the water until all the flour is moistened and a dough just begins to form, about 20 seconds. It should come away from the bowl but still stick to it a little, and be a little rough-looking, not silky smooth. Do not overmix, as this will cause the dough to become stickier.

3. Pour the oil into a 2-cup measuring cup (to give the dough room to double in size) or a small bowl. With oiled fingers or an oiled spatula, place the dough in the oiled cup and turn it over to coat on all sides with the oil. Cover it tightly. If you want to use the dough soon, allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 hour or until doubled. For the best flavor development, make the dough at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours ahead, and allow it to sit at room temperature for only 30 minutes or until slightly puffy. Then set the dough, still in the measuring cup, in the refrigerator. Remove it 1 hour before you want to put it in the oven.

4. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees 1 hour before baking. Put an oven shelf on the lowest level and place a baking stone on it before preheating.

5. With oiled fingers, lift the dough out of the measuring cup or bowl. Holding the dough in one hand, pour a little of the oil left in the cup or bowl onto the pizza pan, and spread it all over the pan with your fingers. Set the dough on the pan and press it down with your fingers to deflate it gently. Shape it into a smooth round by tucking under the edges. If there are any holes, knead it very lightly until smooth. Allow the dough to sit for 15 minutes, covered, to relax it.

6. Using your fingertips, press the dough from the center to the outer edge to stretch it into a 10-inch circle, leaving the outer ½ inch thicker than the rest to form a lip. If the dough resists stretching (as will happen if you have activated the gluten by overkneading it), cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for a few minutes longer before proceeding.

7. Brush the surface of the dough with any remaining olive oil. Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to sit for 30 to 45 minutes, until it becomes light and slightly puffy with air.

8. Set the pizza pan directly on the hot stone and bake for 5 minutes.

9. Remove the pan from the oven and spread the cheese and fresh basil leaves over the dough. Lightly drizzle pizza with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Return the pan to the stone for 5-10 minutes or until the toppings have melted and the crust is golden; or, for an extra-crisp and browned bottom crust, using a pancake turner or baker’s peel, slide the pizza from the pan directly onto the stone. After 2 minutes, slip a small metal spatula under one edge of the pizza; if the bottom is golden, raise the pizza to a higher shelf.

10. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and cut with a pizza wheel, sharp knife, or scissors. Serve hot.

Winter Farmer’s Market Finds

Guest post by Carrie Madren

Some of the DC-area farmer’s markets stay open year-round, giving locals an opportunity to sample fresh winter vegetables. In season are apples (stored in cool temps), beets, cabbage, carrots, onions, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, turnips, and winter squash.

Among the best ways to prepare a cold-weather bounty is roasting it with savory dried herbs and spices, and with a flexible recipe such as the one below, you can throw together whatever vegetables you have on hand for a scrumptious side dish.

Roasted Winter Vegetables

6-8 cups winter vegetables: beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash (peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces or slices 1/2-inch thick)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp dried or 3 Tbsp fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano

Directions: Toss ingredients together (keep onions separate, as they will roast faster; add them to the pan 10 minutes into the baking time). Spread in a single layer on greased baking pans. Roast in a preheated oven at 425 degrees until tender, about 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with roasted garlic sauce (see below).

Roasted garlic sauce: Remove loose papery layers from outside of a whole garlic bulb but do not peel. Slice off top of the bulb, exposing the tip of each clove. Place on a square of aluminum foil and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil or just season with salt and pepper. Wrap tightly and bake alongside the vegetables until tender. Squeeze soft roasted cloves into a small bowl, mash with fork, and stir in 3/4 cup plain yogurt.

Serves 8
(Recipe courtesy “Simply in Season” by Mary Beth Lind)

Arlington Farmers Market
North Courthouse Road and 14th Street (courthouse parking lot)
703-228-6400 (George Parish)
Saturdays, year-round: 9 a.m.-noon, January-April

Bethesda Central Farm Market
Elm Street between Woodmont Ave. and Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, MD
Sundays, year-round, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Clarendon Farmers Market
Wilson Boulevard and N. Highland Street, Arlington (Clarendon Metro Station)
2-7 p.m. Wednesdays, year-round

Columbia Pike Farmers Market
South Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike (Pike Park in front of the Rite Aid)
9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays, winter season

Del Ray Farmers Market
East Oxford and Mount Vernon avenues
703-683-2570 (Pat Miller)
9 a.m.-noon Saturdays, winter season

Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market
20th and Q streets NW
Sundays, year-round: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Jan. 3-March 28

Eastern Market Outdoor Farmers Market
225 Seventh St. SE
202-698-5253 (Barry Margeson)
7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, year-round

Kensington Farmers Market
Howard Avenue (Kensington train station parking lot)
301-949-2424 (Shirley Watson)
8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, year-round

Montgomery Farm Women’s Cooperative Market
7155 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda
7 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, year-round

Takoma Park Farmers Market
Laurel Avenue between Eastern and Carroll avenues
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays, year-round

Organic Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes

This Thanksgiving, why not make a simple side dish using some fresh organic ginger and sweet potatoes from a local farmer’s market? Treat your guests to this gingery mashed potato recipe, courtesy of Restaurant Nora.

Gingery Mashed Sweet Potatoes

I like to use the orange variety of sweet potato or Jewell yams.

There are two ways of making this dish. Use one small potato per person.

Option 1:

Rub whole sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and baked at 400 degrees for about one hour or until soft. Halve the potato lengthwise and scoop out the inside and place in a bowl. Mash with a ½ tablespoon of butter per potato and season with grated fresh ginger (about ½ teaspoon per potato), salt and pepper. Garnish with crystallized ginger (optional).

Option 2:

Peel and thinly sliced raw potatoes. Toss with ½ tablespoon of butter per potato, 1 tablespoon of whole milk or half and half, salt and a pinch of sugar. Place in a saucepan, cover and cook over low heat for about 40 minutes or until soft, stirring from time to time. Mash with a potato masher or fork and flavor with freshly grated ginger. Season with salt and pepper and brown sugar (optional). Garnish with crystallized ginger (optional).