Category Archives: Marketing & Outreach

Global Gardening With KCD

July 3, 2020

Thank you King County Conservation District for helping us learn about sustainably grown vegetables from around the globe!

Last November, Clyzzel (Cly) Samson, the new Community Agriculture Program Coordinator for the King Conservation District (KCD), was eager to know more about the local gardens. She contacted us about a visit to Freeway Estates Community Orchard.

KCD Community Agriculture Program started in 2015 to help increase access to healthy food for all, specifically community gardens & low-income communities of color, as well as educate land users about sustainable resource management. When Cly stopped by for a tour, she explained that KCD is looking for ways to ensure that their programs are serving the needs of ALL who live in King County.

Volunteers are needed!
by appointment
please email
freewayestatescommunityorchard@gmail.com

The KCD Community Agriculture Program offers programs that support urban food gardeners. At FECO, we regularly send soil samples from our vegetable beds to the KCD free soil test program to ensure we are providing a good balance of nutrients and organic matter, but not over-fertilizing.

We have also benefitted from the free Cover Crop Seed Giveaway. Early this spring, Cly offered us seeds or plant starts. I grow my own starts so I chose the seeds. Starting from seed allows me the opportunity to choose varieties that have a better chance of survival against diseases and pests that may pop up in our orchard. Cly told me that she planned to order seeds from Kitazawa Seed Company but would be happy to procure from other seed companies if they didn’t have what we wanted. Kitizawa has been around since 1917. They specialize in Asian vegetables and carry unique varieties requested by community gardeners.

The seed gift was a wonderful opportunity for us to try out some culturally diverse vegetables that University Food Bank clients and FECO volunteers may be familiar with, or enjoy trying for the first time. Two vegetables that Kitazawa carries that were new to us are Ethiopian Mustard and Teot Bat Put summer squash. Greens like collards, kale and Swiss chard tend to be popular at the Food Bank, and it will be nice to add some culturally different varieties to the mix. How thrilling to try a new summer squash that doesn’t look like a zucchini!

If you are not familiar with KCD, you should be! They have supported all who live and work in King County, working on sustainable resource management, since 1949. They strive to promote sustainable stewardship of land and water through a variety of programs including education, technical assistance and providing resources when available. Find out more at their website, https://kingcd.org.

Cly is also a part of the Rainier Valley Corps’ Green Pathways Fellowship Program, a fellowship program designed to create living wage entry-level positions, within the environmental justice movement, for low-income young adults.

In case you are interested in planting these two vegetables, I have included more information below.

Sue Hartman

Ethiopian Mustard (Brassica carinata) goes by many names: Ethiopian Kale, Abyssinian Mustard, African Kale, Highland Kale, Ethiopian Blue Mustard and Gomenzer. It is a hybrid of Black Mustard (Brassica nigra) and Wild Cabbage (Brassica Oleracea) developed in the highlands of Ethiopia. It is grown in Ethiopia primarily as a cooking oil crop but is used as a leafy green in many other parts of Africa. The edible seeds can be pounded and added as a spice to various Ethiopian dishes. Researchers are also studying the oil as a source of biofuel (a plane powered entirely by fuel produced from these seeds flew in 2012). There is not much information available on the nutritional content of the leaves, but the seeds are rich in oil and protein.

Ethiopian Mustard looks similar to Lacinato kale (also known as Tuscan or dinosaur), depending on the cultivar and stage of plant growth. Some recommend harvesting the shoot tops when the plants get tall enough to produce secondary shoots lower on the plant. Harvesting this way may give you a 2nd or 3rd cutting off the same plant. We cut the top shoots off most of our plants but left a few uncut to harvest the lower leaves like we do for kale in order to compare both techniques. Ethiopian Mustard can also be grown as a micro and baby green.

Ethiopian Mustard grows well in cool climates but take longer to produce flowers than many other mustard greens grown in the Pacific Northwest. So far, none of our plants have bolted but we’ll see how they do once the summer arrives (after the 4th of July, of course!). Ethiopian Mustards grow quickly in a variety of climates, are more drought-tolerant and do not seem to be as attractive to pests as kale or collards.

Not all cultivars of Ethiopian Mustard are alike. Johnny’s Selected Seeds sells one called ‘Amara’ that may have a different flavor profile than what Kitazawa sells. Other cultivars are marketed under different names such as Texsel greens. Breeding projects are underway in Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe to develop new cultivars. As more U.S. seed companies begin to carry Ethiopian Mustard, we may see it’s popularity rise locally.

Teot Bat Put (Cucurbita moschata) is a hybrid summer squash that is commonly called avocado squash because the fruits look like avocados! They have a glossy green skin, avocado shape and ivory colored flesh. These squash come from from Korea. The plants produce vines that can grow to 10 feet if they are happy, similar to the Italian Tromboncino or Zucchetta squash. However, they are not supposed to be as rampant as the trombos, which is good since we don’t have a huge amount of space to grow in our beds. The vines can be trellised or left to ramble along the ground like pumpkin vines.

According to some, Teot Bat Put is very productive but time will tell. If we have a cool, wet summer, the harvest may be fairly short. They are best harvested when they are about 4” in diameter, 5-6” in length and weigh less than a pound. There are claims that their flavor is better than zucchini, but once again, time will tell since they haven’t yet fruited. I was unable to find much information about Teot Bat Put squash, so this will be a good chance to see how well this squash does at our community orchard and garden. If it thrives and is a tasty squash, it could become a regular item.

Ten Years at Freeway Estates

February 18, 2020

Volunteers who put in 20+ hours last year gathered recently to sip Chestnut soup and brainstorm. Good ideas flowed, including a suggestion to add a sign to the kiosk, summarizing our efforts during the past ten years. Below is the content created by the 20-hour club.

Freeway Estates Community Orchard (FECO) is located on Duwamish land. Today this 12,000 square foot plot is managed by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and leased to FECO.

In 2010, a small group of neighbors planted the first fruit trees and began transitioning the grass and invasive plants to planting guilds. In 2013, the City of Seattle awarded us a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant (NMF) to formally survey the neighbors about their vision for this space. We were unanimous in choosing one concept and created our Vision and Mission Statement:

Vision: Seattle residents have nearby access to a beautiful public space where they can learn and participate in food growing, connect with neighbors, and nurture the environment.

Mission: We are creating an inclusive, action-oriented community, excited about:

–producing organic food to be shared,
–educating ourselves and our neighbors,
–improving and beautifying this public space.

In 2015 we received a large NMF grant and, guided by our steering committee, volunteers built infrastructure which included: gravel paths, a shed re-build, two rain-water cisterns, plumbing for city water, and raised beds. Another small NMF grant in 2018 allowed us to implement a water conservation project.

Sat, Mar 7, 10-12 Work Party
Sun Mar 15, 2-4, Work Party
Mon Mar 30, 6:30-8 Fig Pruning
Mon Apr 6, 6-8, Work Party

All of our NMF grants required volunteer matching hours. We have always exceeded the requirement. To date, more than 150 volunteers have logged a total of 11,000 hours.

We grow all of our food in compliance with organic standards. We produce our own thermal compost. We continue to learn about urban agriculture and share our knowledge with each other and with other organizations. We sponsor workshops on fruit-tree pruning, compost production, culinary herbs, invasive plants, and pollinators. We regularly host grade-school children. Since 2011, we have offered an annual cider-pressing festival for neighbors and friends.

One of our major ongoing activities is growing food for the University District Food Bank. In 2019, from just four garden beds, we contributed more than 700 pounds of fresh produce for neighbors in need.

We have faced many setbacks in terms of theft and vandalism. It is challenging to work in such a public location. However, when a neighbor walks through and expresses appreciation and gratitude for what we are doing, we feel the rewards outweigh the disappointments.

For the near future, we are increasing our commitment to use resources wisely and to include all people.

FECO is a hub where neighbors and volunteers connect. We welcome everyone. No special skills are needed and we have tasks for all levels of ability.

Contact us at freewayestatescommunityorchard@gmail.com.
Support us at FreewayEstates.org

The 2019 20-hour club: Maxwell, Joan, Reid, Kate, Jennifer, Sue, Nancy, Allison, Michelle, Amy, Nora, Ruth, Arly and Brannon

The Perfect Fruit Tree Owner

August 29, 2019

McIntosh. My favorite.

Most will say you can’t grow a Mac here. Well, there is at least one tree in the Seattle area. Lori Brakken, apple sleuth, drives around and slams on the brakes when she spots any apple tree. She saw a Mac in the Seattle area and called me up. I visited the tree last winter and got permission from Kathy, the tree owner, to take some scion wood. (Allison and I made two grafts this spring and they both are doing well!)

Per the orangepippen website,  this apple was discovered by a John McIntosh, a farmer in Ontario in the early 19th century. The McIntosh was suited to the cold climate of the area as it achieves its best flavor in colder apple-growing regions.

Sat, Aug 31, 10-11, Qi Gong
Sat, Sep 7, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, Sep 15, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Oct 5, 10-12, Work Party
Sat, Oct 12, 2-5, Cider Fest

“The McIntosh style is typified by attractive dark red or (more often) crimson colors, and a crunchy bite, often with bright white flesh. The flavor is simple and direct, generally sweet but with refreshing acidity, and usually a hint of wine – often referred to as vinous”.

Kathy was anxious for us to return this summer for pruning and to give her a yearly management plan. Her tree has apple scab so she has been instructed to pick up all the apples and leaves. (Venturia inaequalis resides in the litter.)

Kathy is the perfect fruit tree owner. She cares about the tree,  is eager to learn how best to care for it and allows us to glean much of the fruit for the food bank.

“I’m in the arts”, Kathy announced. “I am not fruit tree expert. I was given an assignment in a training to draw part of a tree, once each month for three months. I chose this apple tree. Noting the details and the changes really woke me up to nature.”

Structural pruning is usually done in the winter but we “took a bit off the top and the sides”. Kathy wanted pruning on the street side so auto owners would stop breaking the branches. She also wanted a walkway between the tree and a nearby bush. Pruning has to consider all of the various goals.

Allison is tall and she managed the long-handled pruners. She ate as many apples as she could while pruning. In the end, Kathy was satisfied. “The tree looks good, like it did in years past!”

Below is a comment by Bruce, from the orangepipen website:

I grew up in central Pennsylvania and with the scent of McIntosh apple pie and apple dumplings, next door, in my aunt Eleanor’s kitchen. The stand-out attribute of this variety in my mind is the distinctive aroma. Quite unlike any other. The fruit, also unlike any other, is extremely delicate; that’s why I think most grocers avoid stocking them (the phrase I’ve heard them called is “smash and toss” apples) They bruise easily then rapidly mush and rot. They are like a beautiful sunset. Awesome and short lived. I’m attempting (with limited success) to grow them here in Western Washington, difficult because it doesn’t get cold enough in the winter. I will continue the effort because these are the best apples EVER !

Ruth