From hugelkultur to jalapeños: Celebrating urban agriculture in North Minneapolis

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Participants in the summer Youth Farm and Market program fixed food, shared recipes, did a couple of skits, heard from the Cookie Cart about their vegetable cookie recipe trials, and thanked their staff at a “harvest” celebration Aug. 11 on the St. Olaf Community campus grounds, 29th and Emerson. A fall session of evening classes will be starting up in September. For information, call JP Mason at 612-222-5280 or email jp@youthfarm.net.

David Dahmes and Beau Hammel of Tilia restaurant gave the first Chef in The Box cooking demonstration at the McKinley CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Aug. 25. Next event Sept. 15, watch Facebook. The chefs cooked kale and collard greens (the secret is fried applewood smoked bacon deglazed with brandy or other alcohol; or water or chicken stock). There was a vegetable salad with summer squash and zucchini sliced in thin sticks like the pasta it would combine with, plus olive oil, cheese and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting.

Dahmes showed us his favorite fast slicing tool (the blue thing, available for about $5 at a kitchen store) while preparing a mild cucumber salad. Slice thinly down to the edge of the seeds and “save that to throw in your soup.”

I think I was dousing the heat of the pseudo “kimchee” made with leeks, hot sauce and rice wine vinegar… missed writing down the cold cucumber soup ingredients. You can probably find a recipe on line.

Chef in the Box tips help use up and enjoy the seasonal produce that comes in their weekly CSA share box. Fifty-five families, the vast majority of them Northsiders, and two restaurants, paid or worked for CSA shares from the gardens scattered through McKinley neighborhood near Cityview school.

Also hot: Candied jalapeños; remove seeds and pith with a tweezer, drizzle a simple syrup over jalapeño rings (syrup is equal parts sugar and water) or let the peppers cook in it slightly. Good on burgers.

The North End Community Garden on Penn near Lowry involves about 20 people plus a plot by youth from Project Sweetie Pie. During the statewide Gardening Matters Community Garden Day Aug. 11, they welcomed guests to the garden for tours and food sampling (quinoa salad made with cucumbers and black beans). This is the third year for the garden; they’ve planted some fruit trees and have been experimenting with hugelkultur, (hill culture). Hugel beds are raised beds made by mounding compost and dirt on top of sticks and logs that act like sponges regulating water while they decompose. Fully decomposed wood provides rich nutrients.

Chris Kosowski explained that they plant “polycultures,” circles of plants that get along; there are lots of volunteers from previous years’ self-seeding, too. She and Marie Schmitt said they have experimented with plants whose edible parts are not very showy, such as Jerusalem artichokes or sun chokes and other root vegetables, kale, chard, and cherry tomatoes instead of the larger ones; less tempting to steal.

Schmitt said “It’s so nice for the community, where people are a little down and out, to see something good going on. You see something good, you start to look harder to find the good.”

Many of the areas are communal, some plots are individual; more regular help and participation is needed…stop by for more info if you see someone working in the garden, and watch the NorthNews for the announcement next year when the garden starts up for the summer.