Posted: September 1, 2023
Planting Edmonds is a monthly column written by and for local gardeners.
Zucchini fritters, zucchini bread, grilled, stuffed or fricasseed zucchini, or as the joke goes, zucchini stealthily left on your doorstep in the dark of night – it’s a familiar meme in August. If you planted too much zucchini, there’s no need to panic. The Edmonds Food Bank will gladly find it a home.
Food insecurity is real, even in Edmonds. Our food bank feeds nearly 800 families each week — almost double the number of clients served during the pandemic – and they’re hungry for your extra zucchini… and rhubarb and beans and tomatoes.
Currently, only 10 to 20 local gardeners are dropping off produce each week, says Casey Davis, executive director of the Edmonds Food Bank, “but we could use hundreds of people donating.”
Because Edmonds is such a gardening town and Edmonds residents can be very generous, it seems like a match made in heaven.
Casey answers some questions about how you can donate homegrown fruits and veggies:
A little or a lot? Can people drop off small amounts of produce? Yes! She says, “every pound of produce we receive is one we don’t have to buy” – and right now they end up having to buy a lot. Gardeners can make a huge difference just by planting a little extra.
During one delivery, I added a pint of my homegrown blueberries. I was so proud of them and carried them so carefully. As I was getting out of the car, a Charlie’s Produce truck pulled up and Food Bank staff unloaded case upon case of blueberries. Sigh. Still, someone got MY freshly picked organic berries, grown with love.
Board member and former produce team coordinator Kathy Hare agrees. “As a nurse, I believe that food is medicine, and our customers deserve quality fresh fruits and vegetables. The area grocery stores are very generous, but the shelf life and quality of homegrown produce is so much better… and it’s better tasting!”
Which veggies? All the common veggies including greens like lettuce, spinach, kale and Swiss chard. “The item we run out of every week is lettuce,” Casey says. Edmonds’ climate is temperate enough to grow lettuce year-round (if protected) so you can plant new seeds now.
Washed or unwashed? Either, but please leave the slugs and bugs at home. The produce team of just eight to 10 volunteers cleans and packages 3,000 to 4,000 lbs. of bulk produce every week, which means they also need clean, food-safe plastic and paper bags. The food bank has to buy another 4,000 lbs. of pre-packaged produce from Charlie’s to meet current demand.
When? The best time to drop off is Monday morning before 10 am but any weekday from 9 to 3.
Herbs, too? Yes!
Homegrown fruits? Yes, but not wormy ones, although the Food Bank keeps a list of people who will take gnarly fruits. The produce should be the way you would want it for yourself: freshly picked and grown without toxic chemicals.
Recently, some local residents had this branch fall over their fence. They knocked on the neighbor’s door and asked what was going to happen with all the peaches, and the neighbor said they could pick the whole tree. The food bank received three baskets full of peaches and a promise of apples to come. Another 2,000 pounds of peaches showed up through the food bank’s partnership with Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline, thanks to government contracts.
Some produce comes from the growers at the Edmonds Museum Summer Market. After the Saturday market, the farmers go to Lake Forest Park on Sunday and our food bank picks up the leftovers from there. Last week it amounted to 1,400 lbs. of fresh produce.
People have donated some unusual items over the years: beef hearts, pig tongues, jackfruit, birdseed, gallons of cilantro dressing, plantains, and edible cactus. That kind of offering doesn’t go on the regular order form, but the Food Bank can always find appreciative takers. Their clients come from many, many different cultures.
The local Lions Club used to donate a full Thanksgiving dinner to a couple of families each year, but some of the recipients weren’t familiar with traditional American Thanksgiving foods. If you are able to grow types of produce that are popular in other cultures, there is definitely someone out there who will appreciate it. Now the Lions give gift cards.
How does it work? Because demand is so high and space is so limited at the food bank on Caspers Street, clients place their orders online and schedule a pickup time; then volunteers pack the orders and deliver them to the parking lot. Ten to 12 customers pick up every 10 minutes on Monday and Tuesday afternoons. It takes some 300 volunteers to take in donations, help pack the orders, deliver some to seniors and load and unload trucks, adding up to 3,000 volunteer hours a month. The food bank operates with only five full-time staff.
What happens to the produce you drop off? When you drop off produce, it goes back to the kitchen where certified, gloved food handlers sort, wash (if necessary) and bag it, ready to be added to customers’ orders.
Most of us can manage to grow a little extra, but a few in our community are real veggie heroes. One such hero is Lisa Marquart, who has turned two acres of old horse pasture in Woodway into a remarkable urban farm. She is a chronic disease and prevention life coach, a local tennis coach, a mother of four and an amazing farmer.
It’s a highly organized operation, with crop rotation, an underground watering system, seed storage, a drying room, chickens, and bed after bed of organically grown veggies that go to the food bank.
Helping Lisa on the farm are some retirees from the Point Edwards condos next door. She welcomes volunteers, especially seniors who don’t have their own space or are looking for social connections.
This past Monday, as I was dropping off our weekly food bank donation from the Edmonds Floretum Garden Club P-Patch, a woman was unloading hundreds of cucumbers. Her name is Cheryl Funk. She and her husband Kevin live in Mountlake Terrace, but they farm two acres of veggies in Arlington just to give them away: tomatoes, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, kale, potatoes, onions, shallots, cabbage, bok choy, beets and of course, cucumbers. The farm is part of a 144-acre property owned by an uncle, Walter Weber.
You might also recognize this giant garden on Walnut Street east of 9th. It’s owned and tended by a local senior citizen named Brian who donates the produce to his senior living facility and to the food bank.
Circling back to zucchini, Casey Davis tells the tale of a resident who donated a zucchini that was so big a large volunteer could barely lift it. It was too big even for a family of nine, so the food bank donated it to a soup kitchen. Zucchini run amok is not just an urban myth. Please don’t let your zucchini outgrow your garden. If you pick it young and drop it off at the Edmonds Food Bank, you’ll make some local family very happy.
For more photos, click here.
— Photos by Floretum Garden Club member Chris Walton who, in addition to being the club’s photographer, is past treasurer of the Friends of the Edmonds Library and volunteers several days a week helping to restore the Edmonds Marsh.
— Text by Marty Ronish, curator and editor of “Planting Edmonds.” Marty is an amateur gardener. She is the former editor of NPR’s Performance Today and producer of the national broadcasts of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.