Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall Fling with the Environmental Youth Alliance

I am a big fan of the Environmental Youth Alliance, an organization "helping children and youth find their inner nature." I was honored to be invited to celebrate the Eya's Fall Fling at Strathcona Community Garden. Folks from Vancouver grew Red Spring Wheat in their yards to contribute to this communal feast. The original project, Lawns to Loaves, began in 2010 and oddly enough it has been one of the EYA's most controversial projects. You may remember Susan Anton calling a press release to present Gregor Robertson with a pitchfork and a pair of overalls to deride his support for the EYA's project to bring wheat production into the city. Seems to me Anton actually did more to publicize and promote the project than critique it.

Why did the project hit such a nerve? Is the lawn such a powerful symbol of middle class responsibility and respectability? Time to dig it up and move on.

While the project's practical aim was to grow wheat within city limits, it actually was a community-building project, uniting people in exploring how to expand the limits of urban food production, and to experience growing and harvesting a plant that we rarely see in city gardens. Lawns to Loaves in only one of the EYA's many amazing projects. Being from Saskatchewan, I have a soft spot for seeing a patch of golden wheat. I grew some heritage wheat and poppies in my community garden bed and I will use the wheat for Thanksgiving floral arrangements. It's also nice to chew on raw wheat berries and make "gum."( My dentist should not read that last bit.)

I'd be interested if they shifted the project and grew buckwheat instead. It is a really good honey plant and bumble bees love it too. One acre of buckwheat is said to produce enough nectar for 150 pounds of honey, plus it's easy to harvest and it's gluten free. ( I think I'll do a post on buckwheat so we can look into this more deeply.)

The grain was threshed and milled to create this thin crust pizza dough. People brought toppings to share, including homemade pesto from basil grown in the Strathcona community garden.

The cooks set up a production line so we could create and share custom pies. The pizza was made on parchment paper and then slid onto a pizza stone in the oven with a long wooden paddle. We quickly learned to make the parchment fit the crust so it didn't go up in flames!

The pizza was absolutely delicious. The sun came out and quickly warmed up the garden. Families made flower wreaths and veggie prints and we drank an herbal tea Julia made from mint, lavender, rose hips and lemon balm.

We also got to sample delicious wheat berry and cumin soup kept hot in a large tureen, and kutya, one of the twelve traditional Ukrainian Christmas dishes made with wheat berries, poppyseeds and honey.

The asters were busy with syphid flies, honeybees from the nearby hives and one lone bumble bee. What a beautiful Fall Fling! For more pics, check out the EYA's blog here.

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