Garden Updates and a Recipe for Edible Weeds

Kevin Fletcher here, your regional garden specialist!

Let’s take a look at how things have been going at some of our community gardens around the area:
It looks like about 1/4 of our Eastside garden won’t have any gardeners signed up for it this year, so we decided to try to put it to good use by growing a big crop of sweet potatoes (500 plants!) to give to the donation station at the end of the year. Unfortunately though, and as many of you will recall, the weather wasn’t very cooperative or nurturing a few weeks ago for some newly-planted sweet potato slips, so we lost many of them to some severe heat in spite of how much supplemental watering they received before the rain kicked in. Thankfully though, we have plenty of seeds of butternut and “delicata” winter squash to fill in the gaps. Let’s hope they flourish a little more with all of this wonderful rain we’ve recently received!


Speaking of water, our community gardens at the Carriage Hill Apartments on the south side of Athens unfortunately do not have access to running water within a reasonable distance of the garden, so we have been getting most of our water from a rain catchment system on the side of the nearby maintenance shed. I am pleased to announce that we have successfully replaced the too-small rain barrel system with a nice big 700-gallon water tank, nearly tripling the capacity there.


The new water tank used to hold the runoff liquid from a local composting facility so that it could be recycled in the composting system and avoid any need for an extra wastewater management system. There was a bit of sediment and some fairly stinky leftover bits of old compost tea left in there for sure, but we managed to get it all scrubbed out and squeaky-clean with a lot of elbow grease, some soap, and a handy-dandy pressure washer, and lots of vinegar (for disinfecting). Here are a few photos from the process:


Keith giving the tank a quick rinse before we load it up.

Keith giving the tank a quick rinse before we load it up

Giving it a good scrub-down on the inside. Nothing toxic, just some over-brewed compost tea. Stinky stuff.

Me, giving it a good scrub-down on the inside. Nothing toxic, just some over-brewed compost tea. Stinky stuff!

All in place, filled up, and ready to use.

All in place, filled up, and ready to use.


Groundhogs – We have successfully banished several groundhogs from our Southside and Eastside community gardens. They were wreaking havoc on several of our gardeners’ leafy vegetable crops. Hopefully now their salads can grow in relative safety!
Here are a few useful ideas for how to deal with groundhog problems you might be having in your home gardens.


Gardening season is very synonymous with something else as well: WEEDING SEASON!


One of the most common and prolific weeds in our area is Chenopodium album, commonly known as lamb’s quarters, goosefoot, and pigweed – a common name it shares with other common (and also usually edible) weeds in the genus Amaranthus.


Chenopodium album. It's delicious!

Chenopodium album. It’s delicious!


Well here is some good news: You can eat it.

The leaves and young shoots of lamb’s quarters can be cooked eaten as a leafy vegetable. It is packed full of healthy vitamins and minerals. One small consideration though: it does contain moderately high levels of oxalic acid (as do many other wild leafy greens), which can upset the stomach and possibly leach some calcium out of the bloodstream. Cooking helps to reduce the levels of oxalic acid though, and adding calcium-rich dairy products to the recipe (see “Cream of Lamb’s Quarters Soup” link below) can easily and tastily counteract these effects.


One of my home garden beds turned from a bed full of cute little baby veggies and flowers to a sea of these weeds over the course of just a few days. After pulling out several pounds of it I thought it would be a shame to let all this potential food go to waste, so I found this delicious recipe for “Cream of Lamb’s Quarters Soup” by Aube Giroux on

I thought it was quite delicious. I’m definitely going to make this again throughout the season.

Here’s a photo of how it turned out:


With a tasteful garnish of chives and croutons

With a tasteful garnish of chives and croutons

Try it yourself!

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A warm CFI welcome to our new summer staff and interns

This time of year things get a little crazy here at CFI, so we need a few extra hands to keep all of our plates moving. We are very pleased to introduce to you our new interns and Summer Service Corps members for the season.  We will have more folks joining throughout the summer, so check back for more new faces. If you see them out and about, be sure to say hi!

Ian Slifcak – Community Gardens
A nativeIMG_0329 of Cleveland, Ohio, Ian Slifcak is a senior at Ohio University studying Spanish and Political Science.  In his free time, Ian enjoys spending time with family and friends, the great outdoors, traveling, and playing piano when he can.  He is excited to spend his summer in Athens serving as an Ohio University Summer Service Corps member for Community Food Initiatives.  In this capacity, he will be working with CFI’s Community Garden Program.


Musa Conteh 2014-09-08 18.12.35– Donation Station
Musa is a senior studying mechanical engineering at Ohio University. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with friends, playing and watching soccer, playing music and watching movies.



Beatriz SmidtB_IMG_4904 – Donation Station
My name is Beatriz and I am an exchange student from Brazil. I’m currently a senior majoring in Nutrition and I’m especially interested in everything related to local food systems and food security. Living and studying in the USA has been a unique opportunity, and be an intern at CFI has taught me a lot about the importance to support the local farmers and economy in order to provide equal food access for all.

melanie rudolfMelanie Rudolf – Donation Station & School Gardens

After working with us spring semester, Melanie will continue her time at CFI over the summer working at the Donation Station and School Gardens.

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Community Gardens Accepting New Gardeners and Adding Additional Support for Growers in 2015

Community Food Initiatives (CFI) is very pleased to invite local community members to join one of our several community gardens in Athens County for the 2015 growing season starting now!

Nelsonville Community Garden 2014 June For those who can’t garden at their homes or who enjoy working alongside their neighbors, community gardens are a great option. CFI’s community gardens offer each grower their own plot, easy access to water, tools, mulch, free seeds and plant starts and free entry to garden and food preservation workshops.

CFI recently welcomed Kevin Fletcher to the team as the Regional Garden Specialist. Kevin provides additional gardening expertise to any community gardeners who are interested in learning more about organic gardening and how to increase the efficiency and productivity of their gardens. You can learn more about Kevin’s experience and bio at

As part of a grant funded by Grow Appalachia (, CFI will also be working with community gardeners who express an interest in using season extension techniques to increase their garden yields. Selected gardeners will be provided with the materials and training to construct and utilize simple yet effective unheated low-tunnel greenhouses in their community garden plots to extend their effective growing season length and increase crop yields.

The public is invited to visit the gardens during CFI’s Free Seed Give-Aways during the week of April 20th.

Tuesday, April 21st

6:00-7:00pm at Nelsonville Community Garden, Hocking Parkway across from Train Depot

Wednesday, April 22nd

4:00-5:00pm at Chauncey Public Library and Garden, 29 Converse St.

5:30-6:30pm at Southside/Carriage Hill Community Garden, 115 Carriage Hill Drive, Athens

Friday, April 24th

11:00-12:00pm at Glouster Community Garden/HAPCAP, 3 Cardaras Drive

Saturday, April 25th

1:00-2:00pm at East Side Community Garden, East Park Drive behind Eastside Dog Park



For further information and to get started gardening, contact:


Jessica Chadwell, Community Garden Program Coordinator

Kevin Fletcher, Regional Garden Specialist



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Creating a Future full of Local Food

Bekky, CFI’s Donation Station & Discovery Kitchen Coordinator, shares a day in the life at CFI: “I knew it was going to another long night as the produce started piling up around my table at the Chesterhill Produce Auction. But the good thing about being surrounded by Donation Station boothtons of produce is that it attracts a lot of attention. Just from someone asking me a few questions about the Donation Station, I was able to procure 19 watermelons. And that wasn’t all. A man stopped by and was asking me questions about how we operate and where our food goes. After giving him my spiel I learned that he was there with his young son and that it was a great feat that his kid was finally there, having had no interest in a produce auction. But after seeing all of the large pumpkins and other produce the boy became enchanted. His dad told him that if he wanted a pumpkin than he would have to bid for it. He won! The boy was so proud that his dad was unable to convince him to donate one of his pumpkins to us. Instead, as it was getting close to closing time a bright eyed, blonde haired boy waltzes up to me and asks, “Bekky do you take checks?” I said, “Why yes, we do.” and congratulated him on his big buys. After this experience the young boy wants to come back and what an amazing experience it is for him to have and to be there supporting the local food economy and sharing the harvest through the CFI Donation Station.”

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Annual Spring Membership Celebration Means Board Member Search is On!

The Annual Community Food Initiatives Spring Membership Celebration is just around the corner on Saturday, May 18th, and that means three things-a delicious potluck meal is your near future, it’s time to renew your CFI membership, and CFI is on the lookout for new Board Members! This event features live music, a presentation from CFI Executive Director, Mary Nally, and giving thanks to our community, board of directors and CFI members for twenty years of supporting a local food system. Everyone is invited to bring a potluck dish to share!

CFI is a membership-based non-profit with a mission to support a local food system that ensures access to fresh healthy food for everyone in the region. CFI manages community gardens, supports school gardens and runs the Donation Station that collects and distributes food from the Athens Farmers Market and Chesterhill Produce Auction to area food pantries and social service agencies. Individuals can join CFI for $25 annually, and receive e-newsletters, free entry to garden and culinary workshops, community garden plot options, and voting privileges to lead the direction of the organization.

CFI board members are elected by the CFI membership at the Annual Membership Celebration. Each board member serves a two year term, attends a monthly board meeting and participates in committee work. Board members enjoy the benefits of contributing to the mission and vision of the organization, making new relationships and gaining professional experience.  The Board of Directors provide guidance, oversight and evaluation of the organization, the program areas, and the Executive Director. Each board member brings their own skills, experience and interests and CFI strives to have a board that helps us deepen our connection with the community we serve, and build our efforts sustainably. “Besides the enjoyment of working with some great board members,” says current board member Lee Gregg,  “being on the CFI board has given me the satisfaction of helping CFI provide people with the means for greater food security by establishing community gardens, encouraging more backyard gardening, and promoting healthier lifestyles through gardening and eating more produce.”  If you, or someone you know, is interested, complete the CFI Board Recommendation Form and return it to CFI before May 18th.

Annual CFI Spring Membership Celebration

Saturday, May 18th  5pm-7pm

The Plains United Methodist Church 

3 N. Plains Rd. The Plains, OH


*Bring a Potluck Dish to Share!




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CFI Seed Saving Guide Now Available!

It’s official: Community Food Initiatives has published a Seed Saving Guide! Purchase your copy online now! Soon to be available in Athens stores soon. A great user-friendly guide, this book really takes the mystery out of saving your own seeds. Check it out!

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Wild Edibles: Wild About Chickweed

Wild Chickweed, grows in patches and can provide much substance. It is one of the hardiest greens, even growing in the winter. It produces a small star shaped flower in the spring. This is where it gets its scientific name Stellaria media. It gets its common name from people feeding it to birds. It grows in patches, intertwined and viney at the base. Many people pull this “weed” from their gardens but it is multifunctional in keeping away insects, is edible and medicinal. Chickweed can be found in many different habitats, but is mainly found in the back yard. chickweedIt grows from anywhere from 2 to 20 cm high.  The leaves are ½ inch long by ¼ inch wide succulent oval and egg shaped. Every night the flowers close up and open in the morning. The flowers bloom in March till autumn they are white star-like flowers. Chickweeds is very nutritious, high in vitamins and minerals, can be added to salads or cooked, tasting somewhat like spinach. This tea is very medicinal. It can be used to relieve constipation, as a diuretic, as an antihistamine, and to treat rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers. It can also be used to make tea. So if you do pull these so-called weeds out of your garden plot, make sure to find use for them!

Mary Seymour is a CFI Intern and Hocking College Ecotourism Adventure Travel Student

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Wild Edibles: The Wonders of White Pine


The cold weather often leads to sneezing and coughing. I really enjoy a warm cup of tea when it’s snowing outside. Like Winter Cress, White Pine is also very high in Vitamin C as well as Vitamin A. There is four to five times the amount of Vitamin C in a cup white pine tea as there is in orange juice!

White Pine NeedlesThe White Pine, Pinus Strobus, is the only pine with bundles of needles in five. An easy way to remember this is that there are five letters in the word WHITE. It’s given the name White Pine for the sticky and fragrant resin that turns white at the end of the needles in late Winter/early Spring. These pine needles are what you use to make the tea. White Pine needles are not the only useful part of this evergreen tree. You can also use the inner bark, twigs, and pitch of the White Pine.

Native Americans use white pine as one of their primary medicinal plants. The bark has often been used as an expectorant, helping with coughing, sore throat, bronchitis, and internal chest pains. Some tribes hammer the inner bark into a paste and apply it to ulcers, wounds, and sores.  The resin can be chewed on like gum, to treat kidney disorders, helping with increasing menstrual flow, and even just for bad breath. The resin was also sometimes smeared on the body for pneumonia, rheumatism, and muscle soreness. CFI recommends consulting with a certified herbalist or medical practitioner before using these methods yourself without proper training.

For step by step instructions for making some of this deliciously medicinal  tea check out this website:

Mary Seymour is a CFI Intern and Hocking College Ecotourism Adventure Travel Student

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CFI is Getting Seedy

CFI is excited to be offering a whole series of workshops related to seed saving, starting and more in addition to our seed swaps this year! Check out the calendar of events for details, and watch us on WOUB’s News Watch program talking about why it’s never to soon to start planning your garden!

Winter Garden Tips from CFI on News Watch

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Wild Edibles: Wintercress

There are many foods in the wilderness that require no care in growing; finding them is the tricky part.  Wintercress, Barbarea vulgaris, is one food that grows even during the winter months. This little plant provides great nutrition for our bodies in winter through early spring. Common Wintercress is high in vitamin a and vitamin c. Because of its high amounts of vitamin c it was used medicinally to help prevent scurvy in the past.   It’s easy to find and abundant here in Athens Ohio. barbareavulgWintercress grows in moist soil so generally it can be found in moist forests, meadows, and along stream banks. As with any wild foods try to avoid picking plants close to roads because they may have been exposed to gas fumes, or run off from the road. This plant grows between 1 and 2 feet. Its leaves are similar to that of a dandelion. It has 2 types of leaves, base leaves and stem leaves. The stem leaves look a little more rounded the base leaves which are elongated. The bundles of little bright yellow flowers atop the stem are a sign that the leaves are getting bitterer. Many people will only eat the leaves until the plant starts to bud because of the bitterness. Part of the mustard family, Wintercress has a tangy, peppery taste when it’s young and gets more bitter the older the plant gets. For a less pungent taste, boil it a few times in fresh water to lighten the flavor. The flower buds themselves may be boiled and eaten as well. There are some delicious recipe ideas at for Wintercress. I hope you enjoy and happy hunting!

Mary Seymour is a CFI Intern and Hocking College Ecotourism Adventure Travel Student

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