Stolen Squash (Veggie Quest Continues)

OK, not exactly stolen. I was walking home and saw some leaves growing down the hill to the sidewalk. It looked like a melon or zucchini plant. I peeked among the leaves and right by the sidewalk curb, I found a squash. I looked up the hill to see where it's coming from, and saw the a garden - according to Google Maps it was Prospect Gardens and seemed to be a part of Yale property.
The garden is not fenced off, but even if it were, a few rogue vines decided to venture out of the garden and onto the public sidewalk. I thought the squash might spoil there anyway, down by the curb- picking and eating it would be the natural and responsible thing to do!
[read: not stealing] Thus justifying my next act, I picked it from the vine and took it home: my building is diagonally across the street from this corner of the garden.

I had never cooked squash before- I cook often and fairly well, and have made many other dishes but not squash. I searched images of 'squash' on my ever-so-handy iPhone, and found the most similar picture: it was a variety of summer squash.

Apparently, squash can be boiled, grilled, fried, baked, stuffed, etc. With my limited ingredients, I chopped it into pieces, boiled for about 5 minutes until it was slightly softer and then lightly fried them (just a teaspoon of oil to grease the pan) with garlic powder and lemon pepper. It was delicious! One-third of it was more than enough for dinner. After my fabulous organically and locally grown sustainable meal, I began to think: whom does this garden belong to? Someone had to plant the veggies. A part of me was hoping I did not just eat a research vegetable with mutated genes... but on a serious note, I wondered why there is local produce grown in this urban garden, yet none can be found for sale to eat.
I had seen some greenhouses at Yale's Marsh Botanical Gardens. The Marsh garden is another couple of hundred yards down the road from Prospect Gardens. I found an article titled "Supervisors seek to develop, publicize secret garden" with a wealth of information about its history, its design in the early 1900s, falling into neglect after WWII, and recent efforts to utilize it and make it more prominent to the Yale community and its New Haven neighbors. According to Timothy Nelson- the professor in charge of the garden, "the garden has geared its mission at Yale towards education, research and outreach. [...] But the garden is open to all of the Yale community and residents of New Haven at no charge."
I also found that Yale students and faculty who are passionate about sustainable agriculture have created the Yale Sustainable Food Project, "overseeing the expansion of sustainable food to each of Yale’s dining halls, and most recently aiding in the transition of Yale Dining to a self-operated organization."

I believe some of the food for Yale dining halls, then, must be grown on campus. I decided to look into the matter further and find out if there have been efforts to expand the sustainable food efforts to benefit the New Haven community. I will contact Timothy Nelson to look into the matter and get involved.
The above was all about the Marsh Gardens. As for Prospect Gardens, the source of my squash, they remained a mystery until today. On a city bus from Hamden, a teenage boy saw that I was looking for the right stop. He asked at what intersection I am getting off, and I told him. He said, "I will point it out- I work right by there. At Prospect Gardens." He meant the apartment complex next to the garden by the same name. He does maintenance wok for them. I then asked if he knows who tends that garden. He is pretty sure it's the tenants from the apartments, not all of whom are Yale students. So now I know it was not a research squash, and some of my New Haven neighbors grow their own food. That is an interesting issue to discuss with Professor Nelson.

Tomorrow morning, I'm leaving on a required camping trip workshop with 50 of my School of Forestry classmates, and will be without phone or internet access Monday through Thursday.
I'll write all about it when I'm back!

3 comments:

  1. you are such a responsible citizen! not letting that gorgeous vegetable rot.

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  2. You should start the local and sustainable food revolution!!! Go Alisa!

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  3. Alisa,

    Does your curiosity know no bounds young lady? Do you want to be an architect, an urban planner, a forest service ranger or a farmer? I guess when a brain isn't filled up with 59 years of nonsense, there is plenty of room for new information.

    You would love the book titled "an omnivores dilemma", it is a clever riff on our industrial food system and covers a lot of ground, including folks that "gather" food growing wild in the neighborhood. If you would like, I will send you my copy.

    Your pal Richard

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