Last Saturday I woke up to misty gray light filtering in through the bedroom blinds and the unmistakable sound of rain falling on the roof outside. Normally this kind of weather would be cause to pull the covers up tighter and return to dreams of sunny beaches–but not this morning. It was National Gleaning Day and I had signed up earlier in the week to join a team of Marin Organic volunteers harvesting surplus produce at Star Route Farms in West Marin. “Gleaning” refers to the process of gathering what is left after the main harvest. It insures that usable food does not go to waste, and is put to good use within the community.
I rolled over and grabbed my iPad from the bedside table to check email for notifications. No rain cancellation. I considered the weather and figured it would hamper the turn-out of gleaners for the event. But I wouldn’t be one of those defectors.
I threw back the covers and fell reluctantly out of my warm nest, pulling on a pair of jeans and a long-sleeve shirt before heading downstairs to grab a cup of coffee. My two teens were still sound asleep. My hubby was already in the living room–settled into his recliner and anticipating the Giants vs. Yankees game. It’s important to mention that he is an avid baseball fan, and watching sports is a form of weekend recreation he relishes.
“Where are you off to?” he asked as I struggled to pull on thick socks and Wellies. “I’m going out to Bolinas to a community harvest for National Gleaning Day,” I replied adding, “Wanna come?” He looked at me blankly–the way someone would stare unconsciously at a crazy person. Then, to my utter surprise, he rose from his cozy chair, grabbed his rain boots and followed me out to the car. We stopped at Starbucks to fuel ourselves with more coffee and pastry before heading west on the windy country road out to the coast.
By now the earlier drizzle had turned into a substantial downpour, and our progress was slowed considerably by hordes of cyclists along the shoulder who were riding in an event. We veered off on the unmarked fork to Bolinas, pulling into the dirt driveway at Star Route Farms minutes later. We parked and joined two other late-comers, then set off together in search of the group. As if by divine intervention the rain stopped as we found our way out to a sprawling field where people were already gleaning.
Jeffrey Westman, Director of Marin Organic, strode out to greet us–pointing toward tools and boxes on the back of his nearby pickup truck. We grabbed our gear and joined the group–about a dozen in all–hunkered down in two long rows of sorrel (a bitter green with a distinct citrus flavor). We ranged in age from seven on up–traveling from as far away as Berkeley and San Francisco–but all gathered in this place, on this day, to celebrate local organic food.
We chatted and laughed and got acquainted as we worked together to harvest the surplus destined for the Marin Food Bank and school lunch programs in the county. As our boxes filled with bountiful greens our hearts filled with the joy that comes with service to others.
At the end of the gleaning, we gathered around rustic wood tables in an old apple orchard on the property to enjoy a potluck lunch and celebrate the day. In just two short hours we had forged new friendships, proving yet again that food is a universal bond which sustains us all.
* A couple of quick recipes for sorrel. This pungent green is best used as an accompaniment to foods in small doses.
This garlicky herb green sauce is the perfect accent to meats or veggies. In a food processor, combine 1 large bunch Italian parsley, 1 bunch sorrel (12-14 leaves), 1 bunch green onion (tops only; no bulbs), and 6 to 8 garlic cloves. Blend on low speed while drizzling extra virgin olive oil into the processor, until herbs are blended together into a liquid paste. So delicious!
A couple of chopped raw sorrel leaves added to a vegetable frittata make the dish shine.