Italian Prune Plums Sweetening in the Sun

I can, dry, and freeze some of the food I grow or purchase from the farmers’ market.   I do not live a life like Barbara Kingsolver as described in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, where she purchased or grew (almost) all of her food locally and put much of it up for winter.  My winter food stash gets built for pleasure, enjoyment and being able to say to my family, “I canned this last summer.”

My forays in the garden make me realize the perils, challenges, and joys of being a farmer.  This summer, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get a green bean crop, as we didn’t get any warm, sunny days until the middle of July.  Summer started with June Gloom, but more than two months of sunny days since have generated less than a millimeter of rain.

Even with the continued gorgeous days and trivial amounts of rain expected in the near term, I can tell our Seattle summer is coming to an end.  The shadows are getting longer, as the sun begins to edge back towards the south and my plants are starting to get tired and slowing production.  I pulled my only zucchini plant out last week, as it was covered with powdery mildew having completed its useful life.

I continue to harvest snap beans, but their production is dawdling, which makes my kids happy since they are tired of the nightly bean dish.  How many ways can you serve beans and keep teenagers happy?


My Dad–Ernie Gardow

As my garden season is ending, this is also a season of personal change and new beginnings.  For endings, my Dad, after 6 months of cancer treatments, lost his battle with lymphoma this summer.  I was fortunate to be able to spend time with him before he died.  The harvest season brings many memories of Dad, as he was the person who taught me how to grow a garden and gave me my Italian prune plum tree, because he noticed how untended plum trees grew wild adjacent to the Burke-Gilman Trail.

This season, I harvested over 100 pounds of Italian prune plums, from the tree blessed in the sunniest location in my yard.  Last year, not a single plum grew on my tree because of a pest infestation.  With plum abundance this year, I made my yearly zwetchendatschi, that Dad made every summer.  My kids wait in anticipation for their yearly zwetchendatschi, too!  And this year, they helped!

Zwetchendatschi–Bavarian Plum Cake

Zwetchendatschi is a Bavarian treat made with a butter, flour, egg, and sugar sweet mellow dough decorated with plums, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and baked in a hot oven.  I also dried several gallon bags of plums to nibble on through the winter. With the remaining plums, I made 16 pints of plum chutney from Linda Ziedrich’s The Joy of Pickling.

Another ending will be my webpage name,, which will be transitioning to  Land and food matter, as does clean water, breathable air, community, friends, and family.  As a society, we must focus on those items that are most important to our health and well-being, rather than those that are transient in our lives such as the next best cell phone or tablet computer.   Gardow Consulting will continue to address quality of life and liveability issues through project completion, which are critical when considering land use matters.


For a new beginning, I have enrolled in the year long Urban Land Institute’s Center for Sustainable Leadership course.  One of the objectives of the class is to “build the intellectual foundation, strategic thinking, business and policy infrastructure, and professional tools to improve the resilience of our region.”  This inaugural class is expected to develop a cadre of up and coming leaders who will be poised to tackle the region’s future real estate, land use and environmental challenges.

And as with every end there are new beginnings.  Now is a time for new beginnings.  I bring the past with me, as a well-stocked pantry, able to nourish me for tomorrow and what the future will bring.

Kathryn Gardow, P.E., is a local food advocate, land use expert and owner of Gardow Consulting, an organization dedicated to providing multidisciplinary solutions to building sustainable communities. Kathryn has expertise in project management, planning, and civil engineering, with an emphasis on creating communities that include food production. Kathryn’s blog will muse on ways to create a more sustainable world.