Glen Thelin welcomes gardeners to the Sunriver Community Garden orchard.

A community feast to celebrate the harvest

The Sunriver Allotment Gardeners are sharing their bounty

Hot-smoked salmon, black cod and Dungeness crab are three things Sooke is known for. The salmon is cooked slowly over a wood fire and there isn’t much that compares to it.

Add to that focaccia bread, roasted rosemary potatoes, spaghetti squash and corn on the cob and you have a meal some only dream about. There’s more, with fresh mixed greens, beets, veggies of all sorts ending with huckleberry and blackberry crumble and melons washed down with hand-cranked apple juice and sun-kissed herb tea.

Those are the ingredients that will make up a community feast on Sunday, Sept. 23 at the Sunriver Community Garden.

A Taste of Harvest, is a fundraiser for Sooke Food CHI.

It’s a harvest supper with the menu planned by Pia Carroll and Marion French, both chef instructors for the Edward Milne community school Culinary Arts program.

“For me, a Harvest supper is the coming together of people to enjoy the beauty of great food from our gardens. All summer we have nibbled at exquisite tastes of greens, tomatoes, beans and so on and this Harvest Supper is an expression of being thankful for the food grown, food shared and appreciate by friends and neighbours,” said Carroll.

French echoes many of the same sentiments stating, “It is a time to break bread and discuss what grew well and share gardening “secrets.” It signals the beginning of the fall and the cold nights to follow in which dreams of next summer’s plantings will take place.”

The allotment garden, on Phillips Road,  is a busy place at this time of year and the crops are coming in.

“The total harvest from the community food plot was 676 pounds,” said Emily Moreland, Sunriver Garden’s gardening expert. The food has gone to the Sooke Food Bank, Vital Vittels, Meals on Wheels and a number of other community agencies.

This is the third summer the Sunriver Gardens have been producing food.

“There is so much food grown here,” said Phoebe Dunbar, one of the original people working towards starting the community garden. “The level of sharing is really remarkable.”

And share they will at the harvest supper and fall equinox celebration. The date of the event coincides with the Slow Food Cycle where bikers will be traveling around the Sooke area checking out farms and farming. The gardens will be open to the cyclists and they can get some pizza (made in the cob oven) and soft drinks as they check out the gardens. Later on Sunday, the fires will be going and the salmon cooking for the dinner. The gates open at 4:30 p.m. and dinner will be served at 5 p.m. Live music with accordions and fiddles,and storytelling will add to the ambiance. Diners are asked to bring their own plate, cup and cutlery as well as a chair or blanket to picnic on. Tickets for the event are $20 for adults, $10 for kids and free for kids under five. Tickets can be purchased at Shoppers Drug Mart and Stick in the Mud.

The Sunriver Allotment Gardens are a community initiative through the District of Sooke and Sooke Food CHI.

Glen Thelin, one of the volunteers at the garden, said the gardens are all about celebrating people.

“There are 75 families here now and they put their heart and soul into it. It has become a community,” he said.

“We’re growing food the same time as we’re growing community,” added Sheila Wallace.

They wanted others to know that while the important part of the community was the garden plot, but not everyone wants to get into the dirt. Some create signage, mentor others or help according to their abilities.

“There’s an opportunity for every ability,” said volunteer Erica Rolston.

The most important message they wanted to get across to people is that the Sunriver Gardens are not an exclusive club, they are open to all of Sooke. It’s a community thing.