Summer Week 13: Local History

There are so many tomatoes that are ripening in the greenhouse!

• Lettuces
• Romano Beans
• Swiss Chard
• Beets with Greens
Fennel or Cabbage
• Cucumber or Summer Squash
• Tomatoes or Sweet Peppers
• Purple Basil or Cilantro
• “Italian Late” Garlic

Click on the links above for information and recipes about these crops.

Shelling Beans

You may have noticed that there are signs on our bridge about new weight limits for trucks. This is impacting us a little—the school bus can’t cross the bridge anymore, that kind of thing. The bridge is old and there’s no money for repairing old bridges, so if the trucks don’t stay off it’s going to fall apart. The thing that caught my eye on the flashy sign, though, was that the bridge has a name. It’s the “Thomas Alvord Bridge”. That got me thinking as well, about local history.

Not many people know who Thomas Alvord was. There are a lot of things that share his name. For example, if you look at a map, sometimes you’ll see that our little neighborhood here is called “Thomas”. There’s also a white board sign down behind the White River Feed Mill that calls out the name “Thomas”. You used to be able to see it before the fancy 277th St. overpass was built, when cars crossed the train tracks down there. You might also remember the Thomas Academy, a small, private school just on the other side of 277th. Maybe you saw the historical marker across from the AAA Junkyard down the street, before some ne’er-do-well pushed it over, that identified “Alvord’s Landing”.

There used to be a lot of “landings” on the Green River. I’m sure there were on other rivers, too. The Green River used to be a major commerce-way, with various good being sent up or down the river on flat-bottomed steamboats. These goods were loaded and unloaded at landings. There are number in Kent— Langston’s Landing, Van Doren’s Landing, etc. There’s a mural in downtown Kent, on 1st Ave by the bakery that shows horses and wagons carrying hops, grain, and other goods to a river landing.

Thomas Alvord and his wife were one of the first white families to settle in Kent after the Seattle Indian Wars of the 1850’s, and they bought property on the Green River here and set up their ranch and trading business. They were followed by others, including John Langston and James Jeremiah Crow. Farmers started to move in and settle, and the river landings remained the most reliable method of transportation until the Northern Pacific (now the Union Pacific) railroad came in 1883.

Another interesting note: Kent was famous for growing hops back in the 1880’s. One story says that the city was actually named for the famed hops variety called “Kent”. That industry was sadly dismantled when the hop blight of 1891 swept in and ruined crops for everyone. There are some wild hops growing here and there around the area, and the steel sidewalk grates have stylized hops vining all over them.

At any rate, it’s interesting to know about our surroundings and the history of where we live. I love that the tree tunnel down the road is formed over one of the oldest roads in King County, because of the need to transport farm products to the city and abroad.

Romano Beans are delicious sautéed with Torpedo Onions in butter.

I also love that we have an abundance of tomatoes and peppers right now. The Romano beans are so heavy this year! We’ve been eating them several times a week. They are not a shelling bean, they are a wide, flat green bean. Here’s my favorite method of cooking. Cut the ingredients into chunks. Sauté the onion in a chunk of butter or olive oil, and then put the bean chunks in and sauté them until tender, about 10 minutes. Salt and pepper are all you need. Cosmo likes the stingers cut off the ends, but other than that I use the whole thing.

Soon, fall will be upon us and we’ll be moving back to lots of greens and roots and squashes. And that reminds me as well, that our summer season will come to an end in a few weeks. Our winter season starts the first week of November and runs through the second week of January—10 weeks of delicious winter produce. You’ll get a discount if you sign up by September 15, and that will help us make our annual investment in seed garlic for next year, as well as get started on another big greenhouse!

3 responses to “Summer Week 13: Local History

  1. Since I was a child I found history to be fascinating and now see how important it is in guiding our future. Thanks @Shelley for the Kent History lesson! Oh and thanks the recipe for cooking the Romano beans I picked up yesterday. I will grill the other half of last weeks Fennel & let you know how it goes. And right now I’m drinking your beets in my chocolate smoothie… Alfred is still not a fan : (

  2. Shelley, if farming doesn’t work out for you, you’d make a wonderful writer. 😉 Thank you for your wonderful posts.

  3. Oh my, what wonderful beans this week! We sauteed them with onions and garlic and tofu with a soy/ginger dressing. Delicious over rice for dinner!

    I love the history lesson this week too. I don’t get down to the valley much and don’t know the Kent area all that well. Its fascinating to think about Kent being a major area for hops (I’ve only ever seen hops in Eastern Washington) and about shipping goods on the river. It was such an easy economical way to get goods to market, but now we ship by truck or train.

    When I make it out to the farm, I’m always amazed at how this little agricultural oasis is tucked in to all the urban/industrial/warehouse landscape. As you get off the highway, it seems like everything around you from the overpass to the train tracks, to the large buildings is man-made industrial infrastructure. Then you turn onto the lane to the farm and its suddenly very rural feeling – nearly a country landscape. I love that. When you pull into the farm, its almost like the rest of that stuff is all miles away. On the farm there is only sun, dirt/mud, plants, buzzing bees, clucking chickens, and lowing cows. The rest of the world feels so remote, its a very nice break from the chaos of the city 🙂

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