Chef Paul and the Giant Zucchs

Growing for the Greater Good

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Jane Booth


In the summer of 2014 I grew a surplus of vegetables.  Our new neighbor, Paul Pellegrino, had been hired as Newbury Elementary's school chef.  He would occasionally stop at my garden on his walk to work and grab a handful of basil.  I took a look around at the wealth of goodness I had grown and decided then and there I could share. 

Destined for Newbury Elementary School, winter squash from my garden.

With my husband, David Tansey's help, we loaded up our garden cart with more than 300 pounds of mixed vegetables -- baskets of heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and winter squash with wonderful names -- Guatemalan Blue Banana and Marianna di Chiogga.

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Not long after we discovered Newbury's Four Corners Farm had a sale on their potatoes.  We bought $100 worth as a donation to the school.  When my husband told 4C's owner, farmer extraordinare Bob Gray, what we were up to, Bob promptly upped the ante by donating more and the cooler space to store the surplus.

This year when the growing season began, Newbury resident Caroline Nininger sent out a call to grow a row for the elementary school.  My neighbor, Virginia Fuller, brought over plump ripe sauce tomatoes, basil, carrots, and turban squash appeared at the school's kitchen door, and somebody -- we won't name names because we don't know who -- dropped off two boxes of zucchini, each squash vying for a size comparison with this years new set of preschoolers.  Chef Paul has been grating them - the zuchs, not the preschoolers - for winter soups and stews.

Chef Paul is thrilled the school finally had the funds to put in a walk-in freezer and now Chef and his assistant Emma are reaping the benefits of a bonanza of vegetables gleaned from gardens by members of the community.  

More food goodness appeared just like magic through a grant that would pay for blueberries picked by the public at Newbury Blueberry -- if you picked a pound for the school, you could take your second pound home.  Even Newbury Elementary's Principal, Chance Lindsley, got into the act and harvested sweet blues for the incoming students.  The little blue pills of happiness will ward off the winter blues when Chef Paul turns them into blueberry muffins.

While I watched Chef make pistou for a pasta lunch, he told me so far he has been able to make eight quarts of green goodness for future lunches.  Twelve gallons of tomato sauce made from donated tomatoes is in the freezer.  He admitted to sneaking some added veggies into the sauce -- grated zucchini, peppers, basil and onions for added flavor and nutrition.  The 12 gallons will provide enough sauce to grace 10 lunches of pasta or pizza.  As Chef Paul puts it, "I like to pretend this is my home kitchen, it's just that I have 130 kids."

A Farm to School grant has helped Newbury Elementary with sourcing local food.  Chef Paul is working with Newbury's Four Corners Farm, Fairlee's Root 5 Farm, and is making an arrangement with West Newbury's Green Mountain Yogurt.   

I'll bring over our excess tomatoes, more basil, and winter squash - Guatamalan Blue Banana, Red Kuri, Black Futsu, and Acorn too.  Growing for the greater good feels good to me, how about you?

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