Urban Sarasota gardens cultivate interest


Urban Sarasota gardens cultivate interest


Date: March 24, 2011
by: Loren Mayo | Community Editor


Junior League’s Simply Sarasota Kitchen Festival kicks off March 30 and runs through April 2. Encompassing everything from cooking and kitchen design to gardening and entertaining, the Urban Garden Tour will show you what’s possible locally with edible gardening.

Guests can explore the trend of urban gardening by visiting three gardens, including I Grow My Own Veggies, a rooftop garden; Orange Blossom Community Garden, a working community garden; and Passion for Produce, an aquaponic farm.

I Grow My Own Veggies
One of the reasons Vincent Dessberg started his 3,000-square-foot rooftop hydroponic farm, where about 6,000 plants are growing, was to have fun.

STRAWBERRIES. Dessberg planted 500 strawberry plants, and 450 are still growing. Strawberries are easy-to-grow and perfect for his newest snack combo: strawberries and cilantro.

NASTURTIUMS. With their bright pop of orange and yellow, nasturtiums — which initially have a sweet, perfume-like taste before a spicy bite — make a great addition to any salad.

BEETS. Dessberg plants beet seeds in coconut husk, a more sustainable way of growing them than in peat moss. He loves thinly slicing the beets, marinating them with orange juice and lightly sautéing them.

Orange Blossom Community Garden
As a master gardener coordinator with the Orange Blossom Community Garden, Gail Harvey has helped create a garden that feeds families and educates people on what they can grow at their homes.

BASIL. Harvey says there’s nothing better than fresh herbs, whether they’re a topping for pizza margherita or used to make fresh basil pesto.
Samuel Ramage. The youngest gardener in the community garden is quickly learning. Samuel’s brother and sister, Christopher and Chloe, are teaching him about harvesting tomatoes.

Samuel Ramage. The youngest gardener in the community garden is quickly learning. Samuel’s brother and sister, Christopher and Chloe, are teaching him about harvesting tomatoes.

CHARD. Nicknamed “bright lights,” chard leaves can be chopped and sautéed in olive oil. Harvey deglazes the pan with white wine and adds in a chicken broth, garlic or shallots and red onion.

Passion for Produce
Michelle Silva’s aquaponic farm integrates aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing fruits and vegetables in a soil-less medium) into one system.

WHEATGRASS. A self-proclaimed “smoothie addict,” Silva likes to mix it up between wheatgrass, spinach and collard greens, then adds in blueberries, strawberries or bananas.

SOAPS. Herbs aren’t just harvested for food — Silva also makes and sells soaps in varieties such as wheatgrass and lavender; peppermint and thyme; and sweet orange and ginger.

FISH. About 150 tilapia, along with beneficial bacteria, help fertilize the plants. The system includes three aquaponic raft tanks, and because the water re-circulates, it uses 90% less water than traditional methods.

If you go

Junior League’s Simply Sarasota Kitchen Festival

When: The March 30 and March 31 culinary symposium offers cooking, gardening, kitchen design and entertaining classes at Sarasota County Technical Institute; cooking classes with local chefs; and celebrity breakfast events April 1 and April 2 with Nancy Clarke and Katie Lee. The tour of kitchens runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 1 and April 2. The Urban Garden Tour runs from 1 to 5 p.m. March 30.
Cost: Cooking classes, $10; design symposium, $20; bus tour, $25; and breakfast tickets, $65.
Info: Call 953-5600

Contact Loren Mayo at lmayo@yourobserver.com


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