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January 7, 2008



Rocket. As in arugula. It is my new favorite green. I could eat it with every meal. In fact, I think I have, except for breakfast, since we found the variety at the market in Siena. I didn't know that arugula was native to Italy- and to parts of Turkey- but it all makes sense since two of the best plates of greens that I've ever had have been in both of those places.

Neither Lex nor I really made a heap of resolutions this year, though I think one that we share, unspoken, is to be more healthy. We're pretty conscious as it is, however we've become increasingly concerned (or maybe aware is a better word) of the types of things going into our bodies- and particularly questioning where they came from and how they were manipulated (sprayed, filled with hormones, etc., etc.) before they reached our kitchen. We are not an organic household for a number of reasons, though I try to get things locally from green markets when I can...but sadly, this is not frequent, at least in the winter.

I want a garden. A big one, like I grew up with. I want to grow greens and tomatoes and peas. Maybe some peppers and cucumbers. In the fall I want to grow some root vegetables. Can you grow garlic in Brooklyn? But almost all of this, of course, requires a backyard and there's little less than a sliver of hope that we will have a backyard any time soon, so I guess that idea is shelved.

But maybe not.

Does anyone have experience gardening in small, non-traditional spaces? What could we really grow on our windowsills and fire escape, or even our roof, if it didn't take up much room?

Posted by callalillie at January 7, 2008 5:47 AM | City Life , Food , Inquiry


Recently I saw on PBS a food show about a community garden in, I think, Brooklyn. Maybe Bronx. It can be done.

Posted by: kmkat at January 7, 2008 4:30 PM

I'm sure that you can grow quite a few things in containers; greens, tomatoes, a pepper plant; herbs. It's just not the same as having a big garden plot. Any pea patches in Red Hook?

BTW: I have found a great source for Italian vegetable seed: I'm sure that you can grow rocket in a container!

Posted by: jane at January 7, 2008 4:35 PM

Garlic needs lots a room and time. It would take at least a 10" pot per head of garlic with the cloves started at least 3" deep. Outside, I thin them to about 10-12" apart. Unfortunately, beans, peppers and cukes also require a large space.

Since "fresh" garlic isn't a culinary must, I'd concentrate on tomatoes, lettuce, and other greens (like arugula!)that are easier in planters or flats. Certainly doable.

Posted by: bobtrancho at January 7, 2008 5:45 PM

Just curious, why aren't you buying organic?

Posted by: joanie at January 7, 2008 8:50 PM

Just curious, why are you not buying organic? The 365 organic house brand at Whole Foods is fairly inexpensive -- in fact it is actually cheaper than conventional supermarket brands in some cases.

Posted by: Joanie at January 7, 2008 8:55 PM

Hmmm. How many planters can one put on their fire escape before it's a code violation?

Joanie- We do not live near a Whole Foods. Since we carry our groceries for the week in our backpacks and bags, it's hard to do a Manhattan shopping trip (heavy and often an hour commute on the weekends!) I am most concerned about organic fruits, vegetables and meat. I often buy organic fruit, however the vegetables are often questionable at our local market and the organic meat can sometimes be double the price of non-organic. All of it is a little less pricey at greenmarkets and at the PS Food Coop, however both are also a hike.

Posted by: corie at January 7, 2008 9:04 PM

Oh, I see what you mean!
: )

I agree that the organic fruits, veggies and meats are the most important.

It's true the organic meats can be pricey. I've definitely sacrificed my taste for prime rib and some kinds of seafood because I can't handle the $14/lb prices. I've compromised by downgrading to the cheapest organic meats I can find, which generally is the ground beef ($4.99/lb) and chicken breasts ($3.99/lb). And I spice them up with organic marinades or unusual ethnic recipe treatments.

Truthfully it's healthier to emphasize the plant based diet and use meats more as a flavoring or condiment, like an afterthought-- but sometimes my carnivore tendencies get the best of me!

The employees at Whole Foods are usually so helpful -- here's just an idea. Perhaps if you called ahead to the butcher dept., tell them what you want and ask them to set it aside for you in the freezer. That way you could pick it up on a weekend, stash it in your backpack, and it would still be frozen by the time you got home.

OK, I'll get off my soapbox now. Good luck!

Posted by: Joanie at January 7, 2008 9:15 PM

Check out Square Foot Gardening. While it's not perfectly applicable to your situation, it's the best resource for growing in small spaces I've seen. Also, for container/fire escape growing, buy one of those hoses that attaches to an inside faucet: When I've grown on apartment porches, getting enough water to the plants was always a struggle.

Posted by: mark at January 8, 2008 8:02 AM

corie, know that compact fluorescents can work as grow lights. you can create a little corner inside with a 200 watter pointing at it 14 hours a day (get a timer)... not as exciting as a window garden, but possibly something to add to it. (i use lights like these for my orchids and they really do work)

Posted by: alyssa at January 8, 2008 8:16 AM

You have a very good looking husband.

Great picture!

Posted by: PGR at January 8, 2008 1:11 PM

You have a very good looking husband.

Great picture!

Posted by: PGR at January 8, 2008 1:11 PM

Well, I think your best bet might be a plot in a community garden. What about Added Value in Red Hook? Do they offer community garden space, or maybe some volunteering opportunities?

Posted by: Janine at January 8, 2008 2:45 PM

FAIRWAY! Their organics aren't bad, easy to get to, and a hell of a lot cheaper than Whole Paycheck.

Posted by: DW at January 8, 2008 11:23 PM

I used this book when I was attempting to grow vegetables on my fire escape in the Bronx a few years ago. Very good resource:

Posted by: Mark at January 9, 2008 4:00 PM

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