Merchantville has a Community Garden at the Community Center and from time to time, there are garden plots available. Merchantville's Community Garden is a single piece of land located behind the baseball field at the Community Center. It is gardened and maintained collectively by a group of residents and students. Our community gardens utilizes either individual plots on this public land to produce fruit, vegetables, and plants for food and food sharing. Please contact Kris Donohue at kdonohue202@gmail if you are interested in having a sunny plot in this garden next year.
Come and get em! Zucchini, hot peppers, cucumbers, beans, squash, kale, turnips and tomatoes are available for free at Eclipse Brewing. At Incredible Edible Merchantville we love connecting people through food and food sharing. Although we're just getting our feet wet, there are many businesses in our community who are already doing extraordinary things. For some it’s about creating a garden, for others supporting food waste and food injustice. For some it’s about teaching people to grow and cook and for others it’s about ensuring people have that space to grow. For us all it’s about making sure our whole community can get involved. Eclipse Brewing and Park Place Cafe & Restaurant are business leaders in planting crops for food sharing and connecting to nature through locally foraged foods.
And so it starts! Well, it started with the eggs but I can never see them so here are some pictures of my milkweed plants, pods and caterpillars. I have about 75 plants and will offer the seed pods to anyone interested when they have finished growing. Awareness is rising around the importance of milkweed (as well as other native plants) for pollinators, because the fact is, planting the right species of milkweed for your area can be a huge help to monarchs and a number of other species. Milkweed is a beneficial wildflower. Planting milkweed is a sure way to help save the monarch. With completion of the status assessment in December 2020, the Fish and Wildlife Service will determine whether protecting the monarch under the Endangered Species Act is warranted.
And so it starts! Well, it started with the eggs but they are difficult to see so here are some pictures of my milkweed plants, pods and caterpillars. I have about 75 plants in my yard and will offer the seed pods to anyone interested when they have finished growing Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on just one type of plant, and that’s milkweed (genus Asclepias). While awareness is rising around the importance of milkweed(as well as other native plants) for pollinators we want to clear up any misconceptions. Because the fact is, planting the right species of milkweedfor your area can be a huge help to monarchs and a number of other species.
Four new sweet basil varieties - resistant to downy mildew disease which destroys leaves and has been the bane of basil growers for a decade - are now being sold to home gardeners and commercial farmers across the United States thanks to years of painstaking breeding and selection at Rutgers University. Two of the four varieties also show high resistance to Fusarium wilt, another important soil-borne disease. The four new downy mildew resistant (DMR) sweet basils are Rutgers Devotion DMR, Rutgers Obsession DMR, Rutgers Passion DMR and Rutgers Thunderstruck DMR. These varieties of sweet basil – one of America’s most popular garden herbs and the most important annual culinary herb commercial crop – became available to commercial growers last spring and are now available to home gardeners.
Yesterday morning we were able to harvest our first beans from the IE site at Wellwood Park tennis courts. Our first pick of the season yielded about 60 mature Provider green beans and 1 Golden Rocky bean. We hope our Red Silk beans - which need 85 days to mature - will recover from all the rain, begin to flower and bear beautiful red beans! You can store unwashed fresh beans in a reusable container or plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper where they should keep for about seven days. Green beans can also retain valuable amounts of nutrients for 3-6 months after freezing, so if you choose the freezing option, rinse them in cool water, drain, cut to your desired size, then place them in freezer bags and storing them in your freezer.
What can an Incredible Edible group do relating to the business plate? Just by growing food in public places, allowing people to see plants in the ground and harvesting the produce when it’s ready, you’re encouraging people to think about where their food comes from – and that isn’t a vacuum packed plastic tub from the supermarket. There are other things you can do so people think about where their food comes from when they decide what they’re next going to spend their well-earned money on. Our own Eclipse Brewing is a super example spinning the IE business plate.
Spend a week on the farm at Free Haven Farms learning about science. Nature will be our classroom to explore agriculture, ecosystems, food chains, soil chemistry, insects, and more. Open for youth ages 3-12. July 8 - 12; 9am-4pm. $150; $50 non-refundable deposit required upon registration. Balance is due upon arrival. Free Haven Farms is a hands-on operation that Cynthia and Micaiah Hall established three years ago in Lawnside. Dr. Cynthia Hall, who grew up in this cozy borough, is an Environmental Geochemist and Associate Professor at West Chester University. She received her BS in Chemistry from Howard University and Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences from Georgia Tech. She and Micaiah are raising three children while using artisanal agriculture to make a living, share their considerable knowledge, and build community. Their motto is “sustainable and attainable,” says Micaiah, 42, a plumber by trade who hails from Connecticut and grew up working on a neighbor’s farm. He also worked for seven years at the Mill Creek Farm in West Philly. Read Kevin Riordan's story about them.
Here's a video update on how the three bean varieties and the pollinator garden along the Wellwood Park tennis courts are progressing after the first month. Several of the beans are just beginning to bloom with a sweet light purple flower - good news that those plants have fully matured and are ready to begin reproducing. The west side of our tennis planter area gets significantly more sun than the east - something to keep in mind next year - but, I expect those east side stragglers to catch up.
If you are lucky - like Merchantville - you have farmer's markets in your area. But that can get very expensive and take time - driving to the market, parking, then make your way through others trying to get their fresh produce in the few hours that the market is open. So what is the alternative? Growing your own food. It's possible on a small scale, regardless of time, space, money and knowledge. And, encouraging children to grow their own food is one of the best things parents can do. It teaches them responsibility for a living thing, that vegetables can taste good and that they can become more self sufficient and not reliant on big food companies. If you need help getting started message us at IE Merchantville!
Mother Earth News shares a great article on how you can simply recycle your own grounds and expect to produce a few pounds of beautiful oyster mushrooms a week—at which point you’ll need to create an oyster mushroom dressing, sautéing your harvest in a balsamic vinaigrette and tossing it over fresh greens crumbled with feta cheese. Step-by-step instructions.