City farmers grow their own meals
By Julia Fairclough
With a density of over 18,000 people per square mile, it’s hard to imagine Somerville as an agricultural community. For a relatively small city, Somerville has a big history of agriculture; from early farms, orchards, and dairies. The famous Veryfine Juice brand actually originated here.
And with increased interest in enhancing “green” environments through community gardens and growing one’s one food, it’s no surprise that this year’s theme—“Incredible, edible gardens”—offered 31 gardens, ripe with exotic produces and proud city farmers.
“This is fun, it’s my hobby,” said Jeffrey Harrington of Ibbeston Street, joking that this is what happens when a guy from Woodstock, VT, relocates to Somerville. His wife added that city farming prevents him from becoming too homesick.
Harrington’s garden in a sunny side yard was lush with tomatoes, corn, squash, lettuces, cabbages, egg plant, peppers, and all sorts of herbs. Just that day he got some advice from a garden enthusiast to plant peppers in blocks so that they can pollinate. It’s also smart to add magnesium to the soil.
It’s been a great year for eggplant, he said. He uses five-gallon black pots to keep the roots warm and boost production. Placing the pots on cement keeps the heat-loving eggplants warm at night.
Around the corner on Porter Street, Linda Morales grows hops for making beer.
“I should harvest them, but I never get around to it,” she said, adding that to harvest hops, you have to wait until the hops dry out and then boil them in water.
Morales also grows two cherry trees, two pears trees, a peach tree, and a kiwi vine. She converted an unused swing set area to a vegetable garden. A water garden that starts with a mound of appealing shade plants and waterfall runs along her patio.
She bent over some plants in her garden and picked a dry pod off the ground. She peeled the papery husk and in the middle was a round orange and yellow ball. This delicious “ground cherry” is mainly sold at farmer’s markets since they cannot be commercially grown. The taste is succulently sweet, with a hint of pineapple and honey.
Morales starts her own tomatoes from seed, and was passing out radish seeds from her garden, in addition to this delicious rosemary punch that she is well known for.
On Cherry Street, Alan Moore grows three kinds of blueberries to get a continual crop throughout the growing season. Indeed, a big plus of stopping by his garden was to reach under the deer netting and partake of these luscious, deep blue bon bons.