SOUTH BRUNSWICK – Plant one plant – feed many.
The Rows for the Hungry Experimental Garden on the grounds of the EARTH Center inside Davidson’s Mill Pond Park lives and grows by that motto, as the demo garden and teaching area plants produce that is donated to MCFOODS (Middlesex County Food Organization and Outreach Distribution Services) and to the Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen in New Brunswick.
Adero Solomon, a Rutgers Master Gardener volunteer, offered a tour of the garden during the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County’s annual Garden and Music Festival in South Brunswick on Aug. 24.
Solomon said school groups come in to plant cole crops such as kale, cauliflower and broccoli. The plants begin at a greenhouse space at Rutgers. Once the item is planted at the EARTH Center, it is tracked so the planter knows how many people were fed by it, she said.
And, visitors learn nutritional facts, such as how adding stevia to lemongrass can make a natural lemonade; how a purple potato is higher in antioxidants and potassium than a white potato; or how buttercup squash has the same nutrition as butternut squash but since it is smaller, it is easier to package for a soup kitchen, according to Solomon.
The garden is surrounded by plants that attract pollinators to help the corn, hot peppers, bush beans, onions, tomatoes and squash grow.
Rows for the Hungry was established last year, but this year alone, there have been hundreds of pounds of produce produced, according to Solomon. The goal is to donate 1,600 pounds this season.
During the day-long event, there were tours, presentations and showcases on gardening and landscaping. The lineup of live entertainment included Petrogass bluegrass, The Beagles Pete Seeger tribute, Los Cimarrones folk percussion ensemble, Thoralf Tollefsen acoustic eclectic music, Ken Galipeau and Ron Califano folk music, So It Goes ballads and acoustic classic rock, Drew Turock Americana music, and The Tritones classic and original rock.
Throughout the event, the extension’s Agriculture Office and Rutgers Master Gardeners offered advice on horticulture and environmental stewardship while guiding visitors through various learning projects.
Another highlight was the annual “Greatest of the Garden” competition. Gardeners brought their biggest or most outstanding home grown produce.
For more information, visit middlesexcountynj.gov.