Salad days in the city

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

We’re planning the annual Memorial Day Stoop Party on my street, but menu coordination hasn’t started. I avoid taking a dish that duplicates the good old standards, such as potato salad and baked beans, but sometimes mine is the third salad, and this year it may be salad again. (The photo is of a previous "Stoop" party on my street, which always means stoop-sidewalk-on top-of-or-inside-people's-cars party.)

tailgateI planted so much lettuce and arugula that I can’t keep up, even though I eat a sizeable salad almost every day. Some of it is in bloom — yes, in flahr!

Time to share.

Besides my regular crops of herbs, lettuce, arugula, chard, peppers, beans, tomatoes and strawberries, I am growing for the first time this year radishes, kale, peas, beets and blueberries.

I guess I qualify as an urban farmer, something more and more of us can claim to be. The “urban farm” movement is taking cities by storm and it’s largely because enough people want to know their food and know what’s on it, what’s in it and what’s not. It’s the advantage of cities with lots of vacancy to use them for gardening (after testing the soil, of course.)

peppersandlotharYou could call it urban gardening if “farm” means oodles of acres to you, as it does to me. My garden (in photo left, from last year) is about 70-by-20 feet, but it is definitely urban. I have kids bouncing balls in the alley behind me and a car stereo thumping in the street in front of me and the not infrequent ambulance or police siren screaming along the main drag at the end of the block and yet most of the time it ‘s very quiet. Birds swoop through, the pond bubbles, the fish dart and the frog is being elusive somewhere.

A city is compatible with the pasttime of agriculture and certainly could be compatible with agriculture as serious business, as Boston and Milwaukee have proven.

Watch for an upcoming story in the Food section about the plethora of local urban farming efforts amid what seems to be a transformative national movement. And have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend Stoop Party, or whatever it is you do to celebrate the holiday with food and friends.

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