2011-08-04 / News

Worth the labor

The Island Garden
BY ROGER MARSHALL

I was digging fingerling potatoes Saturday, sweating in the heat, but looking forward to enjoying the potatoes done in a cast-iron pan on the grill after being doused with olive oil and chopped rosemary. I thought that they would go well with grilled fish and fresh corn from the corn patch.

While I was digging, it struck me how richly we Jamestown gardeners can live. For example, I put the pot of water on to boil and strolled out to pick the corn. It was in the pot within 10 minutes of being picked. The sugars in the corn had not had time to turn to starch as they do with store-bought corn and it was incredibly sweet.

Similarly the potatoes were from the ground to plate within three hours. The coleslaw was made with cabbage cut an hour before it was chopped. To cap it all off, the fish was fresh from the ocean – topped with chopped fresh dill – and on the table within hours of being caught. That’s a fresh meal, plus the flavors are so much better than from storebought food, plus food miles and emissions are virtually zero.


Clockwise from left, Roger Marshall dug up Russian fingerlings, red pontiacs, yellow banana fingerlings, russets and purple potatoes from his garden. For Fourth of July, Marshall makes a red, white and purpleblue potato salad. PHOTO BY ROGER MARSHALL Clockwise from left, Roger Marshall dug up Russian fingerlings, red pontiacs, yellow banana fingerlings, russets and purple potatoes from his garden. For Fourth of July, Marshall makes a red, white and purpleblue potato salad. PHOTO BY ROGER MARSHALL The Leopold Center in Iowa uses a Weighted Average Source Distance to calculate food miles. In its estimation, the distance that locally grown food travels is 56 miles while non-locally grown food travels 1,494 miles. They suggest that a chuck roast dinner with potatoes, carrots and green beans has travelled a cumulative total of 5,375 miles.

Each mile of which takes fuel, spews pollution and increases the cost of your food while gradually allowing it to deteriorate. How fortunate are we that we can purchase meat grown on the island, fish caught around the island, and eat vegetables grown in our own backyards? It is easy to see that it may be a lot of work keeping a garden going in the dry summer months, but the rewards are well worth it: Lots of fresh food, sustainably harvested within yards of the dinner table.

Anyway, there I was digging potatoes, when on the other side of the garden came a groundhog. Ignoring me, it chomped down on squash leaves, a few weeds, and then decided to go for the beans. That’s when I lobbed a rock at him and went in pursuit of his hole. I found the hole and dug into it, but the little bugger was well below ground.

What to do? I decided to spray liquid fence around the garden and put up a chicken-wire fence to keep the furry little bugger out of the beans, lettuce, endive and radicchio.

The fence needed to be buried about 6 inches to a foot below ground so that meant trenching around the veggies I wanted to save. I also closed the top of the fence over so that the animal could not climb over it. Now I wait for his next move. But so far, the beans have been saved minus a few lower leaves.

I also dug out the greenhouse banana plants. If anybody wants a banana tree for their house, call me and come and collect it. The trees vary in height from a foot or so to 10 feet high. The bananas are OK, but a little seedy, however, the leaves are great for wrapping around chicken or roast pork, and can easily be frozen for later use.

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