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Bring WNY farm to table closer to home with a container garden

It’s easy this time of year to dig into the farm-to-table movement and become a kind of “farm” that supplies your food, no matter where you live.

“We do a big garden in the back, but I like the container gardening closer to the house,” said Allyson Odachowski, a registered dietitian who lives in Akron. “Not everyone lives in the country, where they have lots of space, so they might only have a front stoop, or a deck or patio. Container gardening is so neat because you can even grow things in a small space.”

Gardening is great way to ease stress and get some exercise, Odachowski said.

“It reconnects people with their food at its source, and that’s always a really positive thing,” she said. “These kinds of connections to the farm are so important.”

While gardening, preparing and eating food grown at home, Odachowski often remembers her grandparents, Herman and Pauline Kastle, who farmed property in Baldwinsville and sold produce in Central New York.

She and her family have two large, slightly raised garden beds in their backyard. Several planter boxes hang from the railing of the front porch and hold lettuce, herbs, and sweet banana peppers. A pot of yellow cherry tomatoes sits nearby.

“This is my salad bar,” she said.

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Odachowski also has worked with her daughters to plant containers of snow peas on the back patio. A trellis stuck into two large pots will thicken with vines as the weeks push into summer. She also has tilted five plant steaks at an angle – their bottoms in five containers the size of sand buckets, their tops tied together – to form a teepee. When the plants climb together, she has explained to her daughters, they will form a “peapee” that they can sit inside.

Odachowski offered the following container gardening tips:

• Look for plants at your local greenhouse or garden center labeled for container or “patio” versions of plants. Ask the staff about what plants work best in which containers.

• Instead of growing everything, grow something.

• Consider becoming involved in a community garden,

Whatever you grow will trim your grocery budget, Odachowski said. What’s more, the nutritional value will be at its peak because you’ll often eat what you pick in short order.

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Patricia Salzer is among those who thinks small when it comes to gardening.

Patricia Salzer, a registered dietitian and workplace wellness consultant with Univera Healthcare, waits till Memorial Day Weekend to plant herbs.

“I’d rather be cooking than tending a large backyard garden,” said Salzer, a registered dietitian and workplace wellness consultant with Univera Healthcare. “My type of farming is on a micro scale and ties in with my love for the kitchen: I grow my own herbs.”

Her strategy helps her lower her salt intake and boost the taste of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods.

Salzer usually doesn’t plan plant herbs until Memorial Day weekend. She plants many of them in containers.

“After you bring them home,” she said, “re-pot them in larger containers with good potting soil. Remember to water and fertilize as needed. Check the website for a wealth of information on growing herbs – from anise to watercress – inside, outside, in containers and even hydroponically.”

Salzer said she finds tending and eating the following herbs a treat to the senses – and a nutritional, low-calorie boost to her health.

Basil: Good in pesto, a tomato and fresh mozzarella salad, on pizza and in marinara sauce. “Freeze pesto in ice cube trays, and then remove the cubes to a freezer bag and use as needed for a winter treat that reminds you of summer’s bounty,” she said.

Chives: “Excellent in potato or cauliflower salad.”

Mint: Container planting is good because mint tends to roam. “Add to hot or cold water for flavor. Chew on mint leaves instead of gum or candy.”

Parsley: “A must for tabbouleh. I’ve brushed snow off of it and welcomed it into the warm indoors.”

Rosemary: “Tasty with roasted potatoes or on pork.”

Sage: Good on eggs or chicken.

Tarragon: “Transform leftover chicken into chicken salad.”

Thyme: Adds taste to bean salads, vegetables and lean meat.


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon

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