Tag Archives: urban gardening

The Glorious Red Pepper

Have you ever taken a bite into a red pepper and felt like you’ve gone to heaven? Unlike it’s earlier plucked green cousin, the red pepper packs a delicous punch of sweet and savory. Our Brooklyn rooftop garden has about 5 pepper plans that are all doing well in the after the hot summer. The peppers are all on the small side and I’ve eaten a few delicious green ones. I’m leaving the rest on the plants to mature into reds. I just picked a glorious red pepper off of my Brooklyn rooftop garden. Here she is:

A Brooklyn Rooftop Red Pepper

So – what does it take to grow a red pepper? Although many people eroneously believe that red peppers are a different species or type of pepper than the green pepper, they are actually the exact same plant – the capsicum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsicum). Red peppers just stay on the plant longer and turn red as they mature or age. That’s why they are more expensive at the supermarket. They take more work and water to grow.

The pepper or capsicum is indigenous to the Americas and was cultivated first in South and Central America. Columbus noticed peppers being eaten by Native Americans and named it a “pepper” on account of the sharp taste which reminded him of black pepper. Columbus and other explorers brought peppers back to the “Old World.” Colonists then spread peppers throughout  North America. An interesting history of the pepper can be found at the Texas A &M Agricultures Site.

One of the Brooklyn Red Peppers

Interestingly, a red pepper has 10 times the amount of Vitamin A and double the amount of vitamin c as a green pepper. And, both green and red peppers have more vitamin c than a whole orange.

If you want to grow your own peppers, wait until next Spring and then go for it – it’s easy. Here’s an easy guide for pepper growing: http://www.gardenersnet.com/vegetable/pepper.htm

Last but not least, a quick video guide for roasting red peppers. So many good recipes have roasted red peppers. This video shows you 3 easy ways to roast ’em:

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The Brooklyn Rooftop Garden

This year’s rooftop garden in Park Slope, Brooklyn is a major success.I can’t write the name of the street or the address because, strictly speaking, we’ve never been on the roof since it’s not allowed and the owners of the building probably don’t want us traipsing around up there.

But traipse we do, and we’ve managed to build quite the garden up there. We have tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, green beans, snap peas, snow peas, Serrano chiles, bell peppers, mint, parsley, rosemary, cilantro, dill and basil. For a look at other Brooklyn gardens, check out http://brooklynroofgarden.com

Just the other night, we ate two salads with all of the ingredients coming from our Brooklyn rooftop garden. The  first is a cucumber salad with dill and the second is cucumbers, tomatoes and basil with olive oil. Delish.

cucumber salad

tomato and cucumber salad

The best part of the garden is watching the plants grow and seeing the vegetables ripen.There’s nothing like eating your own, home grown vegetables. We water our garden by running a hose from the kitchen sink out into the hallway and up the ladder to the roof. I’d love to to a massive, roof -wide garden like the huge garden in Greenpoint brooklyn. Check out this Daily News Article for more on that.

I’d love to hear from others who have good “urban farming” experience.

Let The Great World Spin

The rooftop garden in Brooklyn is flourishing: spinach, zuchinis, cucumbers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, snap peas, green beans and a whole bunch of herbs. To get to the roof there’s a ladder and then you open a hatch and out into the blinding light. It feels like leaving a spaceship and walking on a whitewashed moon.
We have a view of the statue of liberty and all of lower Manhattan.
We got sick of lugging bottles of water up for the plants and bought a hose. Now, we run the hose from the kitchen sink, out the door, down the hall, up the ladder and out the hatch. For a secret rooftop garden, we have a lot going on. Hopefully the landlords won’t catch on. We’ll probably end up like that children’s book and have tomatoes growing in our closets.
The plants love getting drenched. There aren’t enough bees in Brooklyn so Anya had to pollenate a lot of the plants using Q-Tips. Too bad city pigeons can’t be taught bee tricks so they can have a use. We’ve harvested the first tomatoes and snap peas- delicious. I’d like to grow sunflowers too. It would give the people on Flatbush Avenue something nice to look at.
On a side-note, I just read a beautiful book by Colum McCann, Let The Great World Spin. If you live in NYC, ever lived in NYC, or hell, live anywhere, it’s a good one. It captures a lot.

More cheesemaking soon….

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Urban Farming in NYC and Beyond

Fact – more than 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban environments. It’s estimated that by 2050, the number could be as high as 80%. If we think we’re disconnected from our food supply now, the future looks even more bleak.
This is just one reason that urban farming and urban agriculture projects are so important and interesting.

Urban farming projects range from re-claiming unused public land to school gardens to more innovative vertical farming schemes.

I love the Eagle Street Rooftop garden here in Brooklyn, NY. Ben Flanner and Annie Novak built and tend this rooftop garden. Check out this picture of the farm:

For the full story, check out the article on Serious Eats. Even if you don’t have roof-space like the Eagle street operation, you can grow food in much, much smaller spaces as well.

Another great project in New York City is Added Value, a community farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn. According to their own website:

“Added Value is a non-profit organization promoting the sustainable development of Red Hook by nurturing a new generation of young leaders. We work towards this goal by creating opportunities for the youth of South Brooklyn to expand their knowledge base, develop new skills and positively engage with their community through the operation of a socially responsible urban farming enterprise.”

Added-Value took over a dilapidated, unused city lot and turned it into a functioning 2.75 acre farm. It’s an incredible project and they take volunteers on weekend. Go visit.

For a list of some large-scale NYC gardens check out this article.

A great organization to check out is Growing Power, a great organization founded by former NBA player and MacArthur Fellow Will Allen. Growing Power’s projects in Milwaukee and Chicago are teaching kids and adults alike the value and power of sustainable food production. Watch Allen’s youtube video to see what Growing Power is all about:

Please leave comments about other interesting urban farming/gardening projects.

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