Environment Blog

Vegetables in the City

March 27, 2008

As the warm days start piling up, many New York City residents may find themselves dreaming of the beach, barbecues and drippy, drippy ice cream cones. I love all that stuff too. But when the weather turns in early spring, my mind usually shoots straight to a different kind of warm weather daydream: It’s me … wearing rubber shoes … up to my elbows in crumbly black dirt, with a kitchen full of fresh, crispy, sun-warmed vegetables.

My gardening fantasy reflects two distinct desires: 1) a yen for outdoor space and long afternoons in the sun, and 2) a taste for plump, fresh local vegetables, easily at hand.

In Portland, Ore., last year I managed a few trays of herbs and tiny, sad spinach propped outside a north-facing window. This year in Brooklyn, I have a vast fire escape, perfect for planting, that, alas … also faces north.

Realizing I probably can’t have either of my two desires on my fire escape, I’ve started looking for other options in either category here in New York.

Where vegetables are concerned, NYC is actually has some good activity and availability. There are many farmers markets, and a slew of vegetable subscription services, also called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA’s, where a box of veggies gets delivered to you (or picked up by you) once or twice a month from a local farm. Participating farms range from Connecticut and Pennsylvania to the Brooklyn waterfront. I won’t get my hands dirty with either of these options, but a kitchen constantly full of swiss chard might be almost as good.

Even better maybe would be joining one of the City’s many community gardens. There are at least two in my neighborhood alone. But who knows if I’d be able to produce enough in a shared plot for my ravenous tomato cravings.

Until I get that bountiful backyard with a strong southern sun someday, I’ll probably be eating asparagus and kale from a CSA, and getting my fill of soil in the three tiny pots of sad wilted thyme and sage behind our kitchen sink.

And I guess that’s not so bad.


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Christopher says:

I was just wondering where to get more high-quality, seasonal vegetables in NYC. Thanks.

Alan Dove says:

You should pay a visit to your building superintendent and ask about access to the roof. Don’t ask the landlord, just the super, and have a cash bribe handy if the discussion doesn’t seem to be going your way. Unless you have a very wide and much taller building immediately south of you, the roof probably gets more than enough sun to grow a container garden, and it will also warm up quite fast in the Spring.

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