Volunteers are ‘growing food everywhere for everyone’

BRATTLEBORO — I was parked outside the Brattleboro Food Co-op after my regular curbside pickup run, when a flock of birds - some red, some yellow - flew overhead toward the Edible Brattleboro garden in front of me.

My curiosity piqued, I climbed out of my car to take a closer look: something that looked like black-eyed Susans and clumps of pinkish purple flowers were growing there.

Then I saw the vegetables. The sign said: “This is a help-yourself garden.”

I called Marilyn Chiarello, the founder, to ask if the vegetables were organic. They are. She urged me to take a zucchini. I did. I also clipped a couple leaves of kale, from the bottom as instructed, and pinched a couple of leaves of fresh lettuce.

I drove home to cook my plunder and was amazed. I had never tasted kale or zucchini so tender.

On my drive home, I looked around and began seeing Brattleboro differently: Everywhere I looked and saw green lawn, I imagined seeing a garden brimming over with flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

Marilyn told me the inspiration for Edible Brattleboro came from a TED Talk she saw: “How We Can Eat Our Landscapes.” Warm, friendly, and enthusiastic, Marilyn has just the kind of qualities that are invaluable for running a nonprofit manned fully by volunteers.

I'm just discovering Edible Brattleboro: I've visited the help-yourself gardens at the Brattleboro Food Co-op and on the lawn outside of Turning Point, where there's a Share the Harvest vegetable stand every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

As I've walked around town, I've noticed a satellite help-yourself garden at Brooks Memorial Library and have been told about other gardens scattered about town.

Edible Brattleboro also plans to offer classes on how to can, preserve, and cook vegetables. Marilyn, a former elementary school teacher and vegan chef, said, “I think sometimes people don't know what to do with the vegetables.”

At the Edible Brattleboro website (ediblebrattleboro.org), one can find a good-sized collection of excellent vegan/vegetarian recipes.

A big thank you to Marilyn and all the volunteers working to fulfill Edible Brattleboro's goal to transform spaces in Brattleboro into edible landscapes and to “grow food everywhere for everyone.”

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