Friday, September 10, 2010

Red Hook Community Farm

There is a farm in Brooklyn. More than one, by now, actually.

I've walked past this one many times, but the gates have always been closed. Yesterday they were open. And tomorrow the market will be in full swing, as it is every every late spring through fall Saturday. A large sign near the entrance says, We Accept Food Stamps.

Close neighbours of the farm, and part of its raison d'etre, are the Red Hook Houses aka projects, one of the largest in New York and the country, with a notoriously violent past

I first read about the Red Hook Community Garden in the Spring 2008 edition of edible Brooklyn - the article is worth reading.

Yesterday, it was lush.  The two minders of the garden were about to grab lunch, and had to lock up, so I sprinted around to take some very quick pictures. Rows of healthy rainbow chard.

Flowers were interspersed with crops. Not sure whether the marigolds were acting as pest repellents or candidates for bouquets - maybe both.

Late corn and rows of....

...Hibiscus??? It looks just like this, in the eastern Free State.

I had never seen okra growing, and I had no idea it was a hibsicus. I have only recently started cooking the pod,  not sure about its sliminess, but after a friend pan-roasted it to a Middle Eastern crispness on  the outside that was a perfect foil for the slippery interior, I have looked at it with interest, And what a gorgeous plant.

And finally, leaves. Lots of rows of fall leaves, growing in nice soil on top of the tarmac. Rhino and elephant manure started this off, folks, yup, straight from the Bronx Zoo.

In the middle stood tall white bee hives.

A few blocks away, past the ball fields, the bizarre, middle-of-nowhere spot where New York State drivers' license tests are conducted, and a ruin of Gothic proportions on the water - are the Red Hook Houses. Suddenly you're in a sterile tundra with one flyblown supermarket,  a bodega , a post office, and a fast food joint.

Then the BQE roars overhead, effectively cutting Red Hook off.

And maybe being cut off is not the worst thing that could happen. As long as there are plants.


  1. Community gardens have gained traction here in Greensboro, particularly these past couple of years as our unemployment rate has gone as high as 11%.

    Even the local Episcopal church (very *high* Episcopal, very snooty-tooty congregation) has a community garden downtown. The vegetables from it go to Hot Dish & Hope which feeds individuals and families in need.

    We eat a lot of okra here in the south; had no idea that it was a member of the Hibiscus family.

  2. I love the idea of community gardens and enjoyed this view of the Red Hook gardens!

  3. About okra...i grew it at a boyfriend's insistence and was stunned by how beautiful and easy to grow it is. Just like zucchini, the pods have to be picked small or they rapidly turn into huge tough pods. I make them sauteed with onion, tomato, corn scraped off the cob...yummy.

  4. Hi Karen - I think we're creeping around the 10% unemployment mark here in NYC...What a good idea, that the snooty tooties have. In South Africa, in my church-going days, I was an Anglican, which here translates to high Episcopalian, but there just seemed normal. Incense was waved about. Nice outfits for the priests though, and very good music, since discontinued in that cathedral. A high mass with orchestra once a month, Bach Mozart, Schubert and friends - I sang in some. That part I miss :-)

    QC, yes, I would grow it if I ahd the space. The kind my friend made was pan roasted with cumin and sumac. You know, milkweed pods look very similar and taste better - it's a wonder we don't grow them as a food crop.


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