Story by Noelle Tate
Photos by Karl Hammerle & Noelle Tate
It’s pretty cool to grow stuff. Not the most sophisticated statement, but it’s true. Although most Hobokenites do not have the luxury of large, green spaces, it is certainly possible to do a lot with a little, even if it consists of a windowsill or indoor garden. There’s opportunity to take part in community gardens, or join the Hoboken Garden Club. If you’re not the green thumb type, many public places in Hoboken showcase beautiful flowers in Summer and Fall for anyone to enjoy.
After talking to Hoboken herbalist Dr. Kathia Roberts and her husband, Hein Moore, I learned just how many vegetables, herbs, and flowers are successfully grown in Hoboken. The classics—tomatoes, cucumbers, basil—I assumed were doable, but there is so much more to grow beyond those delicious home-grown staples. Each step through their garden revealed more vegetables peeking out behind their leaves, waiting to be picked for lunch.
How many times have you gone to the grocery store and purchased a rather pricey bundle of herbs for just one recipe? Maybe some basil or parsley or cilantro? You promise yourself: “I will definitely use this before it goes bad.” And somehow, a week or two goes by, and you throw it out along with the money spent. Same goes for that moldy organic cucumber in your fridge drawer; why did you buy three? I think we’ve all been there. Wasting food never feels good and I like to feel good about food. When you grow your own, not only is it organic, but can be plucked as you’re preparing a meal. That’s as fresh as it can be, and packed with the highest amount of nutrients since it’s farm-to-table. Pick as much as you need from your plant to avoid waste and you will not have to return to the store for more.
Need more benefits? Well, there is one more I can think of; one that Dr. Roberts spoke to me about. “It’s nice to see the sprouts and vegetables you’ve planted growing, and then you get to eat them. It’s fun!” she says. Can you imagine how rewarding it would be to sit down to a salad completely grown by you? While you’re at it, make your own croutons too!
What To Grow
Alright. Pay attention. Vegetables: cucumbers, tomatoes, string beans, peas, kale & rainbow chard. Rainbow chard grows nicely in a small pot in the windowsill. Other happy veggies I saw in Dr. Robert’s garden included green pepper, zucchini (their flowers are delicious stuffed or on pizza!), carrots, asparagus, and different types of lettuce. “If you get a lot of sun and have place to hang them, strawberries grow really well” says Hein.
Herbs are easy and can be grown indoors when given ample sunlight. Mint, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil, parsley, cilantro, and lavender are great ideas for an herb garden. Lavender is known for its relaxing scent and can be added to recipes or iced tea.
Useful plants for health purposes include echinacea and aloe. Echinacea needs plenty of sun, but as a perennial, it will return for you each season. Aloe can grow indoors in a flower pot near a window. When a leaf is broken open, its juice flows out and can relieve pain from cuts and burns.
If you like to dress up your food, I would recommend growing Nasturtiums, an edible and beautiful flower. The leaves, seed pods, and petals are edible and have a sweet mustard type flavor. Try this plant in omelets, salads, pastas, or as garnish.
Minimal care plants include succulents like cactus or hens-and-chicks. These require little water and lots of sun. Hoboken Hothouse sells small pots with flowering cactus gardens, perfect for a busy gardener. Pansies grow excellently from seeds. Ivy grows anywhere, climbs beautifully, and comes back each year. Hydrangea is another strong perennial, and requires less sun.
Want to sweeten it up? Stevia grows well and can be muddled in tea or coffee as a natural sweetener. It’s unbleached—unlike at the grocer—and one of the healthiest, low-carb sugar alternatives when grown at home.