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Edible: Green Thumbs Sprout Up In New York Botanical Garden

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At the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, there is a family garden growing vegetables, herbs and edible plants amidst the flowers. Edible Magazine's Rachel Wharton filed the following report.

At the 1.5-acre Ruth Rae Howell Family Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, kids from ages three to 12 grow vegetables, herbs and edible plants through a variety of hands-on gardening and cooking programs.

In addition to school-sponsored field trips, budding green thumbs can enroll in weekly classes where they plant, water, weed, mulch, compost and harvest spring through fall, just like real farmers.

"Part of inspiring people is to know that the gardening season doesn't begin on Memorial Day and end on Labor Day. It can be started in April or March and really on into the end of the year," says Toby Adams, the manager of the Ruth Rae Howell Family Garden.

There are cooking demos at 2 and 4 p.m. every day through October, where gardeners make cool stuff like pesto from carrot tops. Yep, they are edible.

During open gardening hours each afternoon, participants can munch whatever is in season.

"We eat when things are ripe. So the kids in the various gardening programs, they take home what they grow, if we don't cook with it here, or don't eat it when we're picking it," says Adams.

One can also taste the diversity of the city, as the garden has Chinese long beans and bumpy bitter melons, Caribbean pigeon peas, Irish turnips and Korean bitter greens.

There is also a Italian patch founded by famed chef Mario Batali, who grows the same things that appear on his menus. He even has a "pizza garden" growing garlic, San Marzano tomatoes, chiles and Genovese basil.

Over the next two weeks, chefs from Batali's Manhattan restaurants will head to the garden to do demos in the brand new outdoor kitchen, and on Sunday, September 25, Batali himself will cook a yet-to-be-determined recipe.

"We're still waiting to hear from him. He's kind of still dreaming about what recipe he wants to share," says Adams. "We sent him some photos from the garden the last couple of weeks, so he can get some ideas."

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