Downtown Boise Community Garden
“What would happen if we all stopped believing that so much was impossible?”
Allison Demarest is planting an organic community garden and it’s a doozy: on an acre plot on Fort Street between 11th and 12th, in the heart of the Northend in Boise, Allison is planting hundreds of veggies in 20 raised beds and four in-ground beds.
The Boise Downtown Community Garden is not your run of the mill community and/or organic garden. Families don’t have their own plats and anyone and everyone is invited to take part. It’s a sort of dream come true for Allison, who is definitely a dream-come-true maker. At 21, this former sociology student/South African volunteer worker/New York community garden resident, has come home to roost, if you will, in her own back yard. After living and working in lush gardens in upstate New York, Allison was increasingly appalled at the lack of greenery and the proliferation of concrete. “(It) overwhelmed me,” she says.
So, “by the time I rolled into Boise, I felt called to start a community garden where people would come together to nourish themselves while nourishing the earth.”
That’s pretty much the basis of this garden where Allison wants to create: “a community space in my beloved home, Boise, where people could share their lives, growing food and growing in spirit.”
So far, she’s convinced The Cathedral of the Rockies to donate the land, which, by the way, is smack dab in the heart of the Hays Street Historic District. She’s getting water donated by United Water, the seeds donated from Turtle Tree Biodynamic Seed Initiative. Cloverdale Nursery came and dumped mounds of dirt for the garden beds. A horticulture class from Bishop Kelly donated a bunch of seedlings. And scores of others have put in time and sweat equity, including Eagle Scouts and about 350 high school science students who pulled heaping mounds of puncture vine from the garden. Expected gardeners include low-income families and residents at the WCA, refugees from Baby Steps at St. Michael’s — and really, anyone who wants to help.
“After everything is all set up (end of May-ish), we will be welcoming active gardeners,” Allison says. There will be a sign-up time sheet and participating gardeners who put in three to five hours a week will reap the benefits of a box of veggies at every harvest!
“We’ll have ‘store hours’ to accommodate evenings and weekends,” Allison says. If you’re interested, there’s a schedule online at the garden’s Web site: http://www.boisegardenstogether.org
The garden is also taking donations, including garden tools. “The only tool we have right now is a hoe-dag,” says Allison, “it’s a great tool — but we could use a few more!”
Allison, who’s passion is love of her fellow humans — “I guess more than anything I’m a lover of people — hopes the garden will send out deep roots.
“People need food more than ever right now, but the money is scarce. And the people who are giving are the neediest — which is something that really inspires me. I know the garden won’t be forever for me — but I do want to make it sustainable.”
By the way, Allison is a vegetarian (not a vegan) and her favorite veggie? Eggplant. Here is her favorite eggplant recipe (and her favorite dish to make and eat):
One big purple garden fresh eggplant
A big block (or two if you love cheese like me) of fresh mozzarella
A quart-ish of yummy tomato sauce
1. Slice the eggplant into thin rounds, about 1/8th of an inch thick.
some people like the skin, some don’t. after it’s cooked you can’t taste it, so I just leave it right on there.
2. Dip each round of eggplant into mixed-up eggs and then into bread crumbs. Warning: this is messy!
3. With just a touch of olive oil in the bottom of a nice pan, fry each piece of eggplant until golden brown on both sides. I like to have a receiving plate w/ a towel ready for the eggplant after it fries to catch the extra oil.
4. In a baking dish (I often use a 9×13-inch Pyrex one) stack the eggplant, sauce, and grated cheese in layers beginning with the sauce.
5. Cook for a while… maybe 45 minutes… at 350-ish. During the last 15 minutes of baking, add lots of cheese to the top.
6. Just like a lasagna, eggplant parm is great if you let it sit for 15 minutes before eating so that everything has a moment to congeal.