Notes from Sag Harbor

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Our lawn, and we use the term loosely, is more an approximation than the ideal. It’s not a lush Bermuda carpet, but more a large doormat to the front entrance where a rough tangle of zoysia grass serves as a boot brush.

After days of rain and cool temps, it’s grown to new heights. Think prairie grass. Watch it wave in the wind. We almost lost a cat or two within the nearly knee-high blades and nut grasses mixed with patches of orange butterfly weed that poke through here and there. Ours is a do-it-yourself approach to lawn maintenance, and mostly, we don’t. The mower’s been broken for years, so we borrow a friend’s. Who knew we were part of a transformation taking place across the country?

Several years ago we took a hatchet to the grass and carved out a 110-square-foot vegetable patch. The sandy soil yielded peas, tomatoes and your basic herbs: parsley, basil, rosemary, sage. A small miracle. One year we had enough arugula and lettuce to keep our salad bowls full for weeks until it got hot and the tender greens bolted.

To call it a kitchen garden would be a stretch. It’s not been as victorious as the typical Victory garden. But it qualifies as “micro-farming,” after a fashion. Countless homeowners are tearing up lawns to plant edible landscapes, the latest green movement. As most of us are now on a “recession” budget, the time is ripe.

A new book, “Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn,” illustrates the trend. Architect Fritz Haeg convinced homeowners from New Jersey to California to imagine their rolling expanses of Kentucky bluegrass producing zucchini, lemon thyme, or even scorzo nera. That’s Spanish salsify, something like the oyster plant, but better.

That’s what Jim Monaco is growing over at Mount Misery Farms. The lawn he once kept clipped for his children to play ball on has been cultivated into a 20-by-40-foot garden. True, the soil needed help—lots of compost to build up the sand. And as the oaks have grown taller, they cast a bit more shade. Still, he’s planted not just garden-variety peppers and cukes, but exotic varieties like agretto, a sourish green favored by Italians and used in salads or sautéed with garlic and oil.

Jim estimates he grew more than a thousand dollars worth of delicious, organic vegetables and herbs last year and munched on varieties not available in local markets.

So it seems the micro-farming trend is spreading like weeds. Jim hopes to bring his specialty greens to market sometime in June. His produce will share a table with Bette and Dale’s organic produce stall at the Sag Harbor Farmers Market.

Spinach, mesclun, arugula and dried tomatoes will be for sale when the market opens on Saturday, May 24. Hours are from 9 a.m. to noon at Bay and Burke streets. Local producers will have lots more to offer. Celebrate the return of fresh veggies!

Take a hike this Saturday morning, May 17, with Joe Lane and friends of the Southampton Trails Preservation Society. Meet at Mashashimuet Park at 10 a.m. for a five-mile adventure along the Long Pond Greenbelt north loop. Call Joe at 725-3942 for information.

Foodies save the date: Saturday, May 31, from noon to 4 p.m. when six of Sag Harbor’s most interesting residential kitchens will be open to guests. Two kitchen designers will be on hand to offer kitchen design tips. Guests may enjoy a cooking demonstration, cheese tasting and sale of used cookbooks.

Tickets are $50 to benefit the Sag Harbor Food Pantry. Organizers say 100 percent of proceeds will go toward buying fresh groceries for those in need. Tickets are available at Long Wharf Wines at 12 Bay Street, or at In Home on Main. Or mail your check to the Sag Harbor Community Food Pantry, P. O. Box 1241, Sag Harbor NY 11963. Let’s get cooking!

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