The Amherst Town Library is no stranger to the edible garden. In warmer weather, the Amherst Garden Club works around the building, planting flora as well as fruits and vegetables.
“Last year, we had wonderful kale growing as you came into the library,” said Ruslyn Vear, head reference librarian and adult programming coordinator. “The garden club always provides something wonderfully creative with different colors and smells and textures.”
Now, the garden club and library are teaming up to present “The Edible Ornamental Garden,” with guest speaker Karen Bussolini, garden photographer, NOFA-Accredited Organic Land Professional and garden coach.
Like the Amherst Garden Club does work outside the library, Bussolini integrates herbs, fruit trees and edible plants into her gardening landscapes.
“Originally I found Karen online as a garden speaker and thought she’d be a good speaker to come … as a photographer, a well-known speaker and author of a couple of books,” Amherst Garden Club member Marti Warren said. “It’s going to be a popular topic, especially since we’re all waiting for the snow to melt.”
Already the event has been moved to one of the larger rooms upstairs in the library, Warren said, because of the interest the program has received.
Warren said that tomatoes, like grape or cherry tomatoes, and eggplant are a great addition to any garden space because of the color they provide.
“Eggplant is a beautiful color … but it also has a gorgeous flower so it fits right in,” she said.
She also recommends planting gardens outside the front door or a kitchen door.
“Add some of the herbs that you use, the basil and the parsley. Some of those that you use quite a bit in your summer cooking,” she said. “It’s just so great to be able to go out and pick it fresh. … I think we’re going to see more of it [edible ornamental gardening], and people are talking about it more and more.”
The edible garden program kicks off Amherst Town Library’s series “Ah! Get Ready for the Days of Summer,” which runs during the month of April.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all the differing kinds of colors and all the varieties of possibilities that can happen in our gardens, and the idea that we’re going to be able to have beauty and also something delicious in the same space is exciting to me,” Vear said.
“The idea of the edible garden and including herbs and vegetables in your garden with annuals or perennials has always interested me,” Warren said. “The kids [who visit the library] love it. ... We tell them that if it’s ready, you can pick it.”
A delicious community
Vear loves when a library can inspire not just its local bibliophiles, but the surrounding community. Programs like “The Edible Ornamental Garden” help make connections based on similar interests, Vear said. Now, libraries are offering more and more interest-based programming (including more cooking and culinary workshops).
“I think in our programming we seek to find interests of all members of our community, and food is certainly one — in all its aspects — that many folks are interested,” Vear said. “I think bringing it to the library as the center of the community allows people to find more information and explore different paths.”
In March, the library hosted chef Liz Barbour to share literary-inspired dishes from some of her own favorite novels. Other libraries hold cookbook book groups and potlucks, and more are inviting chefs to offer cooking demonstrations.
Later in April, the Amherst Town Library will offer a green smoothie demonstration with tastings and recipes on Thursday, April 24, at 7 p.m., which focuses on the health benefits of superfoods and smoothies.
As seen in the March 27, 2014 issue of the Hippo.