Imagine delicious Kosher meals prepared by a seasoned chef that features beans, patty pan squash, Swiss chard, tomatoes and zucchini, all freshly harvested from an onsite garden? Residents and staff at the Phyllis Siperstein Tamarisk Assisted Living need not imagine such delicious meals, as Tamarisk is Rhode Island’s only assisted living facility offering a farm-to-table dining experience, explains Roberta Ragge, Tamarisk’s executive director. While the farm-to-table dining experience is common in the restaurant world, Tamarisk has broken new ground with its fruit and vegetable garden.
A dream of both Ragge and Deb Blazer, executive chef, the sustainable 60-foot x 40-foot garden on Tamarisk’s property is currently growing six varieties of tomatoes, several kinds of heirloom beans, eggplants, peppers, Swiss chard, fennel, scallions, herbs and several varieties of squash, including acorn, butternut, patty pan, summer and zucchini.
“The culinary possibilities are endless with a garden of this size,” says Blazer, working in Tamarisk’s kosher kitchen that is supervised by the Vaad HaRabbonim of America. All chefs relish knowing they have satisfied their customers, and Blazer’s “customers” are clearly contented. Resident Sally Carver says, “I love the freshness” of these homegrown vegetables, and resident Marion Cotton adds, “Fresh garden vegetables are a welcome, healthful addition to our meals.” Blazer is now offering a “vegetable of the day,” says Ragge, featuring lightly steamed mixed vegetables, presented on a bed of herbs, all harvested that day. Thanks to the garden’s bounty, Tamarisk has ceased purchasing the same types of produce from outside vendors.
They say it takes a village to raise a child; bringing this dream to fruition required the labor and commitment of many entities and individuals. In April, Tamarisk had the soil tested by the University of Massachusetts, M&M Landscaping excavated the soil and built the six 30-foot beds, and Fence Tech built a fence surrounding the garden. Salk’s Hardware supplied Tamarisk with essential garden tools and the Farmer’s Daughter provided seedlings. Last, but certainly not least, Sebastian Interlandi, director of education and farmland access at Southside Community Land Trust, and Kristin Hardy, director of resident programs in memory care at Tamarisk, who is, coincidentally, a Cornell University–trained plant scientist and landscape designer, offered their expertise about what and how much to plant, says Ragge.
Home gardeners Blazer and Ragge planted everything, and staff members and some family members help with weeding and harvesting. Tamarisk welcomes able-bodied volunteers to join the fun. “Our intention is to have the garden be cyclical and seasonal,” says Ragge. “Once these summer vegetable start dying off, we’ll plant for an autumn harvest – beets, radishes and– and next year, we hope to add blueberry and raspberry bushes.” Any excess produce at the season’s end, says Ragge, will be donated to the Jewish Collaborative Services Louis and Goldie Chester Full Plate Kosher Food Pantry.
Interested in volunteering in the garden?
Please contact Roberta Ragge at 401-732-0037 or firstname.lastname@example.org