For the last three years, the Atlanta Botanical Garden has been doing more than showcasing rare orchids and roses. The garden has also been helping visitors to reconnect with home-grown food with its Edible Garden. Featuring a stunning vertical wall filled with herbs and a variety of vegetable beds, the garden showcases a variety of edibles all year long. The food harvested in the garden is then used in cooking classes at the Outdoor Kitchen and local chefs host demonstrations to show off their skills and to promote slow and sustainable food.
What was once an asphalt parking lot to support the Atlanta Botanical Gardens is now a lush garden filled with vegetables, herbs, fruit trees. Completely edible, the garden was built to showcase the food growing capabilities of the Atlanta area to encourage more people to grow their own food. The Botanical Gardens at one time had a vegetable garden, but it was overhauled to showcase more native plants. After the parking lot was relocated, the garden staff set about creating a bigger and better edible garden. Along with a couple of other new features, the $2 million Edible Garden opened in May of 2010 and produces food 365 days a year.
“Edible gardens are the next wave of what’s becoming popular in gardening across the United States,” said Mary Pat Matheson, the Garden’s executive director. “It doesn’t hurt that First Lady Michelle Obama has really moved the idea of growing your own food to the forefront. It’s all about making that connection with people.”
The garden features a round planted area with a small pond and elevated beds filled with a variety of vegetables. Behind this is a spectacular vertical garden filled with fresh herbs used by chefs in cooking demonstrations. Then a series of rows grow even more crops and after that is an outdoor pavilion with a large chef’s kitchen. This kitchen is used for cooking classes that cover everything from growing, canning, preserving, and meal preparation. From May to October, chefs from the area visit the outdoor kitchen for demonstrations on the weekend and then they share their recipes with the public. Food that isn’t used for classes or demonstrations is then donated to local charities. Follow along with the garden’s Plant to Plate Blog to see chef visits and what’s in season.
Images © Erica George Dines and Atlanta Botanical Garden