If you’ve traveled through Milbridge this summer, you have seen at least some of the 24 vegetable gardens that have sprouted up throughout town. This is the third season of Incredible Edible Milbridge (IEM), a project of the Women’s Health Resource Library that aims to create an appreciation for nutritious food, build food independence and change how we use our outdoor space.
With the help of volunteers and many business partners, IEM is working to restore the local food economy, bring back the Downeast tradition of growing our own vegetables, and build community pride.
Milbridge Farmer’s Market
During the month of August, the Milbridge Farmers Market has invited IEM to join them on Saturday mornings from 9 – 12 next to Camden National Bank. Along with the weekly fare of local cheeses, meats, blueberries and baked goods, you can pick up freshly harvested vegetables at the Incredible Edible Milbridge tent. As is the case with the IEM gardens throughout town, these veggies are FREE for everyone.
IEM Market Garden
A new addition this year is the IEM Market Garden at the Red Barn. This 10,000 sq. ft. garden, planted by farmer Michael Hayden, has a steady core of volunteers and will be reaching its peak in the coming weeks. You are encouraged to come volunteer on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2-5 in the afternoon, or on Saturdays from 10 – noon. Michael will be available to show you what needs doing.
Wherever you see an Incredible Edible Milbridge Garden, you are invited to pick free vegetables to bring home and spread the word to friends and neighbors. Each week, “What’s Ripe” is posted at https://whrl.org/ so you can keep up with veggie and herb availability.
Here are a few tips for picking from the IEM gardens:
- BYOB & S. Bring Your Own Bag & Scissors.
- If you’re picking lettuce, chard, or kale snap off or cut outer leaves at the base of the plant. If you only pick 1 – 2 leaves per plant, more leaves will grow for the next person to pick. Store leaves in a plastic bag in the fridge until you plan to use.
- If a head of lettuce looks like it’s close to bolting (flowering), you can pull the whole plant, shake off the excess soil, cut the root off and store lettuce head in a plastic bag in the fridge.
- Peas (at the IEM Market Garden at the Red Barn) should be picked when they are plump. The plumper they are, the sweeter they will be. Use two hands to pick so you don’t damage the plant.
- To determine if radishes or carrots are ripe, you can carefully look at the top of the root at soil level and determine if it looks plump and full.
- Green beans will be ripening in a couple weeks. Beans have very shallow roots, so if you’re not careful when picking, you’ll pull the whole plant out! Pick beans using two hands! One hand to hold the plant itself where the bean is attached, and one hand to carefully pull the bean from the plant. You want to pick beans when they look full size, but before they are fat and fibrous.
- Cucumbers will not be ripe for a while, but when they are good size, use two hands to pick them, either cutting them at the small stem that attaches them to the plant, or snapping the stem with your fingers.
- Tomatoes! There are many tomato plants around town. You’ll know when they are fully red (or orange/yellow depending on the variety), and you can use two hands to pull them from the plant. You will see both the small cherry tomatoes and larger tomatoes in town.
- Herbs—Cut a sprig or two to season your next meal.
- Tomatillos are ripe when the little husks (the wrapper around the fruit) have turned from green to pale yellow to light brown. When you remove the husk, the ripe fruit will be pale orange and very sweet!
These gardens are for everyone, so please feel free to pick when you see something ripe.
Businesses that have supported this project, including Jasper Wyman & Son, Viking Lumber, Mark Wright Construction, Worcester Peat, Machias Savings Bank, Coast of Maine, Downeast Coal & Stoves, Bayside Shop N’ Save, FEDCO, Ellsworth Home Depot, and the many community volunteers who have come out to get their hands dirty and make these beautiful gardens happen.