According to master gardener Carmen Griggs, leafy greens are making the “world tour” for Itasca County in 2019. One Vegetable One Community (aka OVOC) started in 2017 with a focus on beans, then graduated to carrots (“the root of wonder”) in 2018.
“For this year,” explains Jesse Davis, who also helps plan Itasca County OVOC, “we just got us local veggie nerds together. We looked at some other communities and what they had done before, and then just kind of talked about some things we thought were awesome and a little under-loved or misunderstood. We had some definite ‘beet-nicks’ that were trying to push the beets…and I knew that garlic wasn’t going to work out too well either. But there are so many different kinds of greens. It gave us a lot of options and seemed like something that it’d be fun to gather the community around.”
What counts as “greens” was part of the conversation. “Leafy greens as a category is huge,” explains Carmen Griggs. “There are even some edible wild greens. A lot of things people think are weeds are actually things people can eat, like dandelion greens ('or lamb’s quarters,' chimed in Jesse Davis). So,” she chuckles, “it really has brought into the discussion inclusivity and diversity when it’s talking about vegetables.”
“I was kind of a curmudgeon when it came to cabbage,” admitted Jesse. “Because I’m like, no, cabbage is its own thing. We can do that in a couple years, because that’s a brassica, along with broccoli and cauliflower and all those sorts of things. But then kale is also a brassica and I totally think of kale as a leafy green. So we went back and forth and got nerdy about it and had a good time.”
Carmen and Jesse include lots of plants as greens: Swiss chard, Asian greens like bok choy, spinach, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, mescaline, micro greens, all different kinds of lettuces, arugula. They say alfalfa sprouts might be considered a leafy green too, as could basil.
One Vegetable One Community works with schools and community groups to pack and distribute free seed kits each year. Kits include planting instructions, seeds, and row markers created by area schoolchildren. The group is holding a packaging party open to the public at Klockow Brewing in Grand Rapids on Thursday evening April 18 at 5:30 p.m. OVOC also plans to distribute kits at the Old Central School in Grand Rapids as part of the monthly First Friday Art Walk on May 3 (among other places).
For more information about planting and growing greens, where the seeds come from, recipes, and just-for-fun, listen to the entire interview with Jesse and Carmen below. Itasca County OVOC has a Facebook page with more info here.