Salsa garden comes to Gaithersburg youth center

by Katie Pohlman
Special to The Gazette

Get the nachos ready, a group of Gaithersburg kids are working on growing their own homemade salsa.

Multiple pots filled with various tomato and pepper plants will soon call Gaithersburg’s Olde Towne Youth Center home. These plants will be the beginning of the center’s new salsa garden.

Tim Smith, youth and service division chief for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture, said the children, aged 11 to 14, will learn to care for, harvest and cook the tomatoes and peppers. Youth Center site leaders will lead the program, which will run throughout the summer. Smith said he hopes the program will teach children how to grow healthier food options. All harvesting, cooking and eating will be done at the youth center, he said.

“It’s a good way to help the kids eat healthy and show them where the food came from as well,” Smith said.

He said the center wants to celebrate the garden by throwing a fiesta-style party at the end of the summer, but no plans have been developed as of now.

The six plant pots will sit inside the center in areas where they will be able to receive adequate sunlight.

Two years ago, the center tried to grow a similar garden outside the building, but realized the dirt did not have enough nutrients to allow the plants to grow to their full potential. Smith said many of the vegetables were attacked by insects and those that were harvested had almost no taste.

“All kinds of critters were eating the plants,” Smith said.

Inside the building, the plants will be protected from insects and the weather.

The youth center will host weekly demonstrations to show children how to care for the plants and prepare the vegetables in fresh meals. Smith expects more than 40 children to attend the demonstrations. A small group, close to eight or 10, will be in charge of taking care of the plants.

That group of children will be determined by how many show interest in the project, Smith said.

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