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Farmstand class plants seeds of home-grown produce’s benefits


By Anne O’Connor


TOWNSEND — Have you ever visited a local farmstand and spotted an exotic piece of produce and had no idea what it was or how to cook it?

Take heart, you are not alone.

“People don’t know how to prepare these things, how to grow them,” said Sue Smith, manager of Gary’s Too.

Her enthusiasm for growing and using local products is contagious. She is doing her best to spread the word through a series of free classes at the farmstand.

“My idea is to have landscape serve a purpose other than just beauty,” she said. Vegetable gardens provide nutritious food full of vitamins. There are many ways to cook and use fresh ingredients they are great for gifting.

Easy to grow herbs can be dried for teas, used to season vinegar and in dressings; some of the flowers are edible and some herbs are used in cakes.

Smith explained some herbs can be layered on the bottom of the pan to infuse flavor. Others are used as candied leaves on top of desserts.

The time is ripe for people to learn how to grow and use local products. “People seem to be cooking more. A year ago we couldn’t move this produce,” she said while gesturing to the display of fresh vegetables.

Some of this new interest could be due to people wanting to eat healthy local food. “It’s fun to actually grow it yourself and know what’s in it,” Smith said. “The importance of that is really downplayed.”

At this time of year, Gary’s Too is picking fresh peas and strawberries. Produce picked in the morning is in the store later in the day.

Much of the produce sold at the stand is grown on family farmland in Groton and Littleton so it really is “the freshest most local thing,” as Smith said.

Gardening is not just planting in the spring. Another planting can be done for fall picking, Smith said. “Why grow stuff you can’t eat?” she asked.

Smith has several classes scheduled on Saturday mornings throughout the summer. Some focus on using what you grow.

Other classes focus on planting, while the “Kid Pumpkin Growing Contest” is scheduled for September.

Anyone interested in attending a class should sign up at Gary’s Too on Route 119 in Townsend. The classes are free and Smith usually serves light refreshments.

In addition to local produce, the farmstand has all sorts of plants — bedding, hanging and container plants, vegetables, fruit trees and bushes, and herbs.

The stand stocks local honey and maple syrup in addition to other gardening, food and gift items.