Over 700 pounds of ripe tomatoes, 58 pounds of green tomatoes, 65 pounds of peppers and 229 pounds of yellow onions have been harvested from the garden so far / Photos courtesy of Dubuque University
The University of Dubuque hosted a “sustainable salsa celebration” featuring food grown right in a restorative garden run by the University of Iowa.
The celebration took place on September 12, and students were invited to sample garden-grown ingredients in a variety of applications: via a do-it-yourself pico de gallo bar, as well as in fries and salsa. , pizzas, fried green tomatoes. , BLT sandwiches and more.
The garden was maintained by students, in particular a seminary student named Danielle Postma, who worked in the garden during the summer to prepare it for the next school year. More than 700 pounds of ripe tomatoes, 58 pounds of green tomatoes, 65 pounds of bell peppers and 229 pounds of yellow onions have been harvested from the garden for use in food services so far, according to a statement.
Andrew Mettert, executive chef of the Aladdin campus restaurants and director of food services, said the team planned the salsa celebration because the necessary ingredients would still be fresh come school time.
The timing turned out to be perfect, because just before the start of the school year, the tomatoes started arriving in droves, Mettert said.
Even before the salsa celebration, Mettert began incorporating garden-grown ingredients into the menu. He used the tomatoes for pico, mixed salsa, tomato soup, pizza sauce and even sliced them to put on sandwiches.
“Almost everything was used that we harvested from our small plot,” he said.
Objectives and benefits
Mettert said one of the goals behind the garden was to foster student engagement and create an educational experience.
“That was one of the goals to connect the students, to get them interested in learning more about that particular property or where the food actually comes from,” he said.
Plus, using local produce has other benefits, like a lower impact on the environment, Mettert said.
“It strengthens your community in general because you support farmers, you support farmers financially, you help the environment by reducing transport costs and your final product is generally much better because it can be harvested closer to its flavor and of its optimum quality,” he said.
The freshness of the products is another advantage, according to Mettert.
“I think it was cool on the chef side because I work with really fresh, really clean stuff. I didn’t have to worry about where it came from, how it was grown. I knew all about it,” he said. “It’s pretty rare on our side of things when it comes to most items in our food chain – we don’t have a direct connection to it, it comes from a warehouse, it’s dropped off by a semi -truck.”
Mettert said he hopes to see the garden expand and include more ingredients, but he wants to make sure it’s done responsibly and with reducing food waste in mind.
“I would like to see it grow a bit, but I also want to be careful that we don’t end up in a situation where we plant things that can’t really be used,” he said. “For me, that would be a real waste of energy and resources.”
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