Potager Farm Offers a Taste of Jamaica in Groton
It has been, they say, a wildly successful summer for Potager Farm, located at the intersection of Higley and Peabody streets in Groton. On land leased from the New England Forestry Association, the farm is part of Groton's Herb Lyceum, owned and operated by David and Cathy Gilson.
In their third year on this site, the Gilsons and their Jamaican assistants, including Errol Campbell, above, are slowly bringing the land back to full productivity as an all-vegetable garden, after many years as pasture. As Campbell pointed out, in order to maintain maximum productivity on land, crops need to be rotated periodically, and this does not usually happen with pasture; therefore it will be a couple more years before the land reaches its full richness, he said.
Cathy Gilson said that produce from Potager Farms is used not only at the Herb Lyceum, but also by top chefs in many Boston area restaurants. David and Cathy also sell Potager Farm produce at Boston-area farmers' markets.
The star this year? The tomato crop, Cathy says, has been especially prolific. The farm has a section containing heirloom tomatoes and another containing some experimental small tomatoes. All in all, they are very pleased with the results this year, she said, noting that irrigation and efforts to protect the plants from uninvited critters have been successful.
Perennial aides to David and Cathy's garden ventures, the Jamaican farmers have had an influence on the mix of crops at Potager Farm, in addition to providing expert labor. The garden features some of their favorites, including the leafy vegetable which they call callaloo (also known as amaranth), similar in taste to spinach. Fans of the plant may know that callaloo is also the name of the popular Caribbean dish that is made from it, and which goes by other names in other countries. In Jamaica, however, the dish and its major ingredient are both referred to as callaloo.
According to Wikipedia, the many versions throughout the islands are used as a side-dish or a gravy for other foods. They generally include okra and dasheen as well as amaranth, taro, or xanthosoma, and sometimes also coconut milk, crab or conch or Caribbean lobster, chili peppers, onions and garlic. The ingredients are slowly simmered down to a stew-like consistency, and when done the dish is a rich, dark green.