From the beginning, Culinary Cruisers owner Josh Danoff knew he wanted to partner with other Somerville-based businesses and organizations on various projects. So when the opportunity arose to use some of the herbs grown by Groundwork Somerville in Danoff’s Ocean Ave Pops, he jumped at the chance.
“Working with Groundwork Somerville is perfect,” said Danoff (pictured below). “I love that they’re Somerville, we’re Somerville. It just makes sense.”
I recently had the opportunity to see Groundwork at the South Street Farm harvesting some of the basil that will be used in the Ocean Ave Pops, which are sold via the Culinary Cruisers bicycles at various markets around Somerville, Cambridge and Boston. Danoff is also using Groundwork Somerville’s mint in the pops and is brainstorming other flavor combinations that could utilize some of other crops being grown by Groundwork Somerville, like cilantro/coriander and lemon verbana.
“One of the amazing things about community gardening is growing things in densely populated areas,” said Groundwork Somerville School Gardens Coordinator Lee Dwyer. Dwyer (pictured above with Danoff) showed me garden beds at the South Street Farm that are overflowing with eggplants, cucumbers, several varieties of herbs, corn, lettuce and so much more.
The partnership between Culinary Cruisers and Groundwork is a true community effort, with Groundwork’s Green Team, an environmental youth employment program, harvesting the herbs as part of their summer work. (Below two Green Team members, Arlin Varela, left, and Jordan Young, right, harvest basil to be used in Ocean Ave Pops.)
“It’s a cool experience for them to get their hands in dirt,” said Green Team Garden Supervisor Tania Palen. “Every day is a learning experience.”
The Green Team works together several days a week tending Groundwork’s garden plots around town. Deciding what to plant, what work needs to be done each day and when to harvest the crops are just a few of the activities that the Team participates in. They also sell their produce at farmers markets, travel between the gardens via bike and eat lunch together, which fosters friendships and a community atmosphere.
“There’s a powerful thing knowing where your food is coming from,” Palen said. “There’s a big push for youth to make healthy choices.” In addition to tending Groundwork’s gardens, many of the Green Team members have their own gardens at home.
In his previous life, Danoff was a teacher who worked with children that had behavioral issues and he gardened with them as part of their school curriculum, so he has seen first-hand the power that growing and tending plants can have on youth.
“It was amazing to see the kind of calm [the kids] got,” Danoff said. “You see how something grows. If you take care of it, it will grow. If not, it will die. If you have a positive interaction between yourself and another living thing it can snowball in a positive way.”
P.S. You can try Ocean Ave Pops for yourself at the Swirl & Slice market on Thursdays from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. in Union Square and at the Union Square Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. And stop by the Groundwork Somerville booth to pick up some of the fresh fruits and veggies that they’ve grown right in town!