Lezlie Sterling / lsterling@sacbee.com

Mary Lintz inspects tomatoes on the vine at the Southside Aquaponic Farm during the Slow Food Edible Garden Bike Tour around midtown on Saturday. The local Slow Food Sacramento group is dedicated to supporting healthy and locally grown food.

Slow Food bike tour scouts midtown gardens

Published: Sunday, Sep. 8, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Sunday, Sep. 8, 2013 - 12:15 am

Sacramentans are increasingly growing food wherever they can find a scrap of dirt – even if it's not in their own yard. And some are doing without the dirt altogether.

That was the theme of Saturday's Slow Food Edible Garden Bike Tour, in which two dozen cyclists pedaled around midtown Sacramento viewing gardens sprouting on "found" space.

"I wanted to show that even if you don't have your own yard, you can probably find someplace to garden and grow some of your own food," said Karen Auwaerter, who organizes educational events for Slow Food Sacramento, a local group devoted to supporting healthy and locally-grown food.

In previous years, the event has been held in Oak Park and Land Park, but Auwaerter, said this year she "wanted to do something different."

"This time we're in the grid," she said.

First stop? River City Food Bank near 28th and R streets.

"They have programs where the public can donate excess produce from their gardens," said Auwaerter, who has donated from her personal garden on occasion.

"Eating well and eating in a Slow Food manner is not just for people of higher income." she said, adding that the mission of Slow Food Sacramento is to provide healthy and clean food to the underserved.

River City Food Bank manages a few planter gardens of its own, where it grows a variety of vegetables and herbs, including zucchini, bell pepper, and thyme.

"We're really serious about making sure that fresh is an option," said executive director Eileen Thomas.

Also on the itinerary: a community garden near 10th and V streets where several apartment dwellers created an informal garden in a neighbor's backyard that abounded with melons, peaches, and figs. Garden organizer Jim Adams set out snacks for hungry bikers to munch on Saturday, including garden-fresh Eel River melon, which he described as a "cross between a melon and a creamsicle."

Next, Slow Foodies pedaled over to an alley near U and V streets to visit the Southside Aquaponic Farm. Aquaponics – a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics – is gardening that uses the natural fertilizer from fish to grow plants in water.

Paul Trudeau maintains multiple growing tanks in the alley, where this year's crop includes kale, basil and tomatoes. A year ago, Trudeau said, he started selling his produce to midtown restaurant Mulvaney's Building & Loan.

"Just seeing our local community and what people are doing with little plots of land is really wonderful," said Zara Hayes of Green Restaurants Alliance Sacramento,who cultivates her own garden of tomatoes and jalapeño peppers at her Sacramento home.

For more information on Slow Food Sacramento, visit: slowfoodsacramento.com

Call The Bee's Brittany Torrez, (916) 321-1103. Follow her on Twitter @BrittTorrez.

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