It won’t grow fish, but can grow pumpkins; smells like basil
By Gregory Jackson
(Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan, New York and Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture non-profit farm has noticed chefs cause the rise in trophic level fish consumption. Chefs can popularize lower trophic seafood eating, say “plankton bread”. Diners can benefit from all micronutrients found in not only the whole fish, but smaller marine edibles. Chef Angel Leon known as “Chef of the Sea” of Aponiente, would find a way to cook with fish heads and tails. For now we compost them. Photo: Cleveland Museum of Art 2007 Chalk Festival.)
This week Groundz recycled fish waste for Cleveland Metroparks’ Merwin’s Wharf restaurant at Willow Community Garden, in one of Cleveland, Ohio’s food desert: Slavic Village, 3.8 miles away.
Thirteen Hawken school students took a field trip to Willow Community Garden to learn about how local food is grown with ecosystem design in mind. “Notice how well the cantaloupe is growing,” says Salonica Payne, head grower at Willow. “With the higher grasses growing among the cantaloupe keeps the area protected.”
When I gave our compost presentation to the Hawken students, Salonica passed around fresh basil leaves to take home. Local food is only half the story. The other half is how the local food is grown. At Groundz farms, we use compost from celebrity chef food waste and local organic farm/garden waste. While some of the students commented on the smell, their teacher commented: ‘This is how compost is supposed to smell.’ The basil certainly helped. Fish waste will contain at least 32 of the 92 elements that occur naturally found in micronutrients like manganese, cobalt, and iron, macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and silicon, and inorganic ions like calcium and potassium.
Medium-demand crops like tomato, endive, kohlrabi, cucumbers, potato, pepper, eggplant, radishes, melons, asparagus, summer squash, autumn mustard greens, cabbage, lettuce, parsley, corn, and pumpkin benefit from compost generated from fish waste. Adding just two quarts of compost feedstock from composted fish waste, will assist these crops to grow, according to Steve Solomon, author of The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-Dense Food.
However when growing high-demand crops like broccoli, celery, rhubarb, winter squash, and spring mustard greens, then you have to add three quarts or compost made from fish waste, writes Solomon.
Even with corn, Squanto, the Native American Indian, taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn with fish waste. The Pilgrims’ attempt to grow corn had failed before.
“I wonder what would happen if I buried a fish,” asks Lester our Cleveland Crops farmer. “I can tell you one thing, you won’t be growing a fish,” responds Kyle, Cleveland Crops site manager. Daniel laughed.
If you decide to compost fish waste at home. As with composting any material rich in nitrogen you will need plenty of a material rich with carbon, since waste rich in nitrogen require a lot of energy (carbohydrates for the microbial ecosystem) and to minimize scent. For that matter, you can never have too much non-food waste material. You should not see the fish waste, as it will be covered in dried out grass clippings, leaves, soil, or finished compost. With beneficial omega oils and oceanic micronutrients, your garden crops will not only grow healthy, but also your crop will be nutrient-dense.
(Photo: Cleveland Museum of Art 20012 Chalk Festival.)