Alaska is well-known for producing magnificent cabbages, an ever-widening variety of delicious fruits and vegetables, and a profusion of edible and ornamental flowers. Kitchen gardens abound throughout the state – an important element woven into the culture and history of Anchorage, Southcentral, Interior, and Southeast Alaska.
Since 2007, the Alaska Botanical has had an entry exhibit to celebrate our far-northern versions of the ever-popular kitchen garden. The aim of this exhibit is multi-fold – to inspire, as well as educate about biodiversity, organic growing techniques, companion planting, edible flowers, and more. All produce from this garden is donated to the Food Bank of Alaska, Bean’s Cafe, and the Children’s Lunchbox as part of the Plant a Row for the Hungry program (PAR).
The history of kitchen gardens is tightly intertwined with the first botanical gardens. Medieval European physic gardens were initially associated with monasteries, and later medical universities. Plants such as rose, lily, cumin, lovage, tansy, and mint were grown to treat the sick. In 1706, Peter the Great founded the first botanical garden in Russia: The Moscow Apothecaries’ Garden, to grow medicinal plants. The role of kitchen gardens has come full circle in the 21st century, with the renaissance of French potagers and the debut of American Victory Gardens and urban farms as a source of sustenance during difficult economic times.