Ever wondered what a black pepper plant looks like? Or peanuts, dragonfruit or loquats? The Urban Farm Eats garden at Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival showcases more than two dozen Florida plants, with hopes that guests will be inspired to plant their own urban gardens.
“We see more and more guests, especially in their 20s, asking how to grow plants,” says Eric Darden, horticulture manager for the festival. “They are much more interested in growing food than flowers – and learning how to grow fruits and vegetables.”
Situated along the Rose Walk between Future World and World Showcase, the garden sits next to the Urban Farm Eats Outdoor Kitchen that offers a watermelon salad with pickled onions, baby arugula, feta and balsamic reduction; seared pork tenderloin with mushroom ragoût, spring vegetables and fingerling potatoes, and a vegetarian “crabless” cake with veggie slaw, lemon vinaigrette and Old Bay remoulade.
While each of the festival’s 15 Outdoor Kitchens has a raised bed garden that features fruits, herbs and vegetables served in the adjacent kitchen, Urban Farm Eats is a big, splashy showcase of ways to grow the things we eat. “We’re showcasing compact ideas such as vertical towers, growing in hay bales, in a wheelbarrow, in raised beds, in hanging containers,” says Darden. “There’s a whole spectrum of ways to grow plants.”
Darden also is a big proponent of mixing flowers with veggies – cauliflower with petunias, for instance. “You can have both,” he says, “and still grow [them] in a confined area.”
A stroll through this Epcot urban farm is infotainment at its finest, with more than two dozen plants creating a harmony of color and texture. We strolled past carrots, parsley, sweet potatoes and tall stalks of corn; tomatoes ripening on the vine near beets and eggplants; stalks of sugar cane and green papayas next to orange and kiwi trees. Peanuts were in the ground, rosemary, parsley, thyme and oregano were bursting from containers. If you’ve never seen a cinnamon plant or don’t know what a salvia is, this abundant walkway is a gardening paradise, with each plant clearly marked to help guests comprehend the amazing diversity of a Florida garden.
Take a look at this beautiful gallery of some of the plants.
The Outdoor Kitchens are open daily from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., and you have until May 29 to see, taste and smell it all. The festival, including all gardening programs, exhibits, concerts and special appearances, is included in regular Epcot admission. For more information about the 24th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, call 407/W-DISNEY (934-7639) or visit www.epcotinspring.com.